Is the US really ‘turning the corner’ in Iraq?

Abject failure of the ‘surge’.

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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A year ago, in his Address to the Nation, George W Bush recognised the failure of the US-led occupation in terms of stabilising Iraq and defeating the Iraqi resistance. What were the reasons given for this undeniable failure? “Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighbourhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.”

Apparently, a force of 132,000 wasn’t enough to scare off Osama’s man in Baghdad. More would be needed. Only a veritable ‘surge’ in troop numbers would do. Lo and behold, within a few months, troop levels had risen to 168,000, at which level they have since remained.

A year later, opinion is divided as to the success of the troop surge. Some of the most prominent politicians in the world tell us that it was a phenomenal success. According to Bush, speaking in Kuwait on 12 January 2008, the surge has “turned Iraq into a country where hope [is] now returning … Iraq is now a different place from one year ago. We must do all we can to ensure that 2008 will bring even greater progress.” (Quoted in ‘Hope returning to Iraq, says Bush’, BBC News Online, 12 January 2008)

Condoleezza Rice and David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, have made similar statements, giving the impression that the surge has provided the necessary impetus finally to defeat the Iraqi resistance and establish a peaceful and democratic flow of oil from the Iraqi oil fields to the refineries of ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and BP.

However, the reality on the ground tells a somewhat different story – one of unmitigated failure for the imperialist occupiers. The 36,000 extra troops that landed in the early part of 2007 have been totally unable to contain the forces of the Iraqi resistance, which continues to grow daily in strength, stature and experience.

For all the extra troops, for all the black propaganda, for all the attempts to incite civil war, for all the psychological warfare, the resistance refuses to wane. All the surge has achieved is to generate in its architects a renewed false optimism.

Nothing highlights this tragicomedy more poetically than the string of car bombings that took place on 5 December, timed to coincide with the visit of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates to the northern city of Mosul to witness the “considerable progress” being made there.

Disaster for the occupiers

The Guardian of 31 December, citing official US military figures, reported that 2007 was “the most deadly [year] for American troops in Iraq since the invasion nearly five years ago” . Over the course of the year, 899 US troops were killed, along with 46 British troops. This brings the total of US troops killed in the Iraq so far to 3,905, along with nearly 30,000 seriously wounded. What’s more, 30 percent of US troops develop serious mental health problems within three to four months of returning home.

The whole purpose of the war, of course, was to open up Iraq’s immense oil reserves for US and British oil companies. This aim has been frustrated. It is estimated that Iraq could produce up to 6m barrels a day (mbd), and yet production currently stands at around 1.5mbd – well under pre-invasion levels of about 2.5mbd.

According to a BBC News Online report, between April 2003 and January 2007 there were an estimated 391 attacks on Iraqi oil and gas pipelines, installations and personnel. The US-sponsored oil law, which the Iraqi government has been trying to push through for months, still has not been ratified, due to internal wrangling and massive popular discontent.

And this mess is costing the US over $270m daily – an expense which has helped push the US national debt up to a staggering $5tr. No wonder support for the war in the US and Britain has collapsed.

Meanwhile, the numerical strength of the Iraqi resistance is now (conservatively) estimated at well over 70,000 (four times higher than it was four years ago). Data gathered by the Brookings Institute (a non-partisan, non-profit research agency, using verifiable figures from ‘reputable’ sources such as the US Department of Defence) shows that the average number of resistance attacks per day has risen to 185 – more than double what it was a year ago.

Arab Media Watch points out that, although the media coverage tends to heavily emphasise attacks against civilians, 75 percent of recorded attacks have been directed at the occupation forces, 17 percent at Iraqi government forces, and only 8 percent at unspecified civilian targets. (

Taking 7 January 2008 as a fairly typical example, here are some highlights from Reuters’ summary of the day’s events in Iraq:

“Baghdad – Gunmen in five cars kidnapped between eight and 10 neighbourhood patrol volunteers in Baghdad’s northern Shaab district. Police said the volunteers had been manning a vehicle checkpoint.

“Latifiya – Gunmen killed a neighbourhood patrol volunteer at a checkpoint in Latifiya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

“Baghdad – A bomb stuck on the side of a parked car killed one civilian and wounded four, including two policemen, when it detonated near a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Baghdad’s Shi’ite slum of Sadr City, police said.

“Kirkuk – A roadside bomb wounded one Iraqi soldier and one civilian on Sunday, in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

“Baghdad – Two roadside bombs killed a civilian and wounded two policemen in southern Baghdad’s Jadiriya district, police said.

“Mosul – One person was killed and three others were wounded, including two children, when gunmen attacked a police station in Mosul on Sunday, police said.

“Baghdad – A roadside bomb killed one U.S. soldier and wounded three others when it struck their vehicle in southern Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said.”

Clearly the US/British occupation has not ‘turned the corner’ in its bid to stabilise Iraq.

Disaster for the Iraqi people

Of course, the war in Iraq hasn’t been a disaster for the occupiers alone. The Iraqi people are witnessing the complete destruction of their country. Over a million have been killed since the invasion and occupation in 2003, to add to the 1.5 million killed by the sanctions that preceded the invasion, while over two million have become refugees abroad and a further 2.5 million displaced within Iraq. The quality of life for the remaining population is vastly below pre-war levels.

According to Unicef, the UN children’s agency, two million children in Iraq are facing poor nutrition, lack of education, disease and violence. (‘Iraq children ‘paying high price’, BBC News Online, 21 December 2007)

CNN reported on 30 July 2007 that 28 percent of Iraqi children are suffering from chronic malnutrition, putting Iraq – previously a relatively prosperous country with an excellent health record – in the same league as some of the world’s poorest nations. The same article estimated that only 30 percent of Iraqis have access to adequate water supplies (down from 85 percent in 2000, and comparable with Ethiopia (24 percent)).

Baghdad homes have electricity for an average of around five hours per day. The unemployment rate is well over 60 percent. Unicef says that 75 percent of Baghdad children are no longer able to attend school.

The vast majority of Iraqis long for the life they had before the US and British turned up.

We in the communist, progressive, anti-imperialist and anti-war movements in the heartlands of imperialism must openly and unambiguously take our stand with the Iraqi resistance – the popular, resilient, courageous and creative force that is driving imperialism out of Iraq and pushing British and US monopoly capital further and further towards collapse.