By Mike Whitney
Clearing House" -- -- Even a cursory review of
Bush’s speech shows that the president is less concerned
with “security” in Baghdad than he is with plans to
Paul Craig Roberts was correct in
his article Wednesday when he questioned
whether all the hoopla over a surge was just “an
orchestrated distraction” to draw attention away from
the real war plan.
Apparently, it is.
As Roberts noted, “The US Congress and the media are
focused on President Bush’s proposal for an increase of
20,000 US troops in Iraq, while Israel and its American
neoconservative allies prepare an assault on Iran.”
Roberts’ analysis is further supported by today’s news
that American troops stormed the “Iranian consulate in
the northern Iraqi city of Abril and arrested 5
Iran had set up the embassy at the request of the
Kurdish Governor-General who was not informed of US
intentions to raid the facility and kidnap its
employees. The American soldiers confiscated computers
and documents just 5 hours after Bush had threatened
Iran in his address to the nation.
Clearly, Bush is looking for a way to provoke a military
confrontation with Iran. Now he has 5 Iranian hostages
at his disposal to help him achieve that goal.
Will the Mullahs overreact or will they show restraint
and try to prevent a larger conflict?
Bush’s hostility towards Iran was evident in comments he
made in Wednesday’s speech:
“Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its
territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the
face of extremist challenges. This begins with
addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are
allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their
territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing
material support for attacks on American troops. We will
disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the
flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek
out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry
and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
“Seek and destroy”? Is that the plan?
A region-wide conflagration with results as uncertain as
they are in Iraq?
So far, there’s no solid evidence that Iran is
“providing material support for attacks on American
troops.” All the same, the administration has
consistently used “material support” as the basis for
preemptive war. In fact, the so-called Bush Doctrine is
predicated on the assumption that the US is free to
attack whoever it chooses if it perceives a threat to
its national security. The normal rules of self defense
or “imminent danger” no longer apply.
Bush knows that if Iran was seriously involved in arming
the Iraqi resistance, we’d be seeing the Russian-made,
armor-piercing rocket launchers that were used so
effectively by Hezbollah during their 34 day war with
Israel. That hasn’t been the case. Iran is undoubtedly
active in Iraq, but in ways that are much subtler that
Bush claims. In fact, Bush’s great ally, Abdel Aziz
al-Hakim, who runs the feared Badr Brigade out of the
Iraqi Interior Ministry, has strong ties to Iran (having
lived there for 20 years.) He is probably using the US
military to remove his enemies (the Sunni-backed
resistance and al Sadr’s Mehdi Army) before he turns his
attention to his US benefactors.
Iran clearly has interests in Iraq, but it is the Bush
administration’s reckless war that has assured that Iran
will be the “default” superpower in the entire region.
Bush has shattered the fragile balance of power between
Sunnis and Shiites while eliminating Iran’s main
adversaries in Afghanistan (Sunni-Taliban) and Iraq.
(Saddam-Ba’athist Party) Bush now seems to think that
the only way he can challenge Tehran’s ascendancy, is by
launching a Lebanon-type assault on military and
civilian infrastructure in Iran.
If Iran is set back 20 years, Bush assumes, then our
trusted-friend Israel will be the prevailing power in
the Middle East. That, of course, was the plan from the
To that end, Bush averred:
“We’re taking steps to bolster the security of Iraq and
protect American interests in the Middle East. I
recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier
strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence
sharing and deploy Patriot Air Defense Systems to
reassure our friends and allies…And we will work with
others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and
dominating the region.”
All the pieces are being put in place for a much larger
and more destructive conflict.
It’s an ambitious plan, but it has no chance of
succeeding. The United States is hopelessly bogged down
in Iraq and its actions in Somalia, Afghanistan, Lebanon
and Palestine have only ensured that the US days in the
Middle East are quickly drawing to a close.
As for Iraq, Bush’s speech provided few details of how
the miniscule and incremental increase in troop-strength
(only 17,000 to Baghdad over a 4 month period) was
expected to quell the raging violence which has gripped
the capital since the last major operation in August.
Operation “Forward Together” turned out to be a complete
disaster precipitating a sharp boost in attacks on US
troops as well as an increase in sectarian violence.
