Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Al-Sadr Takes a Lesson From Gandhi?

Now here's a sign of real progress in Iraq: on Monday, tens of thousands of Shiites staged a peaceful demonstration in the city of Najaf to protest the American occupation. From the New York Times:
The peaceful demonstration was being held at the urging of militant Shiite cleric He exhorted Iraqi security forces on Sunday to unite with his militiamen against the American military in Diwaniya, an embattled southern city in Iraq where fighting has raged for four days…

…A senior official in Mr. Sadr’s organization in Najaf, Salah al-Obaydi, called the rally a “call for liberation.”

A peaceful call for support in a violent effort to liberate Iraq from its liberators. Ain't that a kick in the head?

Here's another kick. Iraqi soldiers in uniform joined the demonstration. Who's on whose side in this circular firefight? It doesn't appear that anyone is on our side, that's for sure.

With Friends Like These…

The Sunnis want our troops out, the Shiites want our troops out. Most of the American public want our troops out. According to a Zogby Poll from last year, most of our troops want to get out. Our biggest pal in the Middle East, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, has called our occupation of Iraq "illegitimate," so it's a safe bet he wants our troops out of Iraq too.

Like Jack Murtha, I'm convinced the only folks who want us to stay in Iraq are Iran, Russia, China and al-Qaeda. It's a Sun Tzu kind of thing. There's no need to trade shots with your enemy when you can sit on the sidelines and watch him shoot himself.

Our supposed friends want us out of Iraq and our supposed enemies want us to stay there, and the Bush administration's policies continue to play into our enemies' strategy. The gang driving the Iraq escalation policy is the same neoconservative cabal that snake oiled us into our Mesopotamia mistake in the first place. Talk about "friends."

National Interest

The reasons we're admonished by the administration and its echo chamberlains to stay the course change as quickly as the reasons they took us to war to begin with, and few of them make sense.

The "enemy," whoever they are, can't follow us back here. Nobody's going to invade America militarily. Terrorist groups may sneak through our borders and ports in dribs and drabs, but nothing we're doing in Iraq is keeping that from happening. Stopping covert infiltration is a Homeland Security function (Customs, immigration, law enforcement, etc.) We don't "honor" our dead and wounded by adding to their number. We can't achieve "victory" in Iraq because we're not in a war with Iraq, per se. Iraq is in a war with itself and we're in the middle of it. Our presence in Iraq has killed more innocent Iraqis that it has saved. We're not stabilizing the Middle East, we're destabilizing it.

Iraq's neighbors, including Iran, will not invade Iraq. After watching the quagmire the "best-trained, best-equipped" military in history has bogged itself down in there, who else wants to repeat the experience? Also keep in mind that no country in the Middle East has a world-class military. They have, at best, border skirmish armies, swimming pool navies and commuter class air forces. For that same reason, an outbreak of general regional war is next to impossible. When it comes down to projecting conventional military force, these countries can barely throw a pillow across their bedrooms.

The only real reasons for us to stay the course in Iraq indefinitely are the reasons we went there in the first place, and as the paper trail of the now infamous neoconservative Project for the New American Century reveals, we invaded Iraq for oil and Israel. I certainly don't have a problem with America playing the role of Israel's guardian angel, but we didn't need to invade and occupy Iraq to accomplish that. What's more, throughout the course of its relatively short history, the state of Israel has proven quite capable of defending itself. All we've really had to do is give them the gear they needed to get the job done.

In his 2006 State of the Union Speech, Mr. Bush urged an end to America's oil "addiction," and described our dependence of foreign oil as a "serious problem." More than a year later, Mr. Bush seeks to pour more national blood and treasure into Iraq in an effort to protect our sources of foreign oil. In his 2006 speech, Bush said his energy policy goal was to make a 75 percent cut in oil imports by 2025. Bushwah. If we were to spend the kind of money on energy independence that we're currently spending on Iraq, we could shake the Middle East oil monkey off our back in a relative blink of an eye.

Good Money and Blood After Bad

Peter Baker and Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post reported on April 11, at least three retired four-star generals have turned down an offer to become the "czar" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job. Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq.
"So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.

Sheehan's remarks get to the crux of what I mentioned earlier about the neocons still calling the foreign policy tune. I can't read their minds, but I can read their considerable body of papers, letters and publications. It's quite clear that they want to keep the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan going as long as they possibly can, and if they can stir something up with Iran before Bush gets his pink slip, they'll take that too.

The neocons are, after all, the intellectual progeny of the late philosopher Leo Strauss, who believed the key to political order was perpetual war, that a populace can only be united if it is united against other people, and that if an external threat does not exist, it must be invented.

So if their justifications for staying the course don't make sense to you, keep in mind that their objective is not to make sense. Their objective is to make enough ad hominem noise to fool enough of the people enough of the time long enough for them to achieve their war aims. Behind the curtain, these post-modern Machiavellians equate war with power, and for them, just as the objective of power is more power, the aim of war is more war.


  1. Bacon's Rebellion5:43 PM


    In the main I agree with the thrust of your arguments but I believe you might have expanded your thesis to include the following:

    1. War is increasingly profitable for folks in the government contracting business such as Bechtel, Halliburton, DynCorp and a legion of other smaller corporations that supply goods and services (essentially warm bodies to perform duties that the troops used to perform themselves) as well as the vendors of all the various forms of hardware (high tech and otherwise) that a war time military burns up and wears out at phenomenal rate.

