Two Years After the Iraq Invasion

No End to War, Lies, Hype and Threats

Revolutionary Worker #1272, March 27, 2005, posted at

The war on Iraq started two years ago, on March 19, 2003. And it has not ended yet. The brutal U.S. invasion has now become a brutal occupation and counterinsurgency.

Two years later, the original justifications of that war lie in tatters. The White House claimed that Saddam Hussein's government was a threat to the world—and especially to the U.S. They said Iraq had stockpiles of "weapons of mass destruction" (WMDs) and had an inclination to share them with groups like al- Qaida.

With great self-righteousness, the Bush administration declared that Hussein had lied to the UN and hidden his violations of international resolution, and that such dishonesty could not be allowed. Bush's Secretary of State Colin Powell went personally before the United Nations (and the world's TV cameras) to insist that the U.S. had detailed and specific evidence of these WMDs—flashing space-based photographs and playing recordings of Iraqi military communications.

But it was all a complete lie—a shameless, flimsy, manufactured justification for a war that was ten years in the planning. And the whole world now knows it—even if a "faith-based" section of Americans, addled by government claims and Fox News, still somehow believes that Saddam has nukes hidden somewhere.

A People Under the Gun

It is estimated that over 100,000 Iraqis have died since the night, two years ago, when the U.S. military first unleashed its war with waves of "shock and awe" bombardments.

Even after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government, the killings have continued. Eyewitness reports in the Arab press describe the hellish conditions during last November's U.S. assault on the city of Fallujah, where whole neighborhoods were bombarded, including with napalm-like incendiary weapons, and where the invading soldiers often kicked open doors and systematically killed everyone inside, including children.

For those who have survived the cruise missiles and the two years of occupation, life still often lies in ruins. And in many places, the struggle for survival unfolds, quite literally under foreign guns.

For two years, the U.S. forces have rounded up Iraqis by the thousands in sweeps through neighborhoods and villages. Since the brutal U.S. retaking (and destruction) of Fallujah last November, the numbers of Iraqis picked up from their homes and streets has increased greatly. Many thousands more are now being held for long periods in places like the now-notorious Abu Ghraib prison—without charges, trial, or sentences.

There are huge risks involved with travel by car in Iraq, as U.S. troops are increasingly inclined to blow away any vehicle that approaches them.

This was driven home by a number of recent highway killings by troops, including an incident on March 15, reported by local Iraqi police, where soldiers of the U.S. 1st Marine Expeditionary Force killed one of U.S.'s main Iraqi collaborator-generals, Ismail Swayed al-Obeid, when his car approached their checkpoint as he returned home to al- Anbar province from meetings in Baghdad.

Women are prisoners in their homes—facing danger of attack and rape in the streets and increasing pressures to cloak themselves when in public from emerging fundamentalist forces in both Shi'ite and Sunni areas.

Not surprisingly, under these conditions of continuing war and occupation, the Iraqi economy remains in a shambles. Electrical power, sewage treatment, internal trade, oil production and transport—all of them operate fitfully far below pre-war levels. In one of the world's biggest oil producers, people spend long hours in line—sometimes as long as two full days—just to buy gasoline. Because of the ongoing war and occupation, reconstruction has almost stopped. Millions of people are desperate for any way to survive. Unemployment is over 50%. And the occupation authorities exploit that—offering paychecks and positions to those willing to serve them.

Hyping an Occupiers Election

"Some people talk about sovereignty, but what sovereignty are they talking about when American tanks are roaming Mosul streets?"

An imam in northern Iraq

Bogged down in this war and criticized by many of the world's governments, the U.S. government has nonetheless been on a giddy, triumphalist rant celebrating and hyping the Iraqi elections of January 30.

Many times in world history, voting has been used as a gimmick to claim legitimacy for those in power. Colonial powers have held elections to prettify their puppets (as the U.S. did in southern Vietnam during the 1960s, or as it has done repeatedly since then in countries like Peru or Guatemala or El Salvador or Nicaragua). Dictators have held plebiscites to claim they have approval of those they rule (as Hitler repeatedly did in his Third Reich).

But it is hard to think of any place or time when a conqueror has more shamelessly used an election to justify an unprovoked aggression, or to justify a wave of new threats against still more countries.

