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GLW: Iraq War Causes Cracks In The US Empire

Cover Story: Iraq War Causes Cracks In The US Empire

By Doug Lorimer - Green Left Weekly

The failure of US troops' bloody attempts to crush the Iraqi people's armed rebellions in Fallujah and Najaf — and the public outrage across the world sparked by the revelations of the systematic torture of Iraqi prisoners by US guards at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison — have begun to shatter the pro-war consensus among US media commentators.

On May 12, for example, Calson Tucker — the previously pro-war, right-wing political analyst for CNN's Washington bureau — declared that the US invasion of Iraq had become “a total nightmare and disaster, and I'm ashamed that I went against my own instincts in supporting it”.

Tucker's abrupt change of position coincided with the release of a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll on May 10 showing that 54% of US voters surveyed now think that invading Iraq was a mistake — the first time that a majority of US voters have voiced this view.

The change in US public sentiment was most startlingly reflected in the comments made by media mogul and USA Today founder Allen Neuharth in his May 17 weekly column in the national daily. After calling the Iraq war “the biggest military mess miscreated in the Oval Office and miscarried by the Pentagon in my 80-year lifetime”, he declared: “Reluctantly, I now believe the best way to support our troops in Iraq is to bring them home, starting with the `hand-over' on June 30.”

The May 17 New York Times, whose “liberal” editors are for sending more US troops to Iraq, observed that last year “the word `triumphalist' was being applied to the neoconservatives and other intellectuals who championed the war in Iraq”, but that now “the buzzwords are `depressed', `angst-ridden' and `going wobbly'... After the setbacks in Fallujah and Najaf, followed by the prisoner abuse scandal, hawks are glumly trying to reconcile the reality in Iraq with the predictions they made before the war.”

The NYT reported that many warhawks “are predicting failure unless there is a major change in policy... Robert Kagan and William Kristol, two influential hawks at the neoconservative Weekly Standard, warn in the May 17 issue of the widespread bipartisan view that the war `is already lost or on the verge of being lost'. They call for moving up the election in Iraq to September 30 to hasten the transition and distract attention from American mistakes.”

`Verging on failure'

Under the headline, “US faces growing fears of failure”, the May 19 Washington Post reported that the “Bush administration is struggling to counter growing sentiment — among US lawmakers, Iraqis and even some of its own officials — that the occupation of Iraq is verging in failure, forcing a top Pentagon official yesterday to concede serious mistakes over the past year.”

This was a reference to US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz's acknowledgement, in testimony given to the US Senate foreign relations committee, that Iraqis had lost “patience” with the US-led occupation.

Five days earlier, the Washington Post reported that a poll conducted by the US-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority in late March had found that 82% of Iraqis opposed the presence of US-led occupation forces in their country.

The Post reported that those “polled were broadly divided on who should appoint the interim government that is supposed to take over limited power from the occupation authority at the end of June. The largest group, 27%, said the Iraqi people should appoint the new leaders, while 23% said judges should. Only one-tenth of 1% said that the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council should name the government, which is supposed to run Iraq until elections are held next year. None said the occupation authority should.”

Complete fraud

The June 30 “handover of sovereignty”, of course, is a complete fraud and Iraqis know it. The May 13 Wall Street Journal reported that the “new Iraqi government will have little control over its armed forces, lack the ability to make or change laws and be unable to make major decisions within specific ministries without tacit US approval, say US officials and others familiar with the plan”.

The May 19 Washington Post reported that senior US military officers are concerned that the Pentagon is abandoning its original goal of suppressing “major flash points in Iraq before June 30”. A growing number “say the United States has basically retreated in Fallujah, handing over control of the Sunni city to a former Iraqi general who is now commanding some of the very insurgents US forces were fighting”.

According to the May 17 Los Angeles Times, US field commanders believe that most of the former Iraqi army officers who now command the 1800-member Fallujah Protective Army were involved in organising armed resistance to the US occupiers in central Iraq over the last 12 months. “Many Hussein-era generals and colonels are believed to have retreated to Fallujah, Ramadi and other towns in the Sunni Triangle as Baghdad fell, regrouping and organising to fight another day”, the LA Times reported.

“Today, Fallujah is for all intents and purposes a rebel town”, the LA Times observed. “This once-obscure city ... is now an inspirational ground zero for anti-Western militants in the Middle East, the place that beat back the marines.”

“Our retreat from Fallujah has emboldened the insurgents”, leading US senators John McCain (Republican) and Joseph Lieberman (Democrat) argued in a jointly authored opinion piece in the May 20 Washington Post.

McCain and Lieberman argued that the US “must begin with an immediate and significant increase” in the size of its occupation forces in Iraq by “redeploying large numbers of troops from our bases in the United States, Europe, Japan and elsewhere”.

However, this “solution” — still the dominant one within the US ruling class — is supported by a dwindling minority of US voters. According to the May 7-9 USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, only 25% of surveyed voters favoured sending more US troops to Iraq, down from 33% in a mid-April poll.

In mid April, 37% of US voters surveyed by the same pollsters favoured a policy of withdrawing US troops from Iraq. The May 7-9 poll found support for the withdrawal position had jumped to 47%.

From Green Left Weekly, May 26, 2004.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

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