The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information

 TeasersSam Francis Blogview

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS

It must be difficult for President Bush’s speechwriters to keep coming up with plausible reasons as to why the United States should have gone to war with Iraq, but the White House wordsmiths surely earn their salaries.

This week the president took himself to a rally in Tennessee where he once again explained why “we were right to go into Iraq.”

The reasons his speechwriters gave him were as fanciful as anything the CIA and the Pentagon ever offered.

We were right to go into Iraq, the president insisted, “although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.”

Stockpiles? We haven’t even found a teacup of the weapons Mr. Bush and his advisers swore existed.

But the main reason it was right for us to “go into Iraq,” according to the speechwriters, is that “America and the world are safer.”

Are they really? Tell that to the good folks of Madrid or Bali or Istanbul or Saudi Arabia or Casablanca or various other places around the world that have received the attentions of the global terrorist network Mr. Bush’s war has helped crystallize and unify.

Even as Mr. Bush was telling voters they were safer, his own administration was warning of terrorist attacks in this country before the elections.

We are not safer now than before the war because the war accomplished absolutely nothing to deter or destroy the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks and others. Indeed, the war with Iraq did much to solidify the terrorists of Al Qaeda with the discontented masses of the Arabic and Muslim world, so that today we face virtually two continents united in hatred of the United States, in addition to millions of Middle Eastern immigrants the West has foolishly allowed to invade its own territories.

But of course Mr. Bush had to say something, and what else can he say at this point to defend the war, after virtually every reason he and his administration originally offered in justification has been proved false—most recently by the release last week of the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a body controlled by his own party? [Report PDF23 megabytes!]

The report found that the intelligence estimates of October, 2002 claiming that Iraq was rebuilding its nuclear capacities and that it possessed chemical and biological weapons were “overstated or were not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting.”

Nor were claims of Iraqi support for Al Qaeda accurate. Estimates of the 1990s pointing to relations between Iraq and the terrorists “did not add up to an established formal relationship,” and “there was no evidence proving Iraqi complicity or assistance in an Al Qaeda attack.”

Yet even today the administration and its water-fetchers in the conservative press insist that there was such an alliance.

The last conclusion of the Intelligence Committee is perhaps more questionable. It holds that there is no evidence of “pressure” from the administration on the CIA to come up with the interpretations it wanted.

The conclusion is questionable because the estimates the intelligence community offered always just happened to come out the way the White House and its war party wanted. Incompetence tends to be random, and if the spy agencies were so crippled that they repeatedly missed the intelligence they should have had or misinterpreted what they did have, the estimates they offered would not all have pointed in the same direction.

Moreover, there was clear opportunity for pressure. As TheWashington Post reported, the public White Paper the CIA produced that was based on its classified National Intelligence Estimate originated in a meeting between CIA Deputy Director (now acting Director) John McLaughlin and National Security Council staffers, apparently in May, 2002. The NSC boys requested the White Paper, and Mr. McLauchlin rushed back to Langley and got busy. [Report Says CIA Distorted Iraq Data By Dana Priest, July 12, 2004]

At that meeting alone, not to mention any other communications CIA officials may have had with the administration, “pressure” was virtually unavoidable, if today entirely unprovable. The war party inside the administration wanted and needed justifications for the war that could be offered to the public, and the CIA leadership knew that’s what they wanted.

There can be no reasonable doubt that the tidy and convenient little estimates the agency finally came up with were exactly what they were supposed to produce.

And what that means is that the administration deliberately lied about the justifications for the war.

What this administration has done is not only concoct a tissue of lies to drag us into a war we should not have fought but also help unite the enemies we already had before the war and help solidify them with new enemies the administration has helped create.

In the election campaign that looms before us, it will be fascinating to hear how the president’s speechwriters will explain and justify that accomplishment.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq 
🔊 Listen RSS

Well over a year ago, neoconservative David Frum unleashed an unpleasant gob of spit in National Review accusing a number of veteran conservative writers (including me) of being “unpatriotic conservatives [NRO, March 19, 2003] because we opposed President Bush’s war with Iraq.

Today Mr. Frum ought to rewrite his article. The founder and editor of National Review himself, William F. Buckley Jr., has declared that he would not have supported the war either had he known then what he knows now.

Mr. Buckley’s confession came out in the New York Times last week, when he announced his retirement from the magazine that, in its first issue of November 19, 1955, boasted it would “stand athwart history and cry stop.” [National Review Founder to Leave Stage,June 29, 2004, By David D. Kirkpatrick.]

