Declare victory and withdraw

As public pressure in both Britain and America increases for a withdrawal from Iraq, the Americans are attempting to highlight an intention to shift security responsibilities to Iraqi forces, and politicians in power in both countries are attempting to rebuild support for imperialism. A poll reported in the Independent claims that “72 per cent predict that Iraq will descend into civil war if British and American troops withdraw, 61 per cent believe Britain’s experience in Iraq makes them less likely to support military intervention, 72 per cent say that Tony Blair’s support for George Bush calls into question his political judgement, 62 per cent believe that British troops should be withdrawn from Iraq as soon as possible,” and “72 per cent believe that the war in Iraq is unwinnable.” Another poll, reported the same day in the Guardian, indicates that “[a] clear majority of voters want British troops to be pulled out of Iraq by the end of this year, regardless of the consequences for the country.” According to Reuters, “[v]oter support for Tony Blair’s Labour Party has fallen to its lowest level in nearly two decades with the Conservatives holding a strong lead.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times, in what it calls a military analysis, reports:

In trying to build support for the American strategy in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said Tuesday that the Iraqi military could be expected to take over the primary responsibility for securing the country within 12 to 18 months.

But that laudable goal seems far removed from the violence-plagued streets of Iraq’s capital, where American forces have taken the lead in trying to protect the city and American soldiers substantially outnumber Iraqi ones.

Pentagon claims of Iraqi forces’ increasing capability look good on paper, but “paint a distorted picture. When the deep-seated reluctance of many soldiers to serve outside their home regions, leaves of absence and AWOL rates are taken into account, only a portion of the Iraqi Army is readily available for duty in Baghdad and other hot spots.” The Iraqi police have been linked to sectarian killings and corruption. “The Americans know how many Iraqis have been trained to work as police officers but not how many are still on the job.”

The New York Times analysis also cites “[t]he fact that the Ministry of Defense has sent only two of the six additional battalions that American commanders have requested for Baghdad speaks volumes about the difficulty the Iraqi government has encountered in fielding a professional military. The four battalions that American commanders are still waiting for is equivalent to 2,800 soldiers, hardly a large commitment in the abstract but one that the Iraqis are still struggling to meet.” As a consequence, “The top American military commander in Iraq [Gen. George W. Casey Jr.] said Tuesday that it was possible he might need to call for an increase in American troop levels in Baghdad to reinvigorate a plan to recapture the capital’s streets from insurgents and death squads.”

The Americans are also demanding that its puppet government step up:

A copy of the timeline Mr. Khalilzad said had been agreed to by Iraqi leaders was made available to The New York Times by American officials. Entitled “national political timetable,” it sets a seven-month schedule, running from this September to March 2007, to complete a 16-point agenda on divisive issues.

But the document provides deadlines only for the Iraqis to establish the legislative and executive framework for action on the most decisive issues, not for the implementation of policies that American officials believe is urgent if the tide in the war is to be reversed.

Meanwhile, “[t]he American military command said that four more American troops had died in rebel attacks in Iraq. With a week to go, October has already become the deadliest month for American troops in 12 months and is on pace to become the third deadliest month of the conflict.” It seems increasingly likely that midterm elections will establish a Democratic Party majority in the House of Representatives. Even the Senate no longer seems safe for Republicans. According to another story in the Independent, “Iraq threatens to drag Republicans to humiliating defeat at the 7 November elections, while Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has become the latest senior Republican to turn on the White House. He said yesterday: ‘We’re on the verge of chaos.'” The BBC reports that “President Bush’s handling of the Iraq crisis has become a major issue in the elections next month for Congress, with predictions that his Republican party could lose control of the Senate and House of Representatives.” (Silly me, I thought it was all about Mark Foley.)

According to the Independent, “[a] total of 19 MPs last night had signed a cross-party motion calling for Mr Blair to put an exit strategy to a Commons vote. It was tabled by John McDonnell, the chairman of the left-wing Campaign Group of Labour MPs, which is challenging for the leadership. ‘Tony Blair is living in a different world,’ said Mr McDonnell. ‘He hasn’t got an exit strategy.’ Mr McDonnell said the only way policy could be changed was through a change of leader.” The Guardian reports that “[t]he Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, called for a parliamentary debate soon to assess whether British troops should pull out.”

The Independent predicts:

The Prime Minister will face a challenge today from backbench MPs who have scheduled a debate on the Iraq exit strategy. But it will not enable MPs to vote on the issue. “We had a debate and a vote to take us into Iraq. We should have one now to take us out,” said one Labour MP.

But Tony Blair told MPs in essence that in order to honor sacrifices already made by British troops, more must die. According to the BBC, Blair said, “To do anything else would be a complete betrayal, not only of the Iraqi people but of all the sacrifices our armed forces have made.” George Bush has rolled out the old domino theory, “warn[ing] that if the US was not successful in Iraq, extremists could use it as a base from which to try to establish a ‘radical empire from Spain to Indonesia’.”

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