Operation Plymouth Rock and the Logic of Occupation

Revolutionary Worker #1261, December 12, 2004, posted at rwor.org

Heavy events follow, one after the other, in Iraq. All of them pointing out the determination of the U.S. government to impose its domination over that region‑‑by any means at hand. And all of them highlight once again the growing determination among Iraq’s people not to be dominated in this way.


The U.S. military stood knee‑deep in the rubble and bodies of Fallujah and declared victory. And yet, its own officers openly wondered if they could "hold" the city once the survivors return to their homes.

New York Times reporter Robert Worth wrote from Fallujah (Dec. 3): "As military officials here prepare to start letting the first residents return to Fallujah.they face an unusual challenge: how to win back the confidence of the people whose city they have just destroyed..American officials say they cannot afford to let this former insurgent bastion become a microcosm of the broader struggle in Iraq‑‑a rapid military victory followed by a lapse into violence and chaos. .Fighting goes on in the city’s southern neighborhoods, where small groups of guerrillas are still holding out."

The stark words here about a "city they have just destroyed" barely captures the horrific conditions in this once‑thriving center. The dead are estimated in the many thousands. The U.S. officials estimate that just rebuilding the power grid may take a year. They estimate that providing a functioning sewage system may take at least several months.

And there is no guarantee that the U.S. can successfully find anyone willing to work for them in the neighborhoods and alleyways of Fallujah. Worth wrote: "Just last week, as water from broken pipes created chest‑deep floods in Fallujah’s streets, American officers had trouble persuading any of the Iraqi engineers who knew where the valves were located to venture into the city and help shut them off."

The U.S. says it will only allow people back into Fallujah "one sector at a time"‑‑registered, supervised and (of course) disarmed. The U.S. occupiers have issued the Orwellian decree that the head of every household returning to Fallujah will be required to wear a visible identification badge. No cars will be allowed into the city‑‑since the occupiers are terrified of improvised attacks. Instead, future inhabitants will be forced to use buses (that will clearly be controlled and patrolled by armed occupiers).

The whole plan has the flavor of Israeli operations on the West Bank, or the all‑American reservations forced on Native peoples, or some Nazi‑era ghetto in eastern Europe.


The U.S. military openly announced a list of other cities that will suffer Fallujah’s fate if the people don’t bow, and thousands of troops were dispatched to roust and terrorize a large, poor and unruly area that the U.S. invaders have nicknamed their "triangle of death." On November 23, right before Thanksgiving, the U.S. and allied forces launched a "sweep" that they called "Operation Plymouth Rock." They started with 5,000 troops in 11 simultaneous pre‑dawn raids on an arc of towns south of Baghdad.

In their press releases, the U.S. military portrayed the people of this area as "thieves, killers, crime families and terrorists"‑‑which suggests the kinds of brutality they were planning to unleash (and pre‑emptively justify).

Running Short of Troops

And yet, at the same time, the U.S. government has had to admit that it is running out of troops to fill the mounting needs of conquest. Its attempts to "follow up on the victory of Fallujah" cannot hide the deepening quagmire the U.S. finds itself in, or the mounting failure of its strategies for handing over the counterinsurgency effort to newly recruited Iraqi troops.

The U.S. occupation authorities (and the White House) have constantly said that they plan to solve their future "security needs" by bribing and training Iraqi forces to serve them. In U.S. war plans, such Iraqi puppet military forces were supposed to number about 300,000 by now. But the U.S. has not come close to recruiting more than a fraction of that. And very few of the Iraqi military units that supposedly exist (on paper) are reliable during U.S. counterinsurgency operations aimed at the Iraqi people.

In the recent round of fighting, huge numbers of pro‑U.S. Iraqi police simply deserted in cities across Iraq (often going over to the insurgents with weapons and vehicles). The so‑called "Iraqi National Guard" is being forced to do the "dirty work" of occupation‑‑including the widespread invasion of mosques and the interrogation of prisoners. These forces, and especially their officers, are now sharply targeted by the insurgent forces‑‑ and many are deserting.

In addition Bush’s pathetic "Coalition of the Willing" isfalling apart. Other governments are apparently not so willing to participate in a bloody and failing counter‑insurgency‑‑no matter how much pressure or "aid" money the U.S. government employs.