The U.S. government has pointed to the recent Iraqi elections—saying they justify the invasion two years ago (which after all has been left without any visible justification).

They point to these elections to claim that Iraq's people are glad to be conquered.

They point to these elections to claim that Iraq has now moved from being an occupied country to being a "sovereign" one.

And they even point to these elections to justify their intense new threats against other countries in the region—saying that Iraq's voting shows that the U.S. is transforming the Middle East toward "democracy" and so it is perfectly reasonable for the U.S. to bully and threaten countries like Syria and Iran.

In reality, such an election could not (and did not) represent the will of Iraq's people—because from the start the key issues facing the people were not allowed into the process. And those key issues were not up for discussion, because the whole process was set up by a U.S. occupying army and was designed to solidify and legitimize ongoing U.S. domination. The election was not an act of self-determination—it was a sham used to justify the armed robbery of Iraqi independence.

Most forces vocally opposed to the U.S. occupation were excluded from the election—and in fact faced attack, arrest, and even execution. The future of Iraq's strategic oil resources was not up for discussion in the election—since the U.S. intends to have any future government sign over control of the "privatized" oil to corporations favorable to U.S. interests. In fact, very little was "up for discussion"—since the list of individual candidates was kept secret from the public, and there were virtually no political platforms or campaign speeches. The voting was almost strictly done by party slates—and really mobilized by nationality and religion.

The U.S. offered deals to important internal political forces: To conservative, largely Islamist, forces of the Shi'ite south, they offered the major posts in any future government. And to the Kurdish nationalist parties, they offered a veto power within that future Iraqi government, which could guarantee the de facto independence of the northern Kurdish regions. Both deals were designed to confine the armed anti-U.S. resistance to the Sunni regions of central Iraq—by further polarizing Iraqi politics along religious and nationality lines.

Manipulating Iraqi political forces this way is a classic example of colonialist "divide and conquer." And this manipulation turned this rigged election process into a competition among the different Iraqi religious and nationality groups and deepened the possibility of civil war within Iraq. Almost immediately after the election, more Sunni fundamentalist attacks on Shi'ite populations broke out, and tensions rose between Shi'ite and Kurdish forces fighting over Kirkuk, the strategic northern oil center.

After the elections, the often-deadlocked negotiations over a future Iraqi government could only take place deep in the "Green Zone"—the sprawling, highly-fortified U.S. headquarters, built out of former presidential palaces and new U.S.-style suburban developments right in the very heart of Baghdad.

U.S. troops, high walls and barbed wire are protecting these haggling, wannabe Iraqi collaborators—as they debate exactly how much of future Iraqi law will be determined by a fundamentalist reading of the Koran, and who precisely will have the privilege of selling Iraqi oil to foreign corporations.

And through the long weeks of this "post-election" process, U.S. "advisors" and agents are everywhere, twisting arms to ensure that the final outcomes serve U.S. interests.

This ugly charade of intrigue, deception, corruption and naked collaboration gives a vivid picture of the kind of neo-colonial "democracy" the U.S. government dreams of imposing on other countries of the Middle East. It has nothing to do with the will, or the interests, of the masses of people. It has everything to do with restructuring international relations to strengthen U.S. domination—especially over strategic regions.

High on the Wish List: A Stable Puppet Army

Meanwhile, the urgent question that comes up over and over from the lips of nervous American war makers is: can the Iraqi parties allied with the U.S. help create a stable pro-U.S. armed force of Iraqis to police and control Iraq's people?

U.S. commanders are desperate to withdraw their forces within their fortified "enclaves" and leave the dirty work to Iraqi hirelings.

And yet, so far, two years after their quick military victory over the old Iraqi army, the U.S. occupiers have only been able to recruit a few thousand Iraqis to their military and police training camps (largely using the raw bribery of American dollars). And these forces have deserted, over and over again, when asked to attack the Iraqi people. In some dramatic cases, Iraqi police have gone over to insurgent forces, bringing their U.S.-supplied weapons and vehicles.

In their efforts to create a stable military force, the U.S. has again had to rely on methods that inflame the danger of civil war. For example, the U.S. command has repeatedly brought in armed Kurdish forces to help suppress largely Sunni populations in central Iraq.

