Bush's Vietnam

The Americans are secretly building two giant intelligence facilities in Iraq at a cost of half a billion dollars, according to a report by DEBKA-NET-Weekly, 20 June 2003. "US engineering and construction units are setting up what amounts to an "intelligence city" on a site north of the oil city of Mosul in Kurdistan and a second facility in Baghdad's Saadun district...Our experts infer from the vast dimensions of the two projects and their colossal expense that it is Washington's intention to retain a large US military presence in Iraq in the long term, for a decade at least". These facilities will have an operating staff of 4,000 American intelligence personnel and will act as US imperialism's eyes and ears across the whole of the Middle East.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Bush administration is intent on creating a permanent military presence in Iraq as part of its strategy to "control" the oil resources of the Middle East. Very few still believe the fanciful lies of Bush and Blair that they used to justify the war against Iraq; the longer the occupation lasts the more it is obvious to all that oil, profit and the stability of the US and the world economy was their real motivation.

Three months after the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime, life for the people of Iraq is one of desperation and a constant struggle for survival. With power cuts lasting from 20 - 23 hours a day in Baghdad, people are resorting to primitive measures to cope with backbreaking hardships in the searing 50-degree Celsius heat. US imperialism has turned Baghdad into a Stone Age city. "Acute water, gas and fuel shortage together with power outage forces Iraqis to use traditional things instead of such appliances [electrical], however, these much sought-after basics are of sky-rocketing prices with one lantern hitting 2,000 - 4,000 dinars ($1 equals 1300 dinars) compared to its original price of 250 dinars" said Ikhlas Mohammad, professor at Baghdad University. Um Radi, 39, a mother of seven children said that power outage and Iraq's stifling heat has made her daughter ill, "When I went to the hospital I was shocked by the large number of babies who suffered typhoid and dermatitis". Tom Newton Dunn in Basra, Daily Mirror, 3 July 2003, reports "Lawlessness is rife, drugs are back on the streets, the much vaunted US multinationals with their regeneration contracts have yet to arrive, and much of this city is still in rotting squalor. Jack Straw who never left the airport during an hour-long visit here yesterday, did not see the filth and violence". He also reports of the queues of pensioners in 55 degree Celsius heat waiting for handouts - they have received no money in five months!

Iraqis have claimed that Paul Bremer, US colonial governor of Iraq, has deliberately ordered power cuts as a form of mass punishment for attacks on US soldiers.

A new Vietnam?

In scenes reminiscent of Vietnam, US soldiers have described what it's like being part of a colonial army of occupation. A US survivor of an Iraqi resistance attack said, "The guys were in a terrible state. One of the soldiers was dead with his brains hanging out of his head and his stomach hanging out, and there were eight others in the back shouting and pulling bits of shrapnel out of their legs" Robert Fisk, Independent, 6 June 2003. Journalists have given numerous examples of how US troops walk the streets in constant fear of attack. US and British forces carry out house to house searches with dogs, dragging people from their homes, screaming abuse at them, indiscriminately arresting people, carrying out insulting and degrading body searches on Muslim women, as well as killing innocent Iraqis on a daily basis. All of these practices are creating thousands of new opponents to the occupation. Jeffrey White, ex-Pentagon analyst told the Washington Post "Resistance is spreading geographically, resistance groups seem to be proliferating in Sunni areas, resistance elements appear to be tactically adaptive, resistance elements appear to be drawn from multiple elements of Sunni society, our operations inevitably create animosity by inflicting civilian casualties, disrupting lives, humiliating people and damaging property". But the resistance movement is not just confined to the minority Sunni population, attacks against the US have also come from the majority Shia population - the people Bush was relying upon for support. The Americans have also alienated the three main Shia Muslim clerics, one of whom, The Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani, has issued a fatwa against an "illegitimate constitution...if it is not adopted by an Iraqi government elected by the people".

