Washington's Wars and Occupations

4-25-06, 8:58 am

Month in Review #12 War Times/Tiempo de Guerras


April's grassroots outpouring for immigrant rights has reminded the country that there's nothing like millions of people in the street to shake up U.S. politics.

At the end of March the only question in Washington's 'immigration reform' debate seemed to be whether a final bill would be horrible, terrible, or worse. Then hundreds of thousands, overwhelmingly Latinos, took to the streets in Chicago, soon followed by half a million in Los Angeles and the same number in Dallas, 200,000 in Washington D.C., tens of thousands in many other cities, and on down to 3,000 in Garden City, Kansas (population 30,000).

Within a week the political debate over immigration was transformed. The previously likely passage of 'make-every-undocumented-immigrant-a-felon' provisions was stopped in its tracks. Other draconian measures have been at least temporarily stalled. The fight is still on as the aroused Latino population, Asian American and other immigrant communities, and their allies demand fairness and genuine legalization for all. The next big mobilizations are planned for May 1. (Go to http://www.nnirr.org for information about pending legislation and the movement's demands, and check with local immigrant rights coalitions for actions in your area May 1. The demand for immigrant rights is also incorporated into the call for the antiwar movement's main upcoming mobilization, the April 29 March for Peace, Justice and Democracy - go to http://www.april29.org for full information.)

The threat of intensified racism and repression is not confined to backward bills in Congress. Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff announced April 20 that the government was kicking off a 'more aggressive federal immigration enforcement campaign' amid the arrests of more than 1,000 undocumented workers. Chertoff said the government will use techniques similar to those used to 'shut down the mob,' adding that 'we use all of the tools we have - whether it's criminal enforcement or the immigration laws - to make sure we come down as hard as possible.'

The needed response: All out May 1, and April 29 in New York, and beyond!


George Bush sent another one of his swaggering messages April 18. The President refused to rule out a nuclear strike against Iran, declaring that 'all options remain on the table.'

Bush's warning followed publication of a New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh (Apr. 17) which detailed U.S. preparations for a possible attack: 'The Bush administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. There is a growing conviction among members of the U.S. military, and in the international community, that President Bush's ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change.'

Former U.N. Arms Inspection Team head Scott Ritter underscored Hersh's point April 18: 'The 2002 national security strategy - which the Bush administration used as a blueprint for its policy of....regional transformation in the Middle East - only mentioned Iraq once, and yet it was used to set forth the events that led to the invasion of Iraq. The 2006 version mentions Iran 16 times as the No. 1 threat to the security of the U.S. And it does not reject a preemptive war of aggression. In fact, it embraces it...

'That's why when I speak of Iran, I say be careful of falling into the trap of nonproliferation, disarmament, weapons of mass destruction. This is a smokescreen. The Bush administration does not have policy of disarmament vis-a-vis Iran. If we had a policy of disarmament, we would have engaged in unilateral or bilateral discussions with the Iranians a long time ago. But we put that off the table because we have no desire to resolve the situation.... They have a policy of regime change. It's the exact replay of the game plan used for Iraq...'

Voices across the political spectrum are shouting that any attack on Iran would be a disaster. Atlantic Monthly editor James Fallows revealed that the magazine had sponsored a mock war-game under the guidance of Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who had conducted many real-world war games for the Pentagon. Fallows said the unanimous conclusion was that any such attack would be 'ruinously self-defeating.' Even Iraq war-hawk Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times (Apr. 19) that he would prefer to see a nuclear armed Iran than watch the Bush administration unleash another war.

But everyone is asking: will the White House be crazy enough to do it anyway?


U.S. media coverage of Iraq lately has centered on the political maneuvering to form a new government. What does not get the attention it deserves is the rapid deterioration of day-to-day life for the Iraqi people. The monthly food ration has been sharply cut: it now provides only four basic items, as opposed to twelve under Saddam. The price of lentils, now removed from the ration, has quadrupled since 2002. The price of vegetables and grains doubled in January and is steadily increasing. The food ration budget has been cut by 25%, due to austerity measures being pushed by the U.S., directly and through the IMF.

British journalist Patrick Cockburn, writing from Baghdad in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Apr. 11), cut to the chase. Under the headline 'Situation in Iraq Could Not Be Worse' Cockburn wrote:

'I have never seen the situation so grim....In March alone, the U.S. military said 1,313 people were killed in sectarian attacks. Many bodies, buried in pits or thrown in the rivers, are never found. The real figure is probably twice as high. All over the country people are on the move as Sunnis and Shiites flee each other's areas....The capture of Saddam in 2003, the handover of sovereignty in 2004, the elections and new constitution in 2005 - all have been oversold to the outside world as signs of progress... Instead Iraq has become the most dangerous place in the world.'

An internal staff report by the United States Embassy and the military command in Baghdad released (quietly) April 9 confirmed the horrible state of affairs. And a report prepared by 125 NGO's released in Karbala April 20 says that 19,548 persons have been kidnapped in Iraq since the beginning of 2006, and 15,462 persons have been wounded.


A U.N. report issued April 20 warned of an intensified 'humanitarian emergency' facing Palestinians. The crisis stems from the Israeli government's refusal to hand over taxes collected for and due to the Palestine Authority now that Hamas is in office, combined with the Western cutoff of aid in the wake of Hamas' election victory. All this on top of what the U.N. called 'restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement, military operations, land confiscation and leveling, and the construction of the Barrier.'

The Israeli hard line, backed by Washington and European governments, is supposedly a response to Hamas' unwillingness to recognize the state of Israel and renounce violence. But the U.S. is not cutting off any of its $3 billion-plus per year aid to Israel because Israel is illegally occupying Palestinian land, illegally building a so-called 'Separation Wall' through Palestinian territory, and stonewalling on the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes even though Israel itself once accepted U.N. Resolution 194 affirming the Palestinian right of return.

Likewise, the April 17 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv drew international condemnation - but Washington and the European powers have not raised their voice against Israel's daily shelling of civilian population centers in Gaza. This last month alone, Israeli forces have killed more than 30 Palestinians, including at least six children, and injured 130 others, while about 200 shells have been fired into the Gaza Strip every day.


More unpopular than ever, the Bush administration is feeling the strain. A parade of retired generals is calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. General Gregory Newbold, former director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote the sharpest attack in Time Magazine (Apr. 9): 'I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy.... My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions - or bury the results.'

The latest poll - from Fox News - shows Bush's approval rating at a record low 33%.

Meanwhile the cost of the Iraq war has risen way beyond all Bush administration rosy predictions. It was $48 billion in 2003, $59 billion in 2004, $81 billion in 2005 and the cost in 2006 is projected at $94 billion. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago.

And the military is losing a whole generation of future leaders. The New York Times reported (Apr. 9) that 'Young Army officers, including growing numbers of captains who leave as soon as their initial commitment is fulfilled, are bailing out of active-duty service at rates that have alarmed senior officers. Last year, more than a third of the West Point class of 2000 left active duty at the earliest possible moment....graduates of reserve officer training programs at universities are also increasingly leaving the service...'

Bush's 'stay the course' aggression is bumping up against obstacles and opposition from every direction. But whether the administration will escalate or finally blink is yet to be decided.

--War Times/Tiempo de Guerras is a fiscally sponsored project of the Center for Third World Organizing. Donations to War Times are tax-deductible; you can donate on-line at or send a check to War Times/Tiempo de Guerras, c/o P.O. Box 99096, Emeryville, CA 94662.