[Marxism] [com-news] Wash. Post: US must fight on, even if occupation collapses

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun May 2 07:46:54 MDT 2004

This is an important editorial.  Because of the scope of the defeat that
the collapse of the occupation regime and US control would represent for
US (and world) imperialism, they insist that US troops must stay and
fight in Iraq, EVEN IF THIS TAKES PLACE. This highlights the scale of
the setback that threatens US imperialism -- one that will be deeply
destabilizing for the imperial influence of Europe, Japan, Australia,
New Zealand, and  Canada as well.

They call on Bush to demand all the troops that are really required --
again the hint of a  draft.

One thing that is being underestimated by the Post -- a process that
seems to have proceeded more quickly than in Vietnam, partly reflecting
the living effects of that experience on the US military and
population-- is the disintegration of the US army. This includes both
resistance (reflected in positive behavior such as opposition
statements, resistance to fighting, desertion, refusals to fight, and so
on) and demoralization under pressure (reflected, among other things, by
the scenes of torture and sexual abuse in the prison even though I
believe this had high-level backing as a diversion for anxious,
frustrated, and angry troops).
Fred Feldman


A Way Forward in Iraq 

Sunday, May 2, 2004; Page B06 

IT'S BEEN A YEAR since President Bush made his ill-advised landing on an
aircraft carrier to celebrate victory in Iraq under a "Mission
Accomplished" banner. We said at the time that the slogan was wrong,
that much remained to be done in Iraq and that the greatest tests and
risks still lay in the future. A year later, that judgment has been
proven correct to a far greater extent than we anticipated. More than
600 Americans have died in Iraq during the past 12 months, and more than
a fifth of those deaths came in the past 30 days. Iraq is more insecure
today than it was a year ago, and the U.S. capacity to deal with that
insecurity has been considerably diminished. Although, as he pointed out
on Friday, Mr. Bush has a plan to transfer sovereignty to Iraqis on June
30 with the help of the United Nations, his objective of "a free and
peaceful country" appears a distant -- some would say vanishing --

In reexamining six months ago our own support for the invasion, we
concluded that success or failure in the effort to stabilize Iraq under
a peaceful and representative government would provide the ultimate
answer to the question of whether the war should have been undertaken.
It can fairly be asked now whether that mission is achievable. At stake
is not only embarrassment or political defeat for the war's supporters:
Failure in Iraq now would be a catastrophe for this nation and its
interests, and a historic victory for Islamic extremists and terrorists.
Nor would a judgment that a stable Iraq is unattainable necessarily
justify the early withdrawal of U.S. troops. Almost certainly American
soldiers would be needed to oppose the emergence of extremist forces
that could pose an immediate threat to the United States and its allies.

In our view, however, it is too early for such calculations. As much as
has gone wrong in recent months, there remains a viable way forward on
both the political and military fronts. That course is one identified
not by us or the Bush administration but by United Nations mediators and
Iraqis themselves. The administration has begun to embrace this
strategy, but there is still much more the president must do to make a
successful outcome possible. 

America's greatest disadvantage now is that it has almost entirely lost
the political authority and public tolerance it enjoyed in Iraq a year
ago. A poll released last week by CNN and USA Today showed that 71
percent of Iraqis regard coalition troops as occupiers. Fifty-seven
percent say they would like the foreign forces to leave immediately,
even though a majority also say that a pullout would make the situation
worse. The many errors of the U.S.-led occupation, ranging from failure
to create a more international administration to the slowness of
reconstruction and, most recently, the shocking reports of mistreatment
of prisoners have helped create a situation in which no U.S. political
initiative is likely to be accepted by Iraqis. Unilateral military
actions, even against extremists with little support, risk touching off
a national uprising. 

Despite that, the Coalition Provisional Authority retains one
potentially winning card: Its goals for the next eight months are shared
not only by the great majority of Iraqis but by the country's most
powerful emerging forces. The Shiite leadership around Grand Ayatollah
Ali Sistani and the political and militia organizations that respond to
it want to have the democratic election scheduled for next January under
the present political plan. Like the Kurds of the north, they believe
they can best attain their aims through a democratic process and not by
violence. That means that a policy that ensures elections on terms
acceptable to mainstream leaders could win broad support and help to
isolate extremists. 

Lakhdar Brahimi, the veteran U.N. envoy, sees that opening; that's why
he told the Security Council last week that he believed it would be
possible to reach agreement by the end of May on an interim government
that would prepare for elections. The Bush administration has strongly
backed Mr. Brahimi and conspicuously adopted some of his advice for
easing tensions with the Sunni community. But more steps are needed to
stabilize the political atmosphere. Above all, the administration must
stop issuing dictates of its own, drop its support for Iraqi politicians
with scant domestic support and work to build consensus with and among
those Iraqis who have the power to make the transition work. That
probably means deferring military operations opposed by those leaders,
such as an attempt to disarm the extremist Shiite militia now occupying
the holy city of Najaf. If the stand-down by Marines in Fallujah leads
to the forging of a cooperative relationship with moderate Sunni
leaders, that, too, would be worthwhile. 

A proposal by Mr. Bush's Democratic opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry, to
formally grant authority over the political process to a U.N. high
commissioner after June 30 has some merit, though U.N. Secretary General
Kofi Annan has been reluctant to allow the organization to return to
Iraq in force. As a practical matter, Mr. Brahimi already is leading the
political process. Mr. Bush, too, already has been seeking to involve
NATO in Iraq and build up Iraqi security forces, as Mr. Kerry proposes,
without much success. The administration should certainly do its utmost
in the coming months to recruit more troops and more support from other
nations for Iraq and be prepared to yield authority to the United
Nations or others. 

The most likely scenario, however, is that at least until security
conditions improve, the United States will have to bear most of the
military burden and pay most of the costs. Having unnecessarily created
this over-responsibility, the Bush administration cannot now shirk it.
If more foreign troops cannot be found for Iraq, the administration must
be prepared to send more Americans. Mr. Bush must clearly lay out to
Congress and the public what additional deployments and spending are
necessary -- and what sacrifices can be made to pay for them. 

In the end, too, if the political process fails, the United States still
must do whatever is necessary to destroy the extremist militias and
terrorist organizations. The militants in Fallujah, Najaf and elsewhere
represent a threat to Iraq's hoped-for political transition, but they
also are a threat to U.S. security. They cannot be allowed to win the
struggle over Iraq's future. 

C 2004 The Washington Post Company

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