    I don't doubt that General Sheehan is too cunning to take the job of "War Czar" that is now being proffered by the WH. However, he is also now employed by the Bechtel Corporation making megabucks obtaining government contracts for them. Sadly Sheehan is just another of the current crop of retired flag officers cashing in on his general's stars by riding the incestuous government contracting scam. We would all be better off if these retired flag officers would do what they used to do. Retire, play golf and write their memoirs. I guess that a large part of the problem (other than greed and a lack of a moral compass) is that a memoir titled "How I Drew My Pay For 35 Years While Never Hearing A Shot Fired in Anger" probably has a somewhat limited appeal.

    2. Although you have gone after the Israelis with a lot more stick in some of your previous pieces you really cut them a great deal of slack in this one. They drive the AEI and that in turn drives the bulk of the neoconservative agenda. A very great deal of the trouble that we have had in the Middle East is the direct result of being Israel's combined guardian, enabler, quartermaster and general all around patsy. Like the Iraqis it is time that Israel stood on its own two feet --- by itself. If they cannot or will not that's just too damn bad. The United States is not responsible for the state of Israel. They are not the 51st state as much as some politicians (can you say Joe Lieberman) would have it.

  2. BR,

    Did you catch my piece from a few months ago that suggested we cut our a corner of the desert northwest, make it a 51st state, and give it to Israel?

  3. DEFord5:50 PM

    But don't forget the Seven Sisters in your list of those who want this War Without End. Those 7 Sirens of Petroleum are the reason we do not pursue energy independence. They don't want to learn any newfangled techniques when they had it so cushy with the old fossil fuel racket. Yeah, so what if a few bombs blow up a few hundred thousand friendlies and not so friendlies--that is just factored into the Cost of Doing Business. All incentives are to continue the war NOT pursue new rackets ahem I mean new alternative energy strategies. Those feet in the street all had one message :"Take a Hike" in unequivocal terms.

    And I will yet again invoke the wisdom of the REAL Pottery Barn Rule: if you break it, pay for it and get the hell out of my store never to return. As any parent of young and sometimes exuberant children know, the Rule does not include fixing the item our unruly leaders "broke". We apologize to the world. Get out of Iraq. And pay for the damage. Never return. But that would never fly with the Seven Sisters. My goodness, we might have to find another way to live.

    And Jeff, not only do we NOT pursue alternative energy sources, we allow the energy companies (including nuclear and coal) to place stiff and formidable BARRIERS to any renewable resource utilization. Just ask anyone who tries to put in solar panels and connect to the grid. The game is rigged.

  4. Bacon's Rebellion6:30 PM


    No, I evidently missed that article. What was the title? I'll look it up if its in your list of previously published pieces.

    I'm assuming that you wrote that with tongue in cheek. Although if you simply gave the Israelis a parcel of land in the Catskills it would not have much effect on our electoral system. New York would still elect the same types of politicians. Moreover, Grossinger's is very close by even if it is not a climate in which oranges are likely to grow well.

    My apologies for using the name "Jack" in my previous post. I have no idea where that came from. Jack Jacobs?

  5. BR,

    I had to scratch around a bit to find it myself. It's a piece I wrote last summer. Here's a link to an early version of it:

  6. Bacon's Rebellion9:34 PM


    Good stuff. Very droll. The running commentary on that piece was also amusing.

    The only exception I'd take is with your view of the Mossad. Those guys have managed over the last few decades to generate a lot of very favorable PR for themselves. Their problem is that they have now begun to believe their own press clippings (much like the IDF) and both got caught flatfooted in Lebanon last year. We'd be much better off farming out our intel requirements to the Saudis, Jordanians or damn near anyone else in the region. The idea that we might ever develop our own intelligence services to the point where they'd produce useful information in a timely manner is unlikely. It cannot be done using diplomatic cover and operating out an embassy or consulate. You might as well carry a blinking neon sign that says, "Hi, I'm a CIA case officer, turncoats wanted, we deal in cash, tell us your national secrets, no questions asked!"

  7. EdNSted9:47 PM

    Jeff said,

    "If we were to spend the kind of money on energy independence that we're currently spending on Iraq, we could shake the Middle East oil monkey off our back in a relative blink of an eye."

    Yes. And from where I stand, getting serious about reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources is probably the single, most cost effective thing we can do to increase our national security as well. It sure beats a misguided attempt to protect all the targets. Admittedly, there's no panacea here - i.e. there is no single replacement for petroleum that is quick or easy. And while total energy independence for the U.S. may not be feasible, I'm convinced that a greatly reduced reliance on foreign sources is very possible.

    I would also like to see us put at least some serious money (say for example, an amount equal to what we're unable to account for in Iraq) into R&D for electical storage technology. Why? Because if electricity could be generated when practical (i.e. when the wind blows, when the sun shines, etc.) and then stored until it was needed, then several of our alternative energy sources become much more attractive. This would require a significant advance in current technology. It may not be possible, but it should at least be explored -- because the payoff would be huge.

  8. billy2:07 PM

    Thank you.
    That was one of the most sensible arguments for leaving Iraq that I have read.

  9. Thanks again to all for another great discussion.

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