UNITED STATES: Public support for Iraq occupation crumbling

Issue 

BY DOUG LORIMER

Despite the unanimous October 16 vote by the UN Security Council in favour of a US-sponsored call for the UN's 191 member countries to contribute troops to a US-commanded "multinational" Iraq occupation force, public support in the US for the occupation continues to decline.

According to a national survey released on October 21 by the Washington-based Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, the number of Americans who believe US troops should be withdrawn from Iraq "as soon as possible" has risen to 39%, up from 32% in late September.

A poll conducted in New Jersey's Hudson County by the New Jersey City University found that 46% of those surveyed said US troops "should come home in six months or less, the shortest time frame provided by the survey", the October 21 New Jersey Journal reported.

"Our phone callers reported many people who said they wanted the men home 'now' or 'right away', suggesting that even six months was too long a time", poll supervisors Bruce Chadwick and Fran Moran reported to the New Jersey Journal. Less than a quarter of those surveyed said US troops should stay for one year.

The NJCU poll found that 48.8% of surveyed residents said the war against Iraq was not worth it, a complete turnaround from a poll taken in May, when almost the same percentage — 49.8% — said the war was worth it.

Sixty per cent of those surveyed by the NJCU said that the UN or NATO should supervise the reconstruction of Iraq, with only 24.5% saying the US should go it alone.

Security Council backing for a call for countries to help Washington was thus of vital importance in Washington's campaign to retain domestic public support for the US occupation of Iraq.

Token commitment

However, it is now clear that the adoption by the Security Council of resolution 1551 will, at the most, lead only to token commitments of other countries' troops.

The October 21 New York Newsday reported that US war secretary Donald Rumsfeld "raised the possibility that up to 10,000 troops for Iraq offered by Turkey might never go, due to opposition by the [US-appointed] Iraqi Governing Council". There are concerns within the IGC that the presence of Turkish troops would lead to armed clashes with Iraq's Kurds.

Currently, in addition to 133,000 US troops in Iraq, there are 24,000 foreign troops, half of them from Britain, but with small contingents from US imperialist allies such as Spain, Italy and Australia, and from Washington's Central American and eastern European satellite regimes.

Washington had hoped passage of the UN resolution would give Pakistan's military dictator General Pervez Musharraf the "legal" cover to send around 10,000 troops to Iraq. However, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Masood Khan said on October 21 that the resolution did not address Islamabad's concerns sufficiently.

"These pertain to the political transition, restoration of sovereignty, security and reconstruction", Khan stated at his weekly press briefing.

Ruling-class divisions

With little prospect of getting substantially more troops from other countries, the Pentagon has begun drawing up plans to rotate and additional 30,000 US Army National Guard reservists to Iraq "early next year, despite growing worries in Congress about strains on the force", according to the October 21 Newsday.

"These troops would join three 5000-strong Army National Guard brigades already in line to go to Iraq as part of an expected year-long rotation to replace US troops now in Iraq."

Newsday noted that "Republicans and Democrats in Congress have repeatedly told Pentagon officials at hearings about the complaints they hear from National Guard and reserve families about the strains of extended deployments. Some reservists now in Iraq had expected to be there for several months but have seen their tours of duty extended to 12 to 15 months, which is what any new reservists also are being told to expect.

"Top Pentagon officials also say they are concerned about overstretching the reserve component and acknowledge that the strains are showing, with some reserve commands in danger of falling short of recruitment goals. But [Pentagon] officials also acknowledge that they have little choice but to lean on the reserve units, mainly because of the failure to attract foreign troops and because Army active-duty forces already are stretched thin by worldwide deployments."

Concerns that the bloody Iraq quagmire will undermine the morale — and therefore the global fighting capacity — of the US armed forces are leading to divisions within the Bush administration. According to a report in the October 20 Washington Post, some "senior officials in the White House and Pentagon ... are leaning toward a quick exit from a country that US-led forces conquered in less than a month".

The Washington Post reported that some defence department officials and "key White House officials now worry that" construction of a politically stable, pro-US regime in Iraq could "sink the [US] military into an open-ended deployment that would stretch on for years, if not decades".

According to the Post article, Pentagon officials who are arguing for a quick exit of US military forces from Iraq claim that Iraqis have "grown accustomed to intermittent electric power, unreliable and decrepit water and sewerage systems", and that therefore not much needs to be done to improve the average Iraqis' lot.

From Green Left Weekly, October 29, 2003.
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