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Proletarian issue 20 (October 2007)
Iraq: US troop ‘surge’ a total failure
Bush's desperate measures to avoid admitting defeat during his presidency.
On 10 January 2007, US President Bush ordered a ‘surge’ of troops in Iraq and dispatched an additional 30,000 soldiers to try to gain control of Baghdad and fight the resistance elsewhere.

The Bush administration has been finding itself under increasing pressure from the US population, and the Congress to some extent, to pull the troops out of Iraq and to disengage the country from a war which is already lost and which has proved so disastrous to US imperialism and its designs for world domination. Hence this proverbial ‘last throw’ of the gambler, whereby the US has been increasing the number of soldiers in Iraq.

By mid-June the surge was complete, with the strength of the US military in Iraq peaking at 160,000.

Petraeus Report

On 10 and 11 September 2007, appearing before a joint session of the House foreign affairs and armed services committees, General David Petraeus, the overall commander of the US forces in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, gave their long-awaited reports on the effect of the ‘surge’. Both these gentlemen (ie, imperialist mercenaries) painted a rosy picture so as to create the impression that the ‘surge’ had improved the security situation, saying that the levels of violence had come down, and that with a mixture of skill, hard work, persistence and good luck the US could still win this war.

“The military objectives of the surge are in large measure being met,” said General Petraeus in his testimony. He went on to say: “I also believe that it is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time, though doing so will be neither quick nor easy.”

To create the illusion of troop withdrawals in an effort to assuage the overwhelmingly anti-war public opinion, General Petraeus said that the US will be able to reduce its forces “to pre-surge levels by next summer without jeopardising the security gains we have fought so hard to achieve”. This means that, come next July, there would still be 130,000 US army personnel in Iraq – hardly a case of withdrawal. Saying that there would be further reductions after next summer, Petraeus said that it would be “premature to make recommendations on the pace of reductions at this time”.

Even if a further 30,000 US troops were to be pulled out between next July and the end of 2008, it would still leave 100,000 of them in Iraq by the time of the November 2008 US presidential election. It would thus be the next president, Democrat or Republican, who would be left holding this unfortunate hot potato – the Iraq war. Bush will thus be able to claim, no matter how falsely, that the Iraq war was not lost on his watch.

Ambassador Crocker also painted a tendentiously cheerful report. Although being forced to admit that the “tangible political progress” expected from the ‘surge’, and the sole raison d’être for it, has “not worked out as we had hoped”, he nevertheless claimed inexplicably that a “secure, stable, democratic Iraq” was “attainable”. He added: “The cumulative trajectory of political, economic and diplomatic developments in Iraq is upwards, although the slope of that line is not steep.”

In readiness for the Petraeus-Crocker testimony before the US lawmakers, the Bush administration had put its propaganda machine into overdrive. A week before their testimony, Bush, his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, made a surprise visit to the Al-Asad air base in Anbar province, where they met with General Petraeus and other US military officials, as well as a Sheikh collaborating with the occupation forces in that area.

Meanwhile, the White House made repeated claims that US victory in Iraq was possible, when in fact defeat has already been suffered. Attempts by the White House, as well as by Messrs Petraeus and Crocker, to suggest incremental improvements in Iraq that might add up to victory with time and perseverance are totally unconvincing and baseless.

As a matter of fact “a policy so bungled as to be irretrievable”, to borrow the words of the Financial Times, has been subcontracted by the Bush administration to General Petraeus, and the latter has allowed himself to be a willing tool in the deception that the US government is attempting to practise on the American people and the world at large.

It was the hope and expectation of the Bush administration that General Petraeus, appearing before the US lawmakers with four stars on his shoulders and a chest bedecked with medals, his testimony deliberately timed to coincide with the sixth anniversary of 9/11 to induce a surge of patriotism and jingoist hysteria, would help to give some credibility to its distortions and falsifications concerning Iraq.

As a matter of fact, the exercise compromised the General and further eroded his credibility.


Being aware that everyone thought that what he had told the House committees had been on cue from the White House and the Pentagon, General Petraeus did his best to put out that this was not the case.

“I wrote this testimony myself. It had not been cleared with anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or Congress,” he said.

All this was in vain, however. His claims that his report did not reflect the wishes of the White House and that his figures were reliable were contradicted by the Iraqi puppet government and by the UN. Nouri al-Maliki, the puppet premier of Iraq, said that Iraqi forces needed “more effort and time” before they could take over from the occupying imperialist soldiery. Hoshyar Zebari, al-Maliki’s foreign minister, speaking hours before Petraeus and Crocker delivered their assessment to Congress, emphasised that a precipitous US withdrawal from Iraq would merely accelerate disintegration and risk provoking a regional conflict.

