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By any spin necessary: Why imperialist spokesmen are distancing the London bombings from the Iraq war
by GAVIN GATENBY    Possum News Network
Entered into the database on Tuesday, July 19th, 2005 @ 10:28:56 MST


Untitled Document

One of the surprises of the London bombings has been the line taken by prominent imperialist spokesmen. Tony Blair, Charles Clarke, John Reid, Condoleezza Rice and John Howard have all been careful to say, or imply, that the bombings were not specifically related to their nations’ invasion and occupation of Iraq.

At first glance, this is a bizarre position, but on further reflection the reason for it is obvious. Clear majorities in Australia and Britain were opposed to joining the US-led invasion of Iraq. Majorities in Britain, the United States and Australia now think that the Coalition should get out of Iraq (although there are differences on the timetable). The war is widely viewed as immoral, a bad mistake and a quagmire. It follows logically from majority public opinion that if the putative enemy is now bringing the war to London (and potentially, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, Sydney or Melbourne) we can remove the threat by bringing the troops home.

If on the other hand the London attacks are just about “their” hatred of “us” (as Bush and Blair are now spinning it) a Coalition retreat from Iraq would make no difference to the shadowy Islamist fanatics for whom (the story goes) the target is “our way of life”. Of course, this is the exact opposite of George Bush’s previous line that it’s better to fight the terrorists in Iraq rather than back home in the good old US of A.

With uncanny precision, the various imperialist spokesmen have picked up the new line and are staying “on message” (as they say in the spin industry). In the 24 hours after the bombings the new spin was so uniformly presented that it seemed as though they’d workshopped it in advance, although it’s probably just that you don’t get their jobs without a finely-honed instinct for political manipulation.

But I believe the new message serves a much bigger purpose and one that arises out of the dilemma in which the American-led Coalition now finds itself.

By any standard the Coalition is in a very, very, awkward politico-military situation.

The fact is that the Bush regime, led by the neoconservatives, misjudged the strength of Iraqi and Arab nationalism and embarked on the war with a fraction of the number of troops necessary to win decisively and to dominate colonial administrations headed up by reliable puppets.

Right now, to prevail in Iraq, the Coalition would have to deploy not less than 300,000 troops (not counting the inherently unreliable Iraqi puppet troops – the sort of forces quaintly referred to as “native levies” by 19th Century colonialists). This disturbing state of affairs is frankly admitted by all qualified military observers who are not actually beholden to their government for the next pay cheque.

The core of the problem is that to present a façade of democracy in Iraq and to recruit Shiite s to fight the predominantly Sunni and secularist partisan movement, the Coalition is now totally reliant on the goodwill – and the Islamist military surrogates – of the Iranian government they once targeted as part of “the Axis of Evil”.

So in spite of some elements within the Bush administration persisting with attempts to bully the Iranian government over its nuclear ambitions, Tehran has a lot of leverage over Washington. This ugly and embarrassing predicament has arisen directly out of the Bush regime’s failure to put enough boots on the ground.

On the one hand an open accommodation with Tehran, recognizing Iran’s tutelage over most of southern, predominantly Shiite, Iraq would be a humiliating blow to American prestige. On the other hand, persisting with a confrontational stance against Iran runs the danger of a guerilla war in the south pitting militias loyal to Iran against British, Australian and other coalition forces. This would be a military debacle because the Coalition forces in the south are simply too small to handle a determined uprising.

And Washington’s reliance on the Tehran government worsens the danger of Saudi Arabia, Syria and even Turkey clandestinely supporting the Sunni/Baathist resistance.

Thus the occupation has degenerated into a debacle, derailing the neo-con’s strategy, which aimed at giving of the US (and its client states, Britain and Australia), unrestricted access to Iraq’s oil and using it to ride out the rapidly approaching peak of world oil production and the subsequent relentless decline in supplies.

To pull out of Iraq now, letting a once-stable oil producer sink into a complex, long-running, civil war, or to allow it to be divided between Saudi Arabia and Iran would be an unprecedented geo-political disaster for the US and would lead to its inexorable decline as the world’s only superpower. Time to turn the situation around is fast running out.

So in practical terms, it all gets back to the imperialists’ urgent need to put more boots on the ground in Iraq and the failure to achieve this end using voluntary recruitment alone.

The imperialist powers need conscription, but so far they’ve been extremely reluctant to introduce it. The reasons aren’t hard to find. Conscription isn’t politically popular, and historically, voters have been loath to support it unless they can see a very convincing, direct threat to the nation’s borders or at least its vital interests. Voters will turn a blind eye to overseas military adventures as long as professional soldiers are doing the fighting and dying, but compulsory military service focuses the public mind wonderfully. For this reason capitalist governments prefer, if at all possible, to rely on volunteer armies.

The Vietnam War began during the Cold War. At the time, in America, Britain and Australia, conscription, in various forms, had been an established part of the political landscape since WWII and relatively quiescent populations had been sold on the need to fight revolutionary nationalism led by Stalinist parties. In the case of Vietnam, military commitments were scaled up gradually. The reality of the war crept up on people, but conscription quickly led to trouble and a determined popular opposition evolved.

In contrast to the years preceding the Vietnam experience, we have now seen two generations without conscription. In the US, Australia and the UK, introducing it will be politically difficult … which brings us back to the London bombings spin doctoring.

So far, the three governments have shied away from the intensive massaging of public opinion necessary to clear away opposition to further cuts to civil liberties and for the draft itself. For months now, Bush, Blair and Howard have drifted fecklessly, hoping against the odds that something will happen to turn around the situation in Iraq (and Afghanistan).The “evil, inexplicable terrorists” spin is directed towards redressing this failure. It will be far easier to convince the people that conscription is somehow necessary for the defence of “the homeland” itself, than for a colonial war that’s already on the nose.

Of course, once conscription is introduced, the conscripts will be dispatched as required to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or Iran, but for Bush, Blair and Howard the trick is to get conscription, and other emergency measures, by any spin necessary.