Bush’s ‘surge’ and the lessons of Vietnam
By Fred Goldstein
Jan 17, 2007, 11:08
The following is excerpted from a talk given by Fred Goldstein — Workers World newspaper contributing editor and Workers World Party (WWP) Secretariat member—at a Jan. 12 WWP forum in New York. The podcast of the entire speech is available for listening at www.workers.org.
I can’t resist opening up about something that seems so obvious: capitalist democracy is democracy for the imperialists.
Everybody knows that the vast sentiment of the people in the election was to get the troops out of Iraq. That’s how the Democrats swept in. But apparently the majority of the ruling class has not come to that conclusion yet. So in spite of the fact that the latest polls show that 67 percent of the people are against sending the troops in, this escalation, and 30 percent of the people are strongly against it, it’s proceeding as the Bush administration is planning it.
That’s why Lenin said that capitalist democracy is the best shell for hiding the capitalist class. It allows the people to have the feeling that they have a say in the matter when actually it’s the capitalists and the imperialists who pull all the strings.
I would like to read to you something about Bush’s troop escalation announcement by an eminent imperialist strategist—Zbigniew Brzezinski—who is a reactionary, an anticommunist in every cell of his body, and who was the architect of the Afghanistan counter-revolution.
In an [op-ed column] in the Jan. 12 Washington Post entitled, “Five Flaws in the President’s Plan,” he wrote, “The speech reflects a profound misunderstanding of our era. America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq. But the age of colonialism is over. Waging a colonial war in the post-colonial age is self-defeating. That is the fatal flaw of Bush’s policy.”
Well, it’s rare when we agree, not only with the substance of what an imperialist strategist says, but with the formulations. It’s very rare that someone like this speaks truth, class truth, to say this is a colonial war.
There’s a lot more he didn’t say: It’s a war for oil, for bases, for strategic position. But the fact that he would say something so stark shows a level of fear and desperation on his part—high anxiety, you might say.
This phrase is meant to throw a block in the way of Bush and his grouping and say, “Stop, stop.” But Bush isn’t about to listen.
It is the agony of imperialism, U.S. imperialism, that they cannot leave and they cannot stay.
But the temptation is to take another shot at it, to find a way to keep from having a huge strategic defeat. What the Bush administration is doing is buying time. We don’t know if they have a plan for a lot more troops. They’re fully committed and they have something up their sleeve.
Losing hearts and minds
All the Pentagon commanders in Iraq were required to watch the movie “Battle of Algiers” in the early stages of the war, because it showed that no amount of torture, military repression, kicking down doors, going into neighborhoods, isolating them, worked once you lost the population and they were ready to fight to the end on an anti-colonial basis.
The Pentagon had the same experience in Vietnam. They had “pacification” programs, strategic hamlets, tiger cages, torture. They had the Phoenix Program where they assassinated 15,000 cadres, presumably of the National Liberation Front. But they lost the population because they were fighting a colonial war.
The new commander in Iraq, Gen. [David] Petraeus, is the great hero of the military establishment because he brought “counterinsurgency” up to date. He wrote the post-Vietnam manual for Iraq. Some of the things he wrote sound good on paper, like that the number one mistake is overemphasizing killing and capturing the enemy, rather than securing and engaging the populace.
Yet only the other day, the Pentagon sent F-16s and Black Hawk helicopters right into Baghdad and pulverized a neighborhood. And they’re about to send soldiers into 22 neighborhoods to break down doors. They have A-10 fighter planes that shoot 5,000 rounds [a minute] that they used in Fallujah and in Baghdad.
What happened to Petraeus’s doctrine? They already tore it up. They’re planning to succumb to the temptation of going in after having been straight-jacketed by Rumsfeld—this is the way they look at it. Rumsfeld was fired because he wanted to stay in Iraq and he didn’t want to escalate the war.
Factions in the military who were straining at the bit to send in more troops have regained some of their command authority. These are the forces that Bush is relying on. He’s got very little support elsewhere.
Read the rest here.