The answer to anyone who ever doubted the value of the on-going resistance against the US occupation of Iraq was demonstrated last month, as the tide of opinion in America appeared to have turned decisively against George W. Bush and his neo-conservative administration and policies. After years in which the spectre of terrorism and appeals to US patriotism have enabled the neo-conservative clique in the White House to impose their agenda on US politics, and by extension the rest of the world, opposition politicians finally found their voices last month, emboldened by the increasing anger of the American people. It would be nice to think that this anger owes something to the fact that they have been lied to and misled into a war that is designed to serve the interests of a tiny American elite; the reality, unfortunately, is rather different.
The growing pressure on Bush owes more to the fact that his policies in Iraq are failing than any genuine realisation that the US should not have been in Iraq in the first place. It is not the ever-increasing revelations of the lies that US politicians told to justify their war that has brought this pressure on them, but the fact that their policies in Iraq are failing. The problem that the neo-conservatives have is that they cannot earn a reputation for dishonesty in one area and then expect to be believed in others, or at least not for long. Having taken the US into Iraq on blatantly false pretenses, Bush was always likely to have trouble persuading Americans that all was going well there in the face of the evidence before their eyes.
Early last month, the US’s official losses in Iraq reached 2,000 (this figure does not include losses among the freelance mercenary forces that have played an unprecedented role in the US’s military operations in Iraq). This unfortunate figure helped persuade the Senate to pass a unanimous resolution on November 15 demanding formal progress reports and accountability from Bush-administration officials over the progress of its policies in Iraq.
On the same day, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican but an established opponent of the Iraq war, came out with the strongest attack on Bush’s policies to date from any American politician. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Affairs in Washington, he said that “Trust and confidence in the United States has been seriously eroded… We are seen by many in the Middle East as an obstacle to peace, an aggressor and an occupier. Our policies are a significant source of friction… We have made every bad decision we could possibly make… The problem now is how to get out without further destabilizing the region.”
Hagel is a long-term critic of the president and a man that White House officials could easily dismiss as an irrelevant maverick. But the changing mood in America was indicated a couple of days later, when Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania gave Bush a bigger mauling than any Democratic politician had managed in the previous five years. Previously a vocal supporter of the war, and a defender of the intelligence on which the US went to war, he called for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq; acknowledging the anger of the American people, he said that “The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It’s a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of the members of Congress.
“The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq. But it’s time for a change of direction. Our military is suffering, the future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region.” As usual, Murtha’s attack owed more to political opportunism than principle; he may well have his eye on the Democratic presidential candidacy. Also as usual, the White House responded by targeting the messenger, attacking Murtha as a coward and claiming the patriotic high ground. This time, however, they were forced to back down, partly because of Murtha’s own military record, but partly also because he was showing a growing trend in American politics. This has also been reflected in the change of tone at the New York Times, where there has been a collective mea culpa for its support for Bush’s drive for war before the invasion.
We may now be seeing Bush’s come-uppance in the US, as the political establishment targets the neo-conservative elite for their failure to deliver on their promises. The neo-conservatives rose to power on the claim that, as the world’s sole superpower, the US did not need to work with allies, and could be far more assertive in its defence of its interests. Having so totally failed to deliver, they may now be held accountable not only for their own failures but for the fact that the US is hated all over the world for its policies over more than half a century.
This is the mistake that Muslims must not make. It is true that Bush’s neo-con administration has been primarily responsible for the tragedies of Afghanistan and Iraq, and have perhaps done more damage to the Muslim world than any US administration before it, but we should not expect any substantial change of policy should the neo-cons be defeated. We must not make the mistake of regarding other American politicians as any different. All US administration have been pro-Israeli, and all represent the same capitalist, corporate elites. Again and again, Muslims have supported opposition US politicans against incumbents on the grounds that they could not possibly be worse; few American Muslims would care to be reminded that they supported Bush against Clinton in 2000 on precisely that basis
Sooner or later, Muslims must realise that it is America’s hegemonic outlook as a whole that is the problem, not the policies of any particular clique within it. If Americans themselves turn against the neo-cons, and replace them in office with an administration of another hue, it will make no real difference to Muslims. It is only when Americans realise that they do not have any divine right to dominate the rest of the world that we can expect any real change in US policy, and there is not much prospect of such a realisation yet.