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It's stuck in their craw

Unable to swallow Iraq, warhawks are in crisis

By Fred Goldstein

The hollowness and familiarity of both George W. Bush's May 24 televised speech and the administration's United Nations resolution outlining how the administration is going to bring "independence" to Iraq are a harsh reminder to the ruling class that U.S. imperialism has a deep crisis with its Iraq adventure.

The unspoken criticism that they all know but are reluctant to state is that a political speech with a "five-point plan" and a UN resolution promising sovereignty are not going to stop the Iraqi resistance or ease Washington's situation as a hated occupier.

Bush talked about turning over "sovereignty" to Iraq in one breath and in the other declared that the U.S. would keep 138,000 troops there and send more if necessary. His speech coincided with the presentation of a draft resolution for negotiations among the UN Security Council members that left the U.S. military in charge after "sovereignty," with a "review" after a year.

What was most notable about the negotiations among Washington, Berlin, Paris and Moscow over the draft resolution and the fate of Iraq is that they took place without the presence or input of any Iraqis. No one from the puppet Governing Council was there. Nor were there any other potential leaders of the new "sovereign" regime being negotiated by UN representative Lakhdar Brahimi and his little-publicized supervisor, Robert Blackwell--Bush's envoy to Iraq.

This entire affair was such an embarrassment that a conservative backer of the war, the London Economist, on May 25 wrote a scathing editorial entitled, "A sovereign Iraq, full of foreign troops."

It said: "Mr. Bush stressed that John Negroponte, who will be America's first ambassador to post-Saddam Iraq, will run an embassy with the same purpose as any other: 'to assure good relations with a sovereign nation.' But of course the new American embassy will not be like any other--it will be the largest in the world, sitting in a country where America will ... maintain 138,000 troops. (The Iraqi army envisioned by Mr. Bush, by contrast, is to have 35,000.) The embassy will also have branch offices around Iraq for advising on economic projects that will take American money but be run by Iraqis."

In short, the Bush speech and the UN proposal have outlined the plan for a subordinate colonial regime. And now the rival imperialists are negotiating over how to break Washington's military, political and economic stranglehold on Iraq.

'Sovereignty' in French eyes

The French imperialists have been demanding that Iraq have "true sovereignty" before they sign on. The French have declared that the U.S. resolution needs "improving."

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier explained what type of "sovereignty" and "improving" they had in mind. The Financial Times of London on May 24 cited an interview by Barnier with Le Figaro in which he "wanted to know whether the proposed transfer of sovereignty concerned 'the power to run the economy, to manage the police and justice systems or the capacity to exploit natural resources.'"

The French imperialists are not concerned with whether the Iraqis are free of foreign colonial armies and domination and have the right to kick them out. On the contrary, they are concerned with whether or not the new puppet regime will be "sovereign" enough to resist total U.S. domination and return the French oil concessions. Will it have the power to sign contracts to open up Iraq to French transnational corporations?

The German and Russian capitalists have the same predatory concerns about the future of Iraq. And all the jockeying that will take place around the resolution has the division of influence in Iraq at the bottom.

Whistling past the graveyard

But what is demoralizing a growing section of the U.S. ruling class, and its military leaders, is the stark fact that the Bush administration is negotiating over how to dispose of something that they do not possess--a subdued and governable colony.

The administration is having a crisis over transferring "sovereignty" to an Iraqi administration whose members cannot even travel in Iraq without being under heavy guard for fear of being assassinated as traitors and tools of the occupation.

The Bush speech had all the earmarks of whistling through the graveyard.

This is reflected in the growing heat on the Bush administration and the Pentagon from a wide variety of sources.

CBS News, together with Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker magazine, broke the prison torture scandal. The Washington Post quickly followed suit with news of videos and more pictures of torture.

The Post then broke the sensational story that Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, commander of ground forces in Iraq, knew all about the torture and was present at torture sessions. The May 26 New York Times has come out with a front-page story on widespread abuse based on an "obtained" document.

Much of this reporting is based on photos, documents and transcripts that could only be obtained through connections with factions in the military and published with their consent and encouragement. Despite the sensational leaks, there have been no retaliatory charges over "breaching security" or revealing confidential information. The ruling class media and the military are treating all these exposures as legitimate, despite the fact that they injure the reputation of the military and the mission in Iraq.

The media, which were so obsequious in their deference to the Pentagon in the run-up to and during the war, have now become brave warriors against Rumsfeld and his allies in the military. The only explanation is that the exposures have the backing of a significant section of the military and increasingly disillusioned sections of the foreign policy establishment of U.S. imperialism. The media is often regarded as the "fourth arm of the capitalist state." And, like other arms of the state, it does not operate independently of the ruling class.

Staying the course 'over Niagara Falls'

The latest and most open expression of the split within the military has surfaced with the publication of a book by retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni. It is co-written with novelist Tom Clancy and is called "Battle Ready."

