The Spark

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

Generals cannot fight without troops

Nov 19, 2007

In the first ten months of this year, more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq than in any other year in the war.

In the first ten months and one week, more U.S. soldiers were killed in the war in Afghanistan than in any other year in that war.

These two wars, which in reality are one, are not – as Bush pretends – “going well.” Not for the U.S. troops. And certainly not for the people of these besieged countries.

Two things are new since the “surge” began in Iraq last February. The U.S. has stepped up its bombing. And it is giving weapons and support to sectarian and ethnic militias, using them against the population to control whole areas of the country.

The end result has been an Iraq increasingly divided into ethnic, sectarian or even political enclaves, policed by the various militias. The center of Iraq, which once was the most diverse, is being drained of its population. Shi’ites continue to flee to the South, while Sunnis escape from the South to the West and near northern part of the country. In the North, the area around Kirkuk is a battlefield, with Kurdish forces camped on its outskirts, blockading the city, imprisoning Arabs inside the city.

Baghdad has gone from being 65% Sunni and 35% Shi’ite before the war to 75% Shi’ite today. At the beginning of 2006, the majority of Baghdad neighborhoods were still populated by various groups. And mixed marriages were common – with estimates put as high as 50% of all marriages in Baghdad before the war crossing sectarian lines. Today, there are only two neighborhoods that remain mixed and mixed couples often cannot live together any more.

Before the war, Basra, the southern port city, had been among the most cosmopolitan cities in the Middle East, with a mixture not only of Shi’ites and Sunnis, but also Kurds, Christians, African Muslims, and many secular Shi’ites. Today it has become almost totally Shi’ite, and overwhelmingly fundamentalist, with women being more repressed by the day.

This is ethnic cleansing, being carried out by organized violence. It’s terrorism, aimed against a civilian population, with the purpose of dividing in order to rule.

Almost four million Iraqi civilians have been driven from their homes – either by U.S. bombs; or by U.S. sweeps through neighborhoods or towns; or by violence carried out by sectarian or ethnic militias, driving some people out in order to control the rest. More Iraqis have been displaced since last February, when the so-called “surge” began, than in the whole rest of the war put together.

Almost 15% of the whole population have been turned into refugees. The U.N. Office of Internal Migration calls the Iraqi refugee crisis one of the worst humanitarian disasters in modern history – and also one of the least noticed. It certainly escapes anything but a bare mention in U.S. government and military reports or in the U.S. media.

Bush may pretend it’s not happening. He may pretend that things are on the upturn – but for the U.S. troops and the Iraqi people, Iraq has become quite simply a hellhole.

If there is any hope in this whole situation, it is the increasing unwillingness of U.S. troops to carry on the war. Already by last January, over half a million troops who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan, either quit active service as soon as they could or left the Reserves or National Guard as soon as their stint was up. Half of all officers being turned out by West Point have quit, almost as soon as they put in the 5-year stretch required of them.

The number of troops going AWOL is increasing as well. The Department of Defense declared that 4,698 soldiers went AWOL in the past 12 months. That’s the highest level since 2001 and a 42.3% increase over the year before, according to the magazine Army Times.

Recruitment of new forces costs much more in time and money. The simple fact is that the U.S. military is running out of cannon fodder to throw against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Every expression of opposition to this war coming from the U.S. population reinforces all those troops who do not want to continue.

The quickest path to ending this war is to reinforce those troops who want out. Generals cannot fight without troops.