Bush has enlisted some support for his “escalation” plan
by committing to the “clear-hold-build” strategy
promoted by the Council on Foreign Relations. The CFR
has been pushing their “model for counterinsurgency” for
3 years, but have been largely ignored by the Bush
Despite Bush’s feeble defense of the policy, he has no
intention of putting it into practice. He is merely
pacifying other members of the political establishment
who are demanding that their voices be heard.
The reality of the present strategy is manifest in
military operations currently underway in Baghdad. These
operations are being conducted in a way that is
reminiscent of Rumsfeld’s activities in Falluja 2 years
ago. The attacks on alleged “insurgent strongholds” on
Haifa Street, (which is just a few hundred yards from
the Green Zone) show that the military has returned to
the policy of using overwhelming force to subdue the
resistance. In this case, the US pounded the area with
helicopter gun-ships and F-16s, while ground troops went
rampaging door to door. The civilian casualties in these
scattershot operations invariably skyrocket and further
alienate the local population. In one day alone, US
forces killed an estimated 50 Iraqis in the
predominantly Sunni “residential” area.
Another catastrophic "hearts and minds" operation.
Sunni leaders are now accusing the US military of
carrying out ethnic cleansing operations at the request
of the Shiite militias.
Is that the plan; purging Baghdad of the Sunnis?
It appears so.
Certainly, the lynching of Saddam was intended to send a
message to the Ba’athist-led resistance that there would
be no more efforts at negotiations or compromise. The US
is now pursuing Cheney’s “80-20” plan; a strategy to
throw their support behind the Shiites while eradicating
the Sunnis (20% of the pop.). Bush hints at this new
approach in his speech when he says:
“Our efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principle
reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops
to secure the neighborhoods that have been cleared of
terrorists and insurgents AND THERE WERE TOO MANY
RESTRICTIONS ON THE TROOPS WE DID HAVE.”
“Too many restrictions”? (The respected British medical
journal Lancet reported 650,000 casualties in the
conflict so far with over 2 million Iraqi refugees. Is
that “Too many restrictions”? )
Bush’s comments suggest that the “gloves are coming off”
and we can expect a return to the scorched earth policy
that was used so savagely applied in Falluja and other
parts of the Sunni Triangle.
Bush also intimated that he would strike out at other
“armed militias” in Iraq; an indication that US forces
are planning an offensive against Muqtada al-Sadr’s
Mehdi Army. The Shiite cleric, al Sadr, is despised by
the Washington Warlords and is described by the Pentagon
as “the biggest threat to Iraq’s security.” Even so,
al-Sadr has operatives placed strategically throughout
the al-Maliki government (and within the Green Zone) and
attacking him now would only make the occupation more
perilous. In fact, an attack on the Mehdi Army could
create a situation where Shiite militias cut off vital
supply lines from the south making occupation virtually
Bush has decided to abandon all sense of caution and
blunder ahead taking on all adversaries without concern
for the consequences. It is a prescription for disaster.
Bush’s “Victory Strategy”; more force, but no political
Bush's speech invoked none of the flashy slogans that he
typically uses and which normally appear in headlines
the next day. Nor did he make any attempt to elicit
support for his planned “escalation” of troops. That
idea has already been thoroughly rejected by the Iraq
Study Group, the Congress, and the American people.
Instead, he reiterated the same worn bromides (of
“ideological” warfare, 9-11, and terrorism) which have
long since lost their power to move public opinion.
The Bush administration has run out of gas. They have no
plan for “pacification”, security, reconstruction, or
regional stability. Their “one-size-fits-all” solution
requires ever-increasing levels of violence for an
intractable Iraqi Resistance which is now fated to
spread mayhem throughout the entire Middle East.
Carl von Clausewitz said, “War is not a mere act of
policy, but a true political instrument, a continuation
of political activity by other means.”
Bush and his fellow-neocons are incapable of thinking
politically, so America’s decline in Iraq is likely to
be precipitous. The crackdown in Baghdad and the
anticipated bombing of Iran will have no significant
affect on the war’s outcome. America has lost its
ability to influence events positively or to arbitrarily
assert its will. We’re now facing “death by a thousand
cuts” and the steady erosion of US power.
Brute force alone will not produce a political solution
in Iraq. Those who think it will are bound to fail.