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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2006

March 27, 2006

On the third anniversary of invading Iraq, President George Bush again reassured Americans last they were defeating the resistance forces there and making progress. Which reminds me of the famous, Fourth Century BC lament of King Phyrrus of Epirus, `one more such victory and we are ruined.’

Cast aside all the war propaganda. The Bush Administration invaded Iraq for three key reasons:

  1. seizing Iraq’s vast oil reserves and turning Iraq into a base to dominate the Mideast
  2. to destroy one of Israel’s two main enemies (Iran being the other)
  3. to satisfy Americans clamoring for revenge for 9/11 - even though Iraq had nothing to do with that attack.

Three years later the first goal remains elusive while the second and third were achieved. Large parts of Iraq – once one of the Arab World’s most developed nations – are in ruins, anarchy, or approaching civil war.

US occupation forces in Iraq struggle just to defend their bases and vulnerable supply lines. Their fruitless, Vietnam-style search-and-destroy missions, like last week’s `Operation Swarmer,’ are a sure sign of strategic failure and senior officers too stupid or arrogant to draw obvious lessons from recent guerilla wars. Every major US operation in Iraq is telegraphed well in advance to the resistance.

Over 2,300 American soldiers have died; 16,300 wounded. This writer strongly suspects the true number is higher but is being concealed by the Pentagon. At least 30,000 Iraqi civilians have died. Some studies put the number at 100,000. The US holds 15,000-18,000 Iraqi prisoners – more than did Saddam Hussein.

The stalemated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing Washington a staggering $US 9.8 billion monthly as the US Treasury borrows billions from China and Japan just to keep the government running.

The above figure excludes hundreds of millions in secret CIA bribes to rent cooperation from tribal chiefs and politicians, or hire mercenaries called `contractors.’

What was to have been a jolly little war to `liberate’ Iraq’s oil has cost over US$500 billion so far. That’s $50 billion more than the Vietnam War’s total cost (in 2006 dollars). Clearly, the US armed forces are too expensive to send to war lasting longer than a few months.

While a debacle for the US and Iraq, the war has greatly benefited Iran and Israel. Iran’s influence in Iraq grows daily. The recent remarkable public agreement by Washington to open talks over Iraq with Great Satan Iran shows even the Bush people see the writing on the wall in Babylon. Besides, occupying Iraq has left the US too weak to invade Iran.

After getting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran in 1980, and funding the ensuing eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the US now watches helplessly as Iran slowly ingests large portions of Iraq. The US invasion of Iraq handed power to pro-Iranian Shia religious parties. Shia spiritual leader, Ali al Sistani, warned followers they would go straight to hell – and lose their wives – if they did not vote for Shia religious candidates. Some democracy.

Israel has been the second beneficiary of the Iraq war. The long-term strategic goal of Israel’s rightists – shattering unstable Arab states to leave Israel dominant in the region – has been half attained by Iraq’s fragmentation into three parts. Syria is destabilized and faces serious internal unrest, or even possible civil war. Any future challenge by Iraq to Israel’s Mideast nuclear monopoly has vanished.

Meanwhile, Israel has been able to cut defense spending, intensify pressure on the Palestinians, and is quietly extending its influence into the semi-independent, oil-rich Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Ironically, the third major beneficiary of Mr. Bush’s War has been his nemesis, Osama bin Laden. The only way to drive US influence out of the Muslim World, bin Laden has long maintained, is to tie it down in a series of small wars that bleed it financially. The nearly $10 billion a month wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are doing just this. Iraq, as even Bush admits, has become an incubator, magnet, and call to arms for anti-American jihadists across the Muslim World.

Worse than the billions poured into Iraq, and the $1.5 billion stolen from its government in 04/05, the United States has lost its honor in this brutal little neo-colonial war. The neoconservatives’ ambitions to plunder Iraq’s oil has become a mirage, and the Bush-Cheney diumverate presidency is quickly sinking into the quick-sands of Iraq.

Even SOME OF those unlettered American jingoists who cheered the attack on Iraq to revenge 9/11 -more or less any Arabs would do, as far as they were concerned at the time –even they are now scratching their heads and beginning to wonder if their `war president’ did not make a terrible mistake.


  • Washington and the EU have protested Belarus’ rigged election and beatings of anti-government demonstrators. So they should. But what about all the rigged elections and beaten or arrested protestors in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and other US Mideast protectorates? Add to this double standard list last week’s Soviet-style rigged vote in Kazakstan, a close US ally.

  • What a fiasco in Ukraine. The Orange Revolution has turned into a lemon. This week, Ukrainians delivered a crushing defeat to the forces of Viktor Yushchenko. A coalition between the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich and the beautiful Yulia Tymoshenko looks likely. Even more likely is ongoing destructive political squabbling in Ukraine.

    This is what the Kremlin always predicted would happen.

  • A new leaked Downing Street memo confirms Bush and Blair cooked up war against Iraq and sought ways to provoke it. Few more cynical or criminal acts have come to light in our era. Watch this story and see how the US press, which fawns on the White House, handles it. The NY Times ran it front page in their 27 March edition.

  • Sepoy of the Year award goes to Pakistan’s military strongman Pervez Musharraf for plunging his fragile nation into small wars in the tribal territories in Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan in order to please his patrons in Washington. He is playing with fire but seems heedless of the risks involved.

  • It is distressing to watch Canada, long regarded as a mature, sensible country, engulfed by cheap jingoism and flag waving over its jolly little war in Afghanistan against angry Pashtun tribesmen. This reminds us that nationalism is one of mankind’s greatest evils.

  • Speaking of Afghanistan, how amusing to watch the international uproar over a Christian convert sentenced to death. Of course the puppet Karzai regime backed down before Washington’s wrath. Bush’s Christian fundamentalist supporters went crazy. So much for Afghans making their own `democratic’ decisions. Outsiders have yet to understand that medieval Afghan ways are not due to Taliban, but to the culture.

Published at since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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