Jan 5, 2004
According to the Bush administration, the 110,000 U.S. troops that it is now preparing to send to Iraq between the end of January and May will lead to a force reduction in Iraq, since they say that these troops will eventually replace the 123,000 now carrying out the U.S. occupation.
Of course, the timing of the Bush administration’s claim to reduce the number of troops in Iraq has a lot to do with politics inside the U.S., since the Bush administration fears that the unpopularity of the U.S. occupation of Iraq may cost it the election this fall. So nothing would suit Bush better than to bring down the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and at least partially make the Iraq War disappear during the summer and fall, just in time for the key months of the re-election campaign.
But the claim to reduce U.S. troops strength in Iraq may also mask something else: in the next several months, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq will actually increase considerably. Because the veteran U.S. troops in Iraq are not expected to immediately cycle out of Iraq as the tens of thousands of fresh troops cycle in. According to U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld the reason for this is that: “The people going over are ready, but the people there are experienced and really know their stuff. And who would you rather have there?” What could be more clear? The deadly work of its veteran troops in Iraq is far from over. The Pentagon has much more in store for them.
Of course, Rumsfeld and the rest of the Pentagon blandly explain that the veteran troops will remain in Iraq for a while longer in order to show the ropes to the new troops, in a short apprenticeship period. But there is plenty of reason to suspect that this is just the cover story, that in the coming months, as U.S. troops levels in Iraq sharply increase, the battle-hardened veteran troops will be deployed in a series of bloody offensives to try to crush and demoralize the Iraqi resistance.
According to Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker magazine, the Pentagon is also bringing in thousands of Special Forces and paid mercenaries, that is, the most ruthless and highly trained killers, in order to carry out targeted assassinations. This program is quite similar to the Phoenix program that the U.S. used during the Viet Nam War from 1968 to 1972, which is also now being copied by the Israeli military against the Palestinians.
(The Pentagon, by the way, will not say how many thousands of U.S. Special Forces and paid mercenaries are in Iraq, or whether their numbers are increasing, since they say this information is “classified” and “top secret.” But Hersh’s sources say that the Pentagon plans on boosting these numbers considerably in the coming months.)
U.S. government officials will argue that this bigger occupation force will let it clean up the scattered terrorists and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime. But if that were the case, then they would not need to have hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq, they would not need to carry out a full-fledged military occupation, with one military offensive after another.
No, the U.S. occupation has always had a much broader target: the Iraqi people. From the beginning, contrary to the reports of the U.S. media, the Iraqi people did not welcome the invasion of the U.S. troops, nor the occupation of their country. To one degree or another, a large part of the population supported the resistance to the U.S. If not, the resistance could not have continued to operate.
So, under such names as “Operation Hammer,” the U.S. forces went after the Iraqi people. It bombed and strafed villages, arrested masses of people, killed and wounded thousands of Iraqis. But this has only fed the anger against and distrust of the U.S.
In the coming months, if the U.S. ups the ante, and begins to carry out even bigger offensives, with more bombings and more military sweeps, the U.S. will be copying the same kinds of methods it employed 40 years ago in Viet Nam, especially the pacification campaigns. U.S. officers at that time said they had to destroy entire villages in order to “save” them. In those campaigns, the U.S. military either drove the population out of their villages and forced them to live under U.S. surveillance in concentration camps, or the U.S. massacred them outright. During the infamous My Lai massacre, over the course of a day, hundreds of women, children and elderly people were systematically killed. When the U.S. government could no longer keep the lid on the news of this massacre, it pretended that it was the fault of a handful of lower-level military officers, led by Lieutenant William Calley. Everyone knew that this was a lie. And this has been confirmed once again by revelations in a recent article in the Toledo Blade, which reported that the U.S. military deliberately carried out countless massacres in order to try to break the resistance of the Vietnamese people.
In Viet Nam, that policy eventually failed. The U.S. military “destroyed the entire country in order to save it.” It killed over a million Vietnamese people. But in the end, it was the U.S. military that was forced out.
Today, the Bush administration is preparing to try do the same kind of thing in Iraq. There is always a chance that the stepped up slaughter and bloodbath of the Iraqi people could break their will. Then Bush can claim “mission accomplished” while standing on the bodies of Iraq’s civilian population.
But it is equally possible that a renewed, terrible slaughter by the U.S. of the Iraqi people could lead to greater outrage and determination to oppose the U.S. war in Iraq, not only by the Iraqi people, but by the people in the U.S. as well.