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Dahr Jamail on the White House plan:
Bush's surging disaster in Iraq

January 26, 2007 | Pages 4 and 5

DAHR JAMAIL is an independent journalist whose reporting from occupied Iraq, starting in late 2003, provided one of the few honest looks at the realities of the war for Iraqis and U.S. soldiers. Now returned to the U.S., he continues to report on the occupation for Inter Press Service--his articles are collected on his Web site Dahr Jamail's Mideast Dispatches. His book on Iraq will be published this summer by Haymarket Books.

Here, Dahr talked to Socialist Worker's ALAN MAASS about the Bush administration's surge plan to send 21,500 more U.S. soldiers to Iraq--and the next steps for the antiwar movement.

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GEORGE BUSH says that his surge plan is the "last chance" for "victory" in Iraq. Is a U.S. "victory" possible at this point?

OF COURSE not. It's impossible, and everyone from the people in the Iraqi government to his own military leaders in Iraq have been telling him that for a long time--which is why he's changing out his military leaders.

I think we have a situation where, once again, Bush has shown the world that he's operating in his own reality, and it has nothing to do with the true reality of the disaster that Iraq really is.

What else to read

You can read Dahr Jamail's reports on Iraq at his Web site Dahr Jamail's Mideast Dispatches.

For a book that compiles the facts on the U.S. war on Iraq and argues the case for immediate withdrawal, get Anthony Arnove's Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, recently republished in an updated paperback edition from the American Empire Project with a foreword by Howard Zinn.

Anthony also writes regularly on Iraq for the International Socialist Review, an excellent source of news and analysis of the U.S. war. His most recent article is "The U.S. Occupation of Iraq: Act III of a Tragedy in Many Parts."


Sending these 21,500 troops still will not bring the number of soldiers in Iraq up to the level that the U.S. government had there during the January 2005 elections, when the level was 165,000 there. When they upped the number of troops at that time, it did nothing but spread violence and instability. So, of course, the same thing is going to happen this time.

I haven't spoken with one person in Iraq who supports a larger U.S. presence. The only evidence I've seen of someone wanting more permanent U.S. military bases was a quote from Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, whose life depends on U.S. support. So of course he came out and asked for two permanent bases in the Kurdish north of Iraq--because if the U.S. pulls out, it's game over for him and his followers.

Aside from that, I don't know of anyone there who thinks that this is a good idea.

WHEN BUSH talks about "victory," what do you think he means by that, and is it something that people on our side should want to see?

THAT'S A very good point. He is really talking a different language.

I would argue that the timing of him sending these troops now is very interesting--right at the time when the U.S.-backed Iraqi puppet government is busily rewriting Iraq's oil law to open the selling of Iraq's oil to Western oil companies.

It also coincides with Bush escalating his bellicose rhetoric toward Iran and Syria. Immediately after his speech, an Iranian consulate was raided in Erbil, and five people were detained by the U.S. military. It could be a prelude of them trying to soften up the Iranian influence in Iraq, as a prelude to a possible attack on Iran by the U.S. or Israel.

ONE OF the excuses for the continuing occupation has been that if the U.S. pulls out, there will be worsening violence in Iraq. But you've written about why the U.S. bears a good part of the blame for stoking the conflict.

WHEN WE talk about sectarian conflict, we need to be real clear that there hasn't been widespread bloodshed on a sectarian basis in Iraq for 1,400 years, when the split between the Sunni and Shia began. The only civil war we've actually ever had in Iraq was between the Kurds themselves, not between Sunni and Shia.

Now published in Arabic
U.S. War Crimes in Iraq and Mechanisms for Accountability

"This report on the war crimes of the current administration is an invaluable resource, with a meticulous presentation of the evidence and an astute examination of international law."
-- Howard Zinn, historian, playwright and social activist

This report was published in October of last year by 10 organizations, including Socialist Worker, to document the terrible conditions in Iraq caused by the war, and detail the direct responsibility of the U.S. in creating insecurity and humanitarian crisis. Now this report has been translated into Arabic in the hopes of reaching a new audience and broadening the struggle against the war.

Download the Arabic edition

Download the English edition


So we need to be real clear that these death squads, which are the impetus for the sectarian violence that we're looking at today in Iraq, were set up, facilitated, armed and backed by the U.S. while John Negroponte was the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

Negroponte had a man by the name of retired Col. James Steele, whose title was Counselor for Iraqi Security Forces, and he facilitated the process of the death squads.

This all happened as a result of the failed siege of Falluja in spring 2004. It became clear to U.S. military commanders on the ground that they needed to do something else to go after the Sunni resistance, which already at that time was basically in control of what was happening throughout large parts of Iraq.

