US POLICY in Iraq is in meltdown. The pictures of torture by US and British forces in Iraq have underlined graphically that this is a war of terror, not a war on terror.
Sections of the US ruling class are now terrified that they are facing defeat and disaster. "This is the most serious setback for the American military since Vietnam. We now have to admit that the American position is untenable," said Richard Holbrooke last weekend.
He is a former US ambassador to the UN and the man who was quite happy to impose an imperialist settlement in the Balkans. It is like Vietnam. But it is even more crucial for the US ruling class. Iraq is at the centre of the world's oilfields. That was a central reason for the invasion. The reason oil prices have shot up is because the invasion has been such a disaster for the US.
Before the war, Rupert Murdoch said, "The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy would be $20 a barrel for oil."
Crude oil prices in New York rose to almost $40 a barrel last week, a 13-year high. And Iraq has dominated every aspect of world politics for over a year. The prestige and power of the US is on the line in a far more fundamental way than they were even in Vietnam. Total defeat in Iraq is too awesome for the US ruling class to contemplate. It would haunt the US for a generation and hamper its ability to bend governments to its will, impose trade deals, defend the interests of US corporations and dominate organisations like the World Trade Organisation.
All of this means that the US cannot easily retreat from Iraq. At every stage so far the US has responded to setbacks with increased brutality. After the war, when people in Fallujah and Najaf resisted they were attacked by bombs, tanks and helicopter gunships.
Throughout the invasion and occupation there has been torture, dawn raids and shootings of civilians. Bush and Rumsfeld will do their best to shrug off even this crisis and continue their work of smashing Iraqi resistance-by whatever methods they can get away with.
Giving evidence last week, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "The photographic depictions of the US military personnel that the public has seen have offended and outraged everyone in the Department of Defence."
What he really meant was that they were offended and outraged that the photos had been published, not that the torture itself had happened. That is why Rumsfeld said that a key lesson was "to recognise the existence, in this case, of digital cameras".
When he sends the message to the torturers to do their work more secretively, Rumsfeld knows he has one reliable ally-Tony Blair. If the US and Britain were as powerless as Serbia then the International Criminal Court would be publishing warrants for the arrest of Bush and Blair.
There is only one way to halt the blood and agony in Iraq. It is to end the occupation now, for all the US and British forces to withdraw, and for the Iraqi people to determine their own future and to control their own resources.
Anything else-fake "transition" plans or UN troops added to US ones-will simply mean more horror. As well as campaigning against the occupation, on 10 June we will have a chance to make the European and London elections a referendum on the war.
An opinion poll last week asked, should British troops pull out of Iraq by 30 June? The results were 55 percent yes, 28 percent no, and 17 percent don't know. Opposition to the occupation was greater among poorer people than richer ones.
We have to win as many of these people as possible to vote Respect. That is the best way to hit back at Blair, the torturers' friend.
An urgent appeal to all RESPECT supporters
Over the last month we have received a tremendous response to our appeal for funds for our election campaign. We have managed to secure the printing of a leaflet for every home in England and Wales, as well as paying the election deposits for every European constituency, the London mayor and London Assembly elections.
In total we've raised and paid out over £200,000! However, we still have a way to go. We need the money to pay the balance for the postal leaflet, all the extra leaflets, postcards, and the party election broadcasts directed by Ken Loach.
We urgently need to raise at least a further £200,000. The enthusiastic response to our campaign so far shows that we can do it. Whatever you can donate will help us get our message to the millions who opposed the war and who are outraged at the torture of Iraqi prisoners.
There is an alternative to New Labour-it's called Respect!
NICK WRACK, Respect national chair