Copyrighted material


by Alexander Cockburn

Even Bush Allies Oppose "Surge" of Troops in Iraq

A make-or-break speech by a beleagured American president is usually preceded by a demonstration of American might somewhere on the planet, and the run-up to Bush's address last night was no exception. The AC-130 U.S. gunship that reportedly massacred a convoy of fleeing Islamists on Somalia's southwestern border, apparently along with dozens of nomads, their families and livestock, was deployed on its mission on Sunday, to make timely newspaper headlines indicative of Bush's determination to strike at terror wherever it may lurk. Moral to nomads: When the U.S. president schedules a speech, don't herd, don't go to wedding parties, head for the nearest cave.

President Bush stuck to his expected script and said he plans to boost America's forces in Iraq by 4,000 Marines to Anbar province and five combat brigades -- 17,500 troops -- to Baghdad, in a new scheme to regain control of the city. Past strategies to do this had failed, Bush explained, because of insufficient numbers. He added ominously, "Also, there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have."

In other words, the gloves will now be off in the impending onslaught on the areas of Baghdad controlled by Muqtada al Sadr and his al-Mahdi army. In urban counter-insurgency -- the specialty of the politically agile and ambitious new U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus -- the unrestricted U.S. response to a sniper attack or a street corner ambush will be to level the block and, if necessary, the entire neighborhood, in a reprise of the destruction of much of Falluja at the end of 2004.

But Baghdad is a vast city, and the actual fighting component of the beefed up U.S. force in the whole of Iraq won't be more than 30,000 -- and probably less, so it's hard to see the new plan as anything other than stupid and cruel, destined only to deepen sectarian hatreds, and to kill, wound and render homeless very large numbers of Iraqis crammed in the slum areas -- i.e., very crowded houses -- which are Muqtada's base.

Within 10 minutes of Bush's half-hour address, Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Illinois) made an unusually spirited rebuttal on behalf of his party, saying military strategies had failed, and that it was time to bring the troops home and tell the Iraqis to figure it out for themselves. But such bluntness won't translate into the only way the Democrats could end the war, which is to refuse to OK the money to pay for it. This is something the Democrats could do, since they now control Congress.

But despite the urgings of Sen. Ted Kennedy, Rep. Jack Murtha and some others, they shirk the opportunity the voters gave them last Nov. 7. Although heavily pressured by their constituents, a majority of the Democrats in Congress dread White House accusations that to nix the funds would be to leave U.S. troops in Iraq defenseless. So instead they will contrive symbolic votes in protest against Bush's escalation, OK the money and then spend the run-up to the presidential election in 2008, piously saying, "We told you so" as the bad news and the bodies come home from Iraq. At least a dozen Republican senators, some of them expecting tight races that year, like Sen. Norman Coleman of Minnesota, were denouncing Bush's plan even before he stepped in front of the cameras to announce it.

Some 80 percent of Americans think Bush has made a hash of things in Iraq, and it's a fair bet to say that the president's speech last night won't have done much to reverse that assessment. Perhaps it was the shift of setting for his broadcast to the nation to the White House library that made the president seem uncomfortable. With the exception of Laura, the former librarian, the Bush clan is not a bookish lot. The late Brendan Gill reported that having stayed at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, he scoured the premises late one night in search of something with which to read himself to sleep and could only find "The Fart Book."

If Bush did like to get his nose into a book instead of over the handlebars of his mountain bike, he could glance at Sun Tzu, who said, avoid protracted war and attack cities as a last resort.

© Creators Syndicate

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor   January 11, 2007   (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.