With the election out of the way, the Bush administration is now free to proceed with what it knew would have to happen-an escalation of the war in Iraq, and an increase in the number of U.S. troops facing death and injury.
During the campaign, Bush was dismissive of calls for more troops in Iraq, which his opponent John Kerry insisted would be necessary to “get the job done.” Bush repeatedly countered that there would be no need to add more troops, and claimed that the training of Iraqi soldiers meant that in fact troop levels could start to be reduced.
Now we see that it was all a campaign trick.
First there was the attack on Fallujah, which was carefully delayed until after Election Day so as to keep the inevitable casualties–52 soldiers killed and over 400 wounded by the official count-out of the campaign. Now it is being admitted that security in Iraq is so bad that an additional 12,000 troops will have to be sent in through at least January 30, in order for a scheduled national election to be held.
The government is trying to say it isn’t really adding troops-just overlapping the arrival of fresh troops and the return of existing troops scheduled to leave Iraq, but any way you cut it, raising the number of soldiers in country from 138,000 to 150,000 is a troop increase.
In the Vietnam era, that, like the attack on and destruction of Fallujah, was called escalation.
Anyone who thinks this thing is going to soon be over is in for a big surprise. That Iraqi army that Bush spoke so glowingly about during the latter weeks of the campaign is such a joke that U.S. soldiers are taught how to watch their backs when working with their Iraqi “allies.” In Fallujah, reporters said that the Iraqi soldiers never saw battle at all, but were just brought in to do guard duty after American soldiers were done with the kill-and-be-killed part of the attack. In Mosul, where insurgents had taken over most of the police stations in response to the Fallujah attack, the Iraqi forces simply fled.
Given the pathetic state of the Iraqi defense forces and police, which are riddled with insurgent infiltrators and supporters, officials are now saying that the U.S. will have to have maintain substantially the number of troops it now has in Iraq for another decade.
Note that nothing really new has happened in Iraq to lead to this grim assessment. It was all known to the Pentagon and the White House before Nov. 2. In fact, it was even being reported widely outside of the mainstream U.S. media.
But consistent with the good news mantra of the Bush campaign, nothing was admitted in the lead-up to the election. Instead it was all lies and rosy scenarios.
The voters have been had.
The question is what will we do about it now?
If we’d had a peace candidate running against the president, all of this lying would have come out, and voters would have had an honest choice. Instead, we had a Democratic presidential candidate who was unable to really challenge the president on the war because he actually supported it, and wanted to escalate the fighting himself with an additional 40,000 troops. The war, in fact, proved to be hardly an issue in this campaign-an astonishing thing given that over half the electorate says it is a mistake.
Plans are being made for a major anti-war demonstration at the second Bush inaugural. That is fine as far as it goes, but we all saw how ineffective the huge demonstrations against the war were back in early 2003. Unless the anti-war organizing includes a major campaign aimed at electing peace candidates to congress in 2006, we can count on being in Iraq for as long as we were in Vietnam.
And unlike the Vietnamese, who did all their fighting in their own unhappy country, Iraqi insurgents and their supporters can be counted on at some point to bring the war home to America–as is their right.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org