The US-led occupation of Iraq lurched further into crisis this week as defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld was forced to admit that resistance in the country might last for years.
Rumsfeld’s admission on Sunday night that “insurgency could go on for any number of years... five, six, eight, ten, 12 years” contrasts sharply with earlier claims by US vice-president Dick Cheney.
Last month Cheney said, “The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.”
His remarks were also contradicted by General John Abizaid, the US’s top commander in the Persian Gulf, who told a senate committee that the resistance’s strength was undiminished from six months ago.
The admission that the occupation is getting bogged down militarily comes at a time when public feeling in the US is rapidly turning against George Bush’s Iraq adventure.
One opinion poll found that 49 percent of Americans believed Bush was responsible for starting the war, rather than Saddam Hussein.
Another poll found that 63 percent of Americans thought most US troops should be brought home within the next year. Only 33 percent support Bush’s line that the troops must remain until Iraq’s government is “stable”.
Most significantly, 53 percent of Americans now believe that going to war was a mistake. This contrasts with 67 percent backing the war in December 2003, when Saddam Hussein was captured by the US.
Bush’s popularity ratings have plummeted in the face of increasing anger at his domestic policies and a brewing scandal over revelations in the so called “Downing Street memo”.
This was the document leaked to the Sunday Times in the run up to the British general election that proved Bush and Blair had decided on war as early as July 2002.
The revelations of duplicity were hardly news in Britain, where a vibrant anti-war movement had already convinced most people that Blair was lying over the war.
But they have had a much larger impact in the US, where public faith in Bush’s integrity has until now held up. Now this is cracking as he faces increasing hostility from a previously supine US congress.
And there are signs that the Bush administration’s difficulties are revitalising the US anti-war movement after his re-election as president.
Anti-war campaigner Medea Benjamin recently wrote, “For the history books, mark down June 2005 as the moment the US movement against the occupation of Iraq got its second wind.”