Chris Harman

Occupation of Iraq

Panic over Iraq hits the White House

(22 November 2003)

From Socialist Worker, No.1878, 22 November 2003.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Worker Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Chris Harman argues that Iraqi resistance is shattering US plans to dominate the world

US FORCES have been occupying Baghdad for just eight months. But already the US faces a situation as serious as that which confronted it after the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968.

And the Tet Offensive took place eight years after the US first sent troops to Vietnam, not eight months.

“We are going to lose the situation unless there is a rapid and dramatic change of course,” concluded a CIA report endorsed by Paul Bremer, the head of the US-run occupation, last week.

The report gave a “bleak assessment that the resistance is broad, strong and getting stronger”. It totally rejected the official Bush-Blair line that the resistance is made up of supporters of Saddam Hussein or Al Qaida.

“There are thousands in the resistance – not just a core of Ba’athists. They are in their thousands, and growing every day. Not all those people are actually firing, but they are providing support, shelter and all that.”

The report also acknowledged that the US-appointed Iraq governing council has little support among the Iraqi population.

Single attack

The report came to light the day the Iraqi resistance killed 17 Italian troops in a single attack. The following day the resistance brought down two Black Hawk helicopters with a single shot.

On the same day Japan announced that it had changed its mind and was not going to send promised troops to back the US-British occupation. And South Korea reduced the number of troops it will send by nearly half.

There was a panic meeting in the White House and a sudden change of policy. Bush is desperate to get some US troops home before he faces re-election next year. So the US government announced it was going to give power to selected Iraqis much earlier than previously planned – possibly as early as next June.

Some media reports saw this as a sign of an imminent US withdrawal from Iraq. But Bush insisted it was “inconceivable” that the US would quit Iraq and Afghanistan: “We are not pulling out until the job is done. Period.”

To prove the point, US planes began bombing parts of Baghdad for the first time since April.

Bush’s administration has made it clear that the new “Iraqi government” will not be elected democratically. It will be based on figures chosen from various tribes and ethnic groups.

The model is that of Afghanistan, where the US rules through a puppet president with the backing of regional warlords.

As the Times said last week,

“Officials are concerned that a grassroots election held in the current atmosphere of rising antipathy to the US among ordinary Iraqis could produce a result counter to Washington’s real interests.”

Real elections will not be held for at least two years, until US nominees are able, by a combination of brutality and bribery, to get the result that they want.

If the crisis the US faces today is like that it faced in Vietnam in 1968, its response is also similar to that of President Richard Nixon from 1969 onwards.

Nixon promised a “Vietnamisation” of the war. This meant attempting to replace some of the US troops on the ground with Vietnamese troops.

And it meant using US military might to blast the country as never before with explosives, fragmentation bombs, napalm and the deadly defoliant Agent Orange.

And when this did not work, Nixon and his Secretary of State, Kissinger, spread the war into Cambodia, killing another million.

The Iraqisation strategy will not work any better than the Vietnamisation strategy did 30 years ago. The Guardian reports that even Bremer is “concerned” that “bombing and heavy-handed raids will increase popular support for the insurgency”.

But Bush has only one way to give the impression of winning, and it depends on increased bombing and attacks on ordinary Iraqis.

American barbarity will grow and so will resistance to it until the US is forced to get out.

Last updated on 13 December 2009