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WHY "REGIME CHANGE" IS A FIASCO (english)
by Workers World
Email: boston (nospam) workers.org
31 Jul 2003
"THEY'RE LOSING THE HEARTS AND MINDS": WHY "REGIME CHANGE"
IS A FIASCO
By Fred Goldstein
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Aug. 7, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper
"THEY'RE LOSING THE HEARTS AND MINDS": WHY "REGIME CHANGE"
IS A FIASCO
By Fred Goldstein
The Bush administration and the U.S. military high command are urgently trying to change the subject from the Iraqi quagmire to the hunt for Saddam Hussein. In this endeavor they are being aided by a round-the-clock media campaign that breathlessly reports each new set of raids, each new "waterfall" of information, and each new capture of a family member or bodyguard of Saddam.
This is a follow-up to the brutal display of the mutilated bodies of
Uday and Qusay Hussein shown over and over again on every television
news show and widely displayed in the tabloid print media. The
explanation for this display was ostensibly to convince the Iraqi people that the sons of Saddam were dead. In fact, the Bush administration made the decision--Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself publicly took personal responsibility for it--for a number of reasons.
First, it was an attempt to bolster the sagging political fortunes of
Bush as the administration was coming under increasing fire for its lies about weapons of mass destruction, especially its false claims about an Iraqi uranium purchase from the African country of Niger.
Second, it was an attempt by the right-wing group in the Pentagon headed by Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to regain the political initiative after being criticized for lack of military preparedness in dealing with the Iraqi resistance and bungling of the occupation.
And third, it was reminiscent of the Roman legions contemptuously
bringing to Rome the heads of defeated enemy leaders, or of the British colonialists putting the heads of rebels on stakes. It was an act of pure triumphal, imperialist terrorism calculated to demoralize the anti-colonial resistance fighters and their sympathizers.
For the moment, the capitalist media have allowed the death of Uday and Qusay and the hunt for Saddam to heavily compete with, if not drown out, the fact that the Pentagon reported on July 29 that the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since May 1 has reached 108, of which at least 50 are combat deaths. At least 14 were killed just in the preceding week, and many more have been wounded in the 10 to 20 attacks per day on U.S. forces.
The U.S. military has stepped up its raids and is breaking into more and more houses, brutalizing more and more people, and making more and more enemies. The military has taken thousands of prisoners in the last six weeks of continuous and escalating raids.
TASK FORCE 20 AND THE MANSUR MASSACRE
As the high command stepped up its hot pursuit after the killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein, elite soldiers from Task Force 20 massacred five civilians who were driving in the area of a raid on the house of Prince Rabiah Huhamed al-Habib's house in the wealthy Mansur district of Baghdad. Three separate cars simply driving in the area were fired on and passengers killed.
"The first vehicle to get unlucky," wrote the Guardian of July 29, "was a Chevrolet Malibu. For some reason the driver did not stop as he approached the road block and the soldiers opened fire." Two passengers returning home were killed. "Fifteen minutes later, a Toyota Corona being driven by a man called Mazin, who was disabled and walked with the aid of a frame, arrived in the area. His wife was in the passenger seat and his teenage son in the back. ... Mazin made the mistake of turning right towards the roadblock. A bullet blew the right half of his head off. ...
"The next victim...was not even driving towards the roadblock,"
continued the Guardian. "Instead, he had been traveling on a main road more than 150 yards away when he slowed down to see what the commotion was. Two bullets hit him in the chest."
Task Force 20, which carried out this massacre, is a special favorite of Rumsfeld and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers. This task force is composed of Special Forces and CIA agents. It was responsible for the massacre of a number of Iraqis killed near the Syrian border recently in a highly secretive raid that yielded nothing.
CNN and other networks have carried quick shots of raids in the middle of the night that show prisoners blindfolded, hands behind their backs, and crying women and children. Sometimes the women's mouths are taped shut to keep them from screaming.
On July 28, U.S. troops moved into Baghdad University to evict students from two of their dorms. The military said the dorms could be used for "possible attack on their nearby compound." (www.news9sanantonio.com) Troops fired shots in the air, but the students refused to move. Instead they "shouted abuse at the troops" and blocked the entrance. They were eventually pushed out after being given 20 minutes to leave by heavily armed soldiers.
This pattern of brutality, driven by the high command, is spreading and reinforcing the anti-colonial hatred of the Iraqi people. Even as the U.S. forces went to kill Uday and Qusay, they sent missiles and bullets crashing through neighboring houses, angering the local population.
'IT'S NOT ABOUT SADDAM ANYMORE'
But the White House and the Pentagon are hoping against hope that if
they can capture or kill Saddam Hussein, their problems will be over.
This is in line with their thinking that the resistance is directed by "die-hard" Baathists fighting to hold on to the past.
However, Jonathan Steele, a reporter for the London Guardian who has
been in Iraq throughout the war and the occupation, published a lengthy article on July 25 warning the U.S. imperialists. It was entitled "Resistance Has Its Roots in the Present."