By the time that Petraeus had finished speaking, seven US soldiers lay dead and 11 were injured in the Iraqi capital, while killings continued elsewhere, from Mosul to Kirkuk. On Tuesday 11 September, the resistance hit US army HQ at the international airport. Rockets and mortar fire rained down on ‘Camp Victory’, killing one soldier and wounding 11 others. Meanwhile, on 7 September in Anbar, the resistance kept up its campaign to cut major transport links by blowing up two more bridges on the motorway in the western desert, bringing the total number of bridges blown up on the al-Anbar motorway this year to five.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, was not buying the claims made by Petraeus. He said: “He [Petraeus] has made statements over the years that have not proven to be factual. It’s Bush’s report.”

Reid was right, for General Petraeus’s record in Iraq is dubious, to say the least, and the statements he has made over the years have in the end turned out to be downright wrong to the point of falsity. He was hailed and treated as a celebrity for a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign in northern Iraq in 2003/04. But soon after his departure from the area, the local security forces either defected to, or were routed by, the resistance. And it was during his tenure as the chief trainer of Iraqi forces that 190,000 Pentagon weapons disappeared, presumably into the hands of the resistance.

In September 2004, when he was a senior commander in Iraq, he wrote an article for the Washington Post in which he expressed his optimism that the American forces were beginning to turn the corner in the then 18-month old war. “I see tangible progress,” he wrote. “Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up. The institutions that oversee them are being re-established from the top down. And Iraqi leaders are stepping forward.” (‘US army commander: Iraqi security forces gearing up for elections’, 26 September 2004)

Three disastrous years for the occupation later, General Petraeus presented his report to Congress on the ‘New way forward in Iraq’ initiated by President Bush in January. Everyone listening to the General’s testimony took it with a ladle full of salt, not forgetting that the same gentleman’s piece in the Washington Post happened to coincide with the eve of the 2004 presidential election and was written at a time when fewer than 1,000 US soldiers had been killed in Iraq, as opposed to almost 3,800 at present.

Reality refutes Petraeus

According to an ABC opinion poll that came out on the weekend of 8-9 September, 53 percent of Americans were cynical enough about the testimony that the General was due to give as to believe that Petraeus would attempt to portray the situation in Iraq as better for the occupation and its puppets than it really is.

On this, the General did not disappoint them. The problem, however, is that there are not many takers for the optimistic scenario painted by him. And this is for the reason that reality at every step is in crying contradiction with his bold and baseless assertions. The US has lost 3,800 servicemen in Iraq, while another 28,000 have been wounded – most of them seriously.

The three months to the middle of July, by which time the surge had been completed, have been the bloodiest for the US forces in Iraq, with 331 US troops killed and 2,029 injured. There are now 5,000 attacks a month against US forces across Iraq.

The British forces in Basra have suffered dozens of casualties and have been driven out of the town to their base at the airport. The so-called coalition, which included 40 countries when the war started, has dwindled to 23. If Howard’s coalition loses in the forthcoming Australian elections, Australian troops will be pulled out of Iraq by the incoming administration. With British troops likely to leave too, the US would be literally on its own, with only Denmark left fighting on its side. With this, the isolation of US imperialism will be complete, and the rest of the world will be ranged against this predatory criminal war of genocide against the people of Iraq.

On the Iraqi side, according to a survey conducted in August 2007 by ORB, a British polling agency, and reported in the Los Angeles Times, 1.2 million Iraqis have been killed since the start of this imperialist war in March 2003. Last year, a study in the medical journal, Lancet, put the number of Iraqi dead at 654,965, which means that either the figures in the Lancet were an understatement or that since the Lancet report another half a million Iraqis have been massacred by the imperialist bearers of ‘democracy’ and the self-proclaimed champions of ‘humanitarianism’.

Meanwhile, 2.2 million Iraqis have fled the country (1.2 million to Syria alone), another 2 million are internally displaced, eking out a miserable existence in horrible camps and makeshift shanty towns, with no drinking water, electricity or sewage facilities. Some 80,000 Iraqis continue to be uprooted every month; 70 percent of the children do not attend school; unemployment stands at 68 percent of the workforce; 9 million Iraqis live below the poverty line; the food rationing system, on which 5 million Iraqis rely to stay alive, is breaking down, with the result that 2 million people are no longer being fed, as food cannot be distributed in dangerous areas. On top of all this, it is no longer possible to secure medical treatment for many illnesses, as 75 percent of the doctors and pharmacists have left, most joining the 2.2 million who have fled abroad. Meanwhile, it is estimated that at least 50,000 Iraqi women have been forced into prostitution.

