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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 71/No. 7      February 19, 2007


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U.S. rulers use each bombing in
Iraq to escalate imperialist war
(lead article)
Getty Images/AFP/David Furst
U.S. troops from the 5-20 Infantry Division conduct house-to-house searches February 6 in northern Baghdad, as U.S.-led operations in the Iraqi capital intensify.

WASHINGTON, February 7—A series of bomb explosions in Iraq, mostly in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, killed an estimated 1,000 Iraqis in the first week of February, according to Iraq’s interior ministry. Each bombing is being used by the U.S. rulers and the big-business media to win public support for accelerating the deployment of 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.

The dispatch of more troops has been under way since the January 10 announcement of the escalation of the war by U.S. president George Bush.

Another rationalization for the imperialist war in Iraq, which is gaining ground among capitalist politicians and pundits, is the argument that Bosnia should serve as a “model” for what Washington needs to do to establish a stable regime subservient to U.S. interests in the region.

“Today, many of the people active in Bosnia believe they have a model that could help stabilize Iraq,” said columnist David Brooks in an opinion piece in the January 30 New York Times.

A “Marine Corps Assessment of Iraq Situation,” published in the February 2 Washington Post, and other such reports by U.S. spy agencies increasingly describe as bleak the prospect for “national reconciliation” between Shiite- and Sunni-led factions of the Iraqi bourgeoisie vying for power. A debate is emerging in U.S. ruling circles on the possibility of a “soft partition” of Iraq into a federation of Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni provinces with a weak central government.

U.S. senator Joseph Biden, a Democrat from Delaware, and Leslie Gelb, former assistant secretary of state in the Carter administration, have promoted such an argument. One example is a column the two coauthored in the May 1, 2006, New York Times. “The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group—Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab—room to run its own affairs,” they wrote. That could be achieved, they said, by winding down “our military presence responsibly while preventing chaos and preserving our key security goals.”

At the same time, support is widespread in the ruling class for the $622 billion war budget the Bush administration submitted to Congress February 5 for fiscal year 2008, and a supplemental request of $93 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year.

“I am absolutely not inclined to leave things in the supplemental that are not related to the wars” [emphasis added], said Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, in a sign that opposition to the escalation of the Iraq war by leading Democrats is a farce.

“American troops under fire in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve every penny requested for them in President Bush’s new $622 billion Pentagon budget,” said the lead editorial in the February 6 New York Times.  
‘Iraqis want more U.S. troops faster’
The deadliest recent explosion in Iraq occurred February 3 in the al-Sadriya market frequented largely by Shiites, killing 135 people and wounding 300. It was followed by intense shelling of Adhamiya, a majority Sunni area of Baghdad.

“Iraqis Fault Pace of U.S. Plan in Attack” was the headline of a front-page article in the New York Times two days later. “A growing number of Iraqis blamed the United States on Sunday for creating conditions that led to the worst single suicide bombing in the war,” it said. “They argued that the Americans had been slow in completing the vaunted new American security plan.”

In response, Bush said it was a “good sign” that Iraqis want quicker implementation of his plan.

Meanwhile, U.S. government institutions are debating how many more troops are actually being sent to Iraq. “The Defense Department and the Army are disputing a new report that says the 21,500 additional combat troops being sent to Iraq by the Bush administration could result in up to 50,000 troops actually being deployed to the region when all support forces are taken into account,” said the February 12 Army Times. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued the report.

U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates disputed the CBO claim. He told Pentagon reporters that the number of support troops “looks like it will be about 10 percent to 15 percent of the number that CBO cited.” That’s around 2,700-4,000 support troops.

At the same time, debate in the U.S. Senate over competing nonbinding resolutions criticizing the White House on the Iraq war came to a halt over procedural disputes February 6. In a sarcastic comment, the conservative Investor’s Business Daily, which backs the Bush administration plan, said in an editorial the next day, “As long as that august deliberative body can’t decide what to say, it can’t say the wrong thing.”  
‘Bosnia model’
In the meantime, the rationalizations for the war proliferate. “To save Iraq, look to … Bosnia?” was the headline of the January 30 Times column by Brooks. “People active in Bosnia,” Brooks said, “acknowledge the many differences between the two places, but Iraq, they note, is a disintegrating nation. Ethnic cleansing is dividing Baghdad… . The best answer, then, is soft partition: Create a central government with a few key powers; reinforce strong regional governments; separate the sectarian groups as much as possible.”

Bosnia has been occupied by U.S. and other imperialist forces for 11 years, following a war fueled by Washington and its allies that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. It is today subdivided in a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb Republic. A weak central government is in fact under the command of a United Nations High Representative, which the Economist has described as the “imperial presidency.”

To get Sunnis to agree, Brooks proposes amending Iraq’s constitution to guarantee them 20 percent of oil revenues. Kurds would have to give up including oil-rich Kirkuk in their region, and must assure Turkey there will be no independent Kurdistan, he says.

Last August the Pentagon appointed Air Force general Joseph Ralston as a special envoy to Turkey to coordinate actions between the U.S. and Turkish military in a drive against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is a guerilla group that has conducted an armed campaign for Kurdish self-determination.

The Marine Corps assessment of the military situation in al-Anbar, a predominantly Sunni province, also suggests a “soft partitioning” of Iraq. “A federated state might provide the Sunni of western Iraq with the general sense of ‘buy-in’ lacking under the centralized, Shi’a-dominated government,” it says.
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