Today, nearly fifty years later, it has conspicuously failed to do so, but Mr. Buckley is to be congratulated on at least having the intellectual honesty to acknowledge he was wrong about supporting history’s unfortunate double time into Iraq.

“With the benefit of minute hindsight,” he told the Times,“Saddam Hussein wasn’t the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago. If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.”

That makes Mr. Buckley as much of an “unpatriotic conservative,”by Mr. Frum’s standards, as Pat Buchanan, Joe Sobran, Chroniclesmagazine, Robert Novak, me or any of the other unusual suspects he lumped into the unpatriotic category.

The only difference is that we didn’t have to wait until more than 800 Americans and an untold number of Iraqis were dead, billions of dollars wasted, and half the planet despising us to know what would happen.

Nevertheless, if Mr. Buckley’s confession is honest, though a bit overdue, it’s not terribly typical. Thanks in no small part to his contributions in recent years, neoconservative hysterics like Mr. Frum and the lightweight kiddy-cons Mr. Buckley has handpicked to run his magazine have virtually destroyed the real right that Mr. Buckley himself helped kick off back in 1955.

Indeed, that’s a large part of the reason the left has come to regard Mr. Buckley so highly.

National Review for decades was the major and sometimes the only voice of serious conservatism in the country, and for a while it did indeed cry stop at the oncoming freight train of the future. Mr. Buckley assembled the leading conservative thinkers and writers of his generation to issue the magazine’s challenge—James Burnham, Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, Willmore Kendall, Whittaker Chambers and others.

Most of them today have still not won the recognition they deserve, and one reason they haven’t is that neoconservatives have rejected and ignored them and their works—not infrequently with Mr. Buckley’s help.

Indeed, looking at what Mr. Buckley himself has done in the last couple of decades, it’s hard to resist the view that it was the men he originally brought together at his magazine rather than his own mind and pen that made National Review the intellectual and political success it was.

As his colleagues and editors died off—several of them prematurely—Mr. Buckley failed either to replace them or take up their legacies. After they were gone, he seemed to forget most of what they had tried to impart. His own efforts started wandering—into spy novels and travel memoirs that were strikingly forgettable and today are all but forgotten.

Since at least the 1980s, Mr. Buckley has encouraged the alliance of real conservatives with the neocons and has done little if anything to pull the newcomers in the proper direction.

Instead, he at least acquiesced in and often promoted the dilution and distortion of conservatism the neo-cons were injecting.

The Frum article last year is a case in point. Nowhere in it did Mr. Frum come even close to proving his claim that the anti-war right has “made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe” or that “some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies,” and had he been a bit more specific as to who exactly he was talking about here, he might have enjoyed a libel suit.

Nevertheless, Mr. Buckley allowed these charges to be published in the magazine he controlled.

Today he says the people Mr. Frum smeared were right all along.

An apology is more than overdue.

William F. Buckley Jr. brought many gifts to American conservatism, and much of what all conservatives today know and think could never have flourished without his efforts.

It’s his tragedy and that of the movement he helped found that they finished up riding on the caboose of the very train they once vowed to halt.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, Neocons 
🔊 Listen RSS

Probably nothing has made neoconservative chicken hawks flap and crow quite like the conclusion announced last week by the Sept 11 Commission that it could establish no “collaborative relationship”between Al Qaeda and the regime of Saddam Hussein.

For the next several days the Bush administration (including the president himself) and its water-fetchers in the media insisted the Commission didn’t know what it was talking about. [Commission Staff Statement PDF] I guess if you say it three times, it’s true.

But no matter how many times the armchair warriors claim Saddam and Al Qaeda were in cahoots, there remains no evidence to establish that, let alone that Saddam knew about or was involved in the attacks of 9/11.

There were, as both the administration and the Commission seem to agree, some “links” or “connections” or “contacts” between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but no substantive support of the terrorists by Baghdad and in particular no participation in Al Qaeda’s attacks against U.S. targets.

As for the “links,” “contacts,” etc., of course they existed. The Baghdad government would have been nuts not to stay in touch with the terrorists, not only to see what they were up to as much as it could but also to make sure the mad mullahs in Osama bin Laden’s stable didn’t decide to turn the wrath of Allah against the less than pious Saddam himself.

