WWP Editorial on Iraq – 2008-03-13 22:14:17
NEW YORK (March 13, 2008) — The US has now occupied Iraq for five years. This has been an unrelenting nightmare for the Iraqi people. It has also been US imperialism’s worst military debacle. It has drained the living standards of the working class in the United States. It has made some US corporate owners very rich.
It has killed 1 million Iraqis and destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of US youth. It has turned 70 percent of the population against the war and the president. But the anti-war movement has not grown.
Only by holding onto those contradictory ideas at the same time, can we begin to understand what five years of occupation of Iraq has meant. Let’s look at them one at a time.
Before 1990 and the US-imposed sanctions, Iraq was relatively affluent. Children didn’t go without food or medical care then. Sunnis and Shiites intermarried. But in 2003 the US bombed its way into Iraq, promising a quick victory over Saddam Hussein and “democracy” for Iraq — while US corporations prepared to take over Iraq’s oil wealth.
Since then, an estimated 1 million Iraqis have been killed and hundreds of thousands maimed. Nearly 5 million Iraqis are refugees, 2.5 million within Iraq and another 2.2 million in Syria and Jordan.
According to UN reports:
• 43 percent of Iraqis live in abject poverty on less than one dollar a day;
• 60 percent to 70 percent of the workforce is unemployed;
• 70 percent of the population can’t get adequate supplies of drinking water; and
• 80 percent lack basic sanitation.
• Cholera epidemics now rage in nine of Iraq’s 18 provinces. • Child mortality has risen sharply. Sectarian fighting—for which the occupation is responsible—makes daily life hell.
Yet for all the suffering the Pentagon unleashed upon the Iraqi civilians, the US has lost the war. “Shock and awe” made Iraqis suffer but failed to make them submit. Instead, a resistance has endured that can only be described as heroic.
This resistance, while not unified, has exposed the weaknesses of the Pentagon. The big one facing recruiters right now is that insufficient numbers of US youth are willing to volunteer as cannon fodder in their war of conquest. US troops are stretched to the breaking point, forced to return for two and three combat tours. The generals wonder when the 158,000 still in Iraq will break.
The latest study shows the war costs $12 billion each month. The Bush gang had promised in 2003 that the whole war would cost $60 billion, and that this would be paid out of Iraqi oil revenues. One economist, adding in the future care of seriously wounded troops, says the war will cost US taxpayers $3 trillion.
Not everyone has suffered. Dick Cheney’s Halliburton, Blackwater and some other companies got rich and are getting still richer. Big Oil makes record profits, playing with the oil shortfalls that have driven petroleum prices to $100 a barrel. When George W. Bush, speaking recently without a canned speech, dared to claim that the war was good for the economy, he was thinking about his partners in crime who own these industries.
Iraqi death and suffering defies mere words. But to add to the toll, the US stepped up its air strikes sixfold in 2007. It doubled the number of Iraqis held in captivity. Anti-war activists and experts meeting in Berlin March 7-9 concluded that the US occupation has brought “chaos” to Iraq. There is no doubt that in a just world the US corporations behind this war would have to pay immeasurable reparations to the Iraqi people.
US troops were dying somewhat less frequently toward the end of 2007. The generals claimed success for the “surge.” But the news on March 10 was that two bombs had killed eight US troops in one day. Besides the 4,000 killed in combat, at least another 30,000 are severely wounded, and tens of thousands more live in psychic pain.
These extreme sacrifices for imperial conquest are limited to a narrow section of the population, those who “volunteer”—usually out of economic necessity. With Iraq now out of the headlines and off the top of television news, the anti-war movement has slowed down. The exception is the movement of Iraq veterans and active duty troops who are exposing this war’s crimes at the Winter Soldier hearing in Washington March 13-16.
In addition, polls show that 70 percent of the population think the war must end as soon as possible and a majority believe the war has wrecked the economy. They also look to the elections to resolve this horrible situation, which has been a damper on initiative and militancy.
The record is grim after five years. There are no heroes except the Iraqis who keep resisting the occupation. They have humbled the most powerful military in human history. After five years the first step in resolving Iraq’s nightmare remains the same: US out of Iraq now!
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