More than a year after the supposed “transfer of sovereignty” the war of aggression that the United States is waging in Iraq shows no sign of abating. Washington’s plan is to continue to occupy Iraq by force until it is brought securely within the American Empire. After that U.S. troop presence in the major urban centers can be sharply reduced and its remaining forces relocated to a few strategic military bases, with the new Iraqi government security forces stepping in to replace American troops in most parts of the country.
However, the fierce resistance unleashed by guerrilla forces and the adamant refusal of the wider population to accept the U.S. imposed system make these objectives currently unattainable. Iraqi security forces are unable at present to carry out the task assigned to them in the more optimistic occupation scenarios. Nor is this likely to change anytime soon. The Iraqification of the war is still more a dream than a reality and may remain that way indefinitely.
The United States is thus caught in a classic trap of its own making. It cannot pull out without relinquishing its spoils of war, which given Iraq’s enormous oil reserves and its key geopolitical position in the Persian Gulf oil region as a whole are far from meager. And it cannot do so without “losing face” as in the Vietnam War. Yet, its invasion and occupation of Iraq has turned into an endless and costly effort in which its imperial objectives seem further and further from realization. As in the case of any occupying power caught in such a trap, the United States has been forced to rely increasingly on the promotion of official terror, widespread and indiscriminate arrests, torture of prisoners, and political corruption—in addition to the direct imposition of military force—in a desperate attempt to achieve its ends.
New revelations on the use of torture by the occupying power come out almost every day and tell the story of a systematic campaign that knows no bounds (see The Torture Papers). At the same time revelations of U.S. efforts to influence the January 30, 2005, Iraqi election are further undermining U.S. imperial rule. Washington’s attempts to fix the election were aimed at weakening the Shiite religious majority with its strong connections to Iran by reinforcing the political slate controlled by America’s staunchest political ally, then acting Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite who had previously collaborated with Western intelligence agencies. But this appears to have backfired, creating more resentment toward the United States. The U.S. rigging of the elections—for example by reportedly funneling millions of dollars and other support into Allawi’s campaign—has been impossible to hide. Given that the Sunnis were already effectively shut out of the election by the nature of the occupation itself, and that most candidates’ names were kept secret during the electoral campaign, the election in Iraq has to be regarded as one of the most bizarre and fraudulent in all of history. (See Seymour M. Hersh, “Get Out the Vote: Did Washington Manipulate Iraq’s Election?,” The New Yorker, July 25, 2005.)
The unmitigated disaster represented by the ill-fated American invasion and occupation of Iraq has now reached such proportions that it is engendering dissent even amongst some of those in the upper tiers of the U.S. national security establishment. Thus John Deutch, deputy secretary of defense from 1994–1995 and director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1995–1996, has recently taken a strong public stand (“Time to Pull Out. And Not Just from Iraq,” New York Times, July 15, 2005) in which he insists on the need for the “prompt withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Iraq. “Those who argue that we should ‘stay the course’ because an early withdrawal from Iraq would hurt America’s global credibility,” he argues, “must consider the possibility that we will fail in our objectives in Iraq and suffer an even worse loss of credibility down the road.” This, Deutch insists, is exactly what is happening: “I do not believe that we are making progress on any of our key objectives in Iraq. There may be days when security seems somewhat improved or when the Iraq government appears to be functioning better, but the underlying destabilizing effect of the insurgency is undiminished.” Hence, he argues that “the best strategy now is a prompt withdrawal plan consisting of clearly defined political, military and economic elements. Politically, the United States should declare its intention to remove its troops and urge the Iraq government and its neighbors to recognize the common regional interest in allowing Iraq to evolve peacefully and without external intervention. The first Iraqi election under the permanent constitution, planned for Dec. 15, is an appropriate date for beginning the pull-out.”
That such a policy is feasible and would probably allow the American Empire to cut its losses seems obvious. Nevertheless, such a rational course of action is unlikely to be adopted by the Bush administration, which shows every sign of trying to stay the course in the hope of achieving its original objectives. None of this, however, takes away from the fact that demand for a “prompt pull-out” of troops is now being voiced by a figure recently at the very top of the national security establishment. This should be viewed as an indication of how serious the Iraq crisis has become. Such breaks in the elite consensus signal the existence of new opportunities for a mass resurgence of the peace movement. That movement, however, must draw its main opposition to the war not from the failures of the occupation but from the immorality of the war itself, i.e., from its opposition to imperialism. It should have one and only one demand: the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq.
For those of you who have missed it, the new MR Webzine (www.mrzine.org), edited by Yoshie Furuhashi and containing daily content on the entire range of issues of concern to MR got off to a very successful launch on July 14, 2005 (Bastille Day), and has been providing penetrating analyses ever since. We encourage you to visit the site daily and to send in your own submissions of material or commentaries on articles.
In the spring of this year MR coeditor John Bellamy Foster was elected Chair Elect of the Marxist Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association. The Marxist Section, membership of which has recently fluctuated between 300 and 400 members, came into being thirty years ago and has been a resolute voice for historical materialism and critical analysis in the academy. As part of its activities the Marxist Section produces a quarterly newsletter containing short articles, often commenting on contemporary events. The most recent edition of this newsletter can be found at http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/k/b/kbh4/.
Wwe were pleased to learn of the publication in Iran of The Book of Social Review No. 1—In Memory of Paul Sweezy, edited by Khalil Rostamkhani. The volume includes Borzoo Nabet’s short memoir, “A Cup of Tea: Summer of ’72,” which appeared in translation in the February 2005 issue of MR. The book, published in Farsi only, is available from Baztabnegar Publishing House, P.O. Box 14335–1174, Tehran, Iran. You may contact them by telephone or fax at 98 (0) 21–890 49 54, or by e-mail: baztabnegar [at] hotmail.com.
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