Beleaguered Bush: Heightened Opposition at Home and Abroad

The death sentence for Saddam was meant to be an orchestrated high point in the War on Terror for the Bush Administration – but instead it has invited widespread global outrage and coalesced with a range of shocks for the Bush regime. The electoral blow to the Republicans in the recent mid-term polls was widely seen as an indictment of the US policy in Iraq, while the election of Ortega in Nicaragua and the build-up of a militant and popular uprising in Mexico all served to deepen the crisis for the Bush regime. In this feature, we have articles analysing the implications of these developments not only for Bush but also for the anti-imperialist struggle.      
2006 US Mid-Term Elections: Blow for Bush Administration

-- PB     

THE Democratic Party in the 2006 US elections won a comfortable majority in the House and a narrow majority in the Senate. They also secured a majority of the state governorships. The mid-term elections take place every two years in November to elect representatives to both the House and the Senate. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, was elected to the Senate from Vermont - the first self-described socialist to do so.
Even if the Democrat victory cannot be expected to usher in serious changes in imperialist policies and even domestic policies, the elections have been a major setback to the section of the ruling elite led by the Bush/Cheney administration.
Crisis of Imperialism
This election year Iraq was the main reason that the US electorate voted against the Republicans. Since the Democratic Party did not have an alternative peace plan either, it was largely a negative vote. The cumulative effect of lies about weapons of mass destruction, torture at Abu Ghraib, detention at Guantanamo Bay, secret CIA prisons, no bid contracts to Halliburton and Bechtel, billions of dollars of missing cash and latest attack on habeas corpus became too difficult to manage.
According to recent estimates, more than 655, 000 Iraqi people and 3000 US soldiers have died and more than 20000 US soldiers have been wounded. General Maples testified that in Iraq, the attacks on occupation troops have increased from 70 per day in January to 170 per day in September to 180 per day in October [1]. This made 2006 October one of the deadliest months since the occupation started. The forecast for 2007 is worse for not just Iraq but also Afghanistan.
Drawing parallels with the Vietnam War right wing columnist Tom Freidman of the New York Times said “what we’re seeing in Iraq seems like the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive.” General John Abizaid, top American military commander for the Middle East, has warned of the possibility of occupation going out of control. The incoming Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee accused the Bush administration of ignoring the reality that ‘‘we’re getting deeper and deeper into a hole’’ in Iraq. As the Iraqi resistance and anti-war movement intensify, the imperial crisis deepens and the occupation becomes untenable.
The US ruling elite is now hard at work in an endeavour to formulate a strategy for ‘success in Iraq.’ Several potential presidential candidates including Republican John McCain and Democratic Hillary Clinton and John Kerry have called for more troop deployment. Despite massive public opinion against the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, before the elections, the Senate passed (100-0 vote) the record $447 billion US military budget along with a supplemental $70 billion bridge fund for the next six months of occupation. The entire ruling class establishment is in it together.
The first casualty of the elections was Defense Secretary “shock and awe” Rumsfeld. Bush chose his father’s CIA director Robert Gates as the replacement. Before his appointment, he was also a member of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), the ‘bipartisan commission’ co-chaired by Republican James Baker, former Secretary of State, and Democrat Lee Hamilton, former Chairman of House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Both Republican and Democratic leadership are working closely with the ISG. It has been meeting with numerous political and military leaders, including George Bush, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. The ISG is slated to release its ‘policy recommendations’ to prevent the US Empire from sinking in the Iraqi quicksand.
The unpopularity of the Iraqi occupation in the US and the anti-imperial resistance of the Iraqi people have forced the ruling class to rethink its Iraq strategy. This pressure is also being felt by elected politicians who are part of the Democratic Party’s Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) with about 71 members. They have introduced the “End the War in Iraq Act of 2005” that would prohibit further use of Defense Department funds to deploy United States Armed Forces to Iraq. Since both the Republican and Democratic parties are not interested this bill is gathering dust.
Jobs and Scandals
Iraq was however not the only issue. Although gay marriage was banned in several states but in South Dakota a referendum to ban virtually all abortions was easily defeated. After Enron, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal maligned the Republican elite in a major way. The Center for Public Integrity reports that lobbyists spent $4 billion in 2004. The organic relationship between big business, lobbyists and politicians was exposed. Most politicians connected with the scandal either resigned or were defeated in this election. Flooding after Hurricane Katrina was on everybody’s mind too, especially people of colour.
The economy was also an important issue. Millions of jobs have been lost in the last few years. In Ohio alone 200,000 manufacturing jobs were lost since Bush came to power; it was the decisive factor there. Nationally, with people spending $1.1 trillion more than they earned, the negative personal savings rate is unprecedented since the Great Depression. This when the total 2005 US debt was nearly three and a half times the US’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that is close to world’s GDP of $44 trillion [2].
Even though the official unemployment rate in July 2006 was 4.8 percent it is estimated that more than 8 percent of the potential labour force is underemployed or unemployed [2]. The minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been increased for more than 10 years. Six states that had a referendum to raise the minimum wage overwhelmingly voted to raise it. The main labour unions played a major part in this. They spent more than $100 million and had 100,000 volunteers to increase voter turnout in the election for the Democratic Party [3]. This nexus with a party of the ruling class has been an impediment in building a more militant labour movement.
Challenging the System
History informs us that progressive legislations, in a capitalist political system, are the fruits of a vigorous movement. They have never been a gift. Now is the time to connect the struggles against exploitation in the US with the occupations abroad to re-energize this movement. These will include the struggles of workers, people of colour, undocumented immigrants, gays and women for an egalitarian and just society.
Progressive forces have called for anti-war marches on Washington in January and March. Momentum is building to demand universal health coverage, minimum wage increase, investigation of war crimes, impeachment of Bush, worker’s right to organize, Katrina victims’ right to return and ending the occupation from Iraq to Palestine. Active duty soldiers are also resisting the occupation by becoming conscientious objectors. This should also be the time for the anti-imperialist struggles to introspect on protest tactics and movement strategies to intensify the struggle.
It is clear that the invasion of any country, corruption of politicians, reign of big business and attack on the working class will not end with this election. These problems are endemic to the capitalistic political system. It cannot be reformed. A new society has to rise from the ashes of imperialism and capitalism. Building a movement which does just that is the challenge.
End Notes
1. Michael Gordon and Mark Mazzetti, General Warns of Risks in Iraq if G.I.’s Are Cut, New York Times, November 16, 2006.
2. Fred Magdoff, The Explosion of Debt and Speculation, Monthly Review, November 2006.
3. Steven Greenhouse, Labor Movement Dusts Off Agenda as Power Shifts in Congress, New York Times, November 11, 2006.