Iraq Occupation Worse Than Ever

By David Swanson

Two weeks ago an article in the Cville Weekly by Josh Levy ( ) told us that the “surge” was going to win the “war” in Iraq. “Victory has not yet arrived,” he cautioned, “and it may be years before we can mark its arrival with confidence, but we can reasonably hope to see it.”

Somehow, I can’t. First I would need someone to tell me what it would look like. There is no “war” in Iraq in the sense of a battle between two armies. There is an occupation of one nation’s people by another nation’s military. Dick Cheney told us the whole thing was only going to take a few months. Five years later we’re supposed to continue this massive crime for additional years because then Levy may be able to confidently discern “victory”?

Perhaps the reason that Levy doesn’t tell us what a “victory” would look like is that Bush’s and Cheney’s idea of victory is permanent occupation. They’ve discussed a Korea-like occupation of 50 years. Bush is negotiating an agreement with Maliki to allow a long-term presence. Bush recently published a signing statement announcing his right to fund permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. Fourteen such bases have already been built. The Project for a New American Century, the think tank that originally dreamed up the invasion of Iraq, was not called the Project for a Few More Years Until Victory. The whole point was to establish control of Iraq and its oil for the long term.

Senator Webb should be applauded for his proposal to take Bush to court:

A permanent and costly occupation of Iraq is bad enough, but do we have to listen to announcements of imminent “victory” every few years for the next century? Levy admits that this is his second brush with victory anticipation already. “In 2003,” he writes, “after Saddam’s swift defeat and overthrow, America seemed on the cusp of a full triumph.” Well, not if you were paying any attention to the warnings of historians and generals including Eric Shinseki, not if you had heard Dick Cheney’s rational explanation for why he did not invade Baghdad during the first Gulf War.

Now, “victory” sounds like a nice thing. But some 1.2 million Iraqis have died so far, 5 million have been driven from their homes, electricity and water are hard to come by, and the “surge” has brought no political solutions. While 2007 was the deadliest year yet for Americans and Iraqis, U.S. troop deaths were up again in January after a decline. Even the short-lived decline in violence at the end of last year only took us back to 2005 levels, leaving Iraq by far the hottest war zone in the world. The U.S. reduced troop deaths temporarily by using four times as many air strikes in 2007 as the year before. The results for Iraqis were not pleasant. Neither would be the now threatened Fallujah-like assault on Mosul. The financial cost of maintaining this occupation is burying our grandchildren in debt. We cannot accept more years of this in hopes of an unspecified outcome that we never asked for and our representatives in Congress never voted on.

The decline in violence in the last few months of 2007 came primarily in Anbar and Baghdad, after the U.S. abandoned the surge and agreed to an alliance with Sunnis it had been fighting. But this cannot last, because the Sunnis’ goal is the complete withdrawal of US troops and mercenaries. In Baghdad, the segregation of neighborhoods by religious sect reduced violence, but the eviction of a million Sunnis created a refugee problem that is not being addressed. And the Mahdi Army declared a temporary ceasefire, but its goal – like that of a majority of all Iraqis – remains ending the U.S. occupation. Want to support democracy? Let the Iraqi people decide when U.S. troops should go home. Come to think of it, you could let the American people decide and get the same result.

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