George Bush is facing a political crisis in the US as it becomes increasingly clear that his strategy for maintaining the occupation of Iraq is rapidly unravelling.
Even members of Bush’s own Republican party are now turning against him rather than face the consequences of mounting public anger at the horror in Iraq.
This anger led to the Republicans losing control of both houses of the US Congress in elections last year. It has boosted the fortunes of anti-war presidential candidates – and wrecked those of pro-war “hawks” such as Senator John McCain.
Bush responded by ordering a “surge” in US troop numbers in Iraq as part of a last ditch effort to maintain the occupation.
He is now desperately touting various “benchmarks” and “indicators” that shows his strategy is “making progress” and that Iraq is moving “towards stability”. But his figures do not add up.
The Brookings Institution is a foreign policy think-tank based in Washington DC that publishes a weekly Iraq Index – a set of statistics to track the state of the US occupation. According to this index the situation in the country is deteriorating rapidly.
In June 2003 there were eight recorded attacks by the resistance every day. By June 2005 that figure had reached 70. Now the daily average number of resistance attacks has reached 170 – including a rise in the number of sophisticated armour piercing roadside bombs.
There are now 168,000 US troops stationed in Iraq – the same figure as 2005 when the US last declared it had “turned the corner”. In 2005 an average of 60 US soldiers died every month. This has now risen to over 100 a month – the highest since the occupation begun.
And the US’s own estimate of the opposition it faces has also risen. In 2005 the US military calculated that it was facing around 20,000 “insurgents”. That figure today is at 70,000.
Earlier pronouncements about the US winning the war are now returning to haunt Bush. In 2005 he declared the Iraqi city of Baquba as secure and safe. This year it has erupted in fighting again.
Now military operations in Anbar province have in turn been declared a success. But behind the rosy headlines, the US has effectively abandoned the battle and concluded a series of deals with local resistance organisations.
Another one of Bush’s “key indicators” is the number of Iraqi civilians killed by car bombs and death squads. Bush argued that he could cut the number of sectarian murders by flooding Baghdad with thousands of extra US troops.
There are now over 16,000 US troops in the capital, up from 6,500 earlier this year. But they are having little or no impact on the death toll.
The numbers of Iraqis killed by car bombs has fallen from its peak this January, but it still remains above 2006 levels.
And the toll in the “war of the bodies” – the victims of death squads – remains just as grim. Before the surge an average of 800 bodies were found a month – by May this had only dropped to 725.
The political benchmarks have also proven to be elusive. Bush wanted the Iraqi government to pass a neoliberal oil law. But this law has met with huge opposition across the country (see interview with Hassan Jumaa Awad, » Resisting the plans to control Iraq’s oil).
The new US policy of drawing former members of the Saddam Hussein’s regime into the Iraqi government has also stalled, as has a new election law and changes to the constitution.
The biggest hope for supporters of the occupation was that ordinary Iraqis would abandon support for the resistance if their everyday lives began to improve.
This has been the biggest failure. Life in Iraq remains as desperate today as in the first days of the occupation.
Up to 40 percent of Iraqis have no job. Only one in three children go to school. Over 12,000 of the 34,000 doctors registered in the country before the occupation began have now fled into exile.
The Brookings Institution found no improvements in electricity, water or security for ordinary Iraqis. Inflation remains over 50 percent per year.
These facts underline the growing panic inside the Bush administration – and fuel the growing chorus demanding a huge reduction in US troop levels by the middle of next year.
Far from the “surge” stabilising US rule in Iraq, it has confirmed to many of Bush’s former supporters that the occupation of Iraq is in terminal crisis.