by Eric Margolis / Contributing Foreign Editor, Toronto Sun –
WASHINGTON (March 14, 2004) — The famous words of King Pyrrhus of Epirus after the bloody battle of Heraclea in 280 BC are as appropriate for America’s conquest of Iraq: “One more such victory and we are ruined.”
The March, 2003 invasion of Iraq pitted the world’s greatest military power against the largely inoperative army of a small, dilapidated nation of only 17 million (deducting rebellious Kurds), crushed by 12 years of sanctions and bombing.
Thanks to total air superiority, invading US forces achieved a brilliant feat of logistics, racing from Kuwait to Northern Iraq in under three weeks. The 15% of Iraq’s army that stood and fought was pulverized by massive, co-ordinated US air strikes and artillery barrages. Urban resistance failed to materialize.
The rout of Iraq’s forces recalled another colonial war, the Dervish Campaign of 1898. Gen. Kitchener led the imperial British Army far up the Nile into Sudan where it met and massacred a primitive Islamic host at Omdurman. Britain’s quick-fire guns and artillery mowed down Dervish cavalry and sword-waving “fuzzy-wuzzies” as murderously as US precision munitions vapourized Iraqi units.
US air and ground forces in Iraq displayed superb technical, electronic, logistic and combat prowess confirming they are two full military generations ahead of nearly all other nations.
But as the great modern military thinker, Maj.-Gen J.F.C. Fuller, observed 40 years ago, the proper objective of war is not military victory but a politically advantageous peace. While the US won an inevitable military victory against a nearly helpless Iraq, political victory so far remains elusive.
In my view, two primary objectives drove the US invasion of Iraq: oil and its support for Israel. White House claims about weapons of mass destruction and terrorism were propaganda smoke screens.
President George Bush’s claims that impotent Iraq posed “a grave and gathering danger” to the US, Condoleezza Rice’s hysterical warnings about “mushroom clouds over the US,” and Vice President Dick Cheney’s bizarre jeremiads about “Iraq’s reconstituted nuclear weapons” were absurd.
The US now controls Iraq, a strategic nation with the Mideast’s second largest oil reserves.
The CIA estimates China’s and India’s surging, oil-hungry economies will cause world oil shortages by 2030 – or sooner.
Accordingly, the Bush administration moved to assure America’s global hegemony by seizing Mideast and Central Asian oil before the impending crisis. Doing so required occupying Iraq and Afghanistan.
The US imports little oil from the Mideast or Central Asia. However, these regions are primary oil sources for Europe and Japan – and, increasingly, for India and China.
By dominating these oil sources, the US controls the economies of its main commercial and potential military rivals. Control of the Muslim world’s oil is the principal pillar of America’s world power.
The Pentagon plans three permanent major military bases in Iraq from which powerful garrisons of US air and ground forces, backed by mercenary native troops, will police not just Iraq but the entire Mideast and guard the new “imperial lifeline” of pipelines exporting oil from Central Asia and the Arab world.
Other US bases in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, linked to bases in Bulgaria and Romania, will guard the new imperial route.
The second objective, in my view, was aiding Israel.
Influential American supporters of Israel’s rightist prime minister, Ariel Sharon, played a significant role in building the case for war against Iraq.
From various positions in the White House, Pentagon, National Security Council, media, and taxpayer-supported Washington think tanks, these neo-conservatives helped to orchestrate the campaign about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and trumpeted alleged threats from Iraq.
The neo-cons achieved their objective: Iraq, once the Arab world’s most developed, industrialized nation, a bitter foe of Israel, was destroyed, and will likely end up split into three weak mini-states.
Israel is a primary beneficiary of the Iraq war: a potential nuclear rival was eliminated by the US
Many neo-cons believed crushing Iraq would help to cement Israel’s grip on the occupied West Bank and Golan, thwart a Palestinian state and force the Arab nations to accept Israel’s regional hegemony.
But for the United States, Iraq was at best a pyrrhic victory. Invading and occupying Iraq has proven to be a financial disaster. The invasion cost $105 billion US in direct expenses – the price of five complete carrier battle groups, or one million low-cost apartments.
Occupying Iraq costs $9 billion monthly.
Pre-war neo-con plans to finance the occupation by plundering Iraq’s oil have been frustrated by sabotage. Congress estimates the overall cost of “pacifying” and “rebuilding” Iraq for fiscal 2003 and 2004 at a staggering $200 billion.
This money will have to be borrowed by the empty treasury, which, thanks to Bush’s reckless “war” spending, is running huge deficits heading toward $400 billion, risking an explosion of inflation that threatens to undermine the long-term bond market and further weaken the dollar.
10,000 US Casualties; 10,000 Iraqi Civilians Killed
The human cost of the war continues to rise. As of this writing, US losses amount to 555 dead, and about 9,000 casualties from combat, accidents and serious illnesses.
Ten thousand Iraqi civilians were estimated to have been killed by US forces — in a war now described as waged under “mistaken intelligence assumptions.”
Iraqi military casualties are 6,000-10,000.
Iraq lies in ruins. “Rebuilding Iraq” means paying for all the damage caused by massive US bombing and years of sanctions.
In spite of rosy claims from the White House about handing sovereignty to Iraqis, American troops will garrison Iraq for years to guard the oil fields and maintain a “democratic” puppet regime in power in Baghdad that obeys Washington’s orders.
US forces will continue to face a simmering, low-grade guerrilla war that will kill or wound more American troops, and increasingly brutalize and corrupt occupation forces – the inevitable result of all colonial wars. In short, America now has its own West Bank, or Lebanon.
The brazen arrogance and profound ignorance shown by the Bush administration in its crusade against Iraq has turned the world against the United States. Occupied Iraq is acting as a terrorism generator. For the next generation of young Muslims, Iraq is becoming what Afghanistan was in the 1980s, a rallying point to fight foreign occupation, battle imperialism and defend the tattered honour of the Muslim world. Bush and his men have created millions of new enemies.
Half of all US ground combat forces are tied down in and around Iraq. Reserves are being mobilized for long tours. Wear and tear on overstretched US forces and their heavy equipment is a grave, though little discussed, problem.
Neo-con promises of “liberation” of Iraq, of joyous, flower-tossing crowds and of rapid “democratization” have turned to dust. Iraq remains a dangerous, volatile mess seething with violence and implacable Shia political demands. Twenty resistance groups now battle US and allied occupation troops. Militant Islamic jihadis are heading for Iraq to fight “Great Satan” America. Yet Bush still claims invading Iraq made America safer.
However, because of Iraq, much of the world now regards America itself as a menacing, unstable threat.
President Bush has stuck his head into a hornet’s nest. The US will bleed men, money and reputation for a long time before it figures out how to get out of the first colonial misadventure of the 21st century.
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