Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
As the Senate Debates:
Death Surge in Iraq...New Threats on Iran
The Democrats’ July 17-18, all-night Senate debate on the Iraq war ended where it began—with no agreement in Congress on what to do and with Bush still running the show and vowing to continue the war.
The Democrats wanted a vote on their resolution to begin pulling U.S. combat troops out of Iraq within four months and to end U.S. combat operations by April 2008. Since everyone knew ahead of time that the Democrats didn't have the 60 votes to either prevent a Republican filibuster or override a Bush veto, it was at least in part a carefully choreographed exercise in imperialist political theater aimed at mollifying their increasingly anti-war base. (Recent polls show that 68 percent of the people disapprove of Bush’s handling of Iraq, 53 percent think the war was a mistake, nearly 44 percent want U.S. forces out by next spring, and 45 percent want Bush impeached.) Yet this political theater was also driven by very deep divisions within the U.S. ruling class, very real necessities confronting them in Iraq and the Middle East, and very high stakes for the U.S. empire.
“Withdrawal From Iraq is the Worst Possible Option, Except for all the Others”
The U.S. invasion and occupation have been a nightmare of death and suffering for the Iraqi people. A study by Johns Hopkins University published in the British medical journal Lancet last year found that an estimated 655,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the war. Over three million—one in seven Iraqis—have been driven from their homes. Many have been killed or maimed by the U.S. military, which has committed widespread atrocities—on the ground and from the air—during the occupation. The health care system has largely collapsed. U.S.-led “reconstruction” is a sick joke. Millions don’t even have basic services—over four years after the U.S. stormed into the country, promising “liberation.”
But this is not what’s worrying the U.S. imperialists, who consider this death and destruction as necessary “collateral damage” in their war for empire. Both the Bush administration and the Democrats refuse to expose the war’s staggering toll on Iraqis, and the bourgeois media censors it. None have demanded the U.S. take moral, political and financial responsibility for the carnage brought by the U.S. occupation and the sectarian violence it’s unleashed. None have condemned the war crimes and crimes against humanity still being committed by U.S. forces. And none are speaking out against how the “surge” has meant increased U.S. violence.
What is a big concern for the imperialists (both Republican and Democrat alike) is that the situation for the U.S. in Iraq is increasingly untenable and could seriously undermine the grip of U.S. imperialism in the entire Middle East. And there’s no debate in their ranks over the need to maintain U.S. dominance of this region, which has 80% of the world's energy resources. (See Larry Everest, “The Imperialist Debate Over Iraq: How to Best Maintain a Ruthless, Unjust Empire,” Revolution #96, July 22, 2007.)
The Bush regime invaded Iraq as part of a broad agenda which aimed to beat back anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism which was increasingly threatening U.S. domination in the entire region. Yet after years of occupation and military escalation, the Iraqi puppet government, put together by the U.S., remains fractured and weak, unable to govern the country. Attacks on U.S. forces continue unabated, with 5,335 in the month of June alone, the highest daily average since May 2003. Sectarian fighting continues and an all-out civil war and/or fragmentation of the country is a real possibility.
Meanwhile, a new National Intelligence Estimate assesses that al-Qaeda and anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalist trends have gained strength in the past several years throughout the region, fueled in large part by the U.S. war in Iraq. And potential crises and military confrontations are springing up across the region, between Turkey and Iraq’s Kurds, between Israel and Palestine, between Lebanon and Syria, and within Pakistan.
Confronted with all this, Bush and Cheney argue the U.S. must stay on the offense, continue its overall “war on terror,” and confront and destroy its adversaries. Bush demands the surge continue and that “victory” is possible. And he argues that “a free and stable Iraq is still in reach” and that to scale back in Iraq at this point, “would send an unmistakable signal to America’s enemies that our country can be bullied into retreat.”
Democratic opponents of Bush counter that a “free and stable Iraq,” is a pipe dream, that Bush’s invasion of Iraq has fueled Islamic fundamentalism and made matters worse across the region. The U.S. must regroup, they insist, cut its losses, and change course or face even more disastrous defeats for U.S. imperialism. Former State Department official Wayne White has said that, “withdrawal from Iraq is the worst possible option, except for all the others.” And Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. Security Adviser, recently put it this way: “The challenge that we face is rooted much more in the immediate problem which we have partially created. Namely, we are the number one superpower today in the world, we are the only super power. But our leadership has been tested in the Middle East. And some may think that what we have done in the Middle East are contributing to a potential explosion region wide. And if that explosion gets out of hand, we may end up getting bogged down for many years to come in a conflict that will be profoundly damaging to our capacity to exercise our power.” (Charlie Rose, June 15, 2007)
But the Democrats’ plan would not end the Iraq war—it would leave tens of thousands of troops there indefinitely, supposedly to conduct “anti-terrorism” operations, train pro-U.S. Iraqi forces, and protect U.S. assets (oil companies? military bases?) The Democrats could end the war by refusing to pass the bill appropriating money for the military. But they refuse to do that, and are instead going to vote to spend $649 billion for the U.S.’s global military machine.
