Baghdad is Surrounded: “The American Era in the Middle East has
By Mike Whitney
Clearing House" -- -- Don Rumsfeld is not a good leader. In fact,
he is a very bad leader. Leadership is predicated on three basic
factors: Strong moral character, sound judgment, and the ability
to learn from one’s mistakes. None of these apply to Rumsfeld.
As a result, every major decision that has been made in Iraq has
been wrong and has cost the lives of countless Iraqis and
American servicemen. This pattern will undoubtedly continue as
long as Rumsfeld is the Secretary of Defense.
Here’s a simple test: Name one part of the occupation of Iraq
which has succeeded?
Security? Reconstruction? De-Ba’athification? Dismantling the
Iraqi military? Protecting Saddam’s ammo-dumps? Stopping the
looting? Body armor? Coalition government? Abu Ghraib? Falluja?
Even oil production has been slashed in half.
Every facet of the occupation has been an unmitigated disaster.
Nothing has succeeded. Everything has failed.
Never the less, Rumsfeld assures us that “these things are
complicated” and that we should just “Back off”.
It was Rumsfeld’s decision to replace America’s first Iraqi
Viceroy, General Jay Garner after Garner wisely advised that we
maintain the Iraqi military, leave many of the Ba’athists in the
government (to maintain civil society) and convene leaders from
the three main groups (Sunni, Shia and Kurds) to form a
coalition government. This didn’t square with Rumsfeld’s plans
to revolutionize Iraqi society and transform it into a
neoliberal Valhalla; so Garner was unceremoniously dumped for
Kissinger’s protégé, Paul Bremer.
Once Bremer was installed, things started heading downhill fast
and have only gotten worse ever since.
Apart from the immense damage to Iraqi society, the enormous
human suffering, and the massive loss of life; there is also the
astronomical cost of the war which has been purposely concealed
by the Defense Dept. Originally, the war was supposed to “pay
for itself in oil revenues”. (according to neocon Paul Wolfowitz)
That, of course, never happened but, the real costs appeared in
this week’s Washington Post in an article by Jim Wolf called
“Pentagon Expands War-funding Push”. The article states:
“With the passage of the fiscal 2006 supplemental spending bill,
war-related appropriations would total about $436.8 billion for
Iraq, Afghanistan and enhanced security at military bases, the
non-partisan Congressional Research Service said in a Sept 22
report….this is in addition to the more than $500 billion sought
by President Bush in his baseline fiscal 2007 national defense
That’s right; we’re spending a whopping $1 trillion a year for a
war that we’re losing!
Still, don’t expect accountability from the Pentagon where
taxpayer dollars are carelessly flung into the Mesopotamian
black-hole with utter abandon. Heads never role because no one
in charge ever accepts responsibility for their mistakes.
So, “Back off”!
On another matter, an editorial appeared in Tuesday’s New York
Times, “The Untracked Guns of Iraq” which stated:
“More than 500,000 weapons were turned over to Iraqi Ministries
of Defense and Interior since the American invasion –including
rocket-propelled grenade launchers assault rifles, machine guns
and sniper rifles—only 12,128 were properly recorded. Some
370,000 of these weapons, some of which are undoubtedly being
used to kill American troops, were paid for by U.S. taxpayers,
under the Orwellian-titled Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund.”
In other words, we’re handing over state-of-the-art weaponry to
the men who are killing American troops and, yet, no one is held
responsible? How does that work? Apparently, the buck never
stops at the Rumsfeld War Department; it just gets passed along
to until it lands on a swarthy-looking Middle Eastern fellow or
perhaps a garrulous leftist railing against the war on his
A growing number of establishment-elites are frustrated with
Rumsfled’s bungling and are ready for a change. But that doesn’t
matter because the Sec-Def has the backing of powerful
constituents in the banking, corporate and defense industries as
well as neoconservative aficionados in many of Washington’s
preeminent think-tanks. He also has Bush’s support, which is a
mere formality since Cheney and Rumsfeld run the government
anyway. The bottom line is, Rumsfeld is “here to stay”.
The real problem with Rumsfeld is that he is incapable of
thinking politically, and it’s impossible to win in war unless
one has clearly defined political objectives.
After 3 and a half years of violence and mayhem we still know as
little about the Iraqi resistance as we did in March 2003. This
is inexcusable. In addition, there’s been no attempt to engage
the representatives of the resistance in political dialogue. How
can we possibly reach a political solution without dialogue and
It is shortsighted in the extreme to think that violence-alone
can produce a victory.
It will not.
In war, violence is not an end in itself; it is a means to
achieving a political goal. The over-reliance on military force,
absent any communication or negotiation with the enemy, shows a
fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of warfare.
