Reject the Iraq Quagmire

Their Iraq war exposed, Bush and Co. are on the defensive: it’s time to hit them when they’re down

After two wars, a massive domestic crackdown, and so many other outrages over the past few years, a fresh political wind is finally blowing. Finally, as lie after lie is exposed, a segment of the public is waking up and pushing back a bit. Bush’s poll numbers are down, with almost half of Americans disapproving of his job performance in a recent CBS poll. According to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, a third of soldiers serving in Iraq believe the war lacks definition and is of “little or no value.” Everyone is realizing that far from Saddam being an imminent threat to the “American homeland,” he didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction at all — it was all just a manipulative hoax. On point after point, those opposed to the reckless, militaristic, unilateral American course are being proven right.

As cracks in the facade develop, its up to radicals to widen the cracks, turn them into gaps and holes, and do our best to push the rotting structure over. With the rulers finally on the defensive a little bit, now isn’t the time to take a break, sit back and be thankful that we’re not protesting a third war against Iran or Syria.

Right now we have a unique opportunity not only to make sure those future military adventures never become reality, but to undermine consensus on the rest of the corporate capitalist program. In other words, by emphasizing and exploiting the darkening popular sentiment regarding Iraq, we may be able to expose other apparently unrelated lies about the environment, civil liberties, the war on terrorism, and the continuing economic war against the poor, workers and the middle class being waged by the ultra-elite.

If anything, now is the time to turn up the heat and the pressure, to hit the streets even more often and in even larger numbers. If millions of people can come out when it’s almost certain that the protest will fail and that Bush will order war anyway, now that the rulers are on the run, it should be easy to take the offensive and promote something positive for the future to replace the right wing agenda of war, greed and exploitation.

The war on Iraq was a turning point in our rulers’ fortunes. The war was a classic case of overreaching — the rulers mistakenly thought that they were so powerful that they could do anything they wanted. Right before the war, Bush and his advisors announced a new American “doctrine” of pre-emption — that the United States would reserve the unilateral right to invade any country that could even potentially pose a military threat, even in the absence of any hostile actions from the country to be invaded. This announcement was widely seen as a declaration of American empire, since it directly challenged established notions of international law, in which only those attacked may attack, and aggressor nations are isolated. The new doctrine of preemption mirrored right-wing ideological fantasies of exclusive American power described by think-tanks like the Project for the New American Century, which was set up in 1997 by many of those who would become the Bush Administration.

Bush’s pronouncements, in the context of massive US military superiority, were pretty scary stuff. But now, the chickens have come home to roost. Bush tried and failed to get international support for the invasion, and then decided to do it alone in the face of the largest peace movement in world history. But although the US military is large and the United States is a rich country, it can’t do anything its rulers may want and the aftermath of the war has proved this once and for all.

In the wake of the war, it has become clear that the go-it-alone invasion has led to a disaster. Not surprisingly, the Iraqi people did not welcome the invaders with flowers, but correctly perceived them as an occupying army. While pretty much everyone has happy to be rid of a brutal dictator, Iraqis quickly began to resent the inept American military and its lack of any realistic plan for a post-war Iraq. The war created an instant power vacuum that is now at risk of being filled by religious fundamentalists, bullies, and a new American-installed police force made up mostly of Saddam’s discredited police. The brutality of the occupation is undermining moderate Iraqis who are struggling to build a just society out of Saddam’s ashes.

Most people in Iraq are worse off than before the war, particularly Iraqi women who have been forced off the streets by religious zealots and the fear of rape and murder – not a priority for US occupation forces already stretched to the limit protecting their own skin.

No weapons of mass destruction were found, but millions of pounds of conventional weapons now lie all around Iraq, unguarded and at risk of falling into the hands of kooks and freedom fighters alike around the world. American soldiers are getting killed almost every day, not just by alleged “terrorists” and “Baath party loyalists” but by regular Iraqis who are outraged at the continued brutal occupation, which doesn’t seem to be accomplishing anything constructive.

The families of Iraqis mistakenly killed at US check-points by scared, non-Arabic speaking GIs aren’t just mourning — they’re nurturing a seething resentment. Some are starting to look for revenge.

Meanwhile, in the US, people are not too happy at the idea of pouring tens of billions of dollars into the occupation when so many domestic social programs are being slashed. The international community — who were ignored before the war — are justifiably unwilling to help with the occupation by sending either troops or money. Bush is left holding the bag.

