U.S. President George Bush again reassured Americans last week they were winning the war in Iraq.
Please, Mr. President, no more "mission accomplished," no more victories. Your debacle in Iraq recalls King Phyrrus’ famous lament, "One more such victory and we are ruined."
The Bush administration invaded Iraq for two key reasons: 1) To seize Iraq’s vast oil reserves and turn Iraq into a base to dominate the Mideast; 2) To destroy one of Israel’s two main enemies (Iran being the other).
Three years later, the first goal remains elusive while the second was achieved. Large parts of Iraq — once the Arab world’s most developed nation — are in ruins, anarchy, or approaching civil war.
U.S. forces in Iraq struggle just to defend their bases and vulnerable supply lines. Their fruitless, Vietnam-style search-and-destroy missions, like this week’s Operation Swarmer, are a sure sign of strategic failure and senior officers too stupid or arrogant to draw obvious lessons from recent guerilla wars.
More than 2,300 American soldiers have died; 16,300 wounded. Some 30,000 Iraqi civilians have died. The U.S. holds 15,000 to 18,000 Iraqi prisoners — more than did Saddam Hussein.
The stalemated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost Washington a staggering $9.8 billion (all figures US) monthly as the U.S. Treasury borrows billions from China and Japan just to keep the government running. That figure excludes hundreds of millions in secret CIA bribes to rent co-operation from tribal chiefs and politicians, or hire mercenaries called "contractors."
What was to have been a jolly little war to "liberate" Iraq’s oil has cost over $500 billion so far. That’s $50 billion more than the Vietnam War’s total cost in 2006 dollars. Clearly, the U.S. armed forces are too expensive to send to a war lasting longer than a few months.
While a debacle for the U.S. and Iraq, the war has greatly benefited Iran and Israel. Iran’s influence in Iraq grows daily. The recent remarkable public agreement by Washington to open talks over Iraq with Great Satan Iran shows even the Bush people see the writing on the wall in Babylon. Besides, occupying Iraq has left the U.S. too weak to invade Iran.
After getting Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, and funding the ensuing eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the U.S. now watches helplessly as Iran slowly ingests large portions of Iraq. The U.S. invasion of Iraq handed power to pro-Iranian Shia religious parties. Shia spiritual leader Ali al Sistani warned followers they would go straight to hell — and lose their wives — if they did not vote for Shia religious candidates. Some democracy.
Israel has been the second beneficiary of the Iraq war. The long-term strategic goal of Israel’s rightists — shattering unstable Arab states to leave Israel dominant in the region — has been half attained by Iraq’s fragmentation into three parts. Syria is destabilized and faces possible civil war. Any future challenge by Iraq to Israel’s Mideast nuclear monopoly has vanished.
Meanwhile, Israel has been able to cut defence spending, intensify pressure on the Palestinians, and is quietly extending its influence into the semi-independent, oil-rich Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
$10B a month
Ironically, the third major beneficiary of Bush’s war has been his nemesis, Osama bin Laden. The only way to drive U.S. influence out of the Muslim world, bin Laden has long maintained, is to tie it down in a series of small wars that bleed it financially. The nearly $10-billion-a-month wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are doing just that. Iraq, as even Bush admits, has become an incubator, magnet, and call to arms for anti-American jihadists across the Muslim world.
Worse, the United States has lost its honour in this brutal little neo-colonial war. The neoconservatives’ ambition to plunder Iraq’s oil has become a mirage, and the Bush-Cheney diumverate presidency is quickly sinking into the quick-sands of Iraq.