Governments, good ones or bad ones, often maintain what are called “back channel” contacts with unsavory elements—terrorists, spies, criminals, even neoconservatives.

It’s true the administration never actually claimed that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks, but some spokesmen rather encouraged people to think so.

Even more than the administration itself, its chicken-hawk allies in the neocon media pushed this claim for all it was worth—which turns out to be not very much.

Back before snoopy commissions started poking into what actually happened, neoconservative pundits jabbered constantly about the murky ties between Iraq and 9/11. The pièce de résistance was the supposed meeting between Mohammed Atta, who masterminded the attacks, and an Iraqi diplomat in Prague on April 9, 2001.

Neoconservative columnist William Safire was the first to claim this meeting showed a connection of Iraq with 9/11, and even after published news stories showed it never happened, Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, insisted that the Czech ambassador assured him it did take place. [Mohamed Atta Was Here,Fred Barnes Weekly Standard August 6, 2003]

The evidence for the meeting is a videotape of the Iraqi diplomat in Prague walking and talking with an unidentified man said to be Atta.

There’s no doubt the diplomat did meet with somebody. There are two questions: Was it Atta, and if so, what did they talk about?

Mr. Barnes did not hesitate to leap to the conclusion that the meeting proved that Iraq was in on the 9/11 attacks. “The meeting has political and international importance,” he puffed. “A connection between Iraq and Atta, an al Qaeda operative under Osama bin Laden, bolsters the case for military action by the United States to remove the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.”

Well, yes, that was the whole point, wasn’t it, and it’s the reason the chicken hawks are so infuriated that the Sept. 11 Commission can’t find any “collaborative relationship” at all between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

As for the famous Atta chat with the Iraqi diplomat, the Commission has now shown that it almost certainly did not take place at all. Atta is known to have withdrawn money from his Virginia bank account on April 4, five days before the meeting, and calls are known to have been made from his cell phone on April 6, 9, 10, and 11—from Florida, not Prague. [No Evidence of Meeting With Iraqi By James Risen, NYT June 17, 2004]

Either Atta left his cell phone with someone else (most dubious—no self-respecting terrorist would let his cell phone out of his possession; it’s like letting somebody else use your toothbrush) or was able to bilocate magically from Florida to Prague.

Or—as unthinkable as it may be to some people—Atta never met with the Iraqi at all.

The non-meeting has even more “political and international importance” than a real meeting, because the non-meeting means the whole case for the Al Qaeda-Saddam link collapses, as does the chicken hawk-administration case for “military action by the United States to remove the Saddam Hussein regime.”

The really fascinating question about the whole Iraq war is one the Commission has not explored and probably won’t: Just exactly how many lies did the Neoconservatives who engineered the war concoct?

We have known for more than a year now that the “weapons of mass destruction” claims were fake.

Now we know the same about Al Qaeda and its “links” with Iraq.

There are several other whoppers they also fabricated.

Somebody really ought to investigate.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, Neocons 
🔊 Listen RSS

Is there any particular reason why Americans should be surprised at the tales of torture coming out of the world’s youngest democracy in Iraq?

What else exactly did you expect? That we really went to Iraq for the purpose of creating a democracy?

My purpose is not to sound either blasé or cynical about the atrocities and abuses American soldiers have been perpetrating on Iraqi prisoners for the last several months or about what looks increasingly like an attempted but bungled cover-up of the details by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

What took place at the torture palace known as Abu Ghraib is brutal and disgusting and merits severe punishment for those involved in it—including the secretary and his advisers.

But I suspect the story is far from over.

It’s not over because what happened there in many respects is a logical development of the way this country went to war in the first place. Stoked to the eyeballs with perfectly justified anger over the September 11 attacks, Americans allowed themselves to be hornswoggled by the Bush crowd that virtually all Arabs or Moslems were in some vague way implicated in the attacks.

Neoconservative propagandists who beat the war drums loudest welcomed that linkage, if only to crank the country into the proper mood for going after Saddam Hussein.

Self-righteousness wedded to blanket generalizations about the Middle East does not encourage careful distinctions about justice and injustice. That neither Saddam nor any Iraqi had anything to do with 9/11 was lost as the administration slyly allowed that impression to sink in.

Probably far more than the myths of “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” the unstated implication of Iraqi involvement in the 9/11 attacks and support for anti-American terrorism in general helped drag the country toward war.

