|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
Losing in Iraq
THE LIMITS of US power are being laid bare on the streets and roadsides of Iraq. It cannot even defend its own stooges – the governor of Baghdad, the deputy police chief and his son gunned down at the beginning of January. Insurgent attacks continue on oil and gas installations. Almost two years since the invasion, millions survive without adequate water, food or electricity. Death and fear stalk the streets. Over 100,000 Iraqis lie dead.
Incredibly, this is the backdrop to national elections, due on 30 January. This is a strange kind of election. Candidates dare not show their faces for fear of attack, their names and parties are unknown. Election workers risk their lives, offices are constantly attacked.
Four of the 18 electoral provinces are considered too unstable for voting to take place – accounting for half the population. A curfew will be in place on election day, travel within and between towns restricted, the border closed. International observers aim to monitor the ballot from Amman, Jordan!
The US regime desperately hopes that the election will usher in a period of calm, with a ‘transitional national assembly’ agreeing a constitution, followed by a referendum no later than 15 October and further elections before 15 December.
But the gulf between Sunni Arabs, Shia and Kurds is widening. The largest Sunni party has withdrawn from the current interim government, and most Sunni Arab politicians call for the elections to be postponed, or boycotted. The Shia (around 60% of the population) are set to take the overwhelming majority of seats. The Kurds are participating, but have a clear goal whatever the outcome – recognition of their autonomy.
The Sunni Arab population has suffered relentless US military action. Falluja, a city of 350,000 people, has been utterly devastated, the people driven out. The US relied heavily on Shia forces, worsening the sectarian divide. The bulk of the population now clings to life in putrid refugee camps on the outskirts of the city. Rabid dogs feed on corpses.
The recent assassination of close advisers to the leading Shia, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is an attempt to foment all-out civil war. Al-Sistani, eyes firmly on the election prize, is holding back the armed Shia groups. Moqtada al-Sadr, with widespread support from Shia youth and the poor, seems to be biding his time, the command structures of his militia, the Mahdi army, reportedly intact, keeping their powder dry.
Fourteen US soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing in their mess tent just before Christmas. A few days later, seven more were killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad, showing that the insurgents are increasingly organised and are striking more effectively. Ukraine, currently the fourth-largest contingent, is withdrawing its 1,650 troops.
The situation is straining relations within the political establishment. On 10 January, the New York Times reported that Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser to George Bush Sr, said that the election "has great potential for deepening the conflict. We may be seeing incipient civil war at this time". Bush was asked if he agreed: "Quite the opposite. I think the election will be such an incredibly hopeful experience for the Iraqi people". Few agree with him. On 13 January, the Financial Times said that outgoing secretary of state, Colin Powell, told Bush "we’re losing" in Iraq.
There are now 150,000 US troops in Iraq – the largest mobilisation since the invasion itself. It looks like the recent ‘temporary’ increase of 30,000 on active duty will be made permanent, with National Guard and Reserve personnel being made to serve longer terms more often. Spending on the war is now $4.8 billion a month. (Washington Post, 14 January)
In a sign of panic, retired four-star general, Gary Luck, has been told to undertake a review of the entire military strategy in Iraq. And the US is organising death squads, using the brutal methods it developed in Central America in the 1960s and 1970s.
CIA think-tank, the National Intelligence Council, has warned that the war is spawning a new generation of terrorists to replace al-Qa’ida as the global threat. In a 119-page report it says that foreign terrorist groups and Iraqi insurgents seized on unprotected arms caches and are forging tactical and flexible alliances. The report says that veterans of the insurgency will disperse around the world. (New York Times, 9 January)
On top of that, the news that the search for weapons of mass destruction has officially ended – with none found – comes as no surprise. This mass destruction enterprise was based on lies – and they continue.