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It is a measure of the strength of the Iraqi people's resistance to occupation that it has blown the world-dominating, arrogant, "unilateralist" Bush administration's program so far off course that Washington now has to work feverishly behind the scenes to get the United Nations and the European imperialists to pull its irons out of the fire.
Wrote one newspaper, "The Bush administration decided Tuesday to submit a resolution giving the UN a more prominent role" in the occupation of Iraq. "This strategy marks a significant shift and comes amid mounting casualties and increasing costs of operations in Iraq." The goal of the U.S. is to "solicit more troops and money to help stabilize the country." (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 3)
Bush agreed to the language of a draft resolution in a meeting with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Its goal is to put an end to "a virtual diplomatic boycott by key countries--from France and Germany to India and Pakistan--when it comes to providing troops, funds and expertise," continued the Times.
The core of the proposal is a multilateral military force that gives the other imperialists some political input but is under U.S. military command. Above all, the others get a slice of the economic pie by being allowed to participate in so-called "economic reconstruction."
What concessions the White House and the Pentagon are actually prepared to make remains to be seen. But the mere fact that Washington has to make the gesture six months after telling the world to go to hell as it launched a war of colonial conquest, expecting a complete takeover of the country within months, is a major political setback for the cabal of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz--and for U.S. imperialism in general.
A number of factors form the immediate background to this new diplomatic initiative. First and foremost is the rising U.S. casualty figures, some of which were revealed in the Washington Post of Sept. 2.
UNREPORTED U.S. CASUALTIES
"U.S. battlefield casualties in Iraq are increasing dramatically in the face of continued attacks," reported the Post, "... with almost 10 American troops a day now being officially declared 'wounded in action.'
"The number of those wounded in action, which totals 1,124 since the war began in March, has grown so large, and attacks have become so commonplace, that U.S. Central Command usually issues news releases listing injuries only when the attacks kill one or more troops. The result is that many injuries go unreported."
An "increasing number" of soldiers are being wounded "through small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades, remote controlled mines and what the Pentagon refers to as 'improvised explosive devices,'" continued the Post. The number of troops wounded in action increased more than 35 percent in August--with an average of almost 10 troops a day injured.
"With no fanfare and almost no public notice, giant C-17 transport jets arrive virtually every night at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, on medical evacuation missions. Since the war began, more than 6,000 service members have been flown back to the United States. The number includes the 1,124 wounded in action, 301 who received non- hostile injuries ... and thousands who became physically or mentally ill."
U.S. FORCES 'STRETCHED TO LIMIT'
A new study by the Congressional Budget Office warns that "the Army lacks sufficient active-duty forces to maintain its current level of nearly 150,000 troops beyond next spring," wrote the Washing ton Post the next day. With all the calls for more troops to Iraq as the solution to crushing the resistance, the fact is that, according to the CBO, "it would take five years to create and staff two new divisions that would permit the deployment of an additional 20,000 troops. It also would cost nearly $20 billion to start up those divisions ... and about another $10 billion annually to keep them running."
Sen. Robert Byrd, who requested the CBO study, called the report "quantified evidence that the long-term occupation is straining our forces close to the breaking point."
The only recourse to maintain the occupation at present levels is to call up Nat ional Guard and Reserve units. But, according to the New York Times of Sept. 3, the CBO report said that "the need to maintain levels of training and readiness, limit family separation and involuntary mobilization and retain high-quality personnel would most likely constrain the U.S. occupation force to be smaller than its current size."
The overriding problem of the Penta gon is "not necessarily money," wrote the Times. "Rather the problem is the Army's need to keep occupying troops fresh using a unit rotation system, where a unit serves in Iraq for 6 or 12 months and then comes home for rest and training, replaced by another unit. The report says the Penta gon does not have enough personnel to keep the troops fresh and still conduct operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Korea."
Thus, without the draft, the prospect of ripping tens of thousands of reservists and National Guard troops with jobs and families out of their lives and sending them to carry out the hellish task of killing and being killed in a brutal and hated occupation is not an option. Washington has to find cannon fodder somewhere else.
MILITARY HIGH COMMAND BACKS UN RESOLUTION
It is important that Bush, in going to the other imperialists and to India, Pakistan and Turkey for military aid, is following the desires of the military high command, probably against the will of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his cohorts.
According to the Sept. 2 Washington Post, "A senior administration official said that Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had recently begun lobbying key members of the administration to support a UN resolution. The official added that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have become 'much more interested in this than before ....'" The Post reported that Joint Chiefs head Gen. Richard Myers and Central Command leader Gen. John Abizaid have been "strongly engaged in the internationalization effort, to include a new UN resolution."
In addition to the military problem, the occupation is costing billions each month. An imperialist-organized "donors' conference" is coming up in Madrid on Oct. 23-24, organized by Washington, the IMF and the World Bank. It is calculated to corral other countries into paying a significant part of the bill for the occupation. The prospect of the other imperialists paying the bill without being cut in on the spoils is virtually nil. Washington and Wall Street are hoping that, through a UN resolution, enough concessions can be made to coax funds out of other countries at the Madrid donors' conference.
In other words, the Bush administration and the military high command have been put up against the wall by the reality that the Iraqi people are determined not to submit to colonial occupation. They have been forced into the realization that the struggle for absolute world domination involves dragging the working class into their military adventures. Now they want to drag Indian, Pakistani and Turkish workers and peasants as well as European workers to the front lines as cannon fodder and to inflict suffering upon the Iraqi people.
The military, economic and, ultimately, the political consequences of the attempt to colonize Iraq, which show that they completely underestimated the resistance, have forced them in a new direction: attempting to build a multinational imperialist front against the Iraqi people, with the Pentagon militarily in charge but in the guise of a UN mission. It is calculated to strengthen the occupation by bringing in other countries.
While any "internationalization" of the occupation in Iraq would be a setback for the Bush administration, it would also be an "internationalization" of the attempt at colonial subjugation of the Iraqi people--a united imperialist bloc, so to speak. As such, it should be opposed by all who stand against oppression and for the right of self- determination--who believe that Iraq should be for the Iraqi people, not for an international conglomeration of trans national corporate thieves.
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