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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2005

August 2, 2005

NEW YORK - The Bush Administration continues to talk tough about Iraq, but recent statements by senior officials are giving the impression that the White House may be considering ­ or at least giving the impression it is considering - phased troop withdrawals.

US commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, recently told reporters `fairly substantial’ US troops withdrawals could begin next spring.

Right on cue, Iraq’s US-installed interim prime minister, Ibrahim Jafari, said Iraqis had `a great desire’ to see US forces depart as soon as possible.

Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld popped up in Baghdad to urge squabbling Iraqi politicians to agree on a constitution that the US hopes will produce a viable national government. This might allow the US to withdraw some troops from Iraq, pleasing voters at home and lessening strains on seriously over-stretched US active and reserve forces.

The Bush Administration has read America’s political tea leaves: it sees mounting domestic opposition to what is increasingly seen as a failed war. Republicans worry the debacle in Iraq and rising US casualties may hurt them severely in 2008 elections even though the true number of US casualties is being concealed from the public.

While the White House floats trial balloons about troop reductions, the Pentagon continues developing its strategic plan for Iraq that calls for four major air bases from which US airmobile, rapid-reaction units and air power will permanently control Iraq and the entire oil-rich Mideast.

This US Iraq garrison would intervene only in the event of serious unrest in the region, including attempts to overthrow pro-US regimes. Imperial Britain followed the same strategy in Iraq.

Some 200,000 US-led Iraqi `sepoys(native troops)’ and police will keep order in urban areas, backed by a powerful secret police.

But this strategic plan depends on the Pentagon’s ability to field reliable Iraqi security forces to defend the US-guided regime, maintain internal order, and safeguard the pumping and export of oil. Otherwise, even a partial US withdrawal will be impossible.

Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent claims that Iraqi resistance forces were in their last throes are absurd, yet another alarming example of how dangerously detached from reality the administration’s strongman has become. Not content with creating the Iraq disaster, Cheney and his Israel-centric neocon allies are hard at work engineering an attack on Iran.

In fact, Iraqi resistance forces are growing in numbers and combat effectiveness.

We are watching the continuation of Saddam’s much-derided Mother of All Battles. When Saddam saw US invasion was inevitable, his Baath Party distributing huge quantities of arms and munitions, and created thousands of weapons caches around the country. Entire Republican Guard divisions and commando units were ordered to melt away before the US advance and begin guerilla war. That is why US forces rolled almost effortlessly into Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities.

Today, the resistance numbers some 30,000 full-time fighters and around 200,000 active members, not the 20,000 claimed by the White House, and has at least 3 million supporters. US forces in Iraq number around 135,000. 20th century colonial wars have shown an occupying power needs a 10:1 troop superiority to defeat insurgents. The US even lacks adequate guards to control the 15,000 Iraqi prisoners - don’t call them 'political prisoners’ - it now holds.

Iraq’s former intelligence services have gone underground. They have totally infiltrated the US-led Iraqi regime and all its security forces. As in Vietnam, every US military operation is telegraphed well in advance to the resistance by its double agents serving Americans as translators, drivers, guides, coolies, and soldiers.

As anti-war sentiment grows in America, Iraqis serving the US occupation are hedging their bets by collaborating with the resistance ­ a pattern common to all recent colonial wars. Those Sunni Iraqis who collaborated with the foreign occupation will likely end up as refugees in the United States, just as happened to Meos from Indochina and harkis from French Algeria.

Iraqis don’t enlist in the inept, US-run army or police from patriotism. Iraq suffers 70% unemployment. They are mostly brutal, unreliable, combat-adverse mercenaries who serve to feed their families, not fight A recent leaked Pentagon report confirms this fact. Claims by the Pentagon it has over 70,000 Iraqis in combat units are nonsense. US military reports show only 1,700 combat effective. The rest are herded into battle by US officers.

The regime’s only effective Iraqi units are death squads composed of former Baath regime toughs, outcasts, and released criminals. These bands of thugs closely resemble the US-backed death squads this writer observed during the civil war in El Salvador.

Under present circumstances, US efforts to get Iraqis to fight and die to defend the US-run Baghdad regime will be even less successful than was `Vietnamization’ in the 1970’s. In Vietnam, a number of elite South Vietnamese divisions fought courageously and effectively to support the Saigon government.

No one in Iraq is fighting to defend the Iraqi regime. Shia and Kurdish militias guard their own fiefs, not Baghdad. That job is left to the Americans and at least 30,000 armed mercenaries called `private contractors’ deployed to Iraq by the US and Britain.

In fact, Iraqi regime forces appear to be falling apart faster than they can be mobilized. Deadly suicide attacks on their ranks are accelerating this process.

Iraqization shows no sign of working. This means US forces will have to remain indefinitely in Iraqi to prop up the isolated, embattled pro-American regime ­ just what’s happening in that other failed war, Afghanistan.

George Bush’s two wars now cost US $6.5-7 billion monthly ­ about the same cost as the Vietnam War. Growing numbers of Republican moderates want out of Iraq. But neoconservatives are determined to hold onto Iraq and the Mideast at all costs.

Few in Washington are ready yet to face the alternative to continued occupation: declare victory, retreat, and leave Iraq to its own devices.

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

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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