Even a cursory review of Bush�s speech shows that the
president is less concerned with "security" in Baghdad than he is
with plans to attack Iran. Paul Craig Roberts was correct in his article
Wednesday when he questioned whether all the hoopla over a surge was just
"an orchestrated distraction" to draw attention away from the real
war plan. ("Distracting
Congress from the Real War Plan")
Apparently, it is.
As Roberts noted, "The US Congress and the media are
focused on President Bush�s proposal for an increase of 20,000 US troops in
Iraq, while Israel and its American neoconservative allies prepare an assault on
Roberts� analysis is further supported by yesterday�s news
that American troops stormed the "Iranian consulate in the northern Iraqi
city of Arbil and arrested 5 employees." (Reuters)
Iran had set up the embassy at the request of the Kurdish
governor-general who was not informed of US intentions to raid the facility and
kidnap its employees. The American soldiers confiscated computers and documents
just five hours after Bush had threatened Iran in his address to the nation.
Clearly, Bush is looking for a way to provoke a military
confrontation with Iran. Now he has five Iranian hostages at his disposal to
help him achieve that goal.
Will the mullahs overreact or will they show restraint and
try to prevent a larger conflict?
Bush�s hostility towards Iran was evident in comments he
made in Wednesday night�s speech:
"Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its
territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist
challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are
allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of
Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We
will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support
from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing
advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."
"Seek and destroy"? Is that the plan?
A region-wide conflagration with results as uncertain as
they are in Iraq?
So far, there�s no solid evidence that Iran is
"providing material support for attacks on American troops." All the
same, the administration has consistently used "material support" as
the basis for preemptive war. In fact, the so-called Bush Doctrine is
predicated on the assumption that the US is free to attack whomever it chooses
if it perceives a threat to its national security. The normal rules of
self-defense or "imminent danger" no longer apply.
Bush knows that if Iran were seriously involved in arming
the Iraqi resistance, we�d be seeing the Russian-made, armor-piercing rocket
launchers that were used so effectively by Hezbollah during their 34 day war
with Israel. That hasn�t been the case. Iran is undoubtedly active in Iraq, but
in ways that are much subtler than Bush claims. In fact, Bush�s great ally,
Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, who runs the feared Badr Brigade out of the Iraqi Interior
Ministry, has strong ties to Iran (having lived there for 20 years.) He is
probably using the US military to remove his enemies (the Sunni-backed
resistance and al Sadr�s Mehdi Army) before he turns his attention to his US
Iran clearly has interests in Iraq, but it is the Bush
administration�s reckless war that has assured that Iran will be the
"default" superpower in the entire region. Bush has shattered the
fragile balance of power between Sunnis and Shiites while eliminating Iran�s
main adversaries in Afghanistan (Sunni-Taliban) and Iraq (Saddam-Ba�athist
Party). Bush now seems to think that the only way he can challenge Tehran�s
ascendancy is by launching a Lebanon-type assault on military and civilian
infrastructure in Iran.
If Iran is set back 20 years, Bush assumes, then our
trusted-friend Israel will be the prevailing power in the Middle East. That, of
course, was the plan from the get-go.
To that end, Bush averred: "We�re taking steps to
bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East.
I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the
region. We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot Air Defense
Systems to reassure our friends and allies . . . And we will work with others
to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region."
All the pieces are being put in place for a much larger and
more destructive conflict.
It�s an ambitious plan, but it has no chance of succeeding.
The United States is hopelessly bogged down in Iraq and its actions in Somalia,
Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine have only ensured that the US's days in the
Middle East are quickly drawing to a close.
As for Iraq, Bush�s speech provided few details of how the
miniscule and incremental increase in troop-strength (only 17,000 to Baghdad
over a four-month period) was expected to quell the raging violence that has
gripped the capital since the last major operation in August. Operation
"Forward Together" turned out to be a complete disaster,
precipitating a sharp boost in attacks on US troops as well as an increase in
Bush has enlisted some support for his
"escalation" plan by committing to the "clear-hold-build"
strategy promoted by the Council on Foreign Relations. The CFR has been pushing
their "model for counterinsurgency" for three years, but have been
largely ignored by the Bush administration.