In the light of these figures, it is hardly surprising that “what the Iraqis believe is happening to them and their country is wholly contrary to the myths pumped out by the White House”. (‘The ‘surge’ has failed to alter the bloody stalemate’ by Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, 11 September 2007)

An opinion poll, commissioned by ABC News, the BBC and Japanese Television NHK and published on 10 September, showed that 70 percent of Iraqis say their security has deteriorated during the surge; a chunky 57 percent believe attacks on the occupation forces are acceptable, with not only 93 percent of the sunni, but also 50 percent of the shia approving such attacks. Nearly half of the Iraqis believe full-scale civil war would be less likely if the US withdrew before the restoration of civil order and peace.

What the imperialist occupiers, especially the US and Britain, refuse stubbornly to admit is that the occupation has no support among the Iraqi population, who hate the presence of foreign troops in their country, who long to see it liberated, and who are giving their all to free it. The latest polls reveal that 79 percent of sunni and 59 percent of shia have no confidence whatever in the US and the UK armies of occupation.

And this lack of support serves to undermine all attempts at pacification and setting up a stable and reliable puppet regime. No amount of ‘surge’ in troop levels can make up for the lack of support on the part of the Iraqi people. After four years of training by the US and Britain, there are still no Iraqi units willing to fight alongside the occupying forces. Since the occupation and its flunkeys lack all legitimacy, they command no loyalty among the Iraqi population.

On the political front, Nouri al-Maliki’s government has more or less ceased to function, with nearly half the cabinet walking out. It is through and through a sectarian outfit of murderous gangs. Those who suggest, as the Bush administration does, that this group of gangsters could be the instruments for national reconciliation and unity are simply living in a world of their own and disconnected from all reality. This, of course, is on the assumption that national reconciliation is what the occupation regime is aiming at, for the truth is that this regime has done its best to promote discord and create the conditions for a sectarian civil war, which alone can provide some space for the continuation of the occupation in the hope of maintaining imperialist domination of Iraq and the Middle East.

Bush’s delusions

This being the case, one may marvel at the assertion of George W Bush that the American ‘surge’ had produced significant gains on the ground in Iraq. In a televised broadcast to the nation on 13 September, Bush declared that achieving success in Iraq would require a US commitment “way beyond my presidency”, which comes to an end in January 2009. “Realising this vision will be difficult – but it is achievable,” he said, adding “our military commanders believe we can succeed. Our diplomats believe we can succeed.”

On the same day that Bush was giving his televised progress report, Sheik Abd al-Sattar Abu Risha, a member of the collaborationist Anbar Salvation Council, whom Bush had met the previous week in Iraq, was assassinated by the resistance. It is worth mentioning in passing that during his surprise visit to Iraq, Bush considered it prudent not to go to Baghdad in an effort, most probably, to avoid the bombs which daily descend on the Green Zone by way of a greeting to visiting foreign dignitaries.

In an endeavour to spin the end of the ‘surge’ as a real reduction, Bush stated that, in his next assessment in March, General Petraeus hopefully “will be able to say … that the pace of drawdowns can continue at the same rate in the second half of the year, as in the first”. The truth, however, is that the ‘surge’ was only ever meant to be a temporary measure; if for no other reason than that to continue with it beyond next April would mean the extension of troop deployment, putting an intolerable strain on the already overstretched US military. To unwind the ‘surge’ is a military necessity, as the US is bereft of the resources to sustain its deployment in Iraq at the present levels.

‘Surge’ a total failure

Essentially, the ‘surge’ has failed to improve the perilous condition in which the US occupation forces find themselves. They are losing the war, and losing it fast and big time. No amount of spin, no boastful bravado, no swaggering, no lies, can cover this essential truth.

Sensing that this is the case, the US authorities, unable to come to terms with near total lack of support for the occupation among the Iraqi population, are increasingly blaming outside powers, principally Iran and Syria, for their misfortunes. The US is threatening to attack Iran with ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons, with the neo-cons and the Pentagon hawks deluding themselves with the thought that the US could win an easy victory against Iran through the use of air power.

That it will not be so easy, of this the US military establishment has been made aware by General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the senior military advisor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. General Safavi said this: “The United States is facing three problems in invading Iran. Firstly, it is not aware of the volume and manner of Iran’s response. The US cannot foresee the level of the vulnerability of its 200,000 troops in the region while we have identified all the bases very precisely. Secondly, it doesn’t know what will happen to Israel. And thirdly, the United States cannot predict what may happen to the flow of oil.”

If the US goes ahead with yet another mad imperialist venture, this time through an attack on Iran, it will only manage to tighten the noose around its neck still further. The days of US imperialist domination of the Middle East, and with them its delusions of world domination, are well and truly numbered.

The rising revolutionary tide of the Iraqi and other middle-eastern peoples, the hammer blows of the resistance, are on the verge of achieving a historic victory against US imperialism – presently the greatest enemy of humanity. Roll on the day.

Victory to the Iraqi resistance!
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