Oct 25, 2004
On Sunday, October 24, 49 Iraqi army recruits and their civilian driver were killed in an ambush near Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. The day before, two suicide bombings targeting the Iraqi National Guard had killed 20 people. No U.S. deaths were reported that day, but six U.S. soldiers were badly wounded when their armored vehicle was attacked on the road to the Baghdad airport, a scene of frequent attacks.
U.S. military officials admit that the insurgency against the U.S. and its allies in Iraq is growing by the day in both the Sunni and Shiite regions of central and southern Iraq. The U.S. military itself estimated in August that the number of insurgents had grown from 5,000 back in March to 20,000 in July, not counting the much larger support network around them.
The rise of the insurgency is also seen in the official casualty figures released by the Pentagon. The numbers of U.S. troop casualties have doubled within the last six months, to 1,100 for the dead and 8,000 for the wounded. This sharp increase is all the more striking if one considers that, since the upsurge of the insurrection in the spring, U.S. troops have been leaving their bases much less frequently and only in large groups protected in heavily armored vehicles.
U.S. authorities also admit that the insurgents can count on widespread support in the population. Latest polls announced by the U.S. indicate that 80% of the population is hostile toward the U.S., up from 72% last February. And even these figures understate the situation, first of all because the polls are conducted by the U.S. itself. But also because they include people in the northern Kurdish region, where the population has not been subjected to U.S. military attacks and repression as much as in the Arab regions.
U.S. authorities are caught in a quagmire of their own making. No matter what they do now, they are apt to strengthen the insurgency. If the U.S. leaves cities like Falluja, where insurgents are based, alone, they will continue to thrive. But if the U.S. attacks these cities, as it has done in several cities such as Falluja, Najaf and Samarra since last spring, it is apt to make the population even more determined in its anger towards the U.S. The insurgents can pack and leave before the attacks begin. But the population is caught up in the bombardment and subsequent door-to-door raids, interrogations and arrests. Up until now, all this has made it easier for the insurgents to find both support and recruits in the population.
Commentators agree that the Iraqi elections scheduled for January would be meaningless when, in fact, the U.S. and its puppet, the Allawi government, don't even control most of the Iraqi cities. But U.S. officials insist that the elections will take place no matter what – which raises the question that the U.S. might use the elections as a pretext to carry out a major offensive against Iraqi cities.
In any case, up until now the U.S. military has confined itself to massive aerial bombings and limited raids, preferably carried out by Iraqi troops. Neither Bush nor Kerry wants the war to become a major issue right before the U.S. presidential election.
Nonetheless, everything indicates that the U.S. military will, sooner or later, launch massive attacks on the cities it doesn't control – if not to wipe out the insurgency then at least to intimidate the population into abandoning their support for the fighters. U.S. military officials see no reason to hide their intentions. According to The New York Times, Pentagon and administration officials explained that the air campaign against Falluja was "in part intended to present a stark choice to the people of Falluja, especially those who may be supporting Iraqi insurgents or the foreign fighters' network." The Times also quoted a Pentagon official, who explained exactly what kind of "stark choice" Iraqi people face: "If there are civilians dying in connection with these attacks, and with the destruction, the locals at some point have to make a decision. Do they want to harbor the insurgents and suffer the consequences that come with that, or do they want to get rid of the insurgents and have the benefits of not having them there."
These words will ring familiar to those who remember the other war a generation ago, in Viet Nam. The insurgency in Iraq is turning into a full-fledged guerrilla war against occupation forces, just as in Viet Nam. And now, as it was then, U.S. authorities have only one response in mind: to step up the barbaric bombardment and repression against civilians.
Those in the Viet Nam generation will also remember, however, that the threatened "consequences" of this policy are not suffered by the local population alone. Americans will also pay a heavy price for the barbarism of their government and military, first of all the troops on the ground in Iraq. Being used as the soldiers of this brutal, dirty war against a whole people, they are targets themselves. And as for working people here at home, we will continue paying for this war, which has already swallowed hundreds of billions of tax dollars, and in the deaths and maiming of their relatives in the Army.
That's why, from the viewpoint of the troops in Iraq and workers here at home, there is only one solution: to get out of Iraq, and get out now. The U.S. government is not about to do that. But the sentiment that can change that, forcing the government to do what it doesn't want to do, is already visible – among the soldiers in Iraq, like the 19 soldiers who recently refused to go on a mission without adequate protection; and among the soldiers' families who, practically from the beginning of this war, have been protesting the deaths of their loved ones, the extended tours of duty and the conditions.
It's not Bush or Kerry who will end this carnage in Iraq, but the U.S. population, starting with the soldiers themselves.