© 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The American and Iraqi people demanded that the troops be withdrawn, yet they got the opposite-a massive troop surge.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.