Socialist Worker

'Victory' boasts have faded away

ALEX CALLINICOS looks at the growing division among the Bush gang

Issue No. 1873

SIX MONTHS after the fall of Baghdad, the conquerors of Iraq are in trouble on both sides of the Atlantic. Tony Blair's difficulties are well known, but now it is the turn of George W Bush and his advisers to come under the spotlight.

They are facing their own version of the Hutton inquiry. The Justice Department is investigating the claim by ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson that senior administration officials leaked the fact that his wife, Valerie Plame, was a secret operative for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Wilson says this was an act of revenge for his exposure of Bush's claim that Saddam was trying to buy weapons-grade uranium from Niger as a lie. He accuses Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist, of being behind the leak. Revealing a CIA agent's identity is a federal crime which carries a ten-year jail sentence.

If that weren't bad enough, the divisions over the war in Iraq within the American establishment are coming more and more out into the open. These started to become visible a couple of months ago when the journal Foreign Affairs carried articles by ex Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and James Rubin, who had been one of her assistant secretaries.

These denounced the Bush administration for crass ineptitude in the way it handled the lead-up to war. Albright was responsible for the disastrous NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999, so she deserves her own day before a war crimes tribunal. She wants the United States, in Rubin's words, to 'calibrate force and diplomacy' rather than just rely on unilateral military coercion.

General Wesley Clark, who as NATO commander implemented Albright's Balkan strategy, is now running for the Democratic presidential nomination. But open criticism of Bush's Iraq policy isn't confined to Democrats.

Many Republicans in the US Congress are beefing about the way in which America is getting bogged down in Iraq. Lawrence Lindsey was sacked as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers after predicting that conquering Iraq would cost $200 billion. After Bush's request for $87 billion it looks like he was right.

The biggest casualty of all this may be defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Last week Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, announced that she was setting up an Iraq Stabilisation Group to coordinate administration policy. Rumsfeld told journalists that he hadn't been consulted about this decision. His star has fallen astonishingly quickly. Six months ago, when Baghdad fell within a few weeks of the Anglo-American invasion, Rumsfeld was riding high.

His gamble of using a relatively small but mobile army to seize control of Iraq had paid off. But, as the historical sociologist Michael Mann argues in his new book Incoherent Empire, occupying a country is a very different task from conquering it. Occupation requires spreading soldiers across the country in relatively small and vulnerable packets.

It also means building up local client rulers and militia forces to share the burden of rule. All this doesn't interest Rumsfeld. He has consistently opposed the US getting involved in 'nation-building' in the countries that it attacks.

Back in February he slapped down the Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, for predicting that occupying Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of soldiers. This stance has set Rumsfeld in conflict with the more ideological neo-conservatives in and around the administration.

Like his old friend Vice-President Dick Cheney, he is a relatively old-fashioned conservative nationalist. Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, is by contrast leader of what are often called the 'democratic imperialists'. These neo-conservatives want to use American military power to reconstruct the Middle East into US-style capitalist democracies.

Rumsfeld agreed with the neo-cons that conquering Iraq was a priority. But, now that has been achieved, they have fallen out. Back in September, two leading neo-cons, William Kristol and Robert Kagan, called for more US troops in Iraq:

'Either the United States does what it takes to succeed in Iraq, or we lose in Iraq. And if we lose, we will leave behind us not blue helmets but radicalism and chaos, a haven for terrorists and a perception of American weakness and lack of resolve in the Middle East and reckless blundering around the world.'

The fact that Rice has stepped in to take charge of Iraq policy may be significant. She has been criticised as a weak national security adviser who has let Rumsfeld at the Pentagon run US global policy.

The move to clip his wings may mean that the White House is tilting further towards the neo-cons who want to make Iraq a test case for their imperialist fantasies. In that case, we're in for a bumpy ride.


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Sat 18 Oct 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1873
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