As the war in Iraq drags into its fifth year, popular dissatisfaction has solidified even while the US political system has shown itself incapable of finding a way out. Recent direct action at the port of Tacoma, Washington aimed at physically blocking the war by blockading the loading of arms onto ships headed to Iraq provides a hopeful alternative to the republicrat paralysis while the bodies pile higher.
It is increasingly absurd to call US involvement in Iraq a “war.” What started as an unprovoked war of aggression — justified based on lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction and ties to the 9-11 attacks, and really designed to steal Iraqi oil — has devolved into a clumsy occupation in the middle of a complex civil war. It’s a civil war with confusing, shifting fronts — and it is totally unclear what the US regime hopes to accomplish or which “side” US forces are trying to assist. The US fights for the Shiite controlled government, yet against the Shiite death squad controlled by it and the Shiite militias and political parties that make it up. Simultaneously, US forces try to prevent total ethnic cleansing of Sunnis, yet wage a brutal war against a popular Sunni insurgency. The US condemns Iran while aiding Iraqi forces allied with Iran. The contradictions go on and on.
In the end, the US has managed to unite Iraqis around one key conclusion — that the US has utterly destroyed their country through unforgivable incompetence and arrogance and that US forces should get the hell out. As Slingshot goes to press, a hundred thousand Iraqis were in the streets on the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad demanding “US Out!” Iraqi public opinion polls file support for the occupation in the low single digits. So much for being met with flowers. Bush’s reaction is to escalate and add troops.
Four years after the invasion and billions of dollars later, water, electricity, medical care and employment possibilities are grossly worse than they were under Saddam’s regime, even while he was under crippling economic sanctions. The most basic freedom in life — freedom to go outside without being killed — does not exist in Iraq. The US can no longer contend that its forces are “rebuilding” Iraq.
The best way to understand the war at this point is that Bush continues to fight with an eye towards his political “legacy” and not with any real hope that the war can somehow be “won.” Halliburton corporation — VP Cheney’s well connected previous employer — recently declared its job “finished” in Iraq and left the country. When Halliburton leaves, you know that Bush and his cronies have concluded that Iraq is lost.
Bush is now intent on running out the clock — keeping US troops in Iraq until the end of his presidency so that right-wing historians can later conclude that someone other than Bush lost the war. Twenty years from now, you’ll hear the Rush Limbaugh of the future blame the loss of Iraq on the media, on Democrats, on the peace movement — hell, on Jane Fonda! They’ll reason that Bush couldn’t have lost it, because he kept fighting, and troops only withdrew in disgrace after he left office. “It was someone later who pulled the plug . . . .”
The Bush regime cares more about its legacy than millions of Iraqis or tens of thousands of US solders who it has needlessly sacrificed — killed or permanently disabled with traumatic brain injuries, amputations, post traumatic stress disorder, or worse.
The mainstream US political system is broken. While the overwhelming majority of the public has reached the obvious conclusion — that the war is unwinnable and not worth fighting in the first place — this resounding public sentiment is not reflected in the formal institutions of government. The Democrats are too scared of being blamed for losing the war to take any real action to cut the funding. Instead, they debate, delay and set 2008 time-tables — playing right into Bush’s hands — permitting him to delay until he is out of office.
The only hope comes from those not in the halls of power — regular people like folks near Tacoma, Washington. In May, 2006, the Army’s attempt to load armored vehicles onto ships bound for Iraq in Olympia, Washington were met with a prolonged blockade and 40 arrests.
In March, the Army decided to avoid a repeat in Olympia and instead load 1,000 vehicles, including 300 armored Stryker vehicles from the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division based at Fort Lewis, at the port of Tacoma, a few miles north of Olympia. The army denied their decision had anything to do with the Olympia protests. (“The executive officer of the 833rd Transportation Battalion . . . declined to comment on why the equipment moved through Tacoma instead of Olympia, saying it was classified” according to the Olympian.) The effectiveness of last May’s tactics in Olympia are undeniable.
Tacoma mobilized overnight, organizing a round-the-clock protest at the port that resulted in three arrests. Demonstrators included members of the Tacoma Students for a Democratic Society, recently revived after a 35 year hiatus.
This is by no means the only direct action underway against the war. At least 140 people have been arrested in numerous actions around the country aimed at putting pressure on individual members of Congress. In San Francisco, activists have camped on the street outside House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s house demanding to talk to her about the war — she refused saying “my home is my home.” Huh? Around the country, there have been protests or office occupations against John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Marcy Kaptur, David Obey, Richard Durbin and Barbara Mikulski.
You can’t wait for politicians to end a war when they and their wealthy contributors are making money hand over fist off the killed and it is other people’s sons and daughters who are dying. Five years into the war, silence is complicity with the slaughter — only physically confronting the war machine and preventing it from operating can end this war. Bush is escalating the war — it is up to us to escalate the resistance.