Real and Growing Threat of a Military Attack on Iran
As the debate in the U.S. government over Iraq has intensified, there have been new steps toward a possible military action against Iran.
On July 16, the Guardian (UK) reported that nearly half the U.S.'s 277 warships are stationed close to Iran, including two aircraft carrier groups, with another carrier on the way.
The Guardian reports: “The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favor of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned. The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: ‘Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo.’” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2127115,00.html)
This shift was reportedly a product of Bush and Cheney’s “frustration” that diplomacy hadn’t forced the Iranians to capitulate to U.S. demands, and their fear that the next administration—whether Republican or Democrat—wouldn’t “deal with Iran decisively.” The Bush regime was also concerned about the fallout of Israel carrying out strikes on Iran by itself.
This report comes amid what the Washington, DC website www.Swoop.net calls “continuing emphasis by US commanders in Iraq on the Iranian connection to the killing of US soldiers there,” which US officials tell Swoop “reflects instructions from the Administration intended to build wide public opposition to Iran.” Swoop adds, “We believe that this strategy is succeeding.” (“Iran: Where Will We Be in 2009? July 8th 2007).
On July 1 in Baghdad, for instance, a top U.S. general claimed that Iranians were behind the January raid in Karbala that led to deaths of five U.S. soldiers. The New York Times noted that this “marks the first time that the United States has charged that Iranian officials have helped plan operations against American troops in Iraq and have had advance knowledge of specific attacks that have led to the death of American soldiers.”
The Senate—both Democrats and Republicans—have joined the war chorus, passing a resolution 97-0 on July 11 threatening Iran that “the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces by a foreign government or its agents is an intolerable act of hostility against the United States.”
These bellicose charges are part outright lies, part distortion, aimed at creating public opinion and pretexts and tripwires for attacking Iran. As I have pointed out before, it is certainly not inconceivable, given the reactionary nature of the Iranian government and its interests and ambitions in the region, that the Ahmadinejad regime would have connections with and be giving support to different Islamic fundamentalist forces in the region. But even if some of what the U.S. is saying about Iran is true, this would still IN NO WAY justify any kind of aggressive action by the U.S. against Iran, especially a military nuclear strike which the U.S. has NOT ruled out as an option on the table.
Debate on Iraq, Agreement on Iran
The fact that the Democrats oppose Bush on what to do about the war in Iraq, but are in agreement with the Republicans when it comes to aggressively countering Iran, is not a case of hypocrisy or paradoxical, but in fact, reveals the nature of the Democrats' “opposition” to the Bush administration, which flows from the same concern and goal: how to preserve America’s imperial position in the Middle East.
Both Democrats and Republicans are united in thinking that Iran is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in the region—in large part because of the impact of the war in Iraq. So they agree on the need to weaken, perhaps overthrow, Iran’s Islamic Republic. They want to prevent Iran from exerting more influence in Iraq and the region. They are also determined to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons—not because they fear an Iranian strike on the U.S. or Israel—but because Iran’s possession of even one or two nukes would significantly alter the regional military and political balance and impede U.S. and Israeli freedom of action.
“The leading Democratic presidential candidates all favor a tough approach to Iran,” Swoop.net reports. “A senior Democratic foreign policy adviser commented privately to us: ‘Iran will be a central issue for any Democratic president. On the Iranian nuclear issue, there is no difference between Bush and us.’”
The Republicans derided the Democrat’s all-night Senate session as a “slumber party.” There was truth there, but not the way the Republicans meant it. The danger isn’t the Democrats going to sleep on the job. The danger is that their anti-war posturing will induce a “slumber” of passivity among those who want to end the war. The real danger lies in relying on and waiting until the 2008 election -- at a time when it is more urgent than ever for millions to take mass, independent action to drive the Bush regime from power and repudiate its entire agenda of war endless war for empire.
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