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2 The perverse logic of
Bush's war By Gareth Porter
President George W Bush's plan to escalate
US military involvement in Iraq, to be announced
on Wednesday night (Washington, DC, time),
reflects a perverse political logic that prevents
US administrations from being able to reverse
imperial military adventures once they have begun.
The iron law governing the politics of
these imperial debacles seems to be that the
leaders who commit the country to war realize at
some point that they have seriously miscalculated and
the war cannot be won, but by then they figure it
is already too late; they must act as though they
are aiming at victory, because of the fear of
admitting the truth.
If the plan to add as
many as 20,000 more troops to US military presence
in Iraq does go into effect in the coming weeks,
it will be without any sense that the military or
national-security bureaucracy believes in it. It
is now clear that Bush had to replace the
commanders he had in place in Iraq in order to
push through an escalation of US troops presence,
because General George Casey and General John
Abizaid recognized that adding more US troops in
Iraq would make matters worse, not better.
And even some high officials of the Bush
administration have been privately saying it is a
big mistake. The Washington Post reported on
Sunday that "senior military and administration
officials privately admit their deep concerns that
the troop increase will backfire - and leave the
United States with no options left in six to eight
The biggest backfire of such a
policy would come as a result of a major political
and military confrontation with militant Shi'ites
in Baghdad and in southern Iraq.
Lieutenant-General Ray Odierno told reporters he
expects US troops to go into the massive Baghdad
district known as Sadr City, because it is
populated by working-class Shi'ites loyal to the
radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
United States does provoke a battle with Muqtada's
Mehdi Army, there will undoubtedly be a major
spike in battle deaths and in civilian casualties.
The fighting also might well unhinge the highly
tenuous arrangements that keep the Iraqi
government from collapsing.
Even if the
Democrats do not derail the Bush escalation, it is
also certain to backfire politically at home. The
Democratic leadership of Congress can now use
their power to hold hearings, investigate and
attach policy-related conditions to money bills to
harass and pressure a mortally weakened
administration over its intensely unpopular war.
Despite all these extremely serious risks,
Bush has deliberately rejected any compromise such
as was offered by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group
(ISG) for de-escalating US involvement in Iraq.
Instead, he has signaled that he is prepared to
fight everyone - Democrats and Republicans in
Congress, both Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq - in
pursuit of "victory".
has been noted and analyzed by Washington
observers for many months now, and the most
popular explanation for it has been Bush's
"faith-based" approach to policymaking, which
eschews intelligence and expertise in favor of
ideological or religious belief.
week the New York Times revealed a Bush statement
to the ISG that provides a crucial piece of the
puzzle of the president's stubbornness on Iraq. In
an article on how the Bush administration's
strategy unraveled during 2006, the Times reported
that Bush explained to the ISG at a meeting in the
White House in November why he continued to use
the term "victory" in regard to Iraq. "It's a word
the American people understand," Bush told them,
"and if I start to change, it will look like I'm
beginning to change my policy."
implication of that statement was clearly that
Bush had to continue to appear to be pursuing
victory, even if he understands that the term has
been rendered irrelevant by the brutal facts on
the ground in Iraq. To do otherwise, it suggested,
would be politically suicidal.
admitting, in effect, that he is compelled to keep
up the appearance of the pursuit of victory, Bush
was echoing an eerily similar statement by the
Lyndon Johnson administration official who became
associated in the public mind with the Vietnam
War: secretary of defense Robert McNamara.
On June 29, 1965, just days before
McNamara and other administration policymakers
began a process of approving an open-ended
escalation in South Vietnam, McNamara told British
foreign secretary Gordon Walker that "none of us
at the center of things talk about winning a
victory", but that they could not tell the
American people that the war could not be won.
Within 18 months, McNamara had left the
administration, having given up any hope of
winning in Vietnam, but the war continued for six
The primacy for the Bush White
House of maintaining the fiction that it is still
aiming at victory in Iraq further implies that