[Marxism] Some notes on the current state of the Iraq War

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Wed May 25 07:24:12 MDT 2005

[I wrote these notes about a week ago, for another purpose, but thought they
might be useful to post to the list.]

I do not think there is any question but that the U.S. has lost the war
politically, in the sense that it is excluded that it can achieve the
sweeping political objectives it initially set out for itself. And it
continues to lose the war militarily.

"Operation Matador," the much-ballyhooed sweep by more than 1,000 marines
north of the Euphrates by the Syrian border, which was said to be the
biggest sustained offensive in six months, since the battle of Fallujah, was
a complete fiasco.

Central Command offered a body count of 125 enemy killed, but reporters
embedded with the force did not describe anywhere near that number that they
actually saw, and instead presented a stark picture of small marine units
that were completely destroyed by enemy fire. They also presented a
devastating portrait of Marines bigfooting in the Iraqi countryside,
terrorizing the local population, smashing prized possessions in witless
searches, turning families out of their homes so the occupiers could stay
there for a day or two. The operation was so lame that the Marines didn't
even bring anyone who could speak Arabic. Ellen Knickmeyer and Caryle Murphy
of the Washington Post reported at the end of the offensive:

"[T]he week-long village-to-village push along the river's north bank turned
up few of the foreign fighters estimated by Marines to number in the
hundreds. The foreign fighters apparently had been in the northern Euphrates
towns as recently as two to three days before American forces arrived, said
Maj. Steve Lawson of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, another ground
commander in the attack.

"'That was the frustrating piece: coming up here for a fight and not finding
anyone,' Lawson said.

"Commanders said they believed some of the insurgents had slipped away to
the east and to Husaybah, a lawless city on the Syrian border where foreign
and local insurgents are believed to be battling among themselves for

"The U.S. military in Iraq lacks the manpower to challenge the insurgent
hold on Husaybah now, Mundy and other commanders said, and the Americans'
focus will be on stabilizing the larger western cities of Fallujah and

It started out poorly when Marines had to fight their way through a small
city they thought was secure and spend an entire day building pontoon
bridges before they could cross the river and fan out from a beachhead on
the other bank. This means that when they got to the places where they
imagined they would find insurgents, these were long gone, but had
thoughtfully left behind booby traps, roadside bombs, and set up out of town
emplacements from which to harass the troops with mortar fire. After a week
of providing targets for the local rebels, Marines drew back across the
Euphrates, leaving everything north of the river in that area in rebel

That this week-long push by a roughly two-battalion force is the most
significant ground campaign of the U.S. forces in six months tells us
something: The U.S. forces have completely lost the initiative on the
ground. They have so little actual contact with the enemy that they did not
suspect the rebel presence in the city chosen as the jumping-off point for
the offensive. U.S. forces are in essence pinned down in heavily fortified
garrisons. And they are stretched so thin maintaining these garrisons
they're unable to pursue the insurgents in real time, despite absolute U.S.
domination of the air and its tremendous advantages in mobility and

One reason they are stretched so thin is that the supply lines of these
enclaves are under constant attack. Every inch of roadway must be resecured
each time a convoy is to pass. Each and every logistics convoy must be
heavily guarded. And the regularity and predictability of these operations
give the insurgents plenty of targets. There are attacks on these movements
every day, never reported save when the number of U.S. military casualties
makes it impossible to cover them up, or when perchance one of the freelance
cameramen for Reuters or AP Television News happens to be nearby. 

On a macro scale the U.S. has managed to occupy the country, but on a micro
scale what it actually has is just as series of isolated, disconnected dots
surrounded by hostile forces. Outside its garrisons and perhaps a tiny zone
surrounding them, Iraq remains completely opaque to them. Thus there are
huge areas of the country, both urban and rural, which are, for practical
purposes, outside U.S. control and serve as areas from which the insurgents
mount operations.

Whether the Iraqi resistance can actually concentrate sufficient force
around any one of these enclaves to hand the U.S. a major military defeat in
conventional terms is doubtful.

It is clear, however, that the U.S. has decided it can't commit the forces
or accept the casualties or other political costs involved in trying to take
out the insurgency by itself. It is counting on creating Iraqi puppet forces
to provide the pervasive national presence necessary to dismantle the

That is why, of course, the puppet forces have become a central target for
the insurgents. In response, the imperialists and their puppets are using
the civilian population as hostages and human shields by locating
recruitment and mustering installations in the middle of densely populated
areas with a lot of traffic. This is what leads to a lot of the civilian
casualties in the press reports. 


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