On top of that little bit of deceit, there is the larger neoconservative rationalization for the war (and all the future wars they expect us to fight), namely, imperialism. The Weekly Standard and other neo-con publications for the last several years have rehearsed the stale arguments for imperialism constantly, well before 9/11.

Interviewed in the Washington Post in August, 2001, Thomas Donnelly, deputy executive director of the neo-con think tank Project for the New American Century, called for nothing less. “In ways similar though not identical to the Roman and British empires, he argues, the United States is an empire of democracy or liberty—it is not conquering land or establishing colonies, but it has a dominating global presence militarily, economically, and culturally.” [Empire or Not? A Quiet Debate Over U.S. Role By Thomas E. Ricks August 21, 2001]

Mr. Donnelly’s neat little ideas merely reflected a global strategy plan crafted by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz a decade ago in the first Bush administration. The war with Iraq is the logical outcome.

And so is torture.

Does anyone really think you can wage war against other countries, conquer them, depose their leaders and overthrow their ruling classes, and then get involved in a protracted guerrilla war without “violating human rights”?

The imperialism peddled by the neo-cons may not be “identical” to the imperialism of the past, but it’s close enough that the more imperial we become, the more identical will be the tactics we deploy.

In a recent essay, paleoconservative political thinker Claes Ryn argues that the “democratic imperialism” the United States has embraced descends ultimately from the crusading fanaticism of the Jacobins of the French Revolution—and with much the same consequences.

“The ideas of the French Jacobins provided a sweeping justification for exercising unlimited power. As followers of Rousseau, the Jacobins were not content with reforming historically evolved ways of life. ‘Freedom, equality and brotherhood’ required the radical remaking of society. Because of the scope and glory of the task, the Jacobins had to gather all power unto themselves and deal ruthlessly with opposition. Good stood against evil, all good on one side—their side. The Jacobins called themselves ‘the virtuous.’ In the twentieth century, their communist descendants offered an even more blanket justification for wielding unlimited power….

“Americans attracted to the Jacobin spirit have therefore sought … to redefine American principles so as to make them more serviceable to the will to power. They have propounded a new myth—the myth of America the Virtuous—according to which America is a unique and noble country called to remake the world in its own image. The myth provides another sweeping justification for dominating others.”[Which American? by Claes G. Ryn,, May 5, 2004]

Professor Ryn’s remarks were uttered well before the horror stories from Abu Ghraib started to emerge, but just as Edmund Burke foresaw the Jacobins’ Reign of Terror enforced with the guillotine, so paleoconservatives foresaw what would happen once the New Jacobins launched their own empire of virtue backed up by torture.

Americans can either pull back from those consequences now—or get used to more horror stories.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Torture 
🔊 Listen RSS

Somewhat breathlessly, the New York Times has discovered, as a headline this week informed us, that “Lack of Resolution In Iraq Finds Conservatives Divided.” [by David D. Kilpatrick, April 19, 2004].

Translated into American, that means many conservatives are less than enchanted with the quick and easy cakewalk to peace and democracy in Iraq on which the Bush administration has embarked the country and some may be suffering a few stomach cramps over what to do about it—namely, whether to support President Bush’s re-election.

It’s great the Times finally noticed that not all conservatives are marching in lockstep with the White House, but the news it finally found fit to print is just a little stale.

The truth is that many conservatives have long opposed the war and the whole globalist-imperialist thinking behind it—myself, as well as Pat Buchanan, Chronicles and The American Conservative magazines, columnists Paul Craig Roberts and Charley Reese and libertarians like Justin Raimondo and Doug Bandow, to name a few. The Timesmentions Mr. Buchanan, by far the most eminent of them, but never notices the others at all.

Long ago, when war with Iraq was merely a glitter in the beady little eyes of Paul Wolfowitz and his neoconservative mobsters, the anti-war conservatives raised questions and doubts about the whole project—the “weapons of mass destruction,” Iraq’s supposed ties to 9/11, Al Qaeda and terrorism in general, and whether Saddam Hussein, nasty as he was, was really much of a threat to us or anybody else outside his own borders.

Today, the answers are in—and the anti-war right was correct on virtually every one.

But not only does the Times miss the boat on who the conservative critics of the war were; it also misses it on who they are now. In a rather bizarre sentence, it offers as an example—National Review.

The Times article notes that a recent editorial in the Manhattan mag “adopted a newly skeptical tone toward the neoconservatives and toward the occupation.” Well, sort of.

