Washington in crisis over opposition to Iraq war
Bill Van Auken, WSWS
28 June 2005 -President George W. Bush has been forced to renew his efforts
at selling the war in Iraq to the American people under conditions in which
Washington's military adventure has turned into a quagmire and popular
support for a withdrawal of US troops has reached an all-time high.
Bush is set to deliver a rare prime-time television address Tuesday night,
using massed troops at Fort Bragg in North Carolina as his backdrop. The
setting is itself highly significant, casting the president once again as
the war-time "commander-in-chief," accountable to no one because of his
control over the US military.
The administration's recent attempts to portray anyone questioning its
policy in Iraq as a traitor and accomplice in the death of American troops
is a measure of its growing desperation in the face of a sea-change in
Recent polls have shown fully 60 percent of the American people favoring US
withdrawal from Iraq. They further indicate that more Americans blame Bush
for the war (49 percent) than Saddam Hussein (44 percent). More than half of
those polled say the war was "not worth fighting," and that it has
contributed nothing to the security of the US, while fully three-quarters
believe that the current casualty levels are unacceptable.
What is Bush's response? In a radio address from the White House Saturday he
previewed the thrust of his upcoming televised speech-essentially a call to
stay the course in Iraq and maintain a brutal and hated military occupation,
in the name of "freedom" and the struggle to defeat "terrorism."
"Now we will see that cause to victory in Iraq," Bush declared. "A
democratic Iraq will be a powerful setback to the terrorists who seek to
harm our nation."
Bush made it clear he intends for US troops to be killing and dying in Iraq
for years to come. He declared, "Our military strategy is clear: We will
train Iraqi security forces so they can defend their freedom and protect
their people, and then our troops will return home with the honor they have
Even those most optimistic about the fledgling Iraqi security forces say
that it will take five more years before they are in any position to fight
on their own. Less sanguine observers question whether the goal will ever be
reached, given the identification of these forces with a despised foreign
occupation and their infiltration by the Iraqi resistance.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave his own estimate Sunday, stating in a
television news interview that the "insurgency could go on for any number of
years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, ten, twelve years."
After more than two years of a war that has claimed tens of thousands of
Iraqi lives together with those of nearly 1,750 US military personnel-and at
a cost of nearly $180 billion-the administration envisions another decade of
carnage in Iraq and a permanent US military occupation.
Meanwhile, US military commanders have begun to distance themselves from the
false optimism exhibited by the administration-summed up in Vice President
Dick Cheney's claim last month that Iraqi resistance to the US occupation
was in its "last throes."
Testifying before Congress last Thursday, US Central Command chief Gen. John
Abizaid said "there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there
were six months ago," while "the overall strength of the insurgency...was
the same as it was six months ago." Pointing to deepening military morale
problems, he added that soldiers were starting to "ask me the question
whether or not they've got support from the American people." Asked about
Cheney's remark, the general replied, "I'm sure you'll forgive me from
criticizing the vice president."
The continuing setbacks suffered by the US military, the mounting
casualties, and the growing popular opposition have emboldened the
administration's nominal political opponents in the Democratic Party to
criticize the conduct of the war-while swearing their allegiance to same
cause proclaimed by Bush. For the most part, the Democrats' reproach of the
administration starts from the call for more troops and greater national
unity behind the war effort.
The clearest enunciation of this reactionary policy came from Senator Joseph
Biden, the chief Democratic foreign policy spokesman and an early contender
for the party's 2008 presidential nomination. Speaking before the Brookings
Institution last week, Biden declared, "I want to see the president of the
United States succeed in Iraq...His success is America's success, and his
failure is America's failure."
What America is Biden talking about? Success in a war launched on the basis
of lies and for the predatory aim of asserting US hegemony over the
strategic oil reserves of the Middle East will not benefit American working
people. Rather, the aims of this war are bound up with the interests of a
financial oligarchy that is pursuing an equally rapacious campaign to
destroy the living standards of workers in the US itself.
The Democratic senator went on to urge a united effort to "regain the
confidence of the American people." He called for a "new compact between the
administration and Congress to secure the informed consent of the American
people for the remainder of the job... so that they will give the president
the time we need to succeed in Iraq."
What once passed for a liberal media has sounded a similar note. Thus, the
New York Times began a June 25 editorial debunking the administration's
linking of Iraq to the September 11, 2001 attacks and ended by insisting,
"If things are going to be turned around, there has to be an honest
discussion about what is happening."
It helpfully added: "Of all the justifications for invading Iraq that the
administration juggled in the beginning, the only one that has held up over
time is the desire to create a democratic nation that could help stabilize
the Middle East. Any sensible discussion of what to do next has to begin by
Having disposed of all of the patently false pretexts for the war, the Times
promotes the ideological big lie pushed to the fore by the Bush
administration itself in its second term, identifying the pursuit of US
strategic interests by means of war and colonial-style occupation as a
global crusade for democracy. This, it suggests, is a "sensible" sales pitch
for those trying once again to con the American people.
