The war in Iraq is lost. This fact is widely recognized by American military officers and has been recently expressed forcefully by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of US forces in Iraq during the first year of the attempted occupation. Winning is no longer an option. Our best hope, Gen. Sanchez says, is "to stave off defeat," and that requires more intelligence and leadership than Gen. Sanchez sees in the entirety of our national political leadership: "I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time."
More evidence that the war is lost arrived June 4 with headlines reporting: "U.S.-led soldiers control only about a third of Baghdad, the military said on Monday." After five years of war the US controls one-third of one city and nothing else.
A host of US commanding generals have said that the Iraq war is destroying the US military. A year ago Colin Powell said that the US Army is "about broken." Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn says Bush has "piecemealed our force to death." Gen. Barry McCafrey testified to the US Senate that "the Army will unravel."
Col. Andy Bacevich, America’s foremost writer on military affairs, documents in the current issue of The American Conservative that Bush’s insane war has depleted and exhausted the US Army and Marine Corps:
"Only a third of the regular Army’s brigades qualify as combat-ready. In the reserve components, none meet that standard. When the last of the units reaches Baghdad as part of the president’s strategy of escalation, the US will be left without a ready-to-deploy land force reserve."
"The stress of repeated combat tours is sapping the Army’s lifeblood. Especially worrying is the accelerating exodus of experienced leaders. The service is currently short 3,000 commissioned officers. By next year, the number is projected to grow to 3,500. The Guard and reserves are in even worse shape. There the shortage amounts to 7,500 officers. Young West Pointers are bailing out of the Army at a rate not seen in three decades. In an effort to staunch the losses, that service has begun offering a $20,000 bonus to newly promoted captains who agree to stay on for an additional three years. Meanwhile, as more and more officers want out, fewer and fewer want in: ROTC scholarships go unfilled for a lack of qualified applicants."
Bush has taken every desperate measure. Enlistment ages have been pushed up from 35 to 42. The percentage of high school dropouts and the number of recruits scoring at the bottom end of tests have spiked. The US military is forced to recruit among drug users and convicted criminals. Bacevich reports that wavers "issued to convicted felons jumped by 30 percent." Combat tours have been extended from 12 to 15 months, and the same troops are being deployed again and again.
There is no equipment for training. Bacevich reports that "some $212 billion worth has been destroyed, damaged, or just plain worn out." What remains is in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Under these circumstances, "staying the course" means total defeat. Even the neoconservative warmongers, who deceived Americans with the promise of a "cakewalk war" that would be over in six weeks, believe that the war is lost. But they have not given up. They have a last desperate plan: Bomb Iran. Vice President Dick Cheney is spear-heading the neocon plan, and Norman Podhoretz is the plan’s leading propagandist with his numerous pleas published in the Wall Street Journal and Commentary to bomb Iran. Podhoretz, like every neoconservative, is a total Islamophobe. Podhoretz has written that Islam must be deracinated and the religion destroyed, a genocide for the Muslim people.
The neocons think that by bombing Iran the US will provoke Iran to arm the Shiite militias in Iraq with armor-piercing rocket-propelled grenades and with surface-to-air missiles and unleash the militias against US troops. These weapons would neutralize US tanks and helicopter gunships and destroy the US military edge, leaving divided and isolated US forces subject to being cut off from supplies and retreat routes. With America on the verge of losing most of its troops in Iraq, the cry would go up to "save the troops" by nuking Iran.
Five years of unsuccessful war in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel’s recent military defeat in Lebanon have convinced the neocons that America and Israel cannot establish hegemony over the Middle East with conventional forces alone. The neocons have changed US war doctrine, which now permits the US to preemptively strike with nuclear weapons a non-nuclear power. Neocons are forever heard saying, "what’s the use of having nuclear weapons if you can’t use them."
Neocons have convinced themselves that nuking Iran will show the Muslim world that Muslims have no alternative to submitting to the will of the US government. Insurgency and terrorism cannot prevail against nuclear weapons.
Many US military officers are horrified at what they think would be the worst war crime ever orchestrated. There are reports of threatened resignations. But Dick Cheney is resolute. He tells Bush that the plan will save him from the ignominy of losing the war and restore his popularity as the president who saved Americans from Iranian nuclear weapons. With the captive American media providing propaganda cover, the neoconservatives believe that their plan can pull their chestnuts out of the fire and rescue them from the failure that their delusion has wrought.
The American electorate decided last November that they must do something about the failed war and gave the Democrats control of both houses of Congress. However, the Democrats have decided that it is easier to be complicit in war crimes than to represent the wishes of the electorate and hold a rogue president accountable. If Cheney again prevails, America will supplant the Third Reich as the most reviled country in recorded history.
Paul Craig Roberts [send him mail] wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is author or coauthor of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury’s Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He is also coauthor with Karen Araujo of Chile: Dos Visiones — La Era Allende-Pinochet (Santiago: Universidad Andres Bello, 2000).