A people’s strategy against perpetual war

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Challenging the bipartisan imperialist consensus

On the outset of the invasion of Iraq, I sat strapped in a cargo plane that swooped through the night sky dodging anti-aircraft guns. As we sat in darkness, not knowing if we would ever reach the ground, we suddenly dropped quickly from the air and slammed hard against a makeshift runway. Our plane was the first to land in the north. Our mission was to get in quickly, take the required territory and be relieved by heavy armor.

As we took our first steps on Iraqi soil, we expected to get back on a plane and leave within two months. Month by month, our deployment was extended. We read of the overwhelming military defeat across the country, and wrote home to our families that we would see them soon. We began to pack our bags as we watched the president declare the “mission accomplished,” expecting our return orders to come any day. We watched the blazing summer come and go, just trying to get through one more month.

We grew bitter as we ate a Thanksgiving dinner of macaroni and stale bread as the president smiled for photos in Baghdad holding a giant fake turkey. We spent the day dodging bullets when Saddam Hussein was captured, thinking maybe-just maybe-it was finally over. Even as we strapped back into a cargo plane a year after we landed, we expected to circle right back and continue to watch the months pass through a rifle sight. This was a reality for some; many in my unit were sent back within two months of returning home. Anyone who could not find a way to get out of the army was stop-lossed and sent back for at least one more tour.

Essentially, my year of watching the months pass represents the Iraq war as a whole-thinking it was going to end, but seeing only an increase in the size and brutality of the occupation. With the “end of major combat operations” declared in the early months of the war, we saw all-out sieges on Fallujah, Basra and other cities where the Iraqi people had stood up to the occupiers.

The American and Iraqi people demanded that the troops be withdrawn, yet they got the opposite-a massive troop surge. The surge, sold to the public as a temporary measure to bring an end to the war, has served as a justification to keep the number of soldiers in Iraq well above pre-surge levels. Furthermore, the number of U.S. soldiers occupying Iraq has been supplemented by private mercenaries, paid generously by the Pentagon to terrorize Iraqis with no legal consequences.

To ring in the New Year-the fifth of the occupation-2008 began with the war’s largest bombing campaign on one of Baghdad’s most populous suburbs. Month by month, the body count rises and the imperialist occupation of Iraq deepens.

Why not just vote for change?

In 2006, the masses of American people opposed to the war put their hopes in the Democratic Party, handing it control of Congress in what was widely understood as a vote against the war. Since then, funding for the war has continued to flow unimpeded and General Petraeus and the Bush administration have continued on their destructive warpath. In June alone, Congress approved $165 billion to fund the war without restrictions.

Now, many who still fail to recognize the true loyalties of the Democratic Party have thrown their support behind another Democrat posing as an anti-war candidate. Barack Obama, who began his campaign promising a total withdrawal from Iraq within 16 months-simultaneously pledging imperialist intervention elsewhere in the Middle East-has also begun to shift his position to prolong the occupation.

Obama now promises, using ambiguous language, to remove “U.S. combat troops” from Iraq. “Combat troops” do not include residual forces such as “counterterrorism” units, military training personnel and force protection units. Nor does it include private contractors and mercenaries, which number over 180,000.

Obama’s Iraq policy co-coordinator, Colin Kahl, advocates a residual force of up to 80,000 U.S. troops. Obama advocates a “careful” withdrawal, essentially subject to the advice of military commanders. General Petraeus, widely known for promoting a massive, brutal and indefinite occupation of Iraq, has Obama’s full support as the new commander of the U.S. Central Command. This position gives General Petraeus full control over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as all U.S. military operations in the Middle East, East Africa, and Central Asia.

Those who believe that they can “vote for change” will be voting for a slightly modified imperialist policy.

Charting an independent path

The reality is that the war against Iraq will continue unabated. This is glaringly evident in the new security agreement now being forced upon the Iraqi people. Keeping with the trend of further entrenching and increasing the occupation while the Iraqi masses are demanding an end to it, the security deal will guarantee the U.S. military 58 permanent military bases in Iraq-nearly double the current number-while once the public was assured that there would be no permanent military bases.

The security plan will strip Iraq of whatever sovereignty it has left, cementing its de facto status as a U.S. colony. It will give Washington control over Iraqi airspace and the ability to use Iraq as a staging ground for military attacks elsewhere in the region. It will grant U.S. troops and private contractors full immunity from Iraqi law, giving them the right to raid any house and to arrest and interrogate Iraqi citizens without permission from the Iraqi government

Not only does the security plan demonstrate the U.S. government’s determination to forever control Iraq, it sets the stage for further conquest in the Middle East.

There is no doubt that, if politicians in Washington get their way, the war will continue for years to come. Months will pass as they debate the complexities of the war and develop new strategies aimed at giving the appearance that the end is just around the corner. Months will pass and the lives of Iraqis will continue to be destroyed and soldiers will continue to strap into cargo planes only to be snuck home at night in flag-draped coffins.