The editorial, “An End to Illusion,” [May 3] commendably criticizes what it calls the “Wilsonian mistake” that lies at the heart of the current boondoggle in Iraq—”an underestimation in general of the difficulty of implanting democracy in alien soil, and an overestimation in particular of the sophistication of what is fundamentally still a tribal society. And one devastated by decades of tyranny.”

But it pulls back from the real implications of that criticism and insists that “Iraq was not a Wilsonian—or a ‘neoconservative’—war. It was broadly supported by the Right as a war of national interest.”

Yes, but as the current Wilsonian obsession suggests, the Right—and National Review in particular—was wrong.

Since the administration and the Right were generally in (shall we say) error over the reality of the threat Iraq posed, the only justification for the war they now have is Wilsonianism—that the war was justified as a means of liberating Iraq and creating the democracy and human rights that Saddam denied—and “Wilsonianism” is precisely what the administration and its spokesmen and apologists have spouted for the last several months.

The “war of national interest” that the pro-war right supported turned out to be a fraud—and some of us knew it was a fraud all along.

“Some of us” distinctly did not include National Review, which a year ago published a long and nasty article denouncing conservatives who opposed the war as “unpatriotic” (like me, Mr. Buchanan, Chronicles, and the rest of the anti-war right), even as it wrapped itself in Wilsonian sonorities to justify the war.

Now, with the American public starting to wonder whatever happened to the cakewalk, with more and more insiders testifying how the neoconservatives started instigating the war even before the 9/11 attacks, and with a bloody and bottomless pit yawning before us in the chaos we have created in Iraq, the patriotic conservatives at National Review are pleased to lecture us about the dangers of the “Wilsonian mistake.”

Wilsonians are still amongst us, of course. The Times also quotes Bill Kristol, editor of the neo-conservative Weekly Standard, who shows not even a trace of second thoughts about Iraq . “If we[neoconservatives] have to make common cause with the more hawkish liberals and fight the conservatives, that is fine with me,” he chirps.

It won’t surprise real conservatives like those who opposed the war before it started that phony-cons like Bill Kristol are ready to sign on with liberals.

Maybe, once the boys at NR have figured out what’s wrong with the “Wilsonian mistake” they swallowed themselves and explained it all to us lesser lights, they’ll start seeing through the other illusions and blunders their neoconservative pals have been peddling them for years.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Conservative Movement, Iraq 
🔊 Listen RSS

Forget September 11th. For the last several weeks, the commission investigating the terrorist attacks of that date have grilled just about every policy wonk, major or minor, past or present, this side of the moons of Jupiter in an effort to find somebody—mainly the Bush administration—to blame. The administration may share blame, but unless someone uncovers more of a bombshell than has yet exploded, it’s probable no one is to blame but the terrorists themselves.

The point is that who’s to blame for 9/11 is not the big story. The big story is who got us into Iraq and how.

We know who. It was the neoconservative mafia that dominates foreign and national security policy in this administration and the Republican propaganda factories known as the “conservative media.” Inside the administration their leaders are or have been Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, former Defense Advisory Board chairman Richard Perle, and various and sundry officials in the Pentagon, State Department, or National Security Council. Their role has been thoroughly documented in any number of articles, news stories and reports by independent investigators.

Compared to that story, the fake question of whose fault the 9/11 attacks were fades into meaninglessness, though that’s what the commission, its witnesses and a good part of the national press have been bickering about and thereby sidetracking attention from the more important issue.

But the question of who got us into Iraq begins to fade compared to the question now looming, which is, how will the war with Iraq blow up into a full-scale war in the Middle East that may engulf the whole region and the world?

Instead of sniffing the bitter coffee that the escalating guerrilla war against the U.S. presence in Iraq is emitting, the neo-con mafia and its allies are now exploiting the escalation to badger for yet another war—this time against Iran, if not the people of Iraq itself. Last week, conservative guru William F. Buckley, Jr., suggested (but pulled back from actually endorsing) using poison gas against Iraqis.

Saddam Hussein’s use of poison gas “against his own people” was and remains one of the Bush administration’s main arguments for why war against him was justified.

The irony of Mr. Buckley’s modest proposal to use the same weapons ourselves is rather staggering—the moral equivalent of Abraham Lincoln setting up as a slave trader after the Civil War.

