[Marxism] Iraq - what now?

g.maclennan at qut.edu.au g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Sat May 1 17:46:00 MDT 2004

Jose’s fine article on Fallujah is right about the 
significance of the American defeat there. As I made clear in 
an earlier post I think we have reached a nodal point in the 
whole adventure.  To sum this up I am convinced the neo-cons 
have produced a disaster for American imperialism.  

Yet their move to unilateral crash through tactics seemed to 
work for a while. The papers here in Oz were, for example, 
full of sneering right wing columnists who listed all the 
predictions of the Left and those opposed to the war and said 
that they had all been proven wrong.  Mission Accomplished 
was the slogan.

We had a second round of that triumphalism when Saddam was 
captured. But by then there was a note of desperation behind 
it all.  The resistance had set about isolating the Americans 
in their compounds.  In this they were aided and abetted by 
the Coalition’s desire to keep American casualties within 
politically acceptable limits.

British Military experts had warned that the Americans needed 
a force of some 500, 000 to interrupt the resistance’s 
ability to organise and move freely through cities and 
countryside. Instead the Americans fielded a force of around 
120, 000 plus a grab bag of mercenaries and a so-called 
coalition of the willing. 

Then with the arrival of the Marines the Americans appear to 
have made a decision to come out of the bases and try and 
reclaim the roads. In Fallujah, the initial talk was of 
soccer balls and frisbees, but that was soon replaced by the 
deployment of tanks and gunships.  Immediately the marines 
were met by a determined resistance, which inflicted heavy 
casualties on them.  To “save” Fallujah, the marines would 
have to have destroyed it. They seemed very willing to 
undertake that noble enterprise, but the political ground was 
shifting rapidly against them.  The more they killed, the 
more the political situation deteriorated.

What is at work here is quite a simple dialectic, simple but 
also savage.  Every American military victory now produces a 
political defeat.  But such is the nature of dialectical 
logic that every American military defeat also produces a 
political defeat. It is this that the Israeli militarists are 
groping their way to understanding with their new doctrine 
of ‘asymmetric wars’.

So now it is back to bases again with a fig-leaf provided by 
above all people ex-Republican guards – Saddam’s former 
praetorian force. This little manoeuvre in Fallujah is a 
metonym for what will be practised on a nation wide scale. 
Ahmad Chalabi, who was hand-picked by the neo-cons for the 
role of their favourite con-man, had just sat down to feast 
himself and his family, but his time is over. The search is 
on now for the next Sunni Strong man, who will be asked to 
stabilise the country in the same way Mobutu “stabilised” the 
Congo in the 60s.

But will the mujhadeen handover their RPGs?  Perhaps.  

What of the Shia?  Apart from al-Sadr, their basic strategy 
was to sit tight and wait for Iraq to fall into their hands.  
Their dream of an Islamic clerical dictatorship must have 
seemed so close to fruition.  The fundamental weakness of 
their strategy and tactics was that it depended upon the 
Americans delivering democratic elections.  Weren’t they 
listening, though, when Rumsfeld said there would be no 
Iranian style Iraqi clerical republic? Again the leaders have 
betrayed and misled the faithful.  

What of the Kurds?  I learned a lot here from Lou’s posts. It 
is hard to sympathise with them in the sense that they have 
been anxious to play the role of super loyalists to the 
Americans. Yet their desire for national autonomy should be 
respected.  However their belief that the Americans would 
deliver freedom will prove very illusory. As I said in a 
previous post, sadly, they are in for a very hard time.

Meanwhile the propaganda continues.  Just now I heard Blair 
say in response to the pictures of British soldier pissing on 
an Iraqi prisoner, that this was an aberration and that the 
British Army was doing a “a very brave and extraordinary job 
on behalf of the Iraqi people”.  This is classic ‘white man’s 
burden’ stuff – isn’t it truly strange that the Iraqi people 
are so ungrateful?

And of course back in the White House, Bush emerges from a 
closed inquiry and proudly announces to all the world, “I 
asked all the questions they asked”. How much longer will the 
American people equate this simpleton with what is simple? 
Just how deep seated is American anti-intellectualism?

Of course the answer as always will come from within the 
ruling class. They will move against Bush and his neo-con 
fanatics, if their interests are threatened.  At the moment 
what stops the decisive break with Bush from happening is the 
fear of a defeat for the American military in Iraq.  The 
consequences of such an eventuality are incalculable for the 
world’s last super power. But the events of the last few 
weeks mean that they have no alternative.  I conclude this 
post with Juan Cole’s verdict on the impact of the prisoner 

“The sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war, a 
direct violation of the Geneva Conventions by US soldiers at 
the Abu Ghuraib prison, has naturally produced outrage in the 
Arab world. This is a big thing, folks. …I really wonder 
whether, with the emergence of these photos, the game isn't 
over for the Americans in Iraq. Is it realistic, after the 
bloody siege of Fallujah and the Shiite uprising of early 
April, and in the wake of these revelations, to think that 
the US can still win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi Arab 



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