2006 Brings New Fears for Bush's Iraq Project


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On December 31st, when the famous glittering ball dropped in New York's Times Square to herald in 2006, did any of the revelers hopes for the future involve a peaceful, occupation-free Iraq and a safe return home for every single U.S. soldier stationed there? Were any revelers thinking about the pain in store for the families of the recently killed or injured Iraqis and U.S. soldiers? Hopefully, at least one person (besides me) made a New Years Resolution to work for the impeachment of George Bush for war crimes, approving torture, illegal wiretapping, and for using false intelligence to bully American citizens into the bloody quagmire.

The expected date for the start of the next Hijri (Islamic) New Year is January 31st. What does the New Year hold in store for the continuing U.S. occupation of Iraq ? That is the two-trillion dollar question (which is also the cost of the war). Independent freelance journalist Dahr Jamail relays a recent email from a good friend of his in Baghdad , which summarizes daily life for Iraqis in their new 'democracy':

'We are living in a very critical situation now, for the ING (Iraqi National Guard) are covering every corner around us wherever you go inside Baghdad . The killings are ongoing everywhere inside and outside the city.'

'Everybody in my family is safe for now only because no one is interested in putting themselves in danger. Demonstrations are going on all over Iraq for different reasons; price of fuel, lack of security, jobless people are having demonstrations as well as those who do not accept the presence of the Badr Brigades or the American forces. (Meanwhile others are demonstrating in support of the Badr Brigades but against the Americans.)'

'This is some kind of situation around us. The last four nights without electricity'only half an hour every six hours. Fuel prices prevent people from running their generators at home. Fuel on the black market is fifty times the price what it used to be, and nobody can stand waiting at the pumps for days anymore. The minister of oil resigned for this, and Ahmed Chalabi is now the minister'everybody is frustrated yet life is still going on as if the people are hypnotized.'

'Nothing has changed except that we see US Humvees and pick-up trucks full of Iraqi National Guard everywhere (in Baghdad .)'

As the first person correspondence above indicates, little has stabilized since the elections. The chaos continues unabated; in the first few weeks of January, just following the election, violence claimed hundreds of lives. Oil production is low and Iraqis are still not receiving basic services like electricity. At least 15,000 Iraqis are being held in prisons without legal basis. They are political prisoners in their own country, detained for resisting the heavy boots of foreign occupation. How much pain and anguish can this fractured nation take? Every morning seems to bring with it freshly tragic news of yet another suicide attack or U.S. bombing.

With the final 'milestone' of the December 15th elections passed, can Washington 's neo-conservatives continue to conjure up excuses for continuing the failed occupation, excuses that the war-weary public will accept? The December election, which ushered in religious parties, may have provided the last blast of solid spin for the current administration to use in its effort to convince the public that Iraq is moving forward in a direction that will justify a war based on lies and faulty intelligence. Now that the election is over, and Iraq 's turbulent landscape has returned to 'normal,' meaning abnormal and violent again, what else is there left for the pro-war forces to say or do to shine a positive light on things?

The irony is that the direct elections in December were not a product of the U.S. Coalition, as was presented in the press. I was surprised as to how many people were suffering from a memory lapse in regards to how and why Iraq 's recent elections came about. The direct election process we witnessed was opposed by Washington . The original U.S. plan of January 2004 promoted a convoluted system whereby 'notables' in each province would attend caucuses to appoint an assembly which would select a government.

The powerful Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani denounced the U.S. caucus scheme and sent thousands of his followers into the streets to non-violently protest it. Al-Sistani's massive popular support for direct elections could not be overcome, and the Coalition plan was foiled. Everything about this war has been based on lies, and the notion that we set up the December election system is another gross falsehood. One possible positive outcome: perhaps the newly formed Shiite and Kurd led government will heed the wishes of a majority of the Iraqi people and demand that the foreign troops pack up and leave.

Even though the elections were not a result of U.S. desires - because they knew direct elections would result in the ascendancy of religious, anti-Western parties ' another ironic twist is how much the elections ended up resembling U.S. elections. Because of violence and instability on the ground, campaigning was very difficult. The only parties that heavily campaigned were the wealthy ones, just like here. Since campaigning on the street was so dangerous, it was dominated by television ads, where small parties and independent candidates could not afford equal access. Sound familiar? Also, the campaigning was reported to be very negative and mean spirited. For example, opposing party members were constantly tearing down each other's posters.

The new year brings talk of Spring troop withdrawals. While removing any number of American soldiers from harm's way (and from their own harming ways) is a good thing, there is also a very dark side of a troop withdrawal: with less boots on the ground, the war will simply morph into a vicious air campaign. U.S. forces have already stepped up their air attacks, which take a heavy toll on civilians. The number of air strikes carried out each month by U.S. aircraft rose almost fivefold over 2005, from roughly 25 in January to 120 in November, according to a tally provided by the military. It is telling that the U.S. is making no effort to create an Iraqi Air Force, a sign that they have no intention of ceding the deadly air turf to a new Iraqi government.

Can the average U.S. citizen in 2006 still say that the invasion of Iraq was a 'success,' or is likely to be? I suppose it depends on how success is defined. How can a pro-Iranian regime ruling in Iraq be a success for the neo-cons, who instead expected to install a secular, West-friendly government? Most likely the angle that the neo-cons are now pursuing is that they simply keep the chaos going by not removing U.S. troops, which fuel the resistance and justify a continued U.S. presence. Their goal is to wait out failure on the part of a fractured new government so they can eventually install a friendly one, as originally intended. When Bush says we won't leave Iraq until we win, this is exactly what he means by winning: a pro-U.S. Iraqi regime conducive to Washington 's economic and political goals in the region. It is important to recognize that a state of chaos on the ground in Iraq provides a very effective smokescreen with which to pursue covert strategy.

Now that the celebratory champagne has all been popped, as we advance into the new year, it must be with the sober realization that the administration's underlying and true goal in Iraq has not been met, and, in my humble estimation won't succeed: the goal of an Iraq under the thumb of U.S. elites who insist on reinvigorating an outdated and racist program of Manifest Destiny for the Middle East. That plan has been rejected and actively resisted by Muslims in the past, and for very good reason. 2006 won't see the end of the timeless struggle for self-determination, not in Iraq , or anywhere else.

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Kristina M. Gronquist's picture
Columns on STR: 10

Kristina M. Gronquist is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis. She specializes in foreign policy analysis and holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota.