The mid-term elections and Iraq war

The November 7 US mid-term congressional elections were a massive repudiation of the US-led war against Iraq and of the administration of President George Bush. But while the majority of US voters have turned against the war, most of the politicians of both Democratic and Republican parties have a clue about what to do.

Neither do the pundits, who are all over the map. Some say that there should be a conference of all of Iraq's neighbours, including Iran and Syria. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney say they will not talk to Iran and Syria.

At last month's NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, Bush said that no-one, including congressional Democrats and the Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker, will persuade him to start withdrawing any troops.

"There's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before our mission is complete", Bush declared. "We can accept nothing less than victory."

While the White House has its head in the sand, the reason for the complete disarray among the politicians and pundits was bluntly stated in an article in the November 5 San Francisco Chronicle headlined "After Nov. 7, US still faces the rude shock of defeat." Even Henry Kissinger now says the Iraq war cannot be won militarily.

A November 22 opinion piece by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd stated: "The good news is that the election finished what [Hurricane] Katrina started. It dismantled the president's fake reality about Iraq, causing opinions to come gushing forth from all quarters about where to go from here.

"The bad news is that no-one, and I mean no-one, really knows where to go from here. The White House and the Pentagon are ready to shift to Plan B. But Plan B is their empty term for miraculous salvation. (Dick Cheney and his wormy aides, of course, are still babbling about total victory and completing the mission by raising the stakes and knocking off the mullahs in Tehran. His tombstone will probably say, 'Here lies Dick Cheney, still winning'.)"

There is a real danger that the administration will lurch into widening the war by attacking Iran. The July-August US war against Lebanon, carried out by Israel, was a trial run. It did succeed in pulverising the country, but failed to crush Hezbollah.

To think that widening the Iraq war and raising the stakes will somehow save the situation for the US in Iraq is not only failing to face the fact that the US has been defeated in Iraq and nothing can reverse that, it is insane. But that doesn't mean it might not be attempted. Nixon widened the US war against Vietnam in 1970-71 by invading Laos and Cambodia.

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported in the November 27 New Yorker magazine that since January the Pentagon has been working up details the plans for a US attack on Iran.

However, Iran is not like Iraq was after the 1990-91 Gulf War and the long years of economic sanctions and regular secret aerial bombing. Iraq and its army were in tatters well before the US-led invasion in March 2003. Lebanon is a tiny country with a small, poorly equipped army. Even so, the US and its proxy, Israel, have been defeated in both countries by resistance fighters enjoying widespread popular support.

Iran has 70 million people (three times as many as Iraq), who will fiercely resist any US-led attack. If Iraq is a quagmire, imagine what an attack on Iran will result in. Not only would the US be swamped in Iran, the Shiites in Iraq would likely come to Shiite Iran's defence.

While the US capitalist ruling class and its experts and politicians lurch about deciding what to do in the face of their defeat in Iraq, the rest of the country is watching and waiting.

What should happen in light of the widening anti-war sentiment revealed by the congressional elections is a renewal of mass street demonstrations demanding that the US get out of Iraq now. However, the largest anti-war coalition, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), has decided against that course and instead has called for a campaign aimed at pressuring the Democrats to impeach Bush.

The UFPJ was against street actions before the elections in the hope that the Democrats would win control of Congress, and now that they have, the UFPJ continues to orient to them. The UFPJ leaders' faith that the Democrats will somehow end the war is as stupid as it is utterly without foundation. The Democrats are now seeking a bipartisan position with Bush on US strategy to "win" the war, joining him in denouncing any suggestion of an immediate withdrawal.