- The outlines of Bush's "New Way Forward" or
"Great Leap Forward" or "Long Walk Off a Short Pier"
in Iraq is now fairly clear. It has three general thrusts: a large increase
in troop numbers; a direct assault on the forces of Motqada al-Sadr; and,
if possible, an expansion of the war beyond Iraq's borders through a military
strike on Iran.
- The troop increase is now certain (if indeed it had ever
been in doubt). In the past few days, with the nation distracted by the
Christmas holidays (and by the ever-phony and genuinely idiotic "Christmas
Wars" eating up media airtime), the Bush Faction has carried out a
quiet coup or perhaps a counterrevolutionary purge in the military
ranks. Top generals who openly opposed increasing the U.S. occupation force
in Iraq have either announced their retirements or else have been compelled
to crawl and eat their words in public recantations. (This moral cowardice
is even more remarkable when you consider how weak, stupid and deeply
unpopular is the "commander-in-chief" who has somehow overawed
these stalwart soldiers. One can only imagine that some sort of blackmail
must be involved.)
- The generals were the last possible obstacle to the war's
precipitous escalation; the national Democrats have already signaled their
willingness to countenance a "surge" (the Orwellian propaganda
term that has been adopted wholesale by the corporate media to describe
the vast expansion of the war). Even those Democrats who have appeared
to speak out against it have, almost invariably, couched their objections
in weasel-wording terms devoid of any actual oppositional content. "I
won't support a surge unless it's part of an overall plan to bring our
troops home sooner," is the standard formulation, although the "boldest"
among them will sometimes tack on a specific date: "bring our troops
home by 2008" or some such. But of course, any escalation of the war
will be presented precisely as a strategy to bring the conflict to a speedier
end; thus most Democrats will latch onto that spin and grudgingly
or enthusiastically go along. In any case, it's certain that the
Congressional Democrats will not put up a concerted, united effort against
- And so in the coming weeks, we will see anywhere from
20,000 to 40,000 more troops sent to Iraq despite the overwhelming
public sentiment against such a policy: only 11 percent of Americans support
the idea of escalation, as a new CNN poll reports. This is an astounding
level of public opposition to any government policy; I can't recall anything
like it in almost 40 years of observing American politics and studying
American history. The fact that the Bush Regime is willing to undertake
an action that 89 percent of the American people oppose and what's
more, an action that is guaranteed to cost the lives of many Americans
and many billions from the public treasury is a glaring indication
of how completely anti-democratic the Bush Faction is, and how utterly
dysfunctional the U.S. political system has become.
- So the "surge" will come. It will be used to
support an all-out assault on the militia of Iraqi nationalist cleric Motqada
al-Sadr. A brief attempt by the Bush Faction to isolate Sadr politically
by creating a bloc of so-called "moderates" in alliance
with the death squad leaders of the violent extremist Supreme Council for
the Islamic Revolution in Iraq has, as usual, failed miserably. And
it has foundered on the same stone that has wrecked most of the Administration's
political boats in Iraq: the refusal of the leading Shiite cleric in the
country, the Iranian-born Ayatollah Sistani, to cooperate with American
wishes. Sistani refused to bless any attempt to ease out Sadr and thus
split the Shiite alliance.
- His refusal is one of those "clarifying moments"
that the Bushists like to speak about in their degraded political jargon.
What they mean by that is any action that minimizes the possibility of
a non-violent solution to a political problem that is preventing them from
getting whatever they want. They love to be thwarted diplomatically
which is why all their diplomatic efforts are so lame-brained, half-hearted,
and transparently geared toward ultimate failure; they want to leave open
at all times an excuse for military action, which is the only way
of "projecting power" that these primitives understand. (Yet
they and their sycophants endlessly repeat the racist trope that it is
the Arabs who "only understand force." Here, as in so much else
such as their constant condemnations of "terrorist violence"
by these state terrorists who have murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent
people we see the principle of projection at work, on a massive and
- Sistani's refusal gives the Bushists the "justification"
they have craved for launching the attack on Sadr's forces. In the past
months, we have seen them slowly and methodically build up Sadr as the
new embodiment of all evil in Iraq. Get rid of Sadr, and the milk and honey
(and oil leases) will flow at last in the beleaguered land. We have of
course heard this storyline before; in fact, it is the only storyline we
ever hear. Get rid of Zarqawi, and the insurgency will die; conquer Fallujah
and the insurgency will die; capture Saddam and the insurgency will die;
kill Uday and the insurgency will die. If Sadr is killed or captured, there
will no doubt be another embodiment of all evil in Iraq coming down the
PR pike in short order. (Perhaps Sistani himself will eventually be fitted
for the horns.)
- Sadr is no sweetheart, of course; he is entirely representative
of the violent, obscurant, religious extremism that Bush has empowered
throughout most of Iraq with his war of aggression. Yet he is also supported
by millions of Iraqis for whom his organization provides many of the social
support function and basic human needs that the Bush-installed government
cannot provide. He has an army of tens of thousands, which can no doubt
be overcome militarily, eventually, but only in a Pyrrhic victory that
will leave even more of Iraq a moonscape of ruin and raging hatred.
- An assault on Sadr could also trigger Shiite uprisings
across the Middle East. But here we must realize that this is not a black
mark against the plan in the Bush Faction's eyes. For it seems clear that
an expansion of the war is very much part of the "New Way Forward."
Indeed, many of the most rabid neocons have long talked openly of their
hopes for a Shiite uprising in Saudi Arabia that would split the kingdom
and in their fantastical dreams give the US direct control
over the Saudi oil fields, that now lie primarily in Shiite regions. (Yes,
these stunted intellects actually believe that grateful Saudi Shiites will
turn over the world's richest oilfields to their American "benefactors.")
