George W. Bush has fittingly stopped short of declaring victory in Iraq. He doesn't want to claim a definitive triumph because it would legally obligate the US to begin cleaning the place up and enforcing human rights obligations.

But in fact, the US attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan have been shattering defeats.

Let's count the ways:

  • At least three times US troops have fired live ammunition against angry crowds of "liberated" Iraqis. Far from "dancing in the streets" over the American presence, the people of Iraq have made it clear they want the US out just days after the removal of Saddam Hussein, who most Iraqis understand was put in power by the US in the first place.

  • US troops have now killed at least twenty Iraqis in demonstrations that appear to be nonviolent. Military claims of self-defense are reminiscent of lies that Kent State students fired weapons during the May, 1970 massacre there. Those four deaths put the US in an uproar; in Iraq, less than 1/10 the size of the US, the equivalent of 20 dead would be more than 200.

  • By independent count at least 3,000 Iraqi civilians were killed by the US in the removal of Saddam Hussein. That would equate to more than 30,000 Americans if the attack had been by Iraq on the US.

  • Like Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein is widely believed to be alive, but has yet to be found.

  • The weapons of mass destruction used as a pretext for the American attack have also yet to be found. None were used in Iraq's defense.

  • The pillaging of Iraq's most treasured museums, for which the US is directly responsible, has been widely ranked as one of the most barbaric and indefensible acts of cultural desecration in world history.

  • US corporate media coverage of the Bush attack was so absurdly one-sided and nationalistic it drew unprecedented contempt from critics worldwide.

  • The "victory" which has so enamored the US corporate media was an assault by a rich nation of 280 million people which spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined, against an impoverished, disunited nation 10 times smaller which has been ruled by a hated dictator installed by the US, subjected to international sanctions for 12 years, continually bombed through that time, and which was recently disarmed by United Nations weapons inspectors. Far from a military triumph, Bush's martial performance drew mocking derision from the global media outside the US.

  • The first female US soldier killed in Iraq was Lori Ann Piestewa, a divorced Hopi-Navajo mother of two small children who joined the military to escape poverty. Her death, and the grim future facing her children, received virtually no media attention, while the dubious "rescue" of her white friend, Jessica Lynch, received ecstatic---and wildly distorted---saturation hype.

  • Defense Secretary Rumsfeld openly and willfully violated explicit US law by failing to establish a baseline health study of American troops entering combat, reinforcing the failure to deal with Gulf War Syndrome from the previous attack on Iraq.

  • Though less than a thousand US troops were killed or wounded in the 1991 Gulf War, by some counts as many as 220,000 may be disabled. Similar casualties are almost certain to surface in the wake of the latest attack, though Rumsfeld's illegal refusal to lay the statistical groundwork for a health study will again make these ailments and their causes hard to track.

  • It is widely believed Bush launched a lethal attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad with the express intent of killing and intimidating foreign journalists.

  • While profoundly disinterested in protecting the region's cultural history, or its civil institutions, the US military took great pains to guard Saddam's ministries of interior and oil, where crucial information on Iraq's petroleum reserves are stored.

  • US military encampments during the attack were named after major oil companies.

  • No major nations of the world except Great Britain joined the attack on Iraq, and none have come forward since to endorse it, despite Bush's alleged "victory".

  • Though leading Bush hawks have raised the possibility of attacking Syria, Iran or North Korea, all other major nations of the world---including Great Britain---have denounced the possibility.

  • Bush has scorned his previous promise to Great Britain's Tony Blair, his one major ally, that the rebuilding of Iraq would be largely done through the United Nations.

  • Afghanistan, has sunk into tribal warfare, complete with the rebirth of the "defeated" Taliban. American soldiers are still fighting and dying there.

    ยท Despite Bush's effusive pre-war promises, there is virtually no money in the latest US budget for rebuilding Aghanistan, or even for repairing the damage done by the US attack.

  • Drug production, particular opium poppies, is back in full swing in Afghanistan after having been successfully repressed by the Taliban.

  • Bush's violent assault and undiplomatic arrogance have infuriated much of the Muslim world and made it highly likely fundamentalist Iran-style regimes will eventually sweep over both Afghanistan and Iraq.

  • That likelihood has been enhanced by anti-Islam statements from close Bush cronies, including Rev. Franklin Graham, who've confirmed Bush's initial proclamation of a "crusade".

  • While crowing over a new "democracy" to Iraq, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says he will not "allow" fundamentalists to take power there, but has not explained how he would stop it within a democratic framework.

  • By infuriating the Muslim world and isolating the US, Bush's conquests of Iraq and Afghanistan will likely guarantee a horrific increase in terrorist attacks against the US in years to come. Polls show a large portion of the American public fears precisely this outcome.

    In short, the Bush "triumph" has the taste and smell of a profound defeat. The Iraqi people have made it clear they want the US out, and that the demonstrations can only escalate. Afghanistan is in ruin and chaos.

    World opinion, so profoundly sympathetic to the US after the horrors of September 11, has swung wildly against us. To the vast bulk of humanity---especially 1.2 billion Muslims---the US is an out-of-control bully that invaded Iraq without legitimate provocation, primarily to grab its oil.

    Only the grotesquely unbalanced and intolerant US corporate media has supported this attack with any consistency. Worldwide, its credibility has sunk below zero.

    The United States may currently be the only military superpower. But it's a hollow shell, with its domestic economy in profound crisis and the dollar in fast decline.

    The cynicism, arrogance and brutality with which Bush has carried out these attacks has provoked a profound, deep-rooted worldwide hostility.

    Far from victory, the US has never been more weakened, isolated or insecure. In the long run, only one superpower---the one for peace---holds any hope for any of us.

    Harvey Wasserman is Senior Editor of The Free Press (