The Washington Times recently wrote (December 3): "About one‑third of coalition troops in Iraq, other than British and American soldiers, have left or are scheduled to be withdrawn after the Jananuary 30 elections, and remaining coalition members say they will be hard‑pressed to fill the gaps. Troops from the Netherlands and Hungary are to leave in mid‑March; Poland‑‑which ranks fourth in terms of numbers‑‑intends to downsize its troop force; and Italy‑‑the third largest troop provider‑‑may not extend its present commitment, which ends this month, by more than three to six months. The moves will reduce the multinational force on the ground by almost 2,200 troops by the end of March, bringing the total number of international soldiers who will have pulled out since the start of the war to just over 5,000‑‑about one‑third of the coalition effort not including American and British forces."

Only a few new allies (including South Korea and Japan) have been providing more troops.

The situation has led the U.S. to stop reporting on "coalition strength." Concrete country‑by‑country numbers are hard to come by. One U.S. military spokesman, Col. Farlow, said: "We do not provide a comprehensive listing of countries that are supporting the operations there with forces on the ground."

The truth is that the U.S. imperialists are now forced to commit more of their own forces‑‑as Iraq’s people prove more and more difficult to control. The Pentagon announced that it was sending another 12,000 U.S. troops into Iraq’s war zones‑‑after U.S. forces had been held to constant levels during the election season. U.S. troop levels are now at 150,000.

This new escalation may be followed by more deployments. The truly massive U.S. military is openly being "stretched thin" by the global offensives underway‑‑so much so that its Reserves, National Guard and even regular military forces are deployed‑then‑redeployed, with extended duty. And, as a result, they are suffering from growing fatigue and disaffection. And so much so that the White House is having a hard time credibly denying the rumors that they must be considering some form of military draft to plump up their invasion forces.

Bush’s Election Plan: Kill the Opposition

Meanwhile the U.S. occupation is in a deepening mess with its plans to stage a colonial "election" in January.

The whole logic of the brutal U.S. offensives is to "kill the opposition and terrify the people so the U.S. puppets can win a vote"‑‑which is a plan for an utterly bogus, rigged colonialist charade that cannot possibly represent the will of Iraq’s people.

All this may serve (and is intended to serve) as a public relations stunt aimed at people within the U.S. and its military‑‑so that government loyalists can continue to claim, that this war is about "bringing freedom" to Iraq. But to any thinking observer in most of the world (and certainly in Iraq), these "elections‑under‑the‑ gun" will have little legitimacy as an act of "self‑determination."

The U.S. had planned to surround 9,000 polling places with Iraqi troops (in a public show of the power of their puppet forces). But they now admit that they just don’t have close to enough Iraqi soldiers to serve them in that way. They face the prospect of polling places surrounded by heavily armed U.S. troops‑‑who would find themselves dispersed and highly exposed to attack. One plan is to have a few token Iraqis at each polling place, with units of American soldiers lurking nearby within heavily armored vehicles and tanks.

Even if they are held, these bogus "elections" may not "increase stability" for the U.S. occupiers‑‑but may end up inflaming many different contradictions within Iraq.

Under current military conditions, it will be hard for the U.S. to even hold elections. Large parts of the country, especially the cities of central Iraq‑‑including much of Baghdad itself‑‑are often outside U.S. control.

The U.S. may succeed in holding elections in those parts of Iraq where local forces have something to gain: For example, in the northern Kurdish regions, an election could bolster the forces inclined toward autonomy and independence. Or in the populous southern Shi’ite regions where Islamist forces have great influence, elections could reinforce their claim to power.

In other words, the U.S. war planners have to face the possibility that their "election" could increase the alienation of non‑Shi’ite populations in central Iraq, produce a government that is obviously not representative, might increase the pressures pulling Iraq apart, might produce a new government eager to ask the U.S. to leave, and might even leave much of Iraq under conservative Shi’ite Islamist forces who have close relations with Iran.

Meanwhile, the U.S. claims about "self‑determination" were exposed by the struggle over when to hold the elections. In Iraq, debate has erupted among the Iraqi political forces who are collaborating with the current puppet government, or who are at least considering participating in the U.S.‑sponsored "elections."

The date of these elections may decide who wins. A number of Sunni collaborators insist that the elections be postponed until the insurgency in Sunni areas is suppressed. Meanwhile, some Shi’ite forces‑‑including the prominent Muslim cleric Ali al‑Sistani‑‑argue for going ahead with the January dates (which are likely to give them a great deal of control over any future government).

How was this debate resolved? With the U.S. President George W. Bush announcing that everyone should stick to the previous January 30 election date. Some "self‑determination"‑‑where domestic national elections are held and scheduled at the whim of a foreign imperialist government!