But calculated decimation of the Iraqi people by the United States is by no means the limit of what establishment conservatives and their neo-con friends are willing to support. New York Post columnist Ralph Peters offered his own suggestion in a column this week headlined “Iraq—What to do: Drop the hammer now.” [NY Post, April 12, 2004]

The “hammer” Mr. Peters instructs President Bush to “drop” consists of the firm rejection of “any ‘settlement,’ any halt short of the annihilation of the killers who want to destroy the future of Iraq,” and the probable annihilation of Iran as well, because according to “at least two sources exclusive to The [New York] Post,” Iran is behind all the troubles in Iraq. “Moqtada al-Sadr is Iran’s man in Shi’a Iraq,” Mr. Peters assures us.

It’s not that Iraqis themselves really don’t like the military occupation of their country by a foreign force (us), or that the 60 percent Shiite majority in Iraq don’t want to see their country and their future turned over to what in their eyes is little more than a gang of infidels and pagan barbarians obsessed with sex and money.

It must all be the fault of Iran, and therefore we need to “annihilate”it along with Saddam Hussein, his sons, the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and everyone else who’s not with the program for Global Democracy enforced with a few whiffs of poison gas.

The advice to this administration to wage “World War IV” against the entire Arabic and Muslim world, starting with Iran, is not new.

Neoconservative guru Norman Podhoretz urged that even before the war in an article in Commentary magazine last year, while neoconservative globo-cop Michael Ledeen was slobbering for war with Iran before, during and after the war. Last week in the neocon Weekly Standard, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a protégé of Richard Perle at the American Enterprise Institute, worried that “building democracy in the Muslim Middle East” “won’t happen at all if the Bush administration pulls back from its ‘forward strategy of freedom’.” Not A Diversion, April 12, 2004.

There seems to be little sign that the Bush administration is not still controlled by the same persons who brought us the present and deepening disaster in Iraq.

If Mr. Bush stays in office, the signs are that the same people will bring us another one in Iran and wherever else they are permitted to lay their deadly games.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq 
🔊 Listen RSS

Only a few weeks after the anniversary of the grand cakewalk through Iraq by American forces, it is obvious that the war that was supposed to have been over a year ago is not only still going on but is escalating—and that American forces are not exactly winning.

Sometime between the Madrid bombing last month and the ever-rising casualties of American soldiers and civilians in Iraq in the last few weeks, the whole argument for the war began to unravel.

Of course the previous arguments for the war—the non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” and the equally non-existent “links” between Iraq and Al Qaeda—were exposed as fraudulent long ago.

But now, in the last few weeks, even the administration’s back-up argument, that the war rid Iraq of a repressive, bloodthirsty and dangerous regime, has crumbled.

What that argument told us was that Americans should fight and die so Iraqis could be free. Even on its face, the argument was false—it assumes that Iraqi lives are worth more than ours—but with the escalation of the war, the argument becomes ridiculous.

The very resistance to American occupation by Shiites as well as Sunnis shows clearly that Iraqis don’t want the “freedom” American bayonets are supposed to deliver.

Indeed, it shows the Iraqis hate us and the horse we rode in on.

Back when Saddam Hussein himself was captured in December, the confident predictions from the administration’s tame experts were that his arrest would end the resistance in Iraq.

I didn’t think so. As I wrote then,

“The cutting edge of the war is being pressed by Islamic fundamentalists of one kind or another—people, many of them not even from Iraq, who identify with Osama bin Laden or similar figures far more than with Saddam, always one of the most secularized leaders of one of the most secularized regimes in the Middle East.”

And that’s what the experts now admit. Neither the death of Saddam’s two sons nor his own capture have helped quell the armed resistance to American occupation.

The real political force in Iraq today is neither the U.S. forces nor Saddam’s Baathists but the Shiites and their leader Moqtada Sadr, who promised last week to turn Iraq into “another Vietnam for America.” He may well do just that—with our cooperation.

“Another Vietnam for America” would take more than just a well-armed guerrilla force. It would also require the support of a large portion of the civilian population, which, with the Shiites making up 60 percent of the Iraqi people, is entirely likely. It would take a supply of weapons that the Iraqis also have from the vast conventional arsenals of the old regime, as well as whatever they can bring in from outside sources.

And, maybe most importantly, it would take a foreign source of support, comparable to North Vietnam, that can provide sanctuary, arms, supplies and a base. The Washington Times reported last week that “military sources with access to recent intelligence reports”say that Sadr “is being supported by Iran and its terror surrogate Hezbollah.”