The resistance movement is affecting the US occupier's ability to govern Iraq. It is also demoralising US troops. Bob Graham, London Evening Standard, 19 June 2003, reported on interviews he had carried out with US troops, after they had murdered a 12 year old boy during a house search. They sound like part of the script from Stanley Kubrick's Vietnam War film, Full Metal Jacket. Sergeant John Meadows, "You can't distinguish between who's trying to kill you and who's not. Like, the only way to get through shit like that was to concentrate on getting through it by killing as many people as you can, people you know are trying to kill you. Killing them first and getting home". Corporal Michael Richardson, "At night time you think about all the people you killed...There's no chance to forget it, we're still here, we've been here so long. Some soldiers don't even fucking sleep at night. They sit up all fucking night long doing shit to keep themselves busy - to keep their minds off this fucking stuff. It's the only way they can handle it." Another soldier said, "We're more angry at the generals who are making these decisions and who never hit the ground, and who don't get shot at or have to look at the bloody bodies and the burnt out bodies and the dead babies and all that kinda stuff."

Death toll mounts

Donald Rumsfeld has scoffed at the idea that Iraq will become Bush's Vietnam. But the intensity of the resistance movement is growing daily. One US soldier is killed a day, on average in Iraq. There is an average of 30 attacks taking place against the Americans and the British across the country. According to Daniel Smith, a retired US army colonel, in a report for the US "think tank" Foreign Policy In Focus, 27 June 2003, said "To the US and UK [death] toll tens or scores of Iraqis" are being killed by the Americans on a daily basis. He also adds that Vietnam buzzwords like counterinsurgency, quagmire, body counts are now creeping into the reports from Iraq, "Can 'free fire zones', 'five o'clock follies' (the daily US military briefings in Saigon) and 'light at the end of the tunnel' be far off?"

Bush and Blair believed that the majority Shi'ite population would at least welcome its "liberation" by coalition forces. But instead the majority reaction amongst the Shi'ite and Sunni population has been growing disillusionment, outright hostility, sustained protests about the continuing absence of basic services - water, electricity, telephone, garbage and sewage disposal - policing and basic physical security. The situation is so bad that Baghdad's sewage is being poured untreated into the river Tigris; a major health crisis may not be far off.

Democracy "scrapped"

Democracy is a major driving force behind the growing opposition to the US and British occupation. Iraqis were promised an interim government within months of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Instead, US proconsul Paul Bremer has declared that the idea of an "interim Iraqi authority" was dead. Instead Bremer will appoint a council of 25 - 30 Iraqi "advisors", and that the conditions for elections may not be "right" for another two to five years. The US is planning to send in more troops to try and quell the resistance movement. It is now talking about 200,000 US troops backed up by 30,000 more troops from its "coalition" partners. A headline in USA Today stated "US troops may be in Iraq for 10 years: defence officials reportedly seek up to $54 billion a year". This scale of expenditure will put a huge strain even on the colossal US economy.

Before and immediately after the war, the US and British governments spoke of how they would use Iraq's oil wealth to rebuild its economy. But now even that is proving impossible for capitalism to achieve. The oil infrastructure is in a major state of disrepair because of neglect during the 12 years of sanctions and as a result of war damage and post-war looting. The 4,000 miles of oil pipelines in Iraq have now become a target for the resistance movement; the US will find it impossible to prevent these attacks over such large distances. Thamer al-Ghadban (appointed by the US to oversee the oil industry) has said that it will probably be 2005 before the oil industry could make a financial contribution to Iraq's reconstruction. Yet, the US has only legislated for $700 million of aid for reconstruction - some estimates put the cost of rebuilding Iraq at $250 billion! The majority of Iraqis were dependent on the state for employment under Saddam Hussein's regime. Now in the neo-liberal driven US controlled Iraq, privatisation, the disbandment of the army, the collapse of infrastructure, the looting of the country's seed stocks and the lack of democracy will further fuel the growing resistance movement. It may be too soon to describe Iraq as another Vietnam - but what is developing is a mixture of the resistance of Viernam and the desintegration of Afghanistan.

Stephen Boyd, from Socialist Voice July 2003.

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