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Iraq War is Lost, But the Killing Goes On

By: 
Max Elbaum
Date Published: 
April 27, 2007

Washington's Wars and Occupations: Month in Review #24 April 27, 2007 Add Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to the growing list of Washington heavyweights who have gone on record saying “the Iraq war is lost.” Reid has caught up with the majority of U.S. people, who according to the latest poll foresee a U.S. defeat in Iraq. Two-thirds say the war was not worth fighting. But Bush says U.S. troops will never leave while he is Commander-in-Chief. He rejected the Baker-Hamilton Report’s formula for a lower-profile occupation and a new diplomatic strategy. Now he refuses to make the slightest concession to Democratic Party-crafted legislation that places restrictions on his actions but would leaves loopholes for continuing an “occupation lite.” Bush’s my-way-or-no-way stance keeps polarizing public opinion and is forcing confrontation on even reluctant Democrats. His promised veto of the start-withdrawing legislation just passed by Congress will only intensify the pro- vs. antiwar conflict; for information on the upcoming nationwide post-veto protests, go to http://www.unitedforpeace.org Equally stubborn White House approaches to other situations at home and abroad are causing massive human misery while creating the possibility of explosions with unpredictable outcomes. There is mounting anxiety in the U.S. elite that this course will lead to setbacks rather than gains for U.S. power. IRAQ: FOUR MILLION DISPLACED Bush’s policies in Iraq have led to a rolling human catastrophe. Nearly four million people out of an Iraqi population of 24 million have been forced to flee their homes (half to neighboring countries thereby destabilizing the entire Middle East). Eight million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance to sustain their lives. Violence is killing an average of 100 civilians a day. The “surge” just moves the disaster around. Civilian deaths are down (slightly) in Baghdad but are higher in the rest of Iraq. So-called security continues to deteriorate: on April 12 a suicide bomber penetrated the heart of the Green Zone and killed at least 2 Iraq members of parliament right inside the Parliament cafeteria. Not surprisingly, Iraqi opposition to the U.S. presence has grown ever greater in breadth and militancy. April 9, the fourth anniversary of the U.S. entrance into Baghdad, saw tens of thousands of Shi’ites march through the southern city of Najaf protesting the U.S. occupation. U.S. plans to build a wall between Sunni and Shi’ite neighborhoods in Baghdad united both communities in opposition, and with the Iraqi government blasting the proposal Washington was forced to back down. In a telling sign of Iraqi opinion, Iraq’s Prime Minister likened the U.S. idea to the barrier Israel has constructed through the West Bank, widely referred to by Palestinians as the “Apartheid Wall.” Even in a mainstream U.S. press hungry for “good news” from Iraq, the scale of the disaster unfolding there cannot be completely hidden. Bush keeps insisting that even debate about withdrawal ‘helps the enemy” and ‘undermines the troops” but most of the U.S. public is no longer buying his fear-mongering and fantasy-tales. The political battle over “stay vs. get out” is headed for a steady boil. With the White House besieged on many fronts, it may just be possible for a re-energized antiwar movement and a disgusted public to blow the lid off. OVER-REACH ACROSS THE PLANET Explosions could also take place in a host of hotspots around the globe. Washington’s militarist policies, which are producing both greater misery and greater opposition with each passing day, are both infuriating and in trouble. The U.S. is overstretched – both militarily and in the way its “soft power” political and moral influence has fallen to record lows. *Bush’s policy of threats and “we-won’t-talk-to” Iran is not going well for Washington. U.S. European allies don’t want this confrontation. And Tehran gained from the episode of its capture and then release of British sailors. Iran showed it could act at will in a crucial waterway for world oil shipments, and it also showed that serious and respectful dialogue (which the British government eventually turned to) can yield mutually beneficial results in a way that force cannot. *Washington’s war in Afghanistan is going very badly. The U.S.-supported government has little authority outside its own capital; the Taliban insurgents are staging a comeback and are embarked on a spring offensive; the population is more and more dissatisfied with U.S. and NATO occupation - not least because of widespread indiscriminate killing by Western militaries. In neighboring Pakistan, the U.S.-backed government of General Pervez Musharraf has essentially ceded control of regions along the Afghan border to anti-government tribal groups, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other foreign fighters. And there is popular unrest throughout the country that threatens the stability of this nuclear-armed regime. *Bush’s blank-check-for-Israel policy has hit its own wall. Israel is not letting up in its day-to-day brutality against Palestinians. But Tel Aviv is still reeling psychologically and politically from its failure against Hezbollah last summer. Continued exposure of Israeli war crimes during that conflict combined with Palestinian tenacity and a renewed diplomatic offensive by Arab states (even with all its limitations) has put Israel on the defensive. It has also thrown obstacles in the way of Washington’s effort to form a tacit alliance between Israel and the Sunni-governed Arab states against Iran. *A month ago Washington turned to the autocratic Ethiopian regime and its U.S.-advised and U.S.-armed military to expand the “war on terror” to the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia invaded Somalia, where an Islamic government had taken power from U.S.-backed feuding warlords. The U.S. and Ethiopia promptly re-installed its warlord-dominated government and declared a great victory over “Islamic terrorism.” It’s turned out to be another “Mission Accomplished” like Iraq: a rebellion is underway against the U.S.-backed regime. Somalia is experiencing its worst fighting and highest death level in 15 years. Tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing the country, and U.N. officials now say the country is headed toward its worst crisis ever. And Ethiopia is under criticism for massive human rights violations for its Abu Ghraib-style treatment of Somalis “renditioned” to the country for interrogation. OVER-REACH AT HOME Domestically, the Bush-Rove plan to entrench one-party rule for a generation is also running aground. The most recent blatant over-reach was the attempt to purge U.S. Attorneys who were not completely “loyal Bushies” and transform the Justice Department into an arm of the Republican Party. The uproar in response has divided Republicans and put the White House on the defensive. As is so often the case in the U.S.A., racism stood at the cutting edge of this right-wing power-grab. Rove’s plan was to replace defense of minority voting rights with the suppression of people of color voting through bogus charges of “voter fraud.” Joseph Rich, chief of the voting section in the Justice Department's civil right division from 1999 to 2005, went to the heart of the matter: “Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections. It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.” While this part of the Bush-Rove offensive has stalled, their pack-the-Supreme-Court success has already born bitter fruit with the April 20 decision undermining abortion rights. Government attacks on immigrants continue, as does the threat of Congress passing even harsher anti-immigrant legislation. This May 1 the immigrant rights movement, which shook the country with the size of its grassroots mobilizations last spring, will again take to the streets. STEP IT UP On another key issue, the last year has seen the emergence of a new activist grassroots movement protesting the administration’s intransigence on global warming. On April 14 the “Step It Up” campaign - go to http://www.stepitup2007.org - brought people into the streets in over 1,400 locations to demand radical action to stave off disastrous climate change. An all-out effort is underway to link this upsurge to the antiwar and other popular movements. On all these battlefronts and more, the reactionary assaults of the Bush administration no longer shock, awe or get their own way. The Bushies are still pushing. But the new dynamic at play is the heightened push back. There is much at stake; time for us all to Step It Up. War Times/Tiempo de Guerras is a fiscally sponsored project of the Center for Third World Organizing. Donations to War Times are tax-deductible; you can donate on-line at http://www.war-times.org or send a check to War Times/Tiempo de Guerras, c/o P.O. Box 99096, Emeryville, CA 94662.