Bush still claims that Iraq under US and British military occupation is making progress towards a stable, democratic society. In reality, the situation is catastrophic.
For most Iraqis, things are much worse than under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. There are severe shortages of fresh water, electric power and even fuel. Reconstruction of the shattered cities is a sick joke. Every day, hundreds die as a result of the US-British occupation, the insurgency, the sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shia, and sheer gangsterism.
Bush, Blair and now Brown claim they are fighting to establish democracy in Iraq. Yet a section of Iraq’s parliamentary representatives, mainly Sunni, are currently boycotting parliament. There is no agreement on concrete details of new laws to rehabilitate some Sunnis (excluded from public jobs as former supporters of Saddam) or to share out the oil between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish areas. In any case, how can there be democracy under military occupation? Currently, the US is holding thousands of prisoners, without any right to legal process.
Bush claims that security in Iraq has improved as a result of the ’surge’, the dispatch of an additional 30,000 US forces to Iraq. The US clampdown in Baghdad and parts of the mostly Sunni Anbar province, however, has simply pushed the conflict to other regions. Recently, for instance, there have been horrific bomb attacks in the majority Kurdish city of Kirkuk.
Bush still claims that the situation can be stabilised by next spring. But it was recently reported that Bush’s director of central intelligence, General Michael Hayden, warned the administration that "the inability" of the Iraqi government of al-Maliki to govern, "seems irreversible".
Hayden could not see "any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around". Top US military commanders, moreover, have warned that stabilising Iraq, even if achievable, will take much longer than Bush imagines.
Bush is more and more isolated politically. A number of leading Republicans are calling for a timetable for withdrawal of troops. The midterm elections last November were an overwhelming vote against Bush’s Iraq policy. Since then US popular support for withdrawal from Iraq has strengthened. Significantly, over 50% of military families favour withdrawal.
The Democrats, the second party of US big business, now have a majority in Congress. But while passing symbolic resolutions calling for a timetable for withdrawal, they duck the real issue. In the most cowardly way, they refuse to cut off funding for Bush’s military adventure.
A former head of the National Security Agency, retired General William Odon, called for "a flat refusal [by the Democrats] to appropriate money to be used in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion". He also said that the Democrats should warn Bush that if he tries to continue the war, "impeachment proceedings will proceed in the House of Representatives".
Despite US imperialism’s overwhelming military power, Bush’s military adventure in Iraq has only served to demonstrate the limits of US power. US imperialism has been defeated in Iraq.
This was starkly pointed out in recent editorials in the New York Times, one of the most authoritative journals of the US ruling class: "It is frighteningly clear that Mr Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost." (The Road Home, 8 July 2007)
"Keeping troops in Iraq," comments the New York Times, "will only make things worse." The priority, they say in another editorial (13 July) is "the need to develop an orderly plan to extricate American troops from a lost cause and reposition them in ways that can genuinely protect our national interests."
Even if US leaders were to adopt such an exit strategy, however, it would be extremely difficult for them to extract their forces without a humiliating rout. As it is, Bush, for his own political reasons, is likely to prolong the agony, inflicting an even more severe defeat on US imperialism. Moreover, the likely implosion of Iraq will intensify the crisis throughout the whole Middle East region.
Here, Gordon Brown continues the Blair policy of clinging to US imperialism’s coat-tails. British forces in Iraq, mainly in the southern, oil-rich province of Basra, have been reduced from 7,000 at their peak to 5,500 currently. However, conflict in the province is more intense than ever, and British forces can hardly leave their base without suffering serious casualties.
Last weekend, two junior ministers, Douglas Alexander, the development secretary, and Mark Malloch Brown, the new Foreign Office minister, commented that the British government should keep its distance from the Bush administration. Britain and the US should not be "joined at the hip", commented Malloch Brown.
Brown’s new foreign secretary, David Miliband, was quick to insist that there would be "no change" in the relationship between Britain and the US.
Like the US, British imperialism is facing a "strategic failure in Iraq", according to a senior British military commander. British troops in Iraq are now suffering a higher rate of fatal casualties in proportion to their numbers than their US counterparts.
British forces (currently 7,000) also face a second "strategic failure in Afghanistan". Taliban forces have become stronger, while the western-sponsored government of Hamid Karzai faces the real possibility of collapse.
In a recent debate in the House of Lords, Lord Inge, former chief of Britain’s defence staff, warned that "the situation in Afghanistan is much worse than many people recognise. We need to face up to that issue, the consequences of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for Nato... We need to recognise the situation - in my view, and I have recently been in Afghanistan - is much, much more serious than people want to recognise."
British and US forces should be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. The horrendous situation in Iraq can only be made worse by continued imperialist occupation. Resolving the conflicts has to be the task of the Iraqi people.
In the socialist’s view, progress will depend on the re-emergence of working-class forces that can cut across sectarian and nationalist divisions and build united organisations to defend people against violent attacks, political repression and economic exploitation.