Jess Sundin is a leading member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization. She traveled to Iraq in 1998 and has played a important role in the Twin Cities anti-war movement since then. We interviewed her after the State of the Union address, where President Bush attempted to bolster support for his plans to expand the war in Iraq.
Fight Back!: What is Bush’s strategy for Iraq and what do you expect to happen next?
Jessica Sundin: In four years U.S. troops have failed to secure the Iraqi capitol city of Baghdad. Thousands of military checkpoints haven’t stopped the Iraqi resistance. Every month more U.S. soldiers are killed; now a total of 3050 are dead. As many as 655,000 Iraqis have been killed. Baghdad is so out of control that it could cause the weak U.S. hold on Iraq could fall apart.
President Bush’s new strategy will try to turn this around. The plan is to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, most of them to Baghdad. Troops will raid civilian neighborhoods and set up military bases and check points in cleared-out areas. New resources will go to reinforce the Iraqi army and joint operations with U.S. and Iraqi forces. 4000 U.S. troops will be deployed to the Anbar province, a stronghold of the patriotic Iraqi resistance.
The U.S. military will not win the battle for Baghdad or Anbar. Instead, the trend of insurgent attacks will grow, as occupation forces engage insurgent strongholds and attempt to set up bases of operations in the areas where Iraqis are most strongly opposed to the U.S. presence. U.S. forces will fail to deliver on promises of greater security in Baghdad, as they turn more civilian neighborhoods into hot battlegrounds.
Bush called this plan as a “surge” and said Iraqi forces could take over Baghdad by November. There is no reason to believe the massive troop increase - from around 140,000 to over 160,000 - will be short-term. Instead we should understand this is an escalation of the war in Iraq and it is a desperate strategy doomed to failure. The Bush plan will bring more violence to Iraq and Iraqis will only fight harder to throw out the occupying U.S. army.
Fight Back!: Many voters saw the last election as a referendum on the war and voted against Bush. Now Bush is doing the opposite of what they voted for. Why?
Sundin: Since Bush announced the increased troop deployment, polls have shown that as many as 70% of Americans oppose his new plan. Most think the plan will fail and instead want U.S. troops to leave Iraq. According to a recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, Bush’s overall approval rating has dropped to a new low: 34%. Even so, Bush dismisses all criticism of his plan, whether from the public, Congress or his own military.
Bush’s policy objectives in Iraq are not concerned with his own popularity or with democracy. The policy is aimed simply at defending the interests of U.S. political, economic and military empire. Again and again, Bush has told us that if the U.S. leaves Iraq in defeat, it will only encourage anti-American extremists throughout the world. Bush is not talking about another 9/11 attack. He’s talking about the threat posed by Iraq once again rising to be truly independent of U.S. imperialism.
Fight Back!: Politically, how do you see the debate on the war unfolding over the next few months?
Sundin: From Congress, we can expect toothless criticism of the war and no real commitment to stopping it. There may be resolutions adopted that say the so-called surge is a bad plan; there may be calls for a timeline to end the war or plans to redeploy or reorganize the troops stationed in Iraq; a few politicians may even vote against funding the war. Some of these efforts may even be bipartisan, but they will all avoid the heart of the matter: Neither Democrats nor Republicans will confront the Bush administration and demand that all the U.S. troops get out of Iraq now.
The stance of the Democratic Party is stated very clearly by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She said Congress would vote for resolutions opposing Bush’s new Iraq war strategy, but, “Democrats will never cut off funding for our troops when they are in harm’s way.”
Fight Back!: What do you think are the tasks of the anti-war movement this spring?
Sundin: The anti-war movement must demand that all U.S. troops get out of Iraq now. ‘Out now’ means ‘out now’ and this needs to be the basis of unity for our movement. We should not accept timelines for withdrawal, redeployment or any plan that falls short of an immediate and total end to the occupation. Some argue that Iraqis will fight each other if we leave, but Iraqis are fighting now. Every day, patriotic forces that oppose the occupation and represent that vast majority of Iraqi people are fighting for their lives against the occupation forces and its handful of traitorous Iraqi supporters. When the occupation ends, this conflict will end too.
This is a brutal war. The anti-war movement should stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people and denounce atrocities and crimes committed by U.S. forces in Iraq. These will get worse now that Bush has lifted restrictions on U.S. troops in Iraq - and the new forces will operate almost entirely in civilian areas. We say no to every murder and abuse of unarmed civilians; no to the imprisonment of tens of thousands of Iraqis without charge; no to the environmental devastation caused by weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorous; no to a fake Iraqi democracy based on religions divisions and led by an illegitimate puppet government.
The anti-war movement must be a voice for the millions who voted against the war. The majority was with us at the ballot box last November. Now we must to bring them with us into the streets. When Congress fails to stand up to President Bush and his war, we must work to build a bigger, stronger and more militant anti-war movement.
While U.S. troops are bogged down in Iraq, the Bush administration is eyeing a bigger prize; they want to reshape the entire Middle East. Within the anti-war movement, we need to answer this by opposing U.S. threats against Iraq’s neighbors, U.S. aid to reactionary governments throughout the Middle East U.S. support for the 59-year Israeli occupation of Palestine.