How the US is courting disaster in Iraq

THE United States’ political-military failure in Iraq will have terrible consequences for the entire world. And the US seems to be failing-badly.

By Praful Bidwai

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Published: Sat 10 Mar 2007, 8:39 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 1:19 AM

While its occupation forces continue their anti-insurgent offensive, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s government appears shaky. Its collapse will signify the US’s greatest political failure in Iraq. This could happen if Al Maliki yields to US pressure to end his dependence on Shia cleric Moqtada Al Sadr.

The recent raid by coalition troops on the interior Ministry’s intelligence headquarters has further embarrassed the embattled Prime Minister. Their "security sweep" in Baghdad and Anbar province has had extremely limited success.

Former anti-insurgency experts advising US commander General David Petraeus have reportedly concluded that they have six months to win the war-"or face a Vietnam-style collapse."

Washington has no Plan B in case the "new way forward" strategy announced by President George W. Bush in January fails. According to reports, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace was asked at a high-level meeting about his back-up strategy. He answered: "I am a Marine and Marines don’t talk about failure. They talk about victory."

This is part of a larger crisis of strategy. Earlier US plans all ran into rough weather. These included "stabilising" Iraq through the Coalition Provisional Authority; return of "sovereignty" in 2004 through a handpicked government; installation of an elected regime in 2005; and launching the anti-insurgency "Plan Baghdad" that summer.

The latest "new way forward" is an awkward, half-hearted attempt at a final "big push"-by inducting 21,500 more US troops into Iraq. US policy-makers are busy blaming one another for the Iraq fiasco. The Republicans accuse former CPA chief Paul Bremer for messing things. The Democrats blame the Republicans. And Bush blames Iran’s Mahmood Ahmedinejad!

Worse, many US commentators blame the victims, the Iraqi people. Leading Neoconservative and former Defence Planning Board chairman Richard Perle, who lobbied for war against Iraq even before 9/11, now says he "underestimated the depravity" in Iraq.

Right-wing columnist Charles Krauthammer says the Iraqis alone are responsible for the violence and strife. "We mid-wifed their freedom. They chose civil war." Even Fareed Zakaria, considered a liberal critic of the Bush administration says Iraq’s Sunnis "have mostly behaved like self-defeating thugs."

These critics don’t see the disaster’s root-cause: the US’s project of Empire.

The US waged war on Iraq out of choice. It knew Iraq didn’t possess mass-destruction weapons, nor was its government in league with al-Qaeda. The US wanted to bring about "regime change" and "instill some democracy in the heart of the Middle East"-as part of Bush’s Greater Middle East Initiative.

Washington’s core-objectives were to secure access to West Asia’s energy resources, promote Israel’s security, establish its global hegemony, and reduce the global spread of terrorism.

All of these stand defeated. The US achieved what an Egyptian described as "a miracle": "It has made people regret the downfall of Saddam’s regime."

According to pre-invasion polls, 43 per cent of Iraqis considered the US presence as "liberation" and 46 per cent as "occupation"; six months later, the figures were 15 and 67 per cent. In December 2006, 95 per cent felt that the security situation was better before the invasion.

Iraq has been systematically looted and reduced from a middle-level human development society to a low-level, impoverished one, with high unemployment, inflation and a burgeoning black market. Baghdad gets electricity for 6 to 8 hours a day. Education has collapsed.

The psychological impact of violence’s on Iraqi society has proved devastating. An Association of Iraqi Psychologists study says the violence has affected millions of children. "Children in Iraq are seriously suffering psychologically with all the insecurity, especially with the fear of kidnapping and explosions."

The US has spent $350 billion on the occupation and sustained over 3,000 deaths among its troops, besides killing 650,000 Iraqis. But it has failed to contain the insurgency. The number of insurgents rose four-fold to 20,000 between 2003 and 2004, and has since risen to 30,000.

Even worse is the external impact of Iraq’s occupation-through the political radicalisation of Muslims and spread of jehadi terrorism the world over. The occupation has fomented anti-Western sentiment and made the world more unsafe.

It didn’t take a prophetic vision to see that this would happen. Like the injustice heaped upon the Palestinian people by Israel, Iraq’s occupation is seen as proof of the West’s Islamophobia and racist attitude towards the Middle East. This has produced a backlash-through terrorism.

A study by the Centre on Law and Security at the NYU Foundation for "Mother Jones" magazine (US) proves this with hard numbers. The study looked at two periods, September 2001 to March 2003, and from March 2003 to September 2006.

Globally, there was a 607 per cent rise in the yearly incidence of attacks and a 237 per cent rise in fatalities. The first period witnessed 729 deaths. The second saw 5,420. Even excluding Iraq, terrorist attacks and fatalities rose sharply, by 265 per cent and 58 per cent.

Iraq and Afghanistan account for 80 per cent of all attacks and 67 per cent of deaths. But even if they’re excluded, there’s still a 35 per cent increase in terrorist attacks and a 12 per cent rise in fatalities (to 554 per year).

The Iraq war has caused a precipitous drop in support for the US in Muslim countries: from 25 per cent to 1 per cent in Jordan, a major US ally; in Lebanon, from 30 to 15 per cent; and in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, from 61 per cent to 15. This has grave implications for the world —not least India and Pakistan, where terrorism’s fatalities have risen from 182 to 489. It’s in humanity’s interest that jehadi forces don’t gain. That will only produce more violence and insecurity —and eventually, assaults on human rights and democracy. However, the way the US is acting will ensure precisely that outcome.

The US must be dissuaded from this catastrophic course. This poses a challenge before the global peace movement and progressive political forces.

Praful Bidwai is a veteran Indian journalist and commentator. He can be reached at

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