Similar views prevail as well among the more left-wing spokesmen of the
Democratic Party. Former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, writing in the
Guardian, lamented, "Bush's light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel vision can only
accelerate the cycle of disillusionment. His instinctive triumphalism
inevitably has a counter-productive effect." Popular disillusionment with
the war, so evident in the opinion polls, is seen as a cause for concern,
rather than encouragement.
And New York Times columnist Bob Herbert Monday published his second column
beginning with the unequal burden borne by working class youth in the war
and concluding with the clear suggestion that reinstituting the draft is in
The precipitous decline in public support for the war is the product of the
unrelenting carnage in Iraq, together with the realization by broad layers
of the population that they have been systematically lied to by the
administration, the Democratic Party and the media, all of which are
The suggestion by leading figures within the administration that the growing
rejection of the war is the fault of a biased press is ridiculous. The
American mass media is no less culpable than the Bush administration itself
for dragging the American people into a war based on lies. It has
systematically censored from its reports any indication of the depth of
antiwar sentiment and has excluded from its stable of pundits virtually
anyone expressing the widely held desire for an end to the occupation of
The near universal dismissal by the American media of the significance of
the so-called Downing Street memo-the British document confirming that the
Bush administration "fixed" US intelligence to provide a false justification
for an unprovoked war-is one more example of the media's complicity in this
The media and the Democrats are united with the Bush administration in their
determination to exclude the "W" word from public debate. Withdrawal of US
troops, the public is told again and again, is not an option. It would
unleash bloodshed, sectarian violence and regional instability-the very
things that the invasion and occupation themselves have produced.
But the shared concern of Democrats and Republicans-their public
recriminations notwithstanding-goes beyond the immediate political and
military conjuncture in Iraq. What is involved is the shattering of the US
government's credibility, which has far-reaching implications for both
foreign and domestic policy.
Beyond the fate of Iraq itself are the implications for the fundamental
strategy embraced by both big business parties: the utilization of US
military power to offset the decline in the global economic position of
American capitalism by seizing control of markets and resources. Iraq is by
no means the last war on Washington's agenda. Victory there is seen within
the political establishment as laying the foundations for the next war of
Bush himself has repeatedly talked about fighting "the new wars of the 21st
century." Vice President Cheney, addressing the graduating class of the US
Air Force Academy at the beginning of this month, said that many of the
cadets had wished "that you could graduate on September 12 and take your
place in the first war of the 21st century." He assured them, however, "...
you will play an historic role in the great victories to come."
Where are these next "great victories" to be realized? Iran is clearly in
Washington's crosshairs. The Financial Times noted Monday that Cheney,
Rumsfeld and others within the Bush administration welcomed the electoral
victory of the so-called Islamic hard-liner in the country's presidential
election. They clearly hope it will pave the way for confrontation and war.
Military aggression is equally possible against any number of other
countries, including oil-rich states such as Venezuela and Nigeria, as well
as named enemies like Syria, North Korea and Cuba.
The decline in public tolerance for such military adventures has dire
implications for the ruling establishment. Under conditions of unprecedented
social polarization within the US, war and the threat of war have become the
essential glue for holding society together and legitimizing a government
that defends the interests of a tiny financial oligarchy against those of
the vast majority of working people.
Moreover, a repudiation of the war by the American people represents an
indictment of the entire political setup in the US. There is no faction
within the ruling elite that can credibly point to the record and claim, "We
opposed this war." The Congress, both big business parties, the media and
the corporations are all implicated.
The growth of popular opposition to the war has come entirely from below. It
finds no serious reflection in the political deliberations of the US
government or in the narrow and reactionary range of opinion that is
permitted by the mass media. It therefore has profoundly revolutionary
implications and has provoked deep concern within the all sections of the
The Socialist Equality Party calls for the immediate and unconditional
withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq. We categorically reject the arguments
of those so-called liberals who claim to oppose the war, but insist that
such a withdrawal is unthinkable. The worst possible outcome of the war in
Iraq would be a US "success." If Washington is able to claim a victory, it
will inevitably use it as the springboard to new and greater acts of
military aggression that ultimately will place in question the survival of
Along with an immediate withdrawal, the SEP insists that all of those
responsible for plotting and launching this illegal war be held accountable,
both politically and judicially. They should be brought before an
independent tribunal and tried for war crimes.
The united front of Democrats and Republicans behind the war-and against the
majority of Americans who oppose it-underscores the unbridgeable chasm that
separates the entire political establishment from the working people. It
raises directly and urgently the task of making a political break with the
Democrats and the two-party system, and establishing an independent party of
the working class based on a socialist and internationalist program.
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