US president George Bush pronounced on Wednesday of last week that he had no regrets about war in Iraq despite the “high cost in lives and treasure” and declared that the US was on track for victory.
He claimed, “The successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable.” According to him the occupation of Iraq “has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror”.
We have been here before. A year ago Bush claimed victory as violence swept Iraq.
And in May 2003 he claimed that major combat operations in Iraq were over as he stood on the USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner reading “Mission Accomplished”.
But five years since the invasion, the US continues to be bogged down with no end in sight to the occupation.
Every action it has taken has come at a cost – most notably the million Iraqis who have died as a result of the invasion and the millions of destitute refugees.
Within days of Bush’s speech the number of US troops to have died in the occupation reached 4,000.
The failure to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, revive the economy and provide security are all testimony to the failure of the occupation.
When Bush bemoaned the loss of “treasure”, he was responding to the multinational oil companies’ complaints that they have not been able to loot enough of Iraq’s oil because the country is unstable.
Bush claims that the worst is over thanks to the US “surge” of 38,000 troops, which began in January last year. But the surge’s “successes” mask deep problems for the occupation.
It is true that some of Iraq’s major resistance organisations have declared a ceasefire, and some regions are experiencing less violence.
Where US troops have pulled back violence has dropped. In the restive Anbar province the US military has struck deals with local resistance groups and withdrawn back to its bases.
But the occupation has also created and fed sectarianism. For instance, the Awakening Councils – US-funded Sunni Muslim militias – have been involved in sectarian attacks and are attempting to crush the resistance.
The militias are composed mainly of former resistance fighters, but have an uneasy alliance with the US – mostly based on the US paying them.
Other areas that were once calm are now experiencing new levels of violence.
The surge is turning into a long term and crude method to keep a lid on the resistance.
Instead of victory the US is facing a defeat based on fostering and propping up sectarianism.
Britain remains deeply implicated in the continuing disaster in Iraq.
Gordon Brown last year announced to great fanfare that British troop levels would be reduced to 2,500 this spring. He lied.
In the next few weeks 3,900 troops are heading to Basra. The reason may be, as the Sunday Mirror reported, that the US has asked British forces to prepare a “surge” into the southern city.
The newspaper quoted an unnamed senior US military source saying that after US operations in Mosul, “The plan is to turn the coalition’s attention to Basra and we will be urging the British to surge into the city.
“If they do not have enough troops, then they will be offered US Marines to help out.”
Rather than Bush’s “victory”, five years of occupation have seen the humiliation of the most powerful army in history by Iraqi resistance.
Behind Bush’s words lies the truth that the US has been reduced to trying to “manage the defeat”.