DONALD RUMSFELD, the US defence secretary, flew back from Kuwait last week and promptly ordered an increase in production of armoured Humvee vehicles. He was still smarting from being upbraided by his own troops about their lack of protection in Iraq.
In November Peter Schoomaker, the US army chief of staff, warned that only half the 8,000 Humvees in Iraq had heavy armour. He also reported shortages of body armour, radios, assault rifles and machine guns.
This is an empire in danger of reaching the limits of its power. It has already had to remove troops and armour from Europe and Korea to boost numbers in Iraq.
Army recruitment figures in the US are dropping—and no wonder.
A reporter with the Washington Post went on patrol this week with US forces south of Mosul. He found them hunkered down inside armoured vehicles, unable to patrol on foot.
They had little or no information supplied by local people and could not rely on the Iraqi National Guard, one of whose battalions had deserted following resistance attacks. This left the US-funded base to be stripped bare by locals.
Powerful voices in Washington are urging an exit from Iraq after the 30 January elections—if they go ahead.
US hopes now rest on a Shia coalition led by a pro-Iranian cleric winning those elections. Yet these represent forces George Bush held up as the epitome of evil a short while ago.
Of course the Bush administration is still capable of launching or supporting further assaults, such as the attacks Israel’s Ariel Sharon is urging on Iranian nuclear installations. But as we enter 2005, it is worth remembering that the empire is not all powerful. The resistance in Iraq and the global anti-war movement have held US forces back from storming on from Baghdad to Damascus—let alone Caracas or Havana.
And any pullout from Iraq, however it is presented, will be seen as a humiliation for the US.
REGIME BUREAUCRATS and hangers-on live it up in palaces while the mass of people suffer from a breakdown of basic infrastructure.
Such a grotesque disparity was one of the justifications for toppling Saddam Hussein that apologists for the Iraq war turned to when all the others fell apart.
Well, this one too has now bitten the dust. Auditors have accused the occupation authorities of squandering much of the $20 billion of Iraq’s wealth they seized.
What emerges, despite the authorities limiting accountants’ access, is a string of dodgy contracts, payments to US corporations and sheer corruption, the Financial Times reports.
In the last two months before the “handover” of power to the stooge interim government, the occupation authorities “sent nearly $1.8 billion over and above regular financing” to the two pro-US Kurdish factions that run the north of Iraq.
“The Kurds have refused to provide UN-mandated auditors with access to their records,” reports the paper.
“Behind the scenes, however, the Kurds have been in talks with several international banks to ship part of that money to Switzerland, guided by a Washington lobbying firm with close ties to the US Republican party.”
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