The armed Iraqi forces that the U.S. is unleashing on the people are quickly gaining a reputation for raw brutality. One reporter, Colin Freeman, described the following street scene ( Scotsman, March 19):

"Screaming oaths and waving Kalashnikovs, the masked gunmen force their pick-up truck through the downtown Baghdad traffic jam, firing warning shots at anyone who fails to clear their path. 'These bastards shot a cousin of mine a few weeks ago for not getting out their way,' snarls one driver over the grind of frantically reversing gearboxes. 'Who the fuck do they think they are?'

"The official answer is that they are the new Iraqi army, part of the U.S.-trained security forces to which coalition armies hope to hand responsibility as soon as possible."

Isolated and Digging In

"The road home goes through Baghdad."

Gen. David Petraeus Commander of the 101st Airborne March 2003, at the start of U.S. invasion

"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

George W. Bush, off coast of San Diego, California May 1, 2003

"It wasn't what I thought it would be..The thing is, yes, I did sign up for this. And, when I did, I had this vision that I'd be a good guy and defend my country. But killing people for something I don't believe in just to fulfill a contract just didn't seem right to me either."

Brandon Hughey, who enlisted at 17, then deserted from Fort Hood, New York Times, March 18, 2005

"What keeps me awake at night is, what will this all-volunteer force look like in 2007?"

Gen. Richard A. Cody, Army vice chief of staff, testifying in Senate hearing, March 2005

White House supporters have recently started talking about the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq—perhaps in one year or two, because of the promised development of "Iraqi National Guard" forces or because of the possibility of enticing more countries to send troops.

But the fact is U.S. troops are now deeply embedded in Iraq—with no end in sight. While Washington war makers talk of withdrawing the troops, the military bases they live in are being built up as permanent footholds in a highly strategic region.

The U.S. and British forces are not "liberators" and not seen as "liberators"—even by most of those Iraqis who have chosen to collaborate. It is obvious, certainly to many of the foreign troops on the ground, that huge numbers of Iraqis hate them and simply want them gone, and that the different currents of armed Iraqi insurgency have a mass base among the people. There is a reason the U.S. armed forces are more and more fearful of every passing car and every pothole in the roads.

Bush's talk of a broad international "Coalition of the Willing" becomes more tattered with each passing day. Spain has pulled out its troops. Bulgaria, Italy, Ukraine and Poland are all in various stages of disengaging from the occupation.

And maintaining the 150,000 U.S. troops on the ground has proven to be a major challenge to the Pentagon. The all-volunteer Army and Reserves face a drop in recruits—for the obvious reason that fewer kids are eager to join an army caught in a shooting war and threatening to launch new adventures.

This government crudely forbid the photographing of returning coffins. But it can't hide the fact that about 1,700 of their "coalition" soldiers have already died, overwhelmingly after Bush declared the "end of major hostilities" in May 2003. So far the U.S. Army alone has lost 79 aircraft and scores of tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles in battle ( Washington Post, March 19).

Since 2001 the U.S. military has deployed more than one million troops for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 341,000, or nearly a third, serving two or more overseas tours. A de facto draft has been imposed on U.S. military reservists and National Guard troops—many of whom have simply been kept on duty and recycled into the war zone, over and over, in complete violation of their contracts and legal rights.

Thousands have deserted since the war started—most often by going on leave and not returning to duty. When a group of former soldiers created a Web site ( to explain how to get conscientious objector status, the site got 3,000 visitors on its first day.

The Washington Post recently wrote (March 19): "Recruiting troubles, especially, threaten the force at its core. But with a return to the draft widely viewed as economically and politically untenable, senior military leaders say the nation's security depends on drumming up broader public support for service."

Imagine, for a moment, the reckless means this government may be considering to "drum up broader public support" for their ongoing wars.

Lt. Gen. Roger C. Schultz, director of the Army National Guard, said: "If we don't get this thing right, the risk is off the scale."

A Whole World in Their Sights

Behind all their giddy talk of "extending democracy," the truth is that the U.S. has unleashed war, raw terror and then the constant threat of new war on this region.

The world saw the gruesome pictures from Abu Ghraib—where Iraqi men and women were brutalized and humiliated. And new exposures keep coming out that further document that similar horrors have happened around the world and have been approved at the very highest level.

