by Gerry Foley / October 2006 issue of Socialist Action Newspaper
A poll of Iraqi public opinion done by a group associated with the University of Maryland indicates that opposition to the U.S.-led occupation is now overwhelming. The results, published in a Reuters dispatch of Sept. 29, indicate that 61 percent of Iraqis support the resistance’s armed attacks on U.S. forces, up from 47 percent in January.
Support for such attacks was highest among Sunnis, 92 percent, but the poll showed that for the first time a substantial minority of Shiites, 61 percent, supports armed resistance to the occupation forces. Some 78 percent of Iraqis, according to this study, think that the U.S. presence causes more violence than it prevents, including 97 percent of Sunnis and 82 percent of Shiites.
Support for the occupation remains high among the Kurds, about 20 percent of the population, who see the U.S as rescuing them from Saddam Hussein’s genocide. But even there, a substantial and growing minority is now hostile to the occupation.
Against this background, U.S. casualties have been growing. Some 74 U.S. military personnel were killed over the month of September, and the number of victims of civil conflict among Iraqis has escalated. The Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 4 that in July and August in Baghdad alone 5000 Iraqis died in sectarian killings and in clashes with the various security forces.
The Los Angeles Times article offered various explanations for the higher U.S. losses. First of all, they noted the deployment of twice as many U.S. troops in Baghdad, where a third of the losses took place. They also cited growing attacks from Shiite groups and a shift in policy by the Islamist wing of the resistance to concentrating on attacks on occupation troops rather than elements of the Iraqi population they view as enemies.
But it is clear is that occupied Iraq is a killing field that is continually becoming more deadly. A U.S. government report, parts of which were released in September, indicates that Iraq has become a recruiting crowd for Islamist fighters from all over the world.
The British Economist, one of the most serious and objective organs of capitalism, reported Sept. 28: “The war in Iraq has ‘made the overall terrorism problem worse. Many Islamist extremists consider it to be the first front of a total war against Islam. It has galvanised jihadists, becoming their ‘cause celebre,’ and it has contributed directly to increasing recruitment of violent Islamist terrorists. The terrorist threat is now more acute than it was before the September 11th attacks on the United States.’
“These blunt conclusions, leaked last week to the New York Times and the Washington Post, are part of a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on global terrorism trends. Such estimates are the consensus opinion of 16 government agencies, including the CIA, FBI, State Department and all four branches of the armed forces.
“They are hard to dismiss by any but the willfully dim-sighted. ‘Stating the obvious,’ one leaker said. But it has never been obvious to the Bush administration.”
The Economist failed to note that stonewalling is perhaps the most characteristic feature of the Bush administration. The political leadership of declining American capitalism is unable to face up to basic facts that are obvious to any serious observer and tries to shout them down by appeals to backward prejudices and superstitions of all sorts.
The military instrument of U.S. capitalism is also showing cracks that its political leadership is trying to cover up. A dispatch by Reuters writer Will Dunham noted (as translated from a French version): “Soldiers under pressure, inadequate equipment, the military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan is weighing heavily on the American army, which is showing growing signs of tensions.
“The army has supplied the bulk of the troops deployed for three and a half years in Iraq. Of the total of 142,000 soldiers currently stationed in Iraq, 100,000 come from the army. In Afghanistan, it is 16,000 out of 21,000. Many soldiers are on their third or fourth tour of duty, and the Pentagon has just announced that a brigade deployed in the Iraqi Anbar province will stay longer than expected.
“This is the second time in two months that the Defense Department has delayed the return of the ‘boys,’ with all the implications that has for the morale of the troops and their families. In the general staff, voices are being raised stressing that the budgetary resources may not be sufficient to maintain the tanks, armored vehicles, and other equipment being subjected to a harsh test in Iraq.”
The Iraq war has been a bonanza for big U.S. corporations like Halliburton but a disaster for the American population who have to pay for it. Thus, the public opinion polls show a constantly growing level of rejection for the war and rejection of the Bush administration’s arguments for it.
In the run-up to the November elections, the Bush administration has been campaigning hard to try to regain support for the war but apparently is unable to reverse the trend. Thus, in mid-June, the CNN poll showed a slight dip in the disapproval rate—from 62 percent in May to 54 percent—but at the beginning of August it went up again to 62 percent, and at the beginning of October it rose to 66 percent (two thirds).
In all, the Iraqi war seems to be becoming the breaking point for the present capitalist order in the United States, economically and politically as well as militarily. The immediate effect of this on the social and political scene in the U.S. remains to be seen, but it could be considerable.
Moreover, this defeat of U.S. imperialism in Iraq comes in the face of a divided resistance, some of whose groups carry out many senseless, counterproductive atrocities against civilians. If the resistance were to achieve an effective leadership, the U.S. occupation could face a disastrous defeat.