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Memories of Vietnam

Iraqi resistance leaves Bush isolated

Yet Congress votes 100-0 to fund war—
Only the people united can bring the troops home

Published Oct 4, 2006 11:37 PM

Federal budgets are among the most political of documents. The recent passage by the U.S. Senate of a record U.S. military budget of $447 billion, including a $70 billion “bridge” fund for the next six months of bloody occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a profound political statement about the underlying politics of both parties of big business in the U.S.

The vote was 100 to 0.

This is not just about the politics of the Republicans and the Democrats. The Senate is a millionaires’ club. Its members are well connected to the corporate and financial establishment. As such it is as good a representation of ruling-class political sentiment in this country as you can get—particularly when there is complete unanimity.

The message of the vote is that, no matter how dissatisfied they are with President George W. Bush, no matter how much their politicians and their press accuse Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of arrogance and tactical incompetence, no matter how they criticize the lies the Bush administration used to go to war in Iraq, their bottom line is to continue the funding—not only of this war but of future wars.

No consensus on what to do

The establishment cannot come to a consensus on what to do about Iraq.

Some military officers have said that the war is lost in Anbar province.

Sen. John McCain represents the military faction that wants more troops.

Sen. Joseph Biden represents a grouping that wants to partition the country into three separate provinces as a last resort.

Rep. John Murtha speaks for a faction that wants to pull back “over the horizon” and remain poised to provide strategic backup for Iraqi puppet forces.

Retired generals have called for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Then there is the pro-Bush “stay the course” grouping, apparently represented by Henry Kissinger, who has become a chief adviser to the White House on the war.

While the ruling class, the military and the political establishment are completely fragmented and distraught over the situation, the one thing they can unite on is to continue the occupation—and they prove it when both parties continue to fund the war.

None of them wants to pull out and let the Iraqi people determine their own destiny. All want to keep from “losing.” By that they mean losing Iraqi oil; losing the campaign to recolonize Iraq under U.S. corporate and military domination; losing Washington’s “strategic” position as overseer of the oil-rich Middle East.

It says a lot about the deception of capitalist politics that the little-publicized 100 to 0 bombshell Senate vote by Republicans and Democrats to continue funding both wars in an extraordinary act of unity, was taken at the moment that Bob Woodward’s new book, “State of Denial,” was hitting the bookstores and making headlines. After writing two sycophantic books praising the Bush administration, Woodward has turned on them. His latest work holds them up to ridicule and exposes their lying hypocrisy.

Bush regime held up to ridicule

He shows that in May 2006, when Bush gave a speech about the beginning of the “long retreat” of the resistance in Iraq, military intelligence in that same month was reporting that attacks on U.S. forces were at an all-time high of 700 to 800 a week. They rose to 3,500 a month. Furthermore, the report projected that things would get worse in 2007.

He tells about how Gen. John Abizaid, commander of Centcom, said it was “critical to lower the American troop presence” because “it was still the face of an occupation.” Abizaid, the highest military commander in the region, said, “We’ve got to get the [expletive] out.” Woodward quotes Abizaid as saying that “Rumsfeld doesn’t have any credibility anymore.” (Washington Post, Oct. 1)

Woodward reveals how Andrew Card, the former White House chief of staff, twice tried to have Rumsfeld removed. How Bush had to tell Rumsfeld to return Condoleezza Rice’s phone calls when she was Bush’s national security adviser.

George Will, a right-wing columnist for the Washington Post, on Oct. 4 held Vice President Dick Cheney up to ridicule by recounting how “while leading the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in the summer of 2003, David Kay received a phone call from ‘Scooter Libby,’ Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who wanted a particular place searched: ‘The vice president wanted to know if you’ve looked at this area. We have indications—and here are the geocoordinates—that something’s buried there.’ Kay and his experts located the area on the map. It was in the middle of Lebanon.”

As for Bush, Woodward said that in venting his frustration about the Iraqi government, he blurted out, “Where’s the leader? Where’s George Washington? Where’s Thomas Jefferson? Where’s John Adams, for crying out loud?”

Bush turns to Kissinger

But ridicule aside, one of the most important revelations of the book is that Henry Kissinger, former national security adviser and secretary of state for Richard Nixon during the Vietnam era, “exerts a powerful and largely invisible influence on Bush’s Iraq policy.”

“Of the outside people that I talk to on the job,” Vice President Cheney told Woodward in the summer of 2005, “I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more than I talk to anybody else.” Woodward told the talk-show host Charlie Rose that Kissinger, after the publication of Woodward’s book, said he has met with Bush 15 or 20 times.

Kissinger’s message is that “the only exit strategy is victory.” Woodward told Mike Wallace on CBS’s 60 Minutes on Oct. 1 that “Kissinger’s fighting the Vietnam War again. Because in his view the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will. That we didn’t stick to it.”