CIA head Porter J. Goss was recently asked, repeatedly and directly, at a Senate hearing, if the CIA used torture in its interrogations. Each time he refused to deny that CIA agents has been torturing prisoners over the last few years. His response is yet another confirmation that the U.S. government has expanded and used a global network of torture on its captives—including in Iraq.

At the same time, military officials at the Pentagon have conceded that at least 26 prisoners were murdered in custody by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq—including by CIA interrogators. This number obviously does not include killings that were successfully covered up. And we can assume there were many such cover-ups. The Abu Ghraib scandal documented that military and CIA interrogators routinely brought Iraqis into that prison without written records—so that there would be no questions if the captives died in their custody.

Even while their grip on Iraq itself is shaky and challenged, the White House and U.S. high command have proceeded to exploit their "beachhead" in Iraq—seeking to "restructure" the whole surrounding Middle East in their interests.

After all, the U.S. superpower was following the logic of empire when it sent its troops into the strategic Persian Gulf. And now it is responding to the challenges of occupation by accelerating its threats against Iraq's neighboring countries.

Worried that a largely Shi'ite fundamentalist interim government might not obey U.S. commands? The U.S. throws the Shi'ite fundamentalist government of neighboring Iran on the defensive with threats of war.

Need to isolate and destroy the Iraqi resistance? The U.S. threatens neighboring countries with war if they allow arms and fighters to pass into Iraq.

The U.S. is making a growing list of aggressive demands on Syria's government—including that Syria help suppress any resistance to Israel and help impose a permanent defeat on the Palestinians. Meanwhile, from U.S. bases in Iraq, waves of unmanned spy drones have flooded Iranian airspace, creating a jittery war fever—all while President Bush repeats that he won't take the "option" of war "off the table."

Two Years into an Unjust War

This war on Iraq is relentless, intolerable and wrapped in endless deceit.

At the start of this war they promised it would be just and swift. And now, on this grim two year anniversary, they insist it is still just and may end soon.

But the truth is that all this current official optimism surrounding the recent elections, all the trial balloons about "early pullouts," and all the carefully guarded claims about competent new puppet troops—these are all the latest lies designed to prop up public support for a grinding, harsh counterinsurgency.

This war in Iraq is not about to end—it is intended as a stepping stone. There are other targets beyond this one. The threats and demands leveled at Iraq have already given way to new threats and demands leveled at Syria, Iran, North Korea and (less openly) at China.

Those running the White House and Pentagon have plans to turn a new generation of youth into their armed enforcers around the world. They have plans to remake other countries and international economic relations—to impose politics, culture and market relations that serve them and their rule.

Those are their plans. That is the future they have in mind.

Two years ago, when this war was launched despite historic outpourings of resistance in the U.S. and around the world, Bob Avakian addressed what was needed, now that the invasion was on. What he wrote continues to be very relevant today:

"To stop this war of mass destruction on Iraq and turn things away from this whole course will require not lowering but raising the level of the opposition. It will require mobilizing even more massive outpourings of protest and resistance, of many different kinds, in unity with people all over the world who are opposing and resisting this war. The aim must be nothing less than transforming the political terrain and the terms of things in society, so that continuing with this war, and with this whole direction, would land the ruling class of the U.S. in a profound political crisis.

"This does mean that even greater numbers of people need to be won over. But that is just the point—they need to be won over . The way the movement will become even broader, and at the same time more powerful , is not by watering down its basic position of opposition and not by trying to avoid 'offending anyone': To win people over means challenging them. It means reaching out to them, yes, but also struggling with them, in a good way. It means explaining, with concrete facts and meaningful analysis, what is really going on—exposing the lies that the government/media repeatedly drum at people, and bringing them the truth of why this whole war of mass destruction is being waged on Iraq, why the U.S., and the world, is being dragged in this whole direction, whose interests this does and does not serve, and why this must be firmly opposed. And it will be more possible to continue winning over more people if at the same time the great numbers of people who already are against this war continue to mobilize in powerful opposition to it.

"In the face of the determination of the 'rogue state' in Washington to proceed with this war and this whole course, what is needed is for the movement of opposition to be not 'wild- eyed' but clear-eyed , and to be even more determined ." (Revolutionary Worker #1194, April 13, 2003)