You never can tell about these “military sources with access to recent intelligence reports.” The same kind of sources told us last year all about the weapons of mass destruction and other fables, and the claims about Iranian support may merely be government propaganda to justify yet another war, this one against Iran, that Israeli agents of influence inside the administration are yelping for.

But Iranian support for Sadr and his militia is also entirely plausible and indeed was predictable. Why should Iran, a Shiite nation itself, want to allow the United States and its Israeli ally to take over Iraq?

Why shouldn’t forces naturally sympathetic to Iran rule in Baghdad? So the “military sources” for once may actually know what they’re talking about. If so, Sadr’s ambition for “another Vietnam” may be close to reality.

But there’s one more ingredient necessary for turning Iraq into another Vietnam, and that’s the stupidity of the U.S. government. In the 1960s Lyndon Johnson walked into the Vietnamese trap without knowing where he was going or what would happen when he got there.

This week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld assured the nation that “We’re facing a test of will and we will meet that test” in Iraq. The Pentagon indicated that it would delay bringing back home some 25,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and Mr. Rumsfeld says he will consider sending more troops there if the military command wants them.

President Bush himself bubbled last week that “we’ve got to stay the course, and we will stay the course.”

Sheik Sadr appears to have everything he needs to make his dream of another Vietnam for America come true.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq 
🔊 Listen RSS

With the grotesque spectacle of the burned and bludgeoned bodies of American civilians hanging from a bridge over the Euphrates, Americans need to start thinking about what the Bush administration has dragged the nation into, how we can get out of it and why it happened at all.

The answers to the last question popped up in a newspaper in Asia last week.

Last year I and a number of other critics of the forthcoming war argued that the fabled “weapons of mass destruction” that were supposed to be the reason for the war were not the real reason at all. Most critics, including me, at that time didn’t know the extent to which the war peddlers had simply fabricated their claims about the weapons, but we did know what the real reason was and who was behind it.

“The Likudniks are really in charge now,” a senior government official in the Bush administration told the Washington Post in a front-page Feb. 9, 2003 story. [Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical On Mideast Policy By Robert G. Kaiser]

The “Likudniks” of course are the partisans of the Likud Party government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and the official was speaking not of the Israeli government but our own. The people who pushed hardest for the American war against Iraq were neoconservatives, mainly but not entirely of Jewish background, in both the administration and out of it who put Israel’s interests first.

The “war on terrorism,” 9/11 and weapons of mass destruction had nothing to do with it. Israel has long seen Iraq under Saddam Hussein as its major threat in the Middle East, and some Bush administration officials involved in pushing for war were urging an earlier Likud government in 1996 to work for war against Iraq.

Sept. 11 merely gave them the chance to make it happen. Now it has, at American expense.

I was by no means the only one to point to the Israeli connection. Almost every critic of the war, left and right, also knew what was going on—Pat Buchanan, Joseph Sobran, Paul Craig Roberts, Charley Reese, the Rockford Institute’s Chronicles, the American Conservative, Justin Raimondo of and others. So did left-wing critics at The Nation, the Guardian and any number of newspapers and magazines in this country and Europe. Most of them—especially those on the right—were immediately denounced as “unpatriotic,” “conspiracy freaks”and, most of all, “anti-Semites.”

Now, on the heels of the latest evidence of the continuing disaster into which the administration and Mr. Sharon’s agents of influence within it have dragged us, comes fresh confirmation of their role in instigating the war for the interests of a foreign state.

The Asia Times reported last week that a gentleman named Philip Zelikow, a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in 2001, said in a speech months before the war that “the real threat” of Iraq was not to the United States but “against Israel.”

Speaking to an audience at the University of Virginia, where he teaches military history, Mr. Zelikow said, “And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don’t care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell”—which is why the real reasons had to be masked with what now appear to have been just plain lies about “weapons of mass destruction,” “links” between Saddam and Al Qaeda and other concoctions.

The administration has slammed other former members like Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and counter-terrorism expert Richard Clarke, who have pointed to much the same connections, but it would be hard to slam Mr. Zelikow.

He had no political or personal ax to grind against the administration and in fact supports both it and the war. He worked for the Bush administration’s transition team in 2001, drafting a plan for reorganizing the National Security Council. He also happens to be Jewish, so it’s hard to say he’s an “anti-Semite.”

