December 3, 2005
The American ruling elite is inextricably committed to military
victory in Iraq. That is the only conclusion to be drawn from
the response of the major media to Bush’s November 30 war
The most prominent editorial voices of corporate America, from
the ultra-right Wall Street Journal to the New York
Times, the leading voice of upper-class liberalism, despite
disputes over tactics and methods, agree that there is no alternative
to using whatever level of violence is required for the United
States to remain in control of the oil-rich Mideast country.
The December 1 editorial in the Wall Street Journal
was typically unrestrained in its celebration of the war, hailing
Bush’s speech as a rededication of the administration to
"complete victory" and a repudiation of the growing
public disaffection with the war. "Our reading of history
is that the American people will accept casualties in a war, even
heavy casualties, as long as they think their leaders have a strategy
to win," the Journal declared, thus announcing its
approval in advance of the increased bloodletting which continued
occupation will produce.
The tragic human implications of the Journal’s
glib endorsement of "heavy casualties" to secure US
control over the region’s oil resources were driven home
on Friday, when the government announced that at least 10 Marines
had been killed by a single explosion in Fallujah. Meanwhile,
the US military is preparing to slaughter hundreds more Iraqis
in a new offensive in Ramadi.
The Journal praised the performance of Iraqi troops
in Tal Afar, when mainly Shiite forces rampaged through the predominately
Sunni city near the Syrian border. It called for strengthening
the interior ministry, although that agency is now believed responsible
for some of the worst atrocities, including the underground torture
chamber in Baghdad uncovered last week when it was raided by US
The newspaper essentially declared any debate over the origins
of the war to be irrelevant, observing, "as military analyst
Andrew Krepinevich put it to us yesterday, whether Iraq was a
'war of choice’ or a 'war of necessity’ at
the beginning, it certainly is the latter now. Our adversaries
the world over—from North Korea to Syria’s Bashar Assad
to Iran’s mullahs—are watching to see if America has
the will to win in Iraq."
While denouncing congressional and media criticism of the Bush
administration’s conduct of the war, the newspaper made one
suggestion for change: "One area that could still use improvement
is procurement policy." The Journal observed that
Iraqi military forces had been equipped with outdated Soviet-bloc
weaponry, much of it from former Warsaw Pact countries now enrolled
in NATO, such as Poland and Romania. "Iraq should have top-of-the-line
US equipment whenever possible," the newspaper complained.
In other words, the US arms industry should be allowed to join
in the orgy of plunder and profit in Iraq, along with Halliburton,
Bechtel and Big Oil!
The newspaper made a point, as did Bush, of paying tribute
to Senator Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party’s vice presidential
candidate in 2000, pointing to a column by Lieberman published
by the Journal on the eve of Bush’s speech, which
was headlined "Our Troops Must Stay."
The New York Times editorial on Bush’s speech,
headlined, "Plan: We Win," was critical of Bush’s
evident isolation and indifference to public opinion, comparing
him to Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War.
Commenting on the "Plan for Victory" issued by the White
House, the Times declared: "The document, and Mr.
Bush’s speech, were almost entirely a rehash of the same
tired argument that everything’s going just fine. Mr. Bush
also offered the usual false choice between sticking to his policy
and beating a hasty and cowardly retreat."
In its search for a "middle way" between Bush’s
policy and withdrawal from Iraq, however, the Times called
upon the same military expert cited approvingly by the Wall
Street Journal. "What Americans wanted to hear was a
genuine counterinsurgency plan," the Times claimed,
"perhaps like one proposed by Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr.,
a leading writer on military strategy: find the most secure areas
with capable Iraqi forces. Embed American trainers with those
forces and make the region safe enough to spend money on reconstruction,
thus making friends and draining the insurgency. Then slowly expand
those zones and withdraw American forces."
This paints an utterly false picture of average Americans,
in office cubicles, shop floors or supermarket checkout lines,
clamoring for "a genuine counterinsurgency plan." What
they want is an end to the slaughter. The Times echoes
a line in Bush’s speech, in which he claimed, "Most
Americans want two things in Iraq: They want to see our troops
win, and they want to see our troops come home as soon as possible."
The Times, which generally articulates the position
of the Democratic Party, does not advocate an "antiwar"
position; it rather seeks a more effective tactic for winning
the war. The military expert it cites, Andrew Krepinevich, published
a much-cited article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs,
rejecting both "stay the course" and immediate withdrawal,
calling instead for "a real strategy built around the principles
of counterinsurgency warfare," and citing the lessons of
the guerrilla wars in Vietnam, Malaya and the Philippines in the
1950s and 1960s.
Krepinevich calls for refocusing the military effort from "search
and destroy" operations aimed at locating and killing insurgents,
to the creation of secure zones completely denied to the insurgents.