"U.S. officials tend to argue that some Iraqis are hesitating to work
with them out of fear that the old regime might one day return," wrote Steele. "The deaths of its leaders will lift the curtain of fear, it is claimed.
"Conversations with Iraqis undermined this argument. It was hard to find many who seriously believed the old regime had any chance of returning to power even before the events in Mosul," he said, referring to the killing of Uday and Qusay.
What is really driving Iraqis into opposition is "disappointment at the lack of security, the collapse of public order, problems with water and electricity, fear of unemployment, as well as the indignity of seeing foreign troops on their streets," wrote Steele.
"U.S. officials seem unwilling to accept or admit this in public. It is easier to claim that the resistance comes from 'remnants of the past' than recognize that it is fueled by grievances about the present and doubts about the future."
During a July 25 radio interview conducted by Amy Goodman on Pacifica
radio's Democracy Now show, Robert Fisk, a widely read correspondent for the London Independent, talked about the aftermath of the killing of Saddam's sons.
"Everybody I spoke to today," Fisk told Goodman, "without exception,
including the most mild-mannered middle class people, including the
father of my own driver, who is a friend of mine, all said the Americans must go--they must go now. We don't accept occupational forces of this country. I noticed out at the Dora yesterday, which is a long main highway near the power station that runs along the Tigris River, a new graffiti had gone up in red paint--very close to the scene of an ambush of an American Humvee a little earlier on in the day. And it said on it, 'There are 27,000 warriors from the al-Jabura tribe--a tribe close to the clan of Saddam Hussein--who are ready to threaten and throw the Americans out of Iraq.'"
At the end of the interview with Good man, Fisk summed up: "What I saw gave me the impression that they [the U.S.] were losing the hearts and minds, not winning the hearts and minds. At the end of the day, that is what the Americans are going to deal with--a hostile population. It's not about Saddam anymore."
FLAWED CONCEPT OF 'REGIME CHANGE'
The fixation on eliminating Saddam as the ultimate solution to the
problem of stabilizing the occupation, and the illusion that this will ultimately secure Washington's colonial rule over Iraq, flows from the original flawed conception of "regime change"promoted by the right-wing neo-conservative grouping that is driving the empire-building foreign policy of the Bush administration.
The conception promoted by the Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Richard
Perle grouping, a conception which was actually embodied in the military plan, was that the use of massive air attacks directed strategically at "regime" targets and causing "shock and awe" would so terrorize the high command that the effect would be to "decapitate" the political and military structure. Generals would defect and bring over their troops. Perhaps they would assassinate Saddam in order to save their own skins.
The vast majority of the people hated Saddam, according to this theory, and, finally given the chance, would welcome the imperialist armies with open arms as liberators. The anti-Saddam masses would rise up against the government, particularly in the south. A highly mobile U.S. ground force would take the airfields, rush to Baghdad and secure the capital, while the British would march to a warm welcome in Basra. Special Forces would play the decisive role in securing the oil fields and in taking out "regime targets" based upon intelligence. The whole process would be coordinated from central command using complex computer networks.
The high-tech "precision bombing" of "regime targets" would minimize
civilian casualties, making it politically easier to occupy the country. It would also minimize damage to the infrastructure, reducing the cost of post-war reconstruction and facilitating the economic takeover.
A set of chosen political leaders would be imported to join up with
collaborators inside the country. They and a host of Iraqi elite
technicians and administrators, organized and trained by the State
Depart ment and the Pentagon, would advise in running various ministries and other public institutions revamped to serve the new colonial arrangement.
But as soon as the invasion started, so did the resistance. It took over a week to take the port of Um Qasr, a municipality of 4,000 which the U.S had expected to overrun in less than four hours. And it went that way all the way up to Karbala and beyond. As Lt. Gen. William Wallace, at that time commander of the U.S. Army's 5th Corps, which supplied the ground troops, said, "We did not war game for this" and "We had to fight every inch of the way."
A debate immediately broke out about the level of U.S. forces. Charges were hurled at Rumsfeld that he had "underestimated the number of troops needed." That was a false way to pose the question then, just as it is now, under the occupation. All the civilian and military authorities that drew up and agreed to the plan really underestimated the Iraqi masses. And that is what led them to make a run to Baghdad without securing their supply lines, having to fight their way across bridges and past towns and villages.
By the end of the invasion thousands of civilians had been killed, even though Baghdad itself was taken without a great deal of resistance. Schools, hospitals, public buildings and residential areas had been bombed or shelled from the ground. The phone system was destroyed, the electrical system was out; the water system was inoperable and fuel lines were destroyed. The infrastructure was in ruins.
REGIME VERSUS THE STATE
All the projections based upon a surgical "regime change" were up in
smoke. Despite the failure to defend Baghdad, there was no formal
surrender by anyone. Troops melted away and sections of them regrouped to organize the resistance.
