The news out of Iraq was more of the same this week, and the signs from Fort Monmouth, N.J., to Sydney, Australia, from the Pentagon to Rome, were that the world's people, including those in the U.S. armed forces, are fed up with the occupation.
On July 11, a bomb killed 20 Iraqis west of Baghdad who were waiting to enlist for a job with the pro-occupation army. Resistance fighters killed another 10 Iraqi troops outside Baquba in a firefight. According to the Graduate Institute of International Studies based in Geneva, Switzerland, nearly 40,000 Iraqis have been killed as a direct result of combat or armed violence since the U.S.-led invasion. Military deaths in the U.S.-led coalition forces totaled 1,937 as of July 11. (The Age, July 13)
In the south of Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr's group began a campaign among his Shiite following to gather 1 million signatures demanding the occupation troops leave Iraq. Early indications were that this drive would be successful. Meanwhile, armed resistance operations in the mostly Sunni areas and Baghdad hit a high of 700 in May, with a similar count expected for June.
With Sunni and Shiite groups both working to end the occupation, a new kind of battle was reported from Iraq. This one was between U.S. occupation troops--Marines in this case--and U.S.-hired mercenary troops or "contractors." Sixteen employees of Zapata Engineering, a security firm that gets big contracts from the U.S. government, were arrested by the U.S. Marines and charged with firing on civilians and on the Marines in Falluja.
Headed for collapse?
The signs from outside Iraq point even more to a potential collapse of U.S. imperialism's aggressive adventure. George W. Bush and Britain's Tony Blair kept proclaiming that the only thing that would defeat the U.S.-UK resolve to "stay the course" in Iraq was the loss of will at home. Their statements had a prophetic ring.
On July 6, newspapers reported that top Pentagon officers were thinking of dropping the U.S. strategy of being "able to fight two wars at the same time." This change of attitude has been imposed on them by the Iraqi resistance, which is showing that the U.S. Army can't win even one war against a guerrilla army backed by the population, even under the difficult conditions that exist for the Iraqis.
This followed an announcement from Italy's Premier Silvio Berlusconi that he would start pulling 300 of Italy's contingent from the "coalition of the willing" in September. The Italian population is strongly opposed to the government's participation in the war on Iraq and the right-wing media magnate, who faces an uphill reelection battle, is torn between his fealty to Bush and his desire to remain in office.
'Secret memo' details pullout
On July 10, the Washington Post ran an article on a "secret memo written for British Prime Minister Tony Blair by Defense Secretary John Reid," which details U.S. and British plans to withdraw most of their troops from Iraq within a year. "The paper, which is marked 'Secret -- UK Eyes Only,' said 'emerging U.S. plans assume that 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by early 2006,' allowing a reduction in overall U.S.-led forces in Iraq to 66,000 troops."
The Pentagon wouldn't verify even that such plans existed, let alone that this is the policy that has been decided on. But whoever leaked this story was giving another sign that some elements among U.S.-UK governing circles might think that "staying the course" wasn't such a good idea, and that there may soon be a sharp struggle over policy.
That same day the New York Times gave another distress signal with an editorial suggesting the Times' own plan for what the Pentagon strategy should be over the next four years. The Times wants the Pentagon to cancel two Air Force flight wings and one Navy carrier group, cut out some high-tech developments and use the money saved to recruit another 100,000 troops into the active army. The Times fears that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's plan will be completely different.
According to the Times, "recruits should be attracted by allowing enlistees to fulfill their entire service obligation through four years of active duty and ending senseless and offensive restrictions on openly gay people serving in the military and on women serving in combat." The Times, in other words, is offering working-class youth and especially women and gays equal opportunity to kill and be killed by Iraqi resistance fighters, something the Army already offers to people of color.
Anti-war resistance on the ground
While it is obvious that Rumsfeld's plan for a quick, mechanized war has ground to a halt in the sands of Iraq, the Times' plan fails to take into account the growing resistance, not only of U.S. working-class youths but also of their parents, when it comes to having anything to do with the U.S. Armed Forces.
The Pentagon this July tried to put a happy spin on its recruiting disaster. From January to May, the generals had set quotas of about 8,000 per month and recruited only about 6,000 per month. In a stroke of public-relations genius, they set the June quota at 5,600, recruited 6,100, and called it a flaming success. It's hard to say who they were fooling. On the other hand, the Army National Guard's quota was 5,032 new recruits in June, but it signed up only 4,337.
Another sign from the home front came in to Workers World from Al Strasburger in Fort Monmouth, N.J. Between 10 and 20 local anti-war activists have been holding a vigil at the fort's main gate every Saturday since soon after Bush exploited the Sept. 11, 2001, attack to declare endless war.
The slogans were "U.S. Out of the Middle East," "Israel Out of Palestine," "Bring the Troops Home Now," and No Blood for Oil." "Our 'Honk' signs have been particularly effective in recent months, with the vast majority of responses being favorable to us," writes Strasburger. "Indeed, we have clearly seen the public response go from vile and patriotic insults in 2001 to the current situation of obvious appreciation of our pickets."
U.S. sailors meet peace activists
The strongest sign came from Sydney, Australia, with one of the first examples of widespread fraternization between the anti-war movement and U.S. sailors. Three major U.S. warships were in port: the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and the guided-missile destroyers USS John Paul Jones and USS Cowpens, with a total of about 6,000 officers and sailors.
On July 7, as "a small group of peace activists conducted a candlelit vigil at the main gates of the naval base through which all service personnel coming or going passed and in full view of the bridge of the Kitty Hawk, we laid out candles in the shape of the peace symbol," writes James Courtney of Greenpeace in Australia.
"The response was moving and inspiring. We had naval personnel helping to light candles and taking photos. Many words of thanks from ships crew, some with tears welling in their eyes. We had nothing but positive feelings from the ships crew that spoke with us. We managed to hand out around 200 copies of Traveling Soldier," a U.S.-based anti-war GI newspaper. (www.traveling-soldier.org)
The demonstrators set up a data projector and sound and broadcast David Zeiger's documentary about GI resistance in the Vietnam War, "Sir! No Sir!" onto the side of a shipping container sitting beside the Kitty Hawk. "We estimate that at least 700 personnel saw some of the movie," writes Courtney, and "around 200 or so watched it for 10-15 minutes."
"We felt moved by the plight of the young men and women that we met. There was one line that we heard from many: 'Sometimes I feel that we are fighting for the wrong reason.'"