Can America escape the Iraqi quagmire?

"Attack. Take cover. This is not a test," hailed loudspeakers at the compound in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palace complexes. Sirens wailed, flares lit up the night sky and U.S. helicopters clattered overhead. This was the scene of a rocket attack which coincided with Jack Straw’s visit to Baghdad on Wednesday 26 November.

Daily attacks on US troops, public hostility to the occupation, no credible government in sight, coupled with the high cost of military occupation in Iraq and the growing campaign within the US to bring troops back home is spreading terror throughout the White House.

Despite these horrors the Bush administration is prepared to forfeit the lives of hundreds of American soldiers – and keen to slaughter thousands of Iraqis – in an attempt to secure control of Iraq’s vast oil resources and to establish a strategic position from which to dominate the Middle East.

As one US soldier in the 101 Airborne Division near Mosul wrote in the Los Angeles Times during September 2003: "This looks like a modern day crusade not to free an oppressed people or to rid the world of a demonic dictator relentless in his pursuit of conquest and domination, but a crusade to control another nation’s natural resource. At least to me, oil seems to be the reason for our presence."

As long as Bush refuses to confront reality, matters in Iraq are likely to continue deteriorating. The reality is that where the Americans once hoped to come as popular liberators, they now venture only reluctantly, in heavily armed groups, treating all Iraqis as potential enemies, and treated as enemies, or at best barely tolerated, by an Iraqi population that is used to having to deal with powerful and established governing institutions which they hate and cannot trust.

The occupation of Iraq has revealed some serious miscalculations on the part of the US and its allies. Violating international law and lying about Iraq’s weapons capability has tested the patience of the international community.

Furthermore, many of the more than 1300 families within the US now campaigning for their sons and daughters to come home previously backed the war on Iraq.

It seems that Bush is trapped between Iraq and a hard place; in fact several hard places – Afghanistan, the US economy and a public that are at last beginning to realize that they have been lied to in a big way.

Many Americans now doubt that terrorism is an ‘evil force’ which the United States army is going to defeat. They believe instead that terrorism is a misleading term. They know that Chechens, Moros, Taliban, Colombian insurgents, Palestinian bombers and Iraqi resisters of the U.S. occupation do not really make up a global phenomenon that the world must mobilize to defeat.

The proper and correct portrayal of the people engaged in opposing invaders, occupiers and brutal dictators is guerilla warfare which is sanctioned under international law as legitimate armed struggle.

Will Bush survive the folly of Iraq? Krugman suggests (New York Times, September 11, 2003) that the ‘neo-cons’ will play even more rough and dirty, and try to launch other mad ventures before the presidential elections, in order to divert the voters’ attention from the mess in Iraq. Recent threats against Syria and Iran give a clue to their thinking.

Will foreign troops be able to provide the shield behind which the Americans can continue their occupation of Iraq? Given their numbers – 30,000 at most – that seems unlikely.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the over-ambitious hawks in control of the American government may cause more harm to the world as well as to their own people before they are consigned to history.