Beset by mounting problems in Iraq and a precipitous drop in approval ratings at home, President George Bush asserted on December 19 that the United States is “winning the war” in Iraq. According to the Associated Press, he issued a plea to Americans divided by doubt: “Do not give in to despair and do not give up on this fight for freedom.” He was forced to admit, however, that Iraq is proving more difficult than had been expected. “Tonight was a high water mark in his acknowledgment that mistakes have been made and that he has to accept his share of the blame,” said Republican senator John Warner of Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Bush spoke from the Oval Office, where nearly three years ago (March 2003) he announced the launch of the Iraqi invasion. Within weeks, on May 1, he proudly announced from the deck of an aircraft carrier that major combat in Iraq was over. If wars could be wrapped up so neatly Bush would be a happy man today, but he is facing serious problems both within and outside the US. More than 2,150 American soldiers are dead, and another 15,000 have been wounded, some so seriously that they may never walk again. In a rare admission, Bush said some 30,000 Iraqi people had also died. Among them are women, children and old men, killed by their American ‘liberators'. Bush is the first American official to mention Iraqi casualties in public, although independent sources, among them the John Hopkins Health Center in Baltimore, US, and Lancet, the journal of the British Medical Association, reported in October 2004 that as many as 100,000 Iraqis had died.
In the first three weeks of December, Bush delivered five speeches in a desperate attempt to deflect criticism at home and reduce tensions with allies abroad that have been caused by the disastrous turn the war in Iraq has taken. Even his closest ally, British prime minister Tony Blair, announced on a visit to Baghdad on December 22 that Britain plans to reduce its military presence in Iraq in 2006. Bush, however, hopes to persuade the more than 50 percent of Americans who believe the war was a mistake, and who demand an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, to support him.
It will not be easy for Bush to pull himself out of the quagmire he has created for himself and for the American public. Given his mindset, he is virtually unable to do the right thing. The US spends $186 million each day to maintain 160,000 troops in Iraq, an increase from 138,000 a few months ago. Aware of public unease, US officials have started to make soothing noises. On December 23, while visiting Iraq, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that two brigades would be withdrawn in 2006. The war has been a drain on the US economy. War costs come to more than $350 billion already, and Bush has requested another $100 billion from Congress for 2006, yet his goal, whatever that may be, remains unfulfilled.
Faced with such clear and mounting problems, Bush admitted in his televised address: “I know that some of my decisions have led to terrible loss and not one of those decisions has been taken lightly.” He continued: “I know that this war is controversial, yet being your president requires doing what I believe is right and accepting the consequences.” Yet, despite admitting such “terrible loss”, Bush used the word “victory” 14 times in his speech, according to news agency reports. This surprised even Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, who asked rhetorically: “What does that mean?” It is now abundantly clear that Bush has been defeated both militarily and politically.
Let us recall that Bush's main reason for invading Iraq was its alleged weapons of mass destruction. This was based not merely on “faulty intelligence”, as he now claims; the invasion of Iraq was and remains part of a broader policy that had been decided soon after Bush became president in 2000. After the Iraqi army was defeated in 2003, more than 1,200 American inspectors spread throughout Iraq but found no trace of the alleged weapons. Until recently Bush maintained that his information had been based on unreliable sources, but now General Colin Powell, former US secretary of state, has admitted that some officials had information that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction but did not convey it to their superiors. Considering that Bush relied on “faulty information”, according to his own admission, to invade Iraq, and dismissed opposition from the UN, he is guilty of war crimes. If the ‘international order' were really based on the rule of law and there were fairness and justice in it, Bush and his advisors would be tried as war criminals.
When Bush failed to justify his invasion of Iraq on the basis of weapons of mass destruction, he trotted out another excuse: that it was a war against terrorism. As time went on, other pretexts were added to the list: establishing “democracy” in Iraq and bringing freedom to its people as part of a broader march toward democracy across the entire Middle East, for instance. Has Bush achieved any of these objectives?
As for terrorism, Bush's war has not so far eradicated the roots of terrorism in the world and its main sources; Usama bin Laden in Afghanistan and Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi in Iraq are still alive and active, as are the injustices and exploitations that drive people to desperation and violence. The same applies to democracy in Iraq, for which Bush has made so much noise. It has become clear since the election in Iraq on December 15 that it has benefited the Islamic movement and not the US. The overwhelming majority of those elected—be they Shi‘i, Sunnis or Kurds—are not supporters of the US and are against the occupation, demanding that the US withdraw its forces from Iraq. There are other revealing facts about the election: Ahmad Chalabi, the pro-American candidate with deep links to the American neocons, did not gain a single seat in parliament. He had been in Washington in mid-November to meet a host of US officials and neocons, including Richard Perle. The result of the elections was equally poor for Ayad Allawi and the National Consensus Front, who are aligned with the US.
This reflects the Iraqis' opposition to the US. In the early days of the occupation, when the US toppled Saddam Husain, it presented itself as a saviour of the Iraqi people. The US's true nature, especially as revealed by its behaviour in Abu-Ghraib (for instance), was not known to many Iraqis at the time. Now they and many other people around the world, especially in the Arab world, have realized that the US's slogans about justice, human rights, democracy, freedom and so on, are merely empty words. This is equally true of the so-called western civilization. These terms are used to disguise the West's real nature and to maintain Westerners' domination over other countries. This was the insight of Imam Khomeini (ra),who emphasized it repeatedly during his revolutionary lifetime.
As happened in Vietnam, the US is faced with ignominious defeat in Iraq. Sooner or later it will have to get out. Just as the zionists are faced with the valiant resistance of the Palestinian people, so is the US in Iraq. Bush can end the agony of the American people by getting out of Iraq now, or face the prospect of being driven out in even deeper disgrace.