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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 67/No. 40November 17, 2003

lead article
Rumsfeld, Bush vow to
stay U.S. course in Iraq
Undeterred by attacks on GIs, White House says
it has enough troops on ground
U.S. deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz (center) speaks to Lt. Col. Steven Russell, commander of the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division 1-22 Infantry regiment, as they watch Iraqi Civil Defence Corps trainees at military base in Tikrit, northern Iraq, 120 miles north of Baghdad, October 25.

Hours after a missile downed a U.S. helicopter near Fallujah, Iraq, on November 2, killing 16 GIs, U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld said on the Fox News Sunday television program, “Our goal has to be to continue doing what we’re doing on the global war on terror, and that is going well. We are capturing and killing a lot of terrorists.”

Arguing directly against liberal politicians and pundits who are criticizing Washington’s course in Iraq, the defense secretary quipped, “Sitting around wringing your hands and saying, ‘It’s horrible, it’s horrible, everything is terrible’ is nonsense. It isn’t all terrible. There’s some darn good stuff happening.” He listed the formation of the U.S.-handpicked Iraqi Governing Council, the introduction of a new currency, the opening of a Central Bank, and the reopening of schools and hospitals as accomplishments of the U.S.-run regime.

Referring to the U.S. casualties that morning, Rumsfeld stated later on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” television show: “In a long, hard war, we’re going to have tragic days, as this is. But they are necessary. They are part of a war that’s difficult and complicated.”

During a number of lengthy interviews that morning, Rumsfeld said that U.S. officers are making progress in stabilizing the occupation, and have no plans to bolster the number of U.S. troops. Rather, he said, tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and police, who function under U.S. command, are shouldering more of the “security” burden.

In a speech the next day to employees of Craneworks, a small business in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S. president George Bush spoke along similar lines, without even mentioning the downing of the U.S. helicopter in Fallujah. “We will win the war on terror, there’s no doubt in my mind. We will not rest, we will not tire,” Bush said. “The terrorists and the killers and those who harbor terrorists cannot stand the thought of a free society in their midst. That’s why the mission in Iraq is vital. We’ll defeat the terrorists there so we don’t have to face them on our own streets.

“The enemy in Iraq believes America will run, that’s why they’re willing to kill innocent civilians, relief workers, coalition troops,” he said. “America will never run. America will do what is necessary to make our country more secure.”

Attacks on the U.S.-led forces run as high as two or three dozen a day, said Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq. While Iraqi civilians have been the worst hit, casualties among U.S. soldiers have mounted. Since May 1, when Bush declared combat operations over, the death toll among U.S. forces has risen to 238—nearly double the 139 killed during the invasion. There are no official estimates for the number of Iraqi dead or wounded.

Rumsfeld, Bush, and other officials have aggressively defended their administration’s course after scoring several victories over their international and domestic critics last month. These included the October 16 unanimous vote of the United Nations Security Council legitimizing the U.S.-run regime in Iraq, and Congress’s approval down to the last penny of the $87 billion requested by Bush to fund the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The debate continues in ruling-class circles, however, even as those who argue that Iraq has become a quagmire have suffered political blows. The New York Times, a consistent voice of the liberal opposition, carried a feature article in its November 2 Sunday magazine entitled “Blueprint for a Mess: How the Bush administration’s prewar planners bungled postwar Iraq.”

The paper’s conservative columnist, William Safire, expressed a different view the next day. “The coalition is clearly winning on two of the three war fronts,” he wrote. “The people of Iraq’s Shiite south and Kurdish north—80 percent of the population of 23 million—are making substantial progress toward reconstruction and self-governance. But the battle within the Sunni triangle around Baghdad—where Saddam’s rapacious sons and secret police long victimized other Iraqis—is not yet won.”

On November 2, Democratic senator Joseph Biden called for more troops to be sent to Iraq while a local army and police force is trained, even if such a step proved “very, very unpopular” in the United States. He added, “We have to be prepared to go back to our European friends and say, ‘We need more help. We’re willing to give you more say in the formation of this government.’”

Responding to such arguments, Rumsfeld told NBC that in recent months occupying forces have trained up to 100,000 Iraqi soldiers and police. He cited the deaths of 85 of them as evidence of their participation in patrols. In addition, he said, London and other governments have maintained a stable number of 30,000 troops. These two developments have enabled the Pentagon to reduce its forces from 150,000 to 130,000, he said.

Bush and Rumsfeld both said that the attacks on U.S. forces are carried out primarily by remnants of the brutal Baath Party dictatorship of Saddam Hussein who are active in the “triangle” between Baghdad and areas north of the Iraqi capital, but have little influence elsewhere. They have also accused Iran and Syria of letting “foreign terrorists” enter Iraq through their territory.

British and French government officials have backed Bush’s claims that “foreigners” are part of the attacks. According to the New York Times, French investigative judge Louis Bruguire said “dozens of poor and middle-class Muslim men had left France for Iraq since the summer.”

Meanwhile, French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin said he opposed pulling out of Iraq now after a meeting of foreign ministers from Europe and Africa. De Villepin, who had argued against the U.S.-UK invasion as a spokesman for French imperialism, said, “Obviously a pullout from Iraq today would be catastrophic and would absolutely not correspond to the demands of the situation.”

In debates in the UN Security Council during the buildup to the war, De Villepin had argued that UN inspections and sanctions should be used instead of an invasion.

According to former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, who surrendered to U.S. troops April 24, Paris’s stance contributed to convincing Hussein that the imperialist invasion plans would not come to fruition. The November 3 Washington Post reported that Aziz told U.S. interrogators that representatives of both Paris and Moscow had told the Iraqi ruler they would use their veto power in the UN Security Council to block approval for an invasion.

“According to Aziz,” the Post said, “Hussein concluded after private talks with French and Russian contacts that the United States would probably wage a long air war first. By hunkering down and putting up a stiff defense, he might buy enough time to win a cease-fire brokered by Paris and Moscow.
Related article:
War party on the ascent

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