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   Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis

Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2004

March 15, 2004

WASHINGTON DC - The famous words of King Phyrrus of Epirus after the bloody battle of Heraclea in 280 BC are as appropriate for America's conquest of Iraq: `One more such victory and we are ruined.'

The March, 2003 invasion of Iraq pitted the world's greatest military power against the largely inoperative army of a small, dilapidated nation of only 17 million (deducting rebellious Kurds), crushed by 12 years of sanctions and bombing.

Thanks to total air superiority, invading US forces achieved a brilliant feat of movement and logistics, racing from Kuwait to Northern Iraq in under three weeks. The 15% of Iraq's army that stood and fought was pulverized by massive, well-coordinated US air strikes and artillery. Bitter urban resistance failed to materialize.

The rout of Iraq's forces recalled another colonial war, the Dervish Campaign of 1898. General Kitchner led an Imperial British army far up the Nile into Sudan where it met and massacred a primitive Islamic host at Omdurman. Britain's quick-fire guns and artillery mowed down Dervish cavalry and sword-waving Fuzzy-Wuzzy tribesmen as murderously as US precision munitions vaporized Iraqi units.

US air and ground forces in Iraq displayed superb technical, electronic, logistic, and combat prowess confirming they are 2 full military generations ahead of nearly all other nations.

But, as the great modern military thinker, Maj Gen J.F.C.Fuller observed 40 years ago, the proper objective of war is not military victory, but rather a politically advantageous peace. While the US won an inevitable military victory against near helpless Iraq, political victory so far remains elusive.

Two primary objectives drove the US invasion of Iraq: oil and Israel. White House claims about weapons of mass destruction and terrorism were propaganda smokescreens hiding the real reasons. President Bush's claims that impotent Iraq posed `a grave and gathering danger' to the US, Condoleeza Rice's hysterical warnings about `mushroom clouds over the US,' and Vice President Dick Cheney's bizarre Jeremiads about `Iraq's reconstituted nuclear weapons' were as devoid of truth as Dr Geobbel's claim in 1939 that Poland was about to invade Germany.

Oil. The US now controls Iraq, a strategic nation with the Mideast's second largest oil reserves. CIA estimates China's and India's surging, oil-hungry economies will cause world oil shortages by 2030 - or sooner. Accordingly, the Bush Administration moved to assure America's global hegemony by seizing Mideast and Central Asian oil before the impending oil crisis. Doing so required occupying Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US imports little oil from the Mideast or Central Asia oil. However, these regions are primary oil sources for Europe and Japan - and, increasingly, India and China. By dominating these oil sources, the US controls the economies of its main commercial and potential military rivals. Control of the Muslim World's oil is the principal pillar of America's world power. Saddam Hussein, who had the audacity to challenge America's Mideast Raj, and mock the Bush family, had to be made an example. Bush's father did the same thing with an earlier miscreant, Panama's Manuel Noriega.

The Pentagon plans three permanent major military bases in Iraq from which powerful garrisons of US air and ground forces, backed by mercenary native troops, will police Iraq, the entire Mideast, and guard the new `imperial lifeline' of pipelines exporting oil from Central Asia and the Arab World. Other US bases in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, linked to bases in Bulgaria and Romania, will guard the new imperial route.

Second objective, aiding Israel. Influential American supporters of Israel's rightist prime minister, Ariel Sharon played a decisive role in engineering war against Iraq. From positions in the Vice President's office, Pentagon, National Security Council, media, and taxpayer supported Washington think tanks, these neo-conservatives orchestrated the disinformation campaign about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction and ceaselessly trumpeted alleged threats from Iraq.

The neo-cons achieve their objective: Iraq, once the Arab World's most developed, industrialized nation, a bitter foe of Israel, was destroyed, and will likely end up split into three weak mini-states. Israel is the primary beneficiary of the Iraq War: a potential nuclear rival was eliminated by the US, and it received a $1 billion bonus in extra aid from Washington.

The neo-cons believed crushing Iraq would cement Israel's grip on the occupied West Bank and Golan, thwart a Palestinian state, and force the Arab nations to accept Israel's regional hegemony.

But for the United States, Iraq was at best Phyrric victory. Invading and occupying Iraq has proven a financial disaster. The invasion cost US $105 billion in direct expenses - the price of five complete carrier battle groups, or one million low-cost apartments.

Occupying Iraq costs the US $9 billion monthly. Pre-war neo-con plans to finance the occupation by plundering Iraq's oil have been frustrated by sabotage. Congress estimates the overall cost of `pacifying' and `rebuilding' Iraq for Fiscal 2003 and 2004 a staggering $200 billion.

This money will have to be borrowed by the empty Treasury, which, thanks to Bush's reckless `war' spending, is running huge deficits heading towards $400 billion, risking an explosion of inflation that threatens to undermine the long-term bond market and further weaken the dollar.

The human cost of the war continues to rise. As of this writing, US losses amount to 562 dead, and 9,000 casualties from combat, accidents and serious illnesses.

Ten thousand Iraqi civilians were estimated killed by US forces - in a war now described as waged under `mistaken intelligence assumptions.' Iraqi military casualties are 6-10,000. Iraq lies in ruins. `Rebuilding Iraq' means paying for all the damage caused by massive US bombing and years of sanctions.

In spite of White House rosy claims about handing sovereignty to Iraqis, US troops will garrison Iraq for years to come to guard the oilfields and maintain a `democratic' puppet regime in power in Baghdad that obeys Washington's orders.

US forces will continue to face a simmering, low grade guerilla war that will kill or wound more American troops, and increasingly brutalize and corrupt US occupation forces - the inevitable result of all colonial wars. In short, America now has its own West Bank, or Lebanon.

The brazen arrogance and profound ignorance shown by the Bush Administration in its crusade against Iraq has turned the world against the United States. Occupied Iraq is acting as a terrorism generator. For the next generation of young Muslims, Iraq is becoming what Afghanistan was in the 1980's, a rallying point to fight foreign occupation, battle imperialism, and defend the tattered honor of the Muslim World. President Bush and his men have created millions of new enemies.

Half of all US ground combat forces are tied down in and around Iraq. Reserves are being mobilized for long tours. Wear and tear on over-stretched US forces and their heavy equipment is a grave, though little discussed, problem.

Neo-con promises of `liberation' of Iraq, joyous, flower-tossing crowds and rapid `democratization' turned to dust. Iraq remains a dangerous, volatile mess seething with violence and implacable Shia political demands. Twenty resistance groups now battle US and allied occupation troops. Militant Islamic jihadis are heading for Iraq to fight `Great Satan' America. Yet Bush still claims invading Iraq made America safer. Yet because of Iraq, the world now regards America as a menacing, unstable threat.

President Bush has stuck his head into a hornet's nest. The United States will bleed men, money and reputation for a long time before it figures out how to get out of the first colonial misadventure of the 21st Century.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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