“Withdrawal” Plan Paves Way To Escalation Of Iraq War
By Bill Van Auken
10 March, 2007
of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic congressional leaders
unveiled a toothless plan Thursday that they claim would result in the
withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq a year and a half from now.
The main purpose of this political exercise, however, is to unite the
party behind supplemental funding legislation that will provide at least
$100 billion more to pay for the escalation of the illegal war and occupation
that has been waged by Washington for the past four years.
The stated aim of the Democratic
leadership is to “unify” the party’s congressional
caucus behind a “consensus” position. The instrument for
doing this has been crafted to allow the Democrats to posture as opponents
of the Iraq war, while providing the Bush White House with both the
money and the unrestricted power to continue it.
The measure, which represents
the watering down of already watered-down proposals to indirectly limit
the powers of the Bush White House in waging the war, comes only three
weeks after the House Democrats passed a symbolic, nonbinding resolution
opposing the administration’s “surge,” which involves
the deployment of at least 26,000 more US troops in a security crackdown
In essence, this new legislation
is just as nonbinding, when it comes to tying the hands of the administration,
but it will be anything but symbolic in its provision of funds for the
surge that the Democrats ostensibly oppose, sending more US troops to
kill and be killed in the dirty colonial war that is being waged against
the Iraqi people.
The plan announced by the
Democrats would require Bush to certify to Congress on July 1 and again
on October 1 that the Iraqi government is making progress in achieving
the “benchmarks” that the US president himself laid out
in his January speech announcing the escalation of the US intervention.
Why anyone would accept the administration’s word on the supposed
progress was not explained. Bush called the situation in Iraq “encouraging”
Tuesday, amid news of horrific bombings that left hundreds of Iraqis
dead and attacks that claimed the lives of at least 13 more US soldiers
Given that Bush claims progress
is being made, the Democratic plan would call for US combat troops to
begin “redeploying” by March 1, 2008 and complete withdrawal
by September 1 of next year. Given present casualty rates—which
are expected to rise significantly with the new counterinsurgency operation
in Baghdad—this would mean approximately 1,500 more American soldiers
killed, and many times more Iraqis.
Supposedly, if the benchmarks—which
include Iraqi forces taking responsibility for security and the government
in Baghdad enacting legislation opening up Iraq’s oil reserves
for exploitation—are not achieved, the deadlines for withdrawal
would be moved up.
As the Wall Street Journal
noted, the proposed legislation would give the administration “a
relatively free hand to increase US forces in Iraq.” The paper
added, “The crucial language, threatening an earlier withdrawal,
appears more of a policy statement than a strict use of the power of
the purse, because the funding bill itself runs out Sept. 30,”
well before any of the so-called “deadlines” for troop withdrawal
go into effect.
The plan also took out what
little teeth remained in a proposal, associated with Representative
John Murtha (Democrat, Pennsylvania), that would have required the Pentagon
to fully abide by readiness and training standards. This measure would
ostensibly have barred the redeployment of units that lacked mandated
training, equipment and recuperation, and precluded extending deployment
of Army and Marine units for more than 365 and 210 days respectively.
The result would have been to prevent the escalation of the war, as
the military does not have enough units that are adequately trained,
equipped and rested for deployment in Iraq.
The final plan, however,
grants Bush the power to issue waivers of these standards if he deems
it in the “national interest.” The effect of this change
is not to put any roadblock in the way of the administration’s
plan to send five additional combat brigades to the Iraqi capital over
the next few months.
Moreover, the bottom line
of the proposed Democratic legislation is that it does not call for
a complete withdrawal of US occupation forces from Iraq under any circumstances.
Rather, it would leave tens of thousands of American soldiers behind
under various pretexts: training Iraqi forces, conducting the “war
on terror,” and protecting American facilities, including a massive
new embassy. The real purpose of their continued presence would be to
assert the dominance of American energy conglomerates over Iraq’s
lucrative oil fields.
A call for escalating the Afghanistan intervention
It is significant that the
Democratic leadership felt compelled to cloak even this mealy-mouthed
proposal in the language of robust militarism. Pelosi and other congressional
Democrats presented their plan for withdrawing US troops from Iraq as
a means of escalating the intervention in Afghanistan, where stepped-up
US attacks have claimed the lives of dozens of civilians in the past
“Only then can we refocus
our military efforts on Afghanistan to the extent that we must,”
said Pelosi, in calling for passage of the legislation. Representative
David Obey (Wisconsin), the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations
Committee, added that the proposal “will essentially redirect
more of our resources to the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in
Afghanistan, fighting the right war in the right place against the people
who attacked us and who are giving Al Qaeda sanctuary.”