Zinni is a four-star general. He was head of Central Command, the post now held by Gen. John Abizaid. In that capacity Zinni developed a war plan for Iraq.

He was also Bush's special envoy to the Middle East after the Afghanistan war. He was sent on a mission to the Middle East after the Ariel Sharon government in Israel took the cue from Washington's war to open up an offensive against the Palestinian National Authority.

Zinni's mission, carried out on behalf of Secretary of State Colin Powell, was sabotaged before his plane even touched down when Sharon assassinated a leader of Hamas, probably with the connivance or consent of the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz grouping.

Zinni: 'It's been a failure'

CBS News broadcast a report on "60 Minutes" by Steve Croft on May 23 that contained the following commentary by Zinni: "There has been poor strategic thinking in this. There has been poor operational planning and execution on the ground. And to think that we are going to 'stay the course,' the course is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it's time to change course a little bit, or at least to hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course. Because it's been a failure."

In the book, Zinni makes strong charges of "dereliction of duty," "negligence" and "irresponsibility," among other things. But the bottom line, according to Croft, is that "Zinni believes this was a war the generals didn't want--but it was a war the civilians wanted." By civilians he means Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and their collaborators.

"I can't speak for all generals, certainly," said Zinni. "But I know we felt that this situation was contained. Saddam was effectively contained," he said, referring to the pre-war effectiveness of sanctions and no-fly zones. He echoed the demand of the Powell faction that you only enter battle with "overwhelming force."

Croft states that Zinni "wasn't the only former military leader with doubts about the invasion of Iraq. Former General and National Security Advisor Brent Scow croft, former Centcom Commander Norman Schwarzkopf [commander of the first Iraq war in 1991], former NATO Com mander Wesley Clark [commander of the Yugoslav war in 1999], and former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki all voiced their reservations."

This grouping was opposed to the war on purely strategic grounds. They feel that the neo-conservative ideologues in the Bush administration launched an adventure strictly to try out and demonstrate their doctrinaire political/military view of how to conquer the world and how to sec ure the Middle East for U.S. imperialism.

The result, as they see it, has been a disaster. It has sullied the U.S. military, while the political reputation of U.S imperialism has sunk to new lows around the world.

Military view of 'multilateralism'

When asked what he would do now, Zinni said: "Well, it's been evident from the beginning what the course is. We should have gotten this UN resolution from the beginning. What does it take to sit down with the members of the Security Council, the permanent members, and find out what it takes.

"What is it they want to get this resolution? Do they want a say in political reconstruction? Do they want a piece of the pie economically? If that's the cost, fine. What they're gonna pay for up front is boots on the ground and involvement in sharing the burden."

This is the candid military view of "multilateralism." Share the loot in return for money and troops for cannon fodder.

The Bush group refused to share the oil, the contracts, the prospects of plunder and exploitation that would follow the recolonization of Iraq. This is the hubris of Bush and Rumsfeld's imperialist "unilateralism."

While Zinni may have been opposed to the war in the first place, he commits the same fundamental error in strategic thought that the Bush administration committed in relation to the prospects of waging war, carrying out an occupation and subduing Iraq. He underestimates the Iraqi masses, their unquenchable desire to be free of colonial domination and their all-around capability to mount a national resistance, even though it is fragmented.

All colonizers and imperialists have looked at their failure to crush wars of liberation and national resistance movements as a matter of insufficient force. In Vietnam, the U.S. steadily escalated its forces, starting with a few thousand advisers in 1962 and eventually reaching half a million troops. With each new escalation, the Vietnamese liberation forces found a way to continue the struggle.

The French, in their eight-year war against the Algerian National Liberation Front, from 1954 to 1962, reached a troop strength of 500,000 and employed a campaign of widespread torture. Despite military victory after military victory, they were unable to subdue the people.

Washington is facing a similar crisis in Iraq.

The torture scandals have come out, not because the U.S. high command or any elements within the capitalist state are opposed to torture. It is because, with all the torture, the resistance in both Afghanistan and Iraq has escalated. From their standpoint this technique, as it has been carried out, has become counterproductive.

The criticism by Zinni and by a myriad of others in the capitalist media who are beginning to express doubts, pessimism and some outright defeatism is a reflection, not of concern for the excesses and crimes committed by the occupation forces daily, but of the failure of the occupation.

The only solution seen by these critics--including especially John Kerry and the entire Kerry camp--is the eventual internationalization of the occupation along with immediately bringing in more U.S. troops to shore up the effort until help arrives.

The anti-war movement in this country and the rest of the world should not relax for a moment in the hope that this mountain of criticism, the splits in the establishment and the Kerry election campaign somehow are going to result in an end to the occupation.

The only thing that will stop the occupation is the resistance in Iraq and the escalation and broadening of the anti-war struggle at home.

Reprinted from the June 3, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper
This article is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License.
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