President George W. Bush’s practiced smiles and his cronies’ anxious denials can’t hide the truth: Exposures of prisoner abuse, the military recruiting crisis, the instability of Washington’s client regime in Baghdad, and especially the powerful resistance movement are slamming the U.S.-led occupation.
Inexorably, inevitably, the skein of lies holding together the occupation of Iraq is coming undone.
Resistance fighters have doubled their daily attacks since April, the Pentagon admitted on May 31. At least 77 U.S. troops were killed in May.
That is the highest number since January, when U.S.-sponsored national elections were held, Reuters reported. The Associated Press put the number of U.S. casualties for the month at 80.
Military actions by the resistance slowed briefly after the Jan. 30 elections. That led Bush & Co. to virtually crow, “Mission accomplished,” all over again. The military brass spoke of reducing troop numbers by the end of the year—not as a move to end the occupation, but because they believed Iraq would shortly be “pacified.”
Instead, it appears the resistance had made a strategic decision: to retreat temporarily, giving the new occupation-sponsored government time to expose its true character to any Iraqis who might have harbored hopes that the election would herald the end of foreign occupation.
Today U.S. “experts” are singing a very different tune.
“Those who believed that the elections would be a decisive turning point undermining the insurgency are disappointed yet again,” admitted Ted Carpenter, a defense analyst for the Cato Institute. “The insurgency seems as capable as ever.”
Daniel Goure of the Lexington Institute predicted Washington would have to keep “significant numbers” of troops in Iraq “at least for the next five years. The reality is we have discovered, despite all our propaganda, that we are facing a very tough, resilient and smart adversary,” said Goure. (Reuters, May 31)
May also marked the highest monthly death toll so far for members of the Army National Guard and the military reserves. Some 31 of them died. (AP, June 4)
Most of these part-time soldiers were recruited under the slogan, “One weekend a month, two weeks a year.” Few ever ex pect ed to be deployed halfway around the world, much less to be on the front lines.
But that’s exactly what is happening more and more—as the 150,000 U.S. occupation troops on the ground are stretched thinner, and dissatisfaction grows over extended stays, stop-loss orders, and former servicepeople being pulled out of retire ment under the fine print of their contracts.
“The death toll among the Guard and Reserve underscores an important aspect of their recruiting problems,” wrote AP military analyst Robert Burns. “More potential recruits, citing concern about being sent to the war zone, are opting for other careers. The Army Guard missed its recruiting target last year and has fallen even farther behind this year.”
The Guardian of Britain reported June 5: “The U.S. military has stopped battalion commanders from dismissing new recruits for drug abuse, alcohol, poor fitness and pregnancy in an attempt to halt the rising attrition rate in an army under growing strain as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“An internal memo sent to senior commanders said the growing dropout rate was ‘a matter of great concern’ in an army at war. It told officers: ‘We need your concerted effort to reverse the negative trend. By reducing attrition 1 percent, we can save up to 3,000 initial-term soldiers. That’s 3,000 more soldiers in our formations.’”
Officially, the U.S. military says that at least 1,668 soldiers had died in Iraq by June 4. But many believe the death toll is actually much higher.
On May 29 the Spanish-language daily newspaper El Diario/La Prensa reported that its independent review of military documents provided to the government of Puerto Rico put the number of deaths at 4,076.
Washington says it doesn’t keep a tally of Iraqis killed by U.S. operations.
The U.S. occupation and its client regime are having an even harder time recruiting Iraqis to enforce the new status quo.
On June 5, Reuters reported that an Iraqi National Guard unit, the 90-member Defense Force of Rutba, was disbanded after its members refused to participate in training overseen by U.S. advisers.
“We refused to go because we were afraid that when we came back to Rutba we would be killed,” said Taha Allawi, a member of the unit. “The people here would believe that we were cooperating with U.S. forces and that is a reason for anyone to be killed.”
An unnamed U.S. official who oversees the training said that Iraqis who refused to attend the courses would be dismissed. Then, almost as an afterthought, the official added that it was of course the Iraqi defense ministry’s decision.
Similarly, U.S. forces are in the driver’s seat of “Operation Lightning,” the much-heralded door-to-door sweep of Baghdad and surrounding areas to detain suspected “insurgents.” At least 900 men between the ages of 15 and 55 had been rounded up by June 6.
“In Latifiyah, 20 miles south of Bagh dad,” AP correspondent Antonio Casta neda reported June 5, “Iraqi forces were in the forefront of Saturday’s sweep through the semi-rural region, [but] it was clear the U.S. military was still the driving force.
“About two hours into the operation, for example, American forces voiced concern that an area covered in tall grass had not been searched. … ‘This is a dangerous area. We need helicopters and the American army,’ Iraqi Brig. Gen. Najim al-Ekabi said. The U.S. soldiers, who had spent months training Iraqi soldiers, tried to persuade al-Ekabi to send his troops, saying it was likely that weapons were hidden in the fields and alongside an irrigation canal. …
“Al-Ekabi asked for a private meeting with the Americans and departed shortly afterward in a large convoy, ostensibly to conduct the search. Maj. Ronny Echelberger later went into the area with American forces and searched a few homes, saying [he] was not sure the Iraqi search had been sufficiently thorough.”
On June 5, U.S. Marines said they had discovered a well-equipped bunker used by the resistance at a quarry in Karma, near Falluja. The bunker allegedly contained a large stockpile of weapons, as well as air conditioning, showers and other facilities for guerrilla fighters.
The Bush administration immediately tried to spin the discovery as evidence of “foreign terrorists” being at the heart of the resistance. In reality, though, the bunker illustrates the indigenous resistance movement’s high level of organization. It also reveals how carefully the former Iraqi government prepared before the U.S. forces invaded in March 2003.
In the months leading up to Wash ing ton’s “Shock and Awe” campaign, the government of President Saddam Hus sein had distributed arms and provided training to the civilian population, among other preparations for long-term resistance.
The contrast with the disorganized, demoralized forces under the Iraqi colonial government’s flag couldn’t be greater.
The Bush administration is rolling the dice on its ability to co-opt the leaders of various Iraqi religious and political factions into its “democratic process.” Objectively, on the other hand, conditions increasingly fuel popular support for the militant resistance.
Unemployment is well over 50 percent throughout the country.
The colonial occupation is neglecting the task of rebuilding infrastructure and medical care, decimated by the war and more than a decade of devastating U.S./United Nations sanctions.
The number of long-term prisoners detained at Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca, near Basra, has more than doubled since last August. There are now more than 10,000 such prisoners, according to the June 5 Los Angeles Times:
“Military sweeps have netted many guerrillas but also thousands of others whose offenses were nonexistent, minor or impossible to prove. They often are held for months, only to be released without explanation.”
Next, the U.S. occupiers will try to divert growing anger in Iraq and worldwide with the announcement that Saddam Hussein, the demonized former president of Iraq, is to stand trial on 12 charges this summer. It’s up to the anti-war movement here to keep the public focus on the real issue: the demand that U.S. and all foreign occupation troops immediately, unconditionally leave Iraq.