The plan to permanently occupy and terrorize Iraq is staring us in the face. We cannot vote for change; change will come the way it always does in society-through the efforts of a dedicated, militant mass movement against the heinous crimes of those who claim to represent us. Without such a movement, the imperialist plans for the Middle East will stay on course, and war will be a permanent reality.

The author is an Iraq war veteran and the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s congressional candidate in Florida’s 22nd District. Click here to read more about his campaign. Click here to read more about other PSL candidates running in local and national elections.

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copyright © 2008. Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

In the first 90 days of 2008 the United States reports 103 troop deaths in Iraq.  Since the invasion we have commemorated the 5th anniversary we have commemorated 5 years and more than 4000 soldiers lost.  Today we hear of costs near $12 billion per month and estimates of $3 trillion overall before all is said and done.  

Meanwhile our mainstream media continues to play down the ongoing failure with barely a mention any more of the deaths let alone stories of the families and friends left behind.  The death count also fails to reflect the numbers of US contractors killed in country.  No mention is made of the many thousands of life altering injuries such as limbs or eyes lost.  Nor do we hear much of the many minds broken beyond repair.  Suicides related to service time are also not counted and often not mentioned.  Coalition losses are not counted in the total.  The Iraqi losses count many thousands more, yet those are dismissed often without a thought.  Every death rends the fabric of humanity a bit more.





activefree, Flickr, Creative Commons



Recent news of increasing violence in Basra is characterized by President Bush as a “defining moment” for the Iraqi forces.  The time is defining alright, but not in the way Bush meant.  US and British troops are being put back into the fray once again.  There are increasing reports of US air attacks in which civilians are killed.  Bombing a populated area always results in casualties among the innocent.

While the ground war continues day by day and our losses mount, the insanity of Guantanamo Bay continues.  Several hundred detainees remain confined in legal limbo.  While the military would have us believe the prisoners are held in relative comfort





US Navy, public domain

we know better.  Reports of abuse may be found most any day.  Justice is a fleeting hope for the detainees as the only court on the horizon is a military proceeding in which the rules of evidence favor the prosecution.  We know the prisoners spend their days in shackles.





US Navy, public domain

Even transport for medical reasons or for exercise may result in the shackling of a detainee.





US Navy, public domain



US Navy, public domain

Razor wire surrounds the compound.





US Navy, public domain

Pictures of Camp Delta suggest conditions far removed from the reality we know exists today.





www.bloomberg.com



US Navy, public domain

In 1970 I came home right off the helicopter pads of Vietnam only a few days out of the field.  I came home a changed person.  In 1967 I enlisted in the US Army filled with the patriotic vigor only the young seem to possess.  I came home well aware of the terrible tragedy war represents.  I saw first hand how war affects the people on both sides as well as the havoc wreaked across the land.  Since those days I have stood firm in my opposition to war for almost all reasons.  Today I stand opposed to the ongoing occupation of Iraq with every fiber of my physical and moral being.  The costs are far too high in both dollars and blood.  We as a nation can ill afford to continue one more day let alone the years predicted by most in the administration.

Today the reaction of the public in our nation reminds me of a line from a song

a nation blinded by its disgrace

Today I am ashamed of my country’s actions.  Recent years have seen a drift in this nation our Founders would never have imagined.  We have watched the atrocities of Abu Ghraib along with the aforementioned Guantanamo Bay and all the damage done in Iraq.  And yet we as a nation continue to survive.





CID image

Is there any hope for us?  Of course there is.  So long as good people stand to fight the good fight our nation will survive this trauma the same way we have survived so many past times of trial and tribulation.

How are we to resolve the morass?  We must withdraw ALL our troops from Iraq.  The Iraqi people do not wish our presence to continue.  The international community does not support our continued occupation.  The time has come to end the occupation and let diplomatic maneuvers replace military force.  We must act to bring stability to the entire region through the cooperation of all nations around the globe.  We stand to be much more successful if we use the carrot rather than the stick approach.

If we withdraw will there be blood shed in Iraq?  Of course.  Will the situation be made worse than the one we see today?  Maybe or maybe not.  Who can predict that future?  The one indisputable fact remains the longer we continue as an occupying force the higher the cost to our nation.

We who believe the war is wrong headed must stand steadfast in our opposition.  The blind stubbornness of the administration will ruin our nation forever if we fail to fight.  We cannot afford to lose this one.  There is no room for failure.

Out the door, people.  Hit the streets.  Talk to every person you encounter.  Tell everyone you can corner the truth.  Show them the images of war and of Guantanamo.  Let them see the facts for a change.  It is only by our continued action and ongoing protest that we stand to win in the end.  

Peace to one and all.

Please remember I am running for Congress, DE-AL.  Please check out the website and consider a contribution  Your help is needed for the effort to succeed.  Contributions of all sorts, both moral and monetary are most appreciated.