The Democratic proposal would
add $1.2 billion to Bush’s request for supplemental funds in order
to provide for an escalation of the US intervention in Afghanistan.
On the eve of the Democrats’
announcement, the Pentagon revealed plans for augmenting the “surge”
with thousands more American troops. Defense Secretary Robert Gates
announced on Wednesday that the Pentagon has approved a request to send
an additional 2,200 military police to Iraq. This force has been requested
by American commanders in anticipation of the mass roundup and imprisonment
of Iraqis, creating a host of new Abu Ghraibs throughout the country.
These additional troops come
on top of the 21,500 combat troops that Bush announced he was sending
in January. Another 2,400 support troops are being sent, and Deputy
Defense Secretary Gordon England told a House Budget Committee hearing
Tuesday that that number could rise to 7,000, adding billions of dollars
more to the cost of the war.
Meanwhile, the senior US
commanders in Iraq made it clear that the “surge” announced
by Bush in January is anything but temporary. Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno,
the commanding officer of ground troops in Iraq, indicted that the escalation
force would have to continue for a full year to achieve its goals. Gen.
David Petraeus, the commander of all US forces in the country, echoed
this assessment in press briefing Thursday, declaring, “If you’re
going to achieve the kinds of effects that we probably need, than it
would need to be sustained certainly for some time well beyond the summer.”
He also was careful not to rule out the prospect of an even greater
number of combat troops being deployed in the country.
The media, including most
liberal commentators, have chosen to focus on the internal wrangling
within the Democratic Party, presenting Pelosi’s proposal as a
kind of balancing act between a supposedly militant antiwar faction
and so-called “Blue Dog” Democrats, who cannot bear to be
seen challenging the president as “commander-in-chief.”
While no doubt the Democratic
Party is sharply divided, the essence of this conflict is not between
different shades of opinion on Capitol Hill. Rather, it is between the
party leadership as a whole, which reflects the determination of predominant
layers within the ruling elite to achieve the original goals of the
Iraq war—the domination of the region and its oil wealth—and
the vast majority of those who voted for the party last November, who
want an immediate end to the war and the withdrawal of all US troops.
It is this contradiction
that underlies the appearance of weakness, perplexity and indecision
that pervades the Democrats’ every action, despite the overwhelming
victory that the party achieved in the midterm election.
Congress is controlled by
two right-wing parties controlled by big business, both of which supported
the invasion of Iraq. The Democrats, however, have attempted to appeal
to a constituency that is overwhelmingly against the war, exploiting
hostility to Bush, while supporting the fundamental strategic aims that
his administration pursued in launching this war. The Democratic Party,
as its leaders continuously reiterate, remains committed to “success”
in Iraq, a concept that implies the suppression of Iraqi resistance
to US semi-colonial domination.
This is the essential political
reality that underlies the Democrats’ phony claim that intractable
constitutional dilemmas preclude them from cutting off funding for the
war—though Congress has done precisely that in a number of previous
overseas US interventions—and the assertions like that of Michigan’s
Democratic Senator Carl Levin that to cut off funding would be the “wrong
thing to do morally in terms of the message it sends to the troops,”
when the message would be a plane ride home.
It is neither the Constitution
nor troop morale that explain the Democrats’ refusal to mount
a serious challenge to the war, but rather the geo-strategic aims of
American imperialism and the profit interests of the US-based energy
corporations and banks.
The so-called Out of Iraq
caucus, which includes California Democratic Representatives Maxine
Waters, Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, is in the final analysis a left
prop for a thoroughly reactionary, pro-war party. Their criticism of
the Democratic leadership serves not to shift the party to the left,
but rather to feed the illusions of sections of the protest movement
that in turn promote the idea that the Democratic Party can serve as
a shortcut in the struggle against war.
According to press reports,
Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership are considering allowing
this caucus to bring their amendment calling for the withdrawal of US
troops by the end of this year to a vote as a means of letting off steam.
In return, they would expect caucus members to join fellow Democrats
in approving the increased war funding.
The struggle to end the Iraq
war and to prevent even bloodier interventions already being planned
can only be successfully waged through the building of a mass movement
based upon working people and youth that is completely independent of
the Congress, the Democratic Party and all of its factions. Such a movement
must be built on the demands for the unconditional and immediate withdrawal
of all US troops from Iraq and for all those responsible for launching
this war to be held politically and criminally responsible.