So they set up the death squads to do that. They handpicked people from the two largest Shia militias--the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army--and from the Kurdish Peshmerga, and they set them to work going after the Sunnis.

Fast forward to today, and the leading cause of death in Iraq is the death squads. So we need to be clear that the U.S. played a very strong, deliberate hand in setting up these death squads, which in my opinion are responsible for the brunt of the violence.

AMONG MANY Democrats who oppose Bush's surge plan, they also say that the problem in Iraq is that Iraqis are intent on killing each other, despite all the good things the U.S. has done. Can you respond to the idea that the problem in Iraq is a lack of will on the part of the Iraqi government to stop the violence?

THOSE STATEMENTS are classic blame-the-victim strategies. Because let's be real clear--this Iraqi government does not exist without U.S. support.

This is a government that wouldn't last two minutes outside of the Green Zone. If the U.S. pulls out, this government would probably be hung from light posts. It has no popular support. It doesn't represent the wishes of the Iraqi people.

Nuri al-Maliki would not even be prime minister right now if it weren't for the U.S. and Britain making if happen. If you remember, he replaced the former prime minister, Ibrahim Jafari, because the U.S. wanted to make it so.

This government is completely powerless, and so saying that they're responsible for bringing security under control in Iraq is kind of a joke and a great insult.

Condoleezza Rice says that Prime Minister Maliki's days are numbered. Well, his days have been numbered since the second he decided to accept the position of prime minister. When he agreed to this troop "surge" and also saying that he supports the U.S. in going after death squads, even if they're the Mahdi Army, he signed his death sentence--politically for sure, and physically, if he's ever in Iraq outside the Green Zone.

MOST OF the withdrawal plans being discussed in Washington now would leave U.S. troops in Iraq for at least a year, if not longer. What's your opinion on this?

THE MOST important thing is what the Iraqi people want. The latest polls out of Iraq show that 90 percent of all Iraqis surveyed want the U.S. to withdraw in less than a year's time. That shows that Iraqis are keen to have phased withdrawal, but within a very strict timeframe--in less than a year's time. So I think that's what the U.S. should do.

If Iraq is, in theory, a sovereign, democratic country--as George Bush claims, as do many of the Democratic hawks like Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman--then we need to respect the wishes of the Iraqi people.

YOU'VE REPORTED on the new organizing antiwar veterans and active-duty soldiers are doing to resist the war. Could you talk about that?

I THINK it's clear that this administration has no intention of withdrawing from Iraq. What would force the issue, in my opinion, would be the GI resister movement, which is burgeoning as we speak.

There are between 8,000 and 10,000 people AWOL from the military, and I imagine that number has increased dramatically over just the last week. I know it was starting to increase dramatically even before Bush made his speech. More people than ever are heading off to Canada or going underground, so that they don't have to go to Iraq and be targets.

If anyone is seriously interested in ending this occupation and wants to do something to make it happen, people should follow the instruction of Lt. Ehren Watada. In his speech at the Veterans for Peace national convention in August of last year, he said that the best thing people could do is adopt the family of someone who wants to become a resister, and do what they need to do to support those families, economically and morally, so that their people don't have to go to Iraq.

If that means they go to jail for a year or two years or three years, but a community can support their family, people will start doing this, and then all of a sudden, we will not have enough people to send to Iraq--i.e., the government won't be able to fight the war, just like happened during Vietnam.

I think right now that this would be the single-most important thing people can do. Literally, you would be saving a soldier's life. Literally, you would be saving countless Iraqi lives that this soldier would probably end up killing over there. And literally, you would be saving a family here from going through the hell of losing someone in this criminal war.

Peace groups always ask me what we can do. Well, this is a very, very clear thing that people can get involved in, and it would literally start saving lives today.

Demonstrations are great for the morale of the antiwar movement. It's very exciting to be in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people, knowing that everyone's there because they oppose the ongoing occupation.

But clearly, we've seen that demonstrations are not enough. Clearly, we need to start facilitating the GI resistance movement, so there aren't soldiers to fight the war.

And if the Democrats refuse to impeach Bush, or refuse to block sending more troops and hundreds of billions of more funding for this illegal war, then it's the job of the antiwar movement to force those Democrats to respect the wishes of the majority of the population. We need to start getting involved in sit-ins and direct action at these people's offices.

This is what ended the Vietnam War--the resistance in Vietnam, the GI resister movement, and then the antiwar movement making it political suicide for representatives to continue to support the war.

The Iraqi resistance is already doing its job. The GI resistance movement is starting to pick up speed. Now, the onus is on the antiwar movement--for people to start doing direct actions and sit-ins, and make it so that this government can't keep functioning until they respect the wishes of the population.

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