Iraq: The Tunnel at the End of the
By William D. Hartung
Global Beat Syndicate
NEW YORK—As the Vietnam War dragged on, the U.S. government's
continued optimism in the face of ongoing bad news was summed up in the
phrase "there's light at the end of the tunnel." This implied that the
end of the war—and a U.S. victory—was in sight.
Bush administration has shown a similar public face with respect to
Iraq. At every important turning point—the establishment of a
provisional government, the first elections, the capture of Saddam
Hussein, and the recent vote ratifying a new constitution—the
administration has suggested that these political/military developments
would lead to a reduction in violence, progress towards democracy, and
faster movement toward the removal of most U.S. occupation forces. For
the most part, the experience has been the reverse—more violence, chaos
and insecurity in the wake of each of these events. Not only is there
no light at the end of the tunnel, it is not clear that the tunnel has
even been built yet.
than two weeks after the vote on the Iraqi constitution, U.S. forces in
Iraq suffered their 2,000th fatality since the beginning of the
intervention. The numbers had mounted to more that 2,050 deaths by
mid-November, along with 15,568 wounded. Put these figures alongside an
estimate of 26,000 to 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths since the start of
the war and it is difficult to share the Bush administration's optimism
about the course of the conflict.
has the constitutional vote necessarily brought greater political
cohesion among Iraq's three most important groups, the Shiites, the
Sunnis, and the Kurds. The Sunni-based insurgency continues apace.
Meanwhile, Kurdish political parties have commenced a campaign to move
thousands of Kurds into the oil-rich northern region around Kirkuk, in
the hopes of ensuring victory in a 2007 referendum on the future of the
area. As the Washington Post noted on October 30, the resettling effort
is being carried out "outside the framework of Iraq's newly ratified
constitution . . . sparking sporadic violence between Kurdish settlers
and the Arabs who are a minority there."
costs of the war continue to mount. According to an October report from
the Congressional Research Service, the cost of the war in Iraq has
reached $255 billion, and continues to rise at a rate of at least $6
billion per month. Writing in TomDispatch.com, Mark Engler notes that
not only has the war incurred high budgetary costs, but it is also
exacting a high price from the majority of U.S. businesses, which are
not directly profiting from the "war on terror." Engler cites sources
such as the American Banker, which has quoted a survey indicating that
"41 percent of Canadian elites were less likely to purchase American
goods because of administration policies, compared to 56 percent in the
UK, 61 percent in France, 49 percent in Germany, and 42 percent in
Brazil." In sum, even our friends and allies are boycotting our goods
the outset, the burdens of the war have been unequally shared. A new
study from the National Priorities Project shows that the military's
efforts to fill the ranks in the face of the Iraq fiasco have drawn
most heavily from "counties that were poorer than the rest of the
nation." In its summary of the report, NPP says, "As the Iraq war
continues and the number of soldiers killed and wounded mounts, this
data makes clear that low- and middle-income kids are paying the
highest price. It is young people with limited opportunities who are
putting their lives on the line." In sum, a formal draft does not
exist, but our "economic draft" is already well under way.
yet, wounded soldiers returning from Iraq continue to face serious
problems getting paid. According to the Straus Military Reform Project
at the Center for Defense Information, the Pentagon's pay system is so
inept that some wounded soldiers have been declared AWOL and had their
pay stopped altogether. Others have been paid "deployment entitlements"
they were no longer eligible for, leading them to run up debts that
they are hard-pressed to pay back.
best way to support our troops and help Iraq get back on its feet is to
get out now, and replace military occupation with economic support and
cooperation. Otherwise, we will still be hearing 10 years from now
about how America has "turned the corner" in Iraq.