An article by Dahr Jamail “US Military adopts Desperate Tactics”
(IPS) illustrates this point:
“Increased violence is being countered by harsh new measures
across the Sunni dominated al-Anbar province west of Baghdad.
Thousands have been killed here by the Multi-National Forces (MNF)
and Iraqi allies, and the situation is getting worse every
day…..We have no role to play because the Americans always
prefer violent solutions that have led from one disaster to
another,” said on member of the Fallujah city council.
Here again, we see that “overwhelming force” without clearly
defined political objectives just generates more violence. It is
entirely futile, and yet, the policy remains unchanged.
Rumsfeld flattened Fallujah nearly 2 years ago thinking that the
destruction of the city of 300,000 would “send a message” to the
Sunnis; convincing them that it was useless to resist. His
action, which was enthusiastically applauded by right-wing
pundits and politicians in America, produced exactly the
opposite response. The resistance is now stronger than ever, the
attacks on American troops have increased dramatically, and al-Anbar
province is no longer under U.S. control.
Anyone with even a superficial understanding of psychology could
have predicted the outcome, but Rumsfeld blundered on with his
iron-fisted tactics regardless of the facts.
Rumsfeld’s over-reliance on force has spread turmoil throughout
the Sunni-heartland making it virtually ungovernable. The
sectarian violence is now so bad that a leaked-Pentagon report
prepared by the US Central Command says the country is in a
state of “chaos”. This is the logical corollary of the Rumsfeld
approach and it is unlikely to change.
For American troops in Iraq, there is a worse scenario than
chaos; that is defeat. Patrick Cockburn’s 11-1-06 article
“Baghdad is under Siege” in the UK Independent provides the
chilling details of an armed Iraqi resistance which has now cut
off supply lines to the capital and threatens to make America’s
ongoing occupation impossible. Cockburn says:
“Sunni insurgents have cut the roads linking the city to the
rest of Iraq. The country is being partitioned as militiamen
fight bloody battles for control of towns and villages north and
south of the capital….The country has taken another lurch
towards disintegration. Well armed Sunni tribes now largely
surround Baghdad and are fighting Shia militias to complete the
encirclement. The Sunnis insurgents seem to be following a plan
to control all approaches to Baghdad.”
Baghdad is surrounded and the predicament for American troops is
increasingly tenuous. The battle is being lost on all fronts.
So, what is Secretary Rumsfeld’s response to these new and
Rumsfeld held a press conference in which he blasted his critics
for “focusing too much on the bad news coming out of Iraq” and
announced the launching of a new public relations campaign which
will attempt to elicit greater support for the ongoing
occupation. The Pentagon plans to “develop messages” to respond
to the negative news-coverage and, as Rumsfeld said, “correct
“Correct the record”? Is the Pentagon planning to “repackage”
the war even while the Resistance is tightening its grip around
What type of madness is this? This is not the behavior of
serious men. This is just more of the same “faith-based,” public
relations hucksterism which leads nowhere. The worsening
situation in Iraq will not improve by ramping-up the
propaganda-machine, appealing to American chauvinism, or
attacking critics of the war. This is real life; not some skit
that’s been choreographed to dupe the Washington press corps. We
need leaders who are capable of grasping the situation in
realistic terms and initiating political dialogue with the
warring parties. All the cheerleading and yellow ribbons in the
world will not create a viable solution for the impending
The American people are way ahead of Rumsfeld on the issue of
Iraq. Nearly 70% now believe that the war was a “mistake” and a
clear majority is looking for candidates who will support a
change in policy. A poll conducted by the New York Times/CBS
News on 11-2-06 shows that “a substantial majority of Americans
expect Democrats to reduce or end American military involvement
in Iraq if they win control of Congress.” That tells us in stark
terms that the public wants to “get out now”. The November 7
midterms will be a referendum on Bush’s “war of choice” and a
flat rejection of the conflict which Rumsfeld so desperately
wants to popularize. So far, the Democrats are showing
substantial leads in all the polls.
The media has been a steadfast ally to the Bush troupe and given
them a "free pass" throughout the conflict. They successfully
drew an Iron Curtain around Iraq and kept the public from
knowing about the 650,000 men, women and children were savagely
butchered in Bush’s Petrol-War. Despite their best-efforts,
however, public opinion has shifted away from the present policy
and the American people are looking for an end to the fighting.
Rumsfeld’s plan for “a new kind of war” that depends on
high-tech, laser-guided weaponry, massive counterinsurgency
operations, and a submissive “embedded” media has fallen on hard
times. The tremors can already be felt from Baghdad to
Washington D.C. As Richard Haass, President of the Council on
Foreign Relations (CFR) said in the November issue of Foreign
Affairs, “The American era in the Middle East, the forth in the
region’s modern history, has ended.” All that’s left is to sweep
up the pieces of a failed policy and head home.