Friday, October 07, 2005

More War in the Middle East

According to a report in Haaretz, President Bush has claimed the mantle of God’s authority for actions in Iraq, the “war on terror,” and in the Middle East. Mr. Bush told Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas that, “God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.”

With God on his side, the president strode into the Trotskyite hive at the National Endowment for Democracy this past Thursday and profferred up his most extensive defense of administration policy to date—and a boodle of Churchillian grandeur as icing on the proverbial cake.

With the procession of prior rationales for war swept into history’s garbage bin, the president offered up a dose of rhetoric and moral certitude that will surely please second-graders, National Review columnists, Sean Hannity, and neo-Jacobins in the blogosphere. “In this new century,” said the president, “freedom is once again assaulted by enemies determined to roll back generations of democratic progress. Once again, we're responding to a global campaign of fear with a global campaign of freedom. And once again, we will see freedom's victory.”

After that initial dose of syrupy rhetorical spewage, the president resurrected the specter of 9/11:

"Recently our country observed the fourth anniversary of a great evil, and looked back on a great turning point in our history. We still remember a proud city covered in smoke and ashes, a fire across the Potomac, and passengers who spent their final moments on Earth fighting the enemy. We still remember the men who rejoiced in every death, and Americans in uniform rising to duty. And we remember the calling that came to us on that day, and continues to this hour: We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity. We will not tire, or rest, until the war on terror is won."

Blah, blah, blah. The 9/11 mantra is growing a tad tiresome and beginning to resemble the chorus of sheep in Orwell’s Animal Farm bleating, “Four legs good, two legs bad.” I’ll ask one more time: What connection can be drawn between the Iraqi government and 9/11? Until someone in the War Party can answer that question, they ought to cease with the demagoguery of enlisting 3,000 dead Americans in their imperious foolishness.

The Bushian monologue at the NED was laced with the same tedious rhetoric and shrillness which has come to characterize so much of the “strategic thinking” in neocon circles. Take, for example, this passage:

“While the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane. Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism….This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom.”

Has Mike Gerson been reading Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan? Here we see the ridiculous notion that terrorism is the product of an “evil” ideology. Such nonsense has been discredited by Michael Scheuer in "Imperial Hubris" and Robert Pape. In the NY Times (July 9, 2005), Pape said, "Figures show that Al Qaida today is less a product of Islamic fundamentalism than of a simple strategic goal: to compel the US and Western allies to withdraw combat forces from the Arabian Peninsula and other Muslim counties."

Defenders of the war claim that terrorists have made Iraq a central front in the battle against the United States. Mr. Bush says, "The terrorists know that the outcome [in Iraq] will leave them emboldened or defeated. So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction." According to Mr. Bush and his apologists, the US military must fight terrorists in Iraq, "so we do not have to face them here at home."

The argument made by Bush and the neocons begins with the presumption that there are a finite number of potential terrorists that can be penned up in Iraq and dealt with accordingly. In fact, the pool of anti-American fighters has likely grown as a response to the invasion of Iraq.

Not only Pape and Scheuer, but separate investigations by the Saudi government and an Israeli think tank found that the overwhelming majority of foreign fighters in Iraq became radicalized by the war itself.

Finally, the CIA issued a report that said, "Iraq...could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are 'professionalized' and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself," and that foreign jihadists "enjoy a growing sense of support from Muslims who are not necessarily supporters of terrorism."

In 2003, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld penned a memo questioning whether our actions in the war on terror were producing positive results. Rumsfeld wrote, "We lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?” Rumsfeld’s fear that American policy would create rather than deter terrorists is coming to fruition.

Meanwhile, in his NED speech, the president stepped his rhetoric and pointed to a wider Middle Eastern war. He called Syria and Iran "authoritarian regimes" and "allies of convenience" of Islamic radicals "with a long history of collaboration with terrorists." Bush accused Syria and Iran of harboring and enabling Islamic radicals and he said they share, "the goal of hurting America and moderate Muslim governments."

According to Haaretz, American and Isreali high-rollers are already working to determine who should succeed president Assad.

The problem is that Syria has a secular, nationalist government which has tussled with Islamic fundamentalists in the past. She tortured al-Qaeda members for the United States after September 11 and is a tiny country of only 18 million inhabitants. In short, Syria has no ability to harm the United States and most certainly is not aligned with Islamic fundamentalists.

What of Iran? Its brand of fundamentalism is Shiite in origin, while al-Qaeda consists largely of Sunnis and Wahhabis, who despise Shiites. Iran supports the new, Shiite-dominated government in Iraq and supported the January 30th elections. It supports the new constitution and the referendum. Iran backed the Northern Alliance in its war with the Taliban, while Shiite Iranians hate the Salafis like al-Zarqawi, who has called for a war of extermination against the Shiites.

As I have pointed out previously, and James Karth argues in The American Conservative, Islam is fractured between numerous sects. Our aim ought to be encouraging that division and helping to play various factions off against each other.

In Iraq, U.S. policy accomplished precisely the opposite of this strategy by toppling a secular regime and replacing it with a "democratic" regime which will almost certainly enforce Islamic Law and forge closer relations with Iran--the true Islamic power in the region.

Further intervention in the Middle East will only guarantee further loss of American blood, treasure and moral authority. It is time to come home.