In Vietnam, such efforts by successive foreign occupiers involved
the creation of what the French called "agrovilles"
and the Americans "strategic hamlets." Both were essentially
concentration camps into which the local population was herded
and kept at gunpoint to prevent them from giving material support
to the insurgency.
Somewhat provocatively, Krepinevich calls this plan for Iraq
the "oil-spot strategy," using the "o-word"
that has been virtually banned in discussions of the Iraq war
in the major US media, precisely because it suggests the real
motivation for the US invasion and occupation. He wrote in Foreign
Affairs that his strategy "would require a protracted
commitment of US resources, a willingness to risk more casualties
in the short term, and an enduring US presence in Iraq..."
He added: "Even if successful, this strategy will require
at least a decade of commitment and hundreds of billions of dollars
and will result in longer US casualty rolls."
This is what the "critical," pro-Democratic New
York Times proposes for the American and Iraqi people. The
New York Times is calling for—along with virtually
the entire leadership of the Democratic Party—a reorientation
of the military effort in Iraq that could well produce an even
greater bloodbath. (Krepinevich also suggests dispensing with
Bush’s rhetoric about democratizing Iraq, arguing that local
elections in contested areas like Baghdad and Anbar province should
not be held until "the population sees the benefits of security
and reconstruction—and not until then.")
The Washington Post occupies a middle position in the
right-wing political spectrum of the American ruling elite—advocating
what today passes for moderate to liberal positions on domestic
policy, while firmly supporting the war in Iraq. Its position
corresponds most closely to that of Democratic senators like Lieberman
and Hillary Clinton, who flatly reject all calls for withdrawal
from Iraq and declare that the United States must prevail militarily.
The Post editorial on Bush’s speech began with
an accurate observation: "Though you wouldn’t know it
from the partisan rhetoric, there is substantial agreement in
Washington on the strategy for Iraq outlined yesterday by President
The newspaper dismissed the rhetorical differences, saying:
"The president denounced those who would 'cut and run’
from the country and in turn was lambasted by Democrats for inflexibly
staying the course. In fact, many Democrats in Congress agree
with the principal elements of Mr. Bush’s 'strategy
The Post cited the 79-19 vote in the US Senate two weeks
ago endorsing the broad outlines of the Bush administration policy
in Iraq, and the opposition by leading Senate Democrats, including
Clinton and Joseph Biden, to an immediate pullout.
"The agreement flows not from converging views over a
war that has polarized the country but from a simple absence of
choices. To abandon Iraq while the country’s emerging leaders
are still trying to hammer together a workable political system
would be a disaster for US interests around the world. At the
same time, the US military cannot maintain its present force levels
in Iraq much longer without unpalatable measures, such as sending
units for fourth and fifth tours or mobilizing more of the National
As the Post explains, both parties proceed from the
same starting point: "US interests around the world"—i.e.,
the economic and strategic interests of American capitalism—and
both parties recognize that the Iraq war has produced enormous
strains on the US military, the principal instrument for securing
The newspaper continues: "Real question about Mr. Bush’s
strategy, which few in Congress dare to ask, is whether the means
meet the ends. Every plan the administration has prepared, starting
with the original invasion, has been based on overly optimistic
assumptions and insufficient resources."
The Post’s concern is that military victory in
Iraq, which the entire ruling elite considers indispensable, may
require more rather than fewer troops. Democratic criticism of
Bush’s conduct of the war, insofar as it encourages and legitimizes
popular demands for troop withdrawals, may make such a military
escalation politically unviable.
Against all these spokesmen for imperialism, the Socialist
Equality Party and the World Socialist Web Site state that
"victory" for the American ruling elite is not in the
interests of the working people of this country or of the world.
Such a victory means concretely an escalation of death and destruction
in Iraq—by means of bombs, death squads, concentration camps,
torture—that will further devastate that country, and consume
the lives of untold numbers of American soldiers. The resulting
regime would be a dictatorship no less brutal than that which
preceded it, only entirely subservient to American oil companies
and the US government. The American ruling elite has no problem
inflicting such carnage, so long as it continues to believe it
can produce unchallenged US control over the oil wealth and the
vast profits and strategic advantages that go with it.
An American military success in Iraq would only embolden the
war criminals in the White House and Pentagon to engage in new
wars of aggression in Syria, Iran or elsewhere, just as the initial
military success in Afghanistan encouraged the attack on Iraq.
The goal of working people must be to put an end to this unprovoked,
illegal and aggressive war. This means the immediate and unconditional
withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, an
end to the squandering of human lives and waste of billions of
dollars, the mobilization instead of massive resources and manpower
to meet critical social needs, and holding the war conspirators
in the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and the
CIA legally accountable for their war crimes.
This struggle can be waged only by breaking completely with
the Democratic Party and the entire two-party system, and building
the Socialist Equality Party as the mass independent party of
the working class.