Dear Mr. Wolfowitz: Iraq Didn’t Go Quite As You Planned

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One more (at least) in my continuing series of Iraq war “anniversary cards,” if you will. This one is from an open letter by Andrew J. Bacevich to Bush doctrine architect Paul Wolfowitz.

So even conceding a hat tip to Albert Wohlstetter, the Bush Doctrine was largely your handiwork. The urgency of invading Iraq stemmed from the need to validate that doctrine before the window of opportunity closed. What made it necessary to act immediately was not Saddam’s purported WMD program. It was not his nearly nonexistent links to Al Qaeda. It was certainly not the way he abused his own people. No, what drove events was the imperative of claiming for the United States prerogatives allowed no other nation.

I do not doubt the sincerity of your conviction (shared by President Bush) that our country could be counted on to exercise those prerogatives in ways beneficial to all humankind — promoting peace, democracy, and human rights. But the proximate aim was to unshackle American power. Saddam Hussein’s demise would serve as an object lesson for all: Here’s what we can do. Here’s what we will do.

Although you weren’t going to advertise the point, this unshackling would also contribute to the security of Israel. To Wohlstetter’s five precepts you had added a silent codicil. According to the unwritten sixth precept, Israeli interests and U.S. interests must align. You understood that making Israelis feel safer makes Israel less obstreperous, and that removing the sources of Israeli insecurity makes the harmonizing of U.S. and Israeli policies easier. Israel’s most effective friends are those who work quietly to keep the divergent tendencies in U.S.-Israeli relations from getting out of hand. You have always been such a friend. Preventive war to overthrow an evil dictator was going to elevate the United States to the status of Big Kahuna while also making Israelis feel just a little bit safer. This audacious trifecta describes your conception. And you almost pulled it off.

Imagine — you must have done so many times — if that notorious mission accomplished banner had accurately portrayed the situation on the ground in Iraq in May 2003. Imagine if U.S. forces had achieved a clean, decisive victory. Imagine that the famous (if staged) photo of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad’s Al Firdos Square being pulled down had actually presaged a rapid transition to a pro-American liberal democracy, just as your friend Ahmed Chalabi had promised. Imagine if none of the ensuing horrors and disappointments had occurred: the insurgency; Fallujah and Abu Ghraib; thousands of American lives lost and damaged; at least 125,000 Iraqis killed, and some 3 million others exiled or displaced; more than a trillion dollars squandered….

[P]reventive war was supposed to solve problems. Eliminating threats before they could materialize was going to enhance our standing, positioning us to call the shots. Instead, the result was a train wreck of epic proportions. Granted, as you yourself have said, “the world is better off” with Saddam Hussein having met his maker. But taken as a whole, the cost-benefit ratio is cause for weeping. As for global hegemony, we can kiss it goodbye.

PS: Edited to add just this deliciously sharp little jab from Bacevich to the whole Bush Iraq enterprise and it’s managers:

One of the questions emerging from the Iraq debacle must be this one: Why did liberation at gunpoint yield results that differed so radically from what the war’s advocates had expected? Or, to sharpen the point, How did preventive war undertaken by ostensibly the strongest military in history produce a cataclysm?

Not one of your colleagues from the Bush Administration possesses the necessary combination of honesty, courage, and wit to answer these questions. If you don’t believe me, please sample the tediously self-exculpatory memoirs penned by (or on behalf of) Bush himself, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Tenet, Bremer, Feith, and a small squad of eminently forgettable generals.

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AIPAC and the Evils of Republicratism

Gung ho at AIPAC

Gung ho at AIPAC

MJ Rosenberg makes these observations on his eponymous blog:

It’s hard to watch the AIPAC conference for more than a few minutes at a time. For me, the worst part is the pandering (and lying) by Democratic politicians eager to raise money for their next campaign.

So far, Joe Biden has been the worst. He is heavily funded by the Adler family of Miami Beach (he even brought President Obama to their home for a fundraiser), one of the big AIPAC families. Here is Biden talking about how the head of the Adler klan and another AIPAC mogul gave him his “formal education” on the Middle East. (Not to mention all that money.

And, of course, Biden (like John Kerry) knows better than his AIPAC speeches indicate. I have talked to him about Israel and Palestine.He can name the top Palestinian leaders in Fatah and Hamas and tell you the differences between their respective positions. He believes Israel needs to end the occupation and talk to Hamas. He would not dare say it publicly, although he has said  it so often privately that it is amazing the media never reports it.

But Biden does what he thinks he has to because, for politicians like him (that is, pretty much all politicians), nothing is more important than keeping donors happy. Call him a hypocrite but he cries all the way to the bank.

The Republicans are different. Supporting the occupation and threatening war with Iran come naturally to them. They don’t need lobby money for their campaigns and they don’t get Jewish votes anyway.  (This is not to say that they don’t like Sheldon Adelson’s money, just that as the pro-business party, they don’t need it). They support Netanyahu because they believe that the west needs to crush the Muslim world. They do not feign Islamophobia. It’s them.

Do we not hear echoes of  Yeats in this accurate picture of today’s politics?: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.” Continue reading

Blasphemy, Islam and Free Speech: A Twittersation

This afternoon, I had a very interesting conversation with Shabbir R Hassanally on Twitter about events of the last week in Libya and Egypt.

This raging mess in American relations with the Islamic nations, which has, as Michelle Obama might say, “revealed” more about both candidates’ character and abilities in foreign policy than either may have wished for, was alleged to have begun when a trailer for an intentionally inflammatory anti-Islamic film called “Innocence of the Muslims” made in California in July was translated into Arabic and posted on YoutTube. Thus, it became known to Egyptian Islamists who consequently rioted at the American embassy, starting a chain reaction of anti-American protests around the Middle East and beyond. According to the New York Times, the fatal attack on Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi was the premeditated work of a Libyan paramilitary group with links to al-Qaeda that took advantage of the chaos over the riots against the film to execute a planned attack in retaliation for the drone-strike killing of a Libyan-born Qaeda official.

Huffington Post reports that the auteur behind the offensive film is one Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian-born Coptic Christian with a background that includes bank fraud and possibly meth manufacturing among  other enterprises. Though the story is weird and complicated, it seems Nakoula, in cahoots with a group of radical right-wing Christian Islamophobes, hired a bunch of actors to shoot a script they were told was about a fictional character. After the cheapie was shot, Nakoula dubbed in the offending dialogue denigrating Mohammed as a clueless sex maniac, pedophile and with various other Nakoula-like interests. When the story broke on the afternoon of September 11, Nakoula’s identity was not yet known. He was hiding behind the pseudonym “Sam Bacile” and claiming to be an Israeli-born American who was working with contributions from a hundred Israelis. In the Muslim world, word spread quickly that Israel and the US had colluded on the film, that it reflected not just the opinions of a nutty director but official US policy, as dictated to it by Zionist Israel. Why Nakoula tried to implicate Israel in his offense is not known (as far as I know). (Was he trying to give the Apocalypse a little boost? If so, maybe he succeeded better than he expected.) Continue reading