- But beyond those fond wishes, there is the more pressing
matter of Iran. Once again under the cover of Christmas, the Bush Faction
has taken a series of steps in the past few days to increase the pressure
on Tehran exponentially. They have wrung an entirely toothless and pointless
"sanctions" measure out the UN Security Council that will have
no effect whatsoever on Iran's nuclear program but will act as an
international slap in the face that the Bushists hope will goad the Iranians
into some drastic action. In like manner, the Pentagon has sent more ships
to the Persian Gulf, to float menacingly off Iran's coast again,
in hopes of provoking some sort of incident from Tehran.
- A Christmas Eve story in the New York Times makes this
strategy of provocation even more explicit. It is a very curious piece
whose only real news value is in what it tells us from between the lines.
The Times reports that:
- The American military is holding at least four Iranians
in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials,
who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected
of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi
and American officials in Baghdad and Washington.
- It was unclear what kind of evidence American officials
possessed that the Iranians were planning attacks, and the officials would
not identify those being held. One official said that "a lot of material"
was seized in the raid, but would not say if it included arms or documents
that pointed to planning for attacks. Much of the material was still being
examined, the official said.
- Nonetheless, the two raids, in central Baghdad, have
deeply upset Iraqi government officials, who have been making strenuous
efforts to engage Iran on matters of security. At least two of the Iranians
were in this country on an invitation extended by Iraq's president, Jalal
Talabani, during a visit to Tehran earlier this month. It was particularly
awkward for the Iraqis that one of the raids took place in the Baghdad
compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq's most powerful Shiite leaders,
who traveled to Washington three weeks ago to meet President Bush.
- [Yes, but death-squadder Hakim was a prime mover in the
"moderate coalition" gambit; now that Sistani has killed that
initiative, there's no need to mollycoddle Hakim. He can be roughed up
like all the rest of the darkies.]
- American and Iraqi officials have long accused Iran of
interfering in this country's internal affairs [the irony here is way beyond
comment CF], but have rarely produced evidence. The administration
presented last week's arrests as a potential confirmation of the linkThe
United States is now holding, apparently for the first time, Iranians who
it suspects of planning attacks. One senior administration official said,
"This is going to be a tense but clarifying moment."
- And here we're back to the "clarifying moment"
to be banked as an excuse for a military strike on Iran when necessary.
Bush is here using the same strategy that he suggested to Tony Blair in
the run-up to the Iraq invasion: "Let's paint some US planes in UN
colors, fly 'em over Iraq and see if Saddam will shoot 'em down."
This, Bush suggested, would give the two self-proclaimed Christian statesman
the "smoking gun" they needed to launch their long-planned invasion.
The two Christianists were at that time in the midst of a months-long intensive
bombing campaign against Iraq yes, before the war which was
also designed, in part, to provoke a "clarifying moment" out
of Saddam. As we know, Saddam refused to take the bait and they had
to launch the aggression without even a shred of sham legality.
- What the Bush Faction is clearly hoping for with this
latest series of provocations against Iran is that Tehran will be so unnerved
by Bush's he-man muscles that they will lash out in some fashion. (Preferably
by killing Americans somewhere; that would be the best-case scenario to
Bush and Cheney. They thrive on the "clarification" that dead
Americans gives them.) Here again we have a case of mental lightweights
in the throes of projection. The Bushists lash out in knee-jerk fashion
when they feel put upon or provoked, even if the lashing is not in their
best interests; therefore they ignorantly assume that everyone else does
too. This mindset is also part of the background to the impending assault
on Sadr. His Mahdi Army launched two separate uprisings against the U.S.
occupation in 2004, yet not only is he still walking free, he has become
the keystone of the Bush-backed Iraqi government; without his support,
the present government will fall. His very presence is a standing reproach
to Bush, it insults his ever-shaky manhood. And so, even though a military
assault on Sadr will plunge Iraq even deeper into hell and probably
increase the risk of terrorist attacks on Americans from angry Shiite radicals
Bush will go ahead with the policy anyway. That's not the only reason
for the strategy, of course (although it is murderously stupid from every
angle); but it's certainly a factor in the thinking of the "Decider"
as the "New Way Forward" is finalized.
- But Iran's leaders the real leaders, not the herky-jerky
blusterer now serving as the nation's president, who has, Bush-like, just
been slapped down by his own electorate in local elections are not
as stupid as Bush and his minions. They are not likely to give Bush an
excuse to attack their country and kill hundreds or thousands of their
people. So in the end, if Bush wants to strike Iran, he will have to do
so unilaterally, with either the flimsiest of pretexts or with cooked intelligence,
as in the Iraq invasion (or why not be bipartisan? with outright
lies about an Iranian attack, à la the "Gulf of Tonkin incident").
- And so there we have Bush's "Great Leap Forward."
The first two prongs of this strategy seem guaranteed: there will be an
escalation of the war and an attack on Sadr. The third thrust expanding
the war beyond Iraq seems increasingly likely, but perhaps, at the
moment, more of an option to be held in reserve, to be brought out when
the first two elements inevitably begin to fail and there is, finally,
nothing left for them to do but shoot the moon and see what happens.
- Yes, they are that stupid. Yes, they are that criminally
reckless. And no, they don't care how many American soldiers will be slaughtered
in the process not to mention (which they never do) the countless
Iraqi and Iranian and American civilians who will be killed
in direct assaults and the inevitable, generations-long blowback.
- It looks like 2007 will be one of those what's
the word? clarifying moments, all right.
- Chris Floyd is the author of Empire
Burlesque: The Secret History of the Bush Regime.