This web of betrayal, lies, failure and disaster is the best possible news for opponents of an American global empire. We need to figure out numerous ways of emphasizing all of these failures and discrediting Bush and his policies as much as possible, while pushing policies to help the Iraqi people.

And we need to be clear that it is time for us to set the agenda and drive the political train now that the rulers are on the defensive. Radicals have grown accustomed to protesting and reacting and don’t know what to do when our rulers are weakened. It will be a tremendous missed opportunity if we fail to figure out what to do once momentum is on our side.

When the monster is down, its time to increase the ferocity of our attack and push our agenda. Following are some ideas to focus on:

Women have paid the highest price for Bush’s adventure in Iraq. Six months after Bush declared victory, few women are even able to leave their homes, much less participate in a free and liberated Iraq. Iraq was generally a secular nation before the war, with women permitted participation in the workforce and civil society. Before Saddam, Iraqi law protected employment, education and inheritance rights for women, and included a progressive marital act, according to the Iraqi Women’s League.

Since the war, religious fundamentalism has increased, with some sects maintaining that women should stay in the home, others requiring women to wear the hijab (veil) and others refusing to protect women who venture outside, according to the Iraqi Women’s Rights Coalition.

Safety from street crime has been an even more severe problem. Since the war, thousands of women have been raped and hundreds killed by gangs and individual criminals, according to the Common Dreams News Center. In September alone, the Baghdad Forensic Institute investigated 50 suspicious deaths of women who were victims of rape and murder or honor killings, according to the UK Guardian. There are reports that some women who have been raped are then killed by their families to avoid shame to the family, according to Nidal Husseini a nurse at the Institute.

All of this has forced women out of universities and jobs and off the streets. Numerous media reports mention how women have simply disappeared from Iraq’s streets. When the schools reopened October 4, few girls showed up. ”So far we have not seen any benefits from this war that the Americans said would liberate us,” Kowthar Ahmed, a Baghdad University student, told the Common Dreams News Center. ”If anything, things have become worse for us.” Iraqi women have consistently accused the US army of disrespecting women at check-points and during military raids on private houses and neighborhoods.

We must hold the US occupiers accountable for the ongoing disaster for Iraqi women.

We need to fight privatization of the Iraqi economy. The occupation is being used as a cover for expanding US corporate globalization policies that will transform Iraqi workers into cogs in a global industrial system, degrade Iraq’s environment and strip Iraq of its natural resources, with no return to Iraq’s people.

At the moment, the US is laying the foundation to sell off most Iraqi industry. If the history of privatization in other regions is any guide, this will mean ownership by multi-national corporations and degradation of the Iraqi economy. Privatization is a key tool in the West’s modern form of colonialism, in which people in developing nations have to toil in international factories and offer up raw materials for foreign consumption, and get nothing in return.

Radicals need to keep the human and economic cost of the war in the public eye. American soldiers are getting killed every day — let’s post the list in public places and keep track of the numbers. While we don’t know the names of Iraqis who are getting killed, we need to find ways of publicizing their deaths as well.

We should emphasize the class war aspects of the unfair burden on military families and reservists, who have been pulled out of their civilian lives and cast into constant danger for nothing. The only beneficiaries of the occupation are a few huge corporations.

We need to hold Bush and company totally responsible for alienating the entire international community, ensuring that no other nation will offer significant post-war assistance. Bush now expects American tax payers to shoulder the burden of the occupation and reconstruction almost alone, proposing spending $87 billion, or about $300 for every person in the US. This cost is his fault — let him and his rich friends pay it. We should emphasize that he intends to borrow the money against our future income, when he just cut taxes to the richest Americans. Most of the money is going to rip-off deals with major multi-national corporations.

We should expose the question of whether the UN or the US should occupy Iraq as a false colonialist shell game. Why should anyone other than the Iraqi people control their destiny?

Most of all, we must emphasize Bush’s broken promises and lies — he told the troops they would be home in a matter of months. Now, there is no end in site. He built a house of cards on weapons of mass destruction, and now he can’t find any, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars looking. He said the invasion would bring freedom, but instead it has brought chaos, violence and domination.

As we attack the failures and lies surrounding Iraq, we can begin attacking the failures and lies that surround all of the rulers’ policies.

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