Despite Bush�s feeble defense of the policy, he has no
intention of putting it into practice. He is merely pacifying other members of
the political establishment who are demanding that their voices be heard.
The reality of the present strategy is manifest in military
operations currently underway in Baghdad. These operations are being conducted
in a way that is reminiscent of Rumsfeld�s activities in Falluja two years ago.
The attacks on alleged "insurgent strongholds" on Haifa Street,
(which is just a few hundred yards from the Green Zone) show that the military
has returned to the policy of using overwhelming force to subdue the
resistance. In this case, the US pounded the area with helicopter gun-ships and
F-16s, while ground troops went rampaging door to door. The civilian casualties
in these scattershot operations invariably skyrocket and further alienate the
local population. In one day alone, US forces killed an estimated 50 Iraqis in
the predominantly Sunni "residential" area.
Another catastrophic "hearts and minds" operation.
Sunni leaders are now accusing the US military of carrying
out ethnic cleansing operations at the request of the Shiite militias.
Is that the plan, purging Baghdad of the Sunnis?
It appears so.
Certainly, the lynching of Saddam was intended to send a
message to the Ba�athist-led resistance that there would be no more efforts at
negotiations or compromise. The US is now pursuing Cheney�s "80-20"
plan -- a strategy to throw their support behind the Shiites while eradicating
the Sunnis (20 percent of the population).
Bush hinted at this new approach in his speech when he said,
"Our efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principle reasons: There
were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure the neighborhoods that have
been cleared of terrorists and insurgents AND THERE WERE TOO MANY RESTRICTIONS
ON THE TROOPS WE DID HAVE."
"Too many restrictions"? (The respected British
medical journal Lancet reported 650,000 casualties in the conflict so far with
over 2 million Iraqi refugees. Is that "Too many restrictions"? )
Bush�s comments suggest that the "gloves are coming
off" and we can expect a return to the scorched earth policy that was so
savagely applied in Falluja and other parts of the Sunni Triangle.
Bush also intimated that he would strike out at other
"armed militias" in Iraq; an indication that US forces are planning
an offensive against Muqtada al-Sadr�s Mehdi Army. The Shiite cleric, al Sadr,
is despised by the Washington Warlords and is described by the Pentagon as
"the biggest threat to Iraq�s security." Even so, al-Sadr has
operatives placed strategically throughout the al-Maliki government (and within
the Green Zone) and attacking him now would only make the occupation more
perilous. In fact, an attack on the Mehdi Army could create a situation where
Shiite militias cut off vital supply lines from the south making occupation
Bush has decided to abandon all sense of caution and blunder
ahead taking on all adversaries without concern for the consequences. It is a
prescription for disaster.
Bush�s "Victory Strategy": more force, but no
Bush's speech invoked none of the flashy slogans that
he typically uses and which normally appear in headlines the next day. Nor
did he make any attempt to elicit support for his planned
"escalation" of troops. That idea has already been thoroughly
rejected by the Iraq Study Group, the Congress, and the American people.
Instead, he reiterated the same worn bromides (of "ideological" warfare,
9-11, and terrorism) that have long since lost their power to move public
The Bush administration has run out of gas. They have no
plan for "pacification," security, reconstruction, or regional
stability. Their "one-size-fits-all" solution requires
ever-increasing levels of violence for an intractable Iraqi Resistance and
which is now fated to spread mayhem throughout the entire Middle East.
Carl von Clausewitz said, "War is not a mere act of
policy, but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity
by other means."
Bush and his fellow-neocons are incapable of thinking
politically, so America�s decline in Iraq is likely to be precipitous. The
crackdown in Baghdad and the anticipated bombing of Iran will have no significant
affect on the war�s outcome. America has lost its ability to influence events
positively or to arbitrarily assert its will. We�re now facing "death
by a thousand cuts" and the steady erosion of US power.
Brute force alone will not produce a political solution in
Iraq. Those who think it will are bound to fail.
Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.