As a matter of revolutionary strategy, Marxists pay close attention to the distinction between a regime and a state. In the matter of colonial conquest, this distinction turned out to be crucial for the neocons. What the U.S. imperialists found in their Iraqi adventure is that they could not simply change the government to one of their liking and reorient Iraqi society towards imperialism and "free market" capitalism. Nor could they just change the form of the existing state.
They could not simply get rid of Saddam and his close allies and then
proceed to take over the administration of Iraq using the remaining bulk of the state structure. In order to conquer Iraq they had to destroy the entire state, including not only government leaders but the military and the state administration. And they discovered that, whatever the attitude of the Iraqis toward Saddam, the vast majority are united in opposition to the U.S. occupation.
The Iraqi state as it existed before the U.S. invasion pre-dates the
regime of Saddam Hussein. Despite its many changes and the ebbs and
flows of Iraqi politics, it was based on a deep-going anti-colonial
revolution. During and after the revolution of 1958, the remnants of the old monarchy, the pro-imperialist elements tied to British and U.S. imperialists, were largely destroyed. Feudalism was rooted out and landlordism was weakened through land distributions. Above all, the natural resources, including the oil, were taken over and used for national development after decades of exploitation by British, French and U.S. oil monopolies.
This revolution took place 10 years before Saddam became president.
Despite the reactionary character of many of his domestic policies and his war against Iran, and after years of unsuccessful attempts by
Washington to undermine and overthrow him for motives that included
seizing oil and military bases and undermining the Palestinian struggle, the Iraqi state still remained the final bulwark against a U.S. takeover of the country.
The effect of the 1958 revolution, even though it remained within
capitalist confines, was to lift Iraq from the condition of dire
poverty, underdevelopment and colonial dependence to the status of
political independence under a bourgeois nationalist regime. The
revolution laid the basis for modernization, education and a rise in the standard of living of the masses after conditions of super-exploitation under British rule.
Now Washington is struggling to construct a completely new state--one
which must have some semblance of independence in order to succeed, but will, at the same time, be completely subordinate to the interests of the U.S. transnational corporations and the Pentagon. It has to do this and at the same time cultivate a broad social base in a population that is growing more hostile every day.
This is a far cry from the simple "regime change" contemplated by the
This perspective will take vast resources and a protracted, iron-fisted military occupation. Putting an end to Saddam is not going to solve these monumental problems. If the U.S. should succeed in doing away with him, it may just be the beginning of greater problems for the occupation. The forces that will continue to drive the Iraqi people to resist in larger numbers over time are deeply rooted in material conditions and historical tradition.
And, looking down the road at the empire-building plans drawn up by the Bush administration and its ruling class backers, it should be pointed out that all the other governments on the top of Wash ington's hit list are likely to pose even greater difficulties for U.S. imperialism.
The Iranian people, despite contradictions within Iranian society,
remember all too well who put the Shah on the throne in the CIA coup
d'etat of 1953 and built up the Savak secret police torture regime that enforced the rule of the U.S. military and oil companies in that
The people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea remember who
divided Korea and waged a war that killed millions, destroying every
building over one story in the country from 1950 to 1953. They still
face daily threats of renewed war from U.S. troops in the south and from the Pentagon air and naval forces, armed with nuclear weapons, that surround their country.
The same goes for the people of Cuba, whose revolution put an end to 60 years of U.S. corporate domination and poverty for the mass of the
people. They remember the tyranny of Fulgencio Batista, the U.S. puppet and butcher who enforced the rule of the U.S. sugar companies and the rest of the corporate vultures who plundered Cuba for so many years.
All these countries are the product of historically recent revolutions, socialist in the case of Cuba and the DPRK, bourgeois nationalist in the case of Iraq and Iran. None of them will simply submit to "regime change." The masses and the cadres of these countries have arms, military training and hatred of imperialism.
The Bush Doctrine of regime change (a fancy phrase for "overthrowing the government") and pre-emptive war has run into the resistance of the Iraqi people. Even if the Pentagon, through massive repression, is able to temporarily push back the resistance, it will become clear to everyone that what the U.S. administration came for is the oil and the markets and cheap labor and military bases and all the things that led the masses to throw out the British colonialists in 1958. But this time around the people are on a much higher level--culturally, technically and militarily.
While all signs are for a deepening crisis in Washington, the ruling
class has a strong tendency toward adventurism and aggression. The Bush administration may be prone to lash out and expand into a new adventure as a way of overcoming its present predicament.
But, as an experiment in empire-building, the U.S adventure in Iraq
should give pause to the ruling class. This war is bringing growing
discontent among U.S. troops, who have been thrust into a sea of
militant resistance and popular hatred. They are being forced into the role of occupation storm troopers.
Meanwhile, at home, states are going bankrupt, unemployment is rising
despite the so-called "recovery," big business is defaulting on pension plans, social services are being cut, and GIs will be coming home to gain respite from the resistance in Iraq only to find economic hardship. Such conditions can only lead to resistance and struggle by the working class, which is being forced to not only fight the imperialists' wars, but pay for them, too.
- END -
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