Kissinger is reported to have given Bush’s speechwriter his 1969 “salted peanuts memo” on withdrawal of troops. He warned Nixon at that time that, “Withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded.” Shortly thereafter Bush gave his “Strategy for Victory in Iraq” speech.

It is important to remember that Kissinger is a war criminal who threatened the Vietnamese with nuclear annihilation during negotiations. But more important than that, he is the proponent of ruling class delusions about why liberation struggles win: because the ruling class in the U.S., under the impact of the media, public opinion and so on, “loses its will.”

What Kissinger leaves out of his rendition of the defeat of U.S. imperialism in Vietnam is, first and foremost, the willingness of the Vietnamese people to fight “10 or 20 years if necessary,” as the Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh put it.

But Kissinger also leaves out the fact that in the U.S. during that war, the Black people in urban centers all over the country were rebelling against poverty, racism and repression, and many of them were Vietnam veterans. Kissinger does not mention that the 82nd Airborne Division had to be sent to Detroit to put down an armed rebellion in 1967 or that U.S. troops had to guard the White House and the Capitol building after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, touching off rebellions in over 100 cities.

Alongside the Black rebellion were organizations of Chicano resistance in the Southwest and of Puerto Rican resistance, both on the island and in the U.S. The Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, the Brown Berets, and many other manifestations of political resistance of the oppressed surged during the Vietnam era.

Kissinger also leaves out the mass anti-war movement that was increasingly in a resistance mode. Government officials could not travel outside Washington, D.C. without sparking protests; draft boards were burned down; the ROTC and the CIA were driven off campuses across the country. Attempts were made to stop troop trains; corporations were targeted; the slogan “Big firms get rich while GIs die” became a battle cry.

Most importantly, the rank-and-file soldiers were rebelling against the war and the military command was suffering disintegration. Troops were refusing to go into battle by the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hundreds of officers were being killed in a practice called “fragging”—that is, by grenades thrown by their own troops. Morale was so bad that the high command allowed hard drugs to proliferate.

Vietnam: why U.S. pulled out

In short, the decision to pull troops out of Vietnam was due not merely to a lack of will but to a calculation of class interests by the main sections of the U.S. ruling class. The social stability of the system was coming apart in the face of a many-pronged rebellion at home and the determination of the liberation forces in Vietnam.

Woodward’s book holds up a mirror for the ruling class to contemplate, without spin or makeup, the character of the group that is running the capitalist state. What he has written is not new. It has been whispered and written about in scattered articles and books. But he has pulled it all together to present a unified picture. His switch from cheerleader to devastating critic represents the disillusionment of the establishment with the Bush administration and the occupation.

But it is important to point out that the U.S. ruling class was demoralized about the war in Vietnam quite early on. Lyndon Johnson was forced out of running for reelection because he wanted to escalate the war beyond the 500,000 troops already there. Despite this discontent, the troops were not pulled out until the country and the military machine were in the early stages of becoming ungovernable.

Woodward’s book makes Rumsfeld the principal enemy. But the truth is that there is not now, nor would there have been, a true “strategy for victory” in Iraq. Each establishment grouping is looking for the fundamental cause of the problem. But none of them will acknowledge the simple truth that occupation breeds resistance—whether that occupation is carried out “competently” or incompetently. The Iraqi people were colonized by the Turkish empire, then the British empire. They threw the colonialists out in 1958 and they don’t want a new colonizer.

As of Oct. 4, the latest news from Iraq is that nine U.S. soldiers were killed in one day—the highest number since April. Seventeen have been killed in the last five days, most in Baghdad. Many were killed in separate attacks, either by roadside bombs or by small arms fire. There are no reports on the number wounded or on how many Iraqis have been killed, wounded or brutalized in U.S. military raids and roundups.

The U.S. high command and the Iraqi politicians have declared one after another new “security” plans for Baghdad: neighborhood by neighborhood operations; curfews; digging trenches around the city; setting up checkpoints; and now the latest plan announced by puppet Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is local committees.

Each new plan is met with increased Iraqi resistance. The official number of U.S. soldiers killed in September, when troops were transferred from Anbar province to Baghdad, is 74.

With each new “strategy for victory” announced by Bush or the U.S. clients in Baghdad, the resistance develops new tactics to fight back. With each new act of aggression, each new atrocity by U.S. and British forces, there is greater hatred and willingness to fight the occupiers.

No faction in the ruling class, the military or the political establishment knows how to win or has any answer to their crisis in Iraq. The only thing they can unite on is not to “lose” in Iraq, and this means to keep fighting, no matter how much Iraqi and U.S. blood is spilled, no matter what damage it does to the economic and social well-being of the workers and oppressed at home, who have to pay for this war.

The lesson of history is that a united, mass resistance will get the troops home. Then and only then will the ruling class “lose its will” to keep funding the war and fighting for its empire.