Editorial in the May 2005 edition, the Socialist
paper of the Socialist Party, the CWI in Ireland.

Iraq - Bush, the draft and the Pentagon's death squads

THE US had been planning since the January elections to hand over "security" to Iraqi forces directed by an Iraqi government. That has all changed. In recent weeks there has been a decisive upturn in attacks by the resistance.

The US is spending $5 billion on training Iraqi security forces as of now they have no forces whatsoever that they can rely on. In spring 2005 the US claimed it had 145,000 "combat capable" Iraqi troops. Yet the Iraqi interim government said that 50,000 of these were ghost soldiers, men whose paychecks were being pocketed by their officers or themselves. The rest according to US army experts could be relied on for nothing. 55,000 of this figure were unreliable Iraqi police. Military expert Kalev Sepp said "70% of the police in Anwar province are insurgents or sympathisers". The idea that US troops are going to return to their bases and let the Iraqi military and police take on the resistance is a pipedream.

Bush's problems are compounded by the recruitment crisis facing the US army. 340,000 troops are now doing double deployment (two nine-month tours of duty) and some are now heading for a triple deployment. There are approximately 150,000 US troops in Iraq of whom 40% are Army Reserves and National Guard.

The US army's recruitment problems are added to by the high casualty rate with over 30,000 injured, which deters others from joining up. According to the CBS News programme 60 Minutes, there have been 5,500 desertions amongst US troops. A recruitment crisis has hit the US Army hard. Marine Corps recruitment is 6% below target, Reserves 10% and National Guard 26%. The enlistment age for the Reserves and National Guard had been raised to 40. Thousands of new recruiters have been employed, and massive bribes are being offered, with signing on bonuses of $20,000, and re-enlistment bonuses up to $100,000. There is now talk of the re-introduction of the draft. The Bush administration has been establishing the Selective Service System (SSS), creating lists of future conscripts. In March the SSS told Bush that it could implement a draft within 75 days. The introduction of conscription would have an explosive impact on young Americans, if the regime attempts to force young people to fight in Iraq. It would also introduce massive demoralisation into the army and could result in the type of military meltdown that happened in Vietnam.

There are at least six militias rampaging through Iraq, armed, trained and funded by the Pentagon. They are applying what is known as the "Salvador option" - the use of death squads in a dirty war against the people of Iraq. One of these death squads, the Special Police Commandos is 10,000 strong and is at the vanguard of the Pentagon's battle against Sunni resistance fighters. These death squads are fueling divisions between Shi'ites and Sunnis and are increasing the prospect of increased sectarian strife and even civil war.

The US cannot rely on Iraqi forces to combat the resistance. Its own military has morale problems and difficulties in recruitment and maintaining troop levels. Introducing the draft could provoke a major backlash and swell the ranks of the anti-war movement bringing it into the heart of the US forces in Iraq. And the Pentagon's death squads are causing further destabilisation.

The prospect is raised of the US having to change tactics and rely on air power to combat the resistance instead of troops on the ground. This would echo Nixon's strategy in Vietnam, and would further alienate the US occupation forces from the Iraqi people. Journalists have reported air sorties from the US Navy based in the Persian Gulf are attacking Iraq on a daily basis. Reliance on air power would inevitably result in major loss of civilian life and would increase support for the resistance. Nixon's air war strategy failed in Vietnam as it will in Iraq if the Bush administration repeats his mistake.

US Imperialism is sinking deeper into the quagmire it has created in Iraq and every twist and turn of its failed occupation just further underlines the fact that the only solution to this crisis is a united struggle by the Iraqi people for socialism.

Earlier articles on the war in Iraq are here.

More articles from this issue of the Socialist are listed here.

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