The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Bush and the U.S. military confront the mounting opposition to their war in Iraq

Dec 12, 2005

On November 30, in a speech before midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, President Bush rolled out his “Plan for Victory” in Iraq. He insisted that the new Iraqi government, to be elected on December 14, would take control over Iraq, supported by the U.S.-trained Iraqi military and police force, allowing U.S. troops to begin to withdraw.

Bush proclaimed: “We will continue to shift from providing security and conducting operations against the enemy nationwide to conducting more specialized operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists. We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we operate and conduct fewer patrols and convoys.”

Bush repeated the word “victory” 16 times in a heavily scripted political extravaganza that makes a garish Las Vegas musical look modest. The banner behind Bush spelling out “Plan for Victory” recalled his May 2003 proclamation, “Mission Accomplished.”

But no “Mission Accomplished” or “Plan for Victory” banner can cover over the ugly reality of the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq. The U.S. war and occupation has provoked a growing insurgency, with daily attacks against U.S. troops increasing from one month to the next. At the same time, it has provoked a terrible civil war between the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, as well as between different parties and militias inside the ethnic groups, a war of everyone against everyone, as one military expert recently explained to the Wall Street Journal.

The U.S.-trained military and police force is often nothing but an instrument of that civil war. As the December 4 editorial of the Washington Post noted, Iraqi Interior Ministry commando and police units “have been conducting ethnic cleansing,” leaving hundreds of bodies along roadsides and in garbage dumps, some with acid burns or with holes drilled in them, and with many others simply vanishing. “The Baghdad morgue reports that dozens of bodies arrive at the same time on a weekly basis, including scores of corpses with wrists bound by police handcuffs,” wrote the Los Angeles Times.

Of course, the main concern of the Bush administration is neither the civil war nor the terrible toll on the Iraqi population – so long as that war doesn’t threaten U.S. control of Iraqi oil.

Instead, the main problem for Bush is the U.S. population. Every poll indicates that whatever support there was for the war has long ago evaporated. Support is now so low, only the extreme right-wing of the population, those who would support Bush under any circumstance, is still firmly behind it. And even among them, support is eroding.

This change in the population reflects the growing sentiment against the war amongst U.S. troops. With more than 2,100 soldiers dead, and hundreds of thousands more who have been wounded and suffered other terrible traumas, these troops want out of the war and they are leaving the military in droves. Re-enlistments in both the regular army and the National Guard, amongst the professional commissioned and non-commissioned officers and the regular troops, are down sharply. At the same time, the U.S. military is having a harder time finding fresh cannon fodder to pour into Iraq, since the enlistment of new troops is also down. And this has led the military professionals to warn that the worsening war in Iraq is damaging the U.S. military machine.

The growing sentiment against the war obviously has led even many in Bush’s own Republican Party to distance themselves from him. Republicans running for office last November considered Bush so “radioactive,” they didn’t want him anywhere near their campaign. Republicans in Congress have also been pretending to call Bush’s conduct of the war into account, such as the Senate vote of 79-19 calling on Bush to provide quarterly reports on the supposed “transfer of responsibility for Iraq’s security to Iraqis.”

Obviously, the Republicans rushed this resolution through because they did not want to be outdone by Congressman John Murtha, the militaristic hawk with strong ties to the Pentagon, who went public with a call for an “immediate redeployment” of U.S. troops in Iraq.

But they are also responding to the same problem Murtha recognized. Instead of ensuring greater U.S. domination of the region and its resources, the U.S. occupation of Iraq has provoked greater instability, which threatens to spread outside Iraq’s borders. They would like to pull the U.S. troops out of Iraq. Yet, they can’t, without running the risk that this retreat could set in motion the fall of one or more regimes tied to them, starting with the most important, Saudi Arabia. It could destabilize the whole Middle East.

To those who really run the state apparatus, the stakes behind this war are too important to leave in the hands of the Bush administration. One by one, either through indictments and threatened indictments against key Bush advisors, Libby and Rove, or through the removal of several of the architects of the war, starting with Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s former deputy, they have besieged the Bush administration in order to try to salvage what they can from the war in Iraq.

Of course, no one should be so naive as to believe that this means an actual change in policy. The U.S. superpower still has its sights set on Iraq, both for its oil riches and its strategic military location in the very heart of the Persian Gulf.

Whatever the change in policy they carry out, it will be with the intent to impose U.S. imperialist domination over the whole region. In one way or another that means more war – which could only further worsen the situation for working people in this country.