The war the Likudniks planned has come but not gone. Despite their stupid predictions about being a “cakewalk,” it’s now cost us the lives of 600 Americans who didn’t have to die and billions of dollars. There’s no sign Iraq is being “pacified” or that democracy is blossoming, and the terrorists who murdered 3,000 Americans on 9/11 just slaughtered more than 200 in Madrid.

Mr. Bush’s wars have brought nothing about; his promises were all untrue.

Americans have a chance this year to stop the madness the Likudnik cabal has started before it engulfs us in a war we can’t walk away from.

If we don’t take that chance, the cabal will stay with us, along with the wars it wants us to fight for someone else’s country.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, Israel, Neocons 
🔊 Listen RSS

“Think,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld enjoined the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. “It took us 10 months to find Saddam Hussein. The reality is that the hole he was found hiding in was large enough to hold enough biological weapons to kill thousands of human beings.”

OK, and therefore what exactly?

That the missing weapons must exist somewhere in their own undiscovered spider hole?

That there was no “intelligence failure,” let alone an outright deception to push us into war with Iraq?

That there’s no problem with our intelligence collection and analysis?

Mr. Rumsfeld’s little lecture in how to think not only flubs its own test but is outright dangerous in refusing to acknowledge what almost everyone else in the world now knows was wrong and what many have come to see was not a blunder but a lie.

No, weapons inspectors have not searched every single spider hole, closet, attic, basement, garage, kitchen cabinet, or drainage ditch in Iraq, and yes, it remains possible that such unexamined spaces might contain the missing weapons.

By precisely the same logic, hunters of the Loch Ness monster and similar bogeys claim those creatures exist, and it’s a logic that is unanswerable because no one can prove they don’t.

But the point is that arguments that cannot be refuted or verified are not therefore right. They are simply meaningless.

For the Secretary of Defense to sit before a Senate committee and utter the sort of transparently foolish arguments Mr. Rumsfeld did last week should tell us something about this administration, but probably no more than what we learned long ago. It tells us that the administration is not only willing to hopscotch with the truth and continue doing so long after everyone else knows the truth but also is willing to insult the intelligence of the public in doing so.

If contriving to push this country into an unnecessary and unjustified war that continues to this day, which shows little sign of ending and has already claimed the lives of more than 500 Americans is not insult enough, sitting in front of senators and the American people and babbling nonsense a schoolchild can see through ought to earn Mr. Rumsfeld a demotion to doorkeeper.

Yet what he argued was only a bit more brazen than what better heads in the administration are offering as justification of the war. Interviewed by the Washington Post last week Secretary of State Colin Powell made a more belabored but no less flawed argument than his Pentagon counterpart.

Mr. Powell argued that “to talk about a threat, you have to look at the intent and you have to look at capabilities, and two of them together constitute a threat.”[The Right Thing to Do]

Well, maybe, but the point is there is no evidence at all that Saddam Hussein had any intent to attack the United States or anyone else in the last 13 years or so, and not very much evidence of any real capacity to do so even if he wanted.

Mr. Powell’s case for “intent” is that Saddam once used poison gas against Iran and “his own people.” Sorry, but that doesn’t prove he intended to use it against the United States. Morals aside, there are very compelling practical reasons why Saddam would have been ill-advised to use poison gas against the United States, and nobody has ever suggested that Saddam was too stupid or crazy to understand them.

Attacking Kurds and Iranians is one thing; the United States, another.

Then there’s “capability,” which is even less persuasive. Mr. Powell says “capability” involves “intellectual ability” to produce the weapons and the “technical infrastructure” able to do it, and Saddam had both.

Granting that he did, there is still the little matter of adequate production systems and delivery systems. And even granting all that, there are still any number of alternatives to full-scale war, from diplomacy and pressures to limited military strikes.

The United States would have been justified in going to war with Iraq if Iraq had been shown to possess a real, present capacity to attack us and was planning to do so imminently. Neither was shown before the war, and they have not been shown today, and even Mr. Powell doesn’t claim they were.

What has been shown is that the claims that were made were untrue, and what is clear is that those who made those claims the loudest refuse to acknowledge they were wrong or to examine why they were wrong.

As long as that mentality of willful blindness prevails, this administration is incapable of recognizing the real threats the country faces and protecting it from them.

And that is a far greater danger to the United States than anything Saddam Hussein ever intended to do to it or was capable of doing.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq 
🔊 Listen RSS

With John Kerry on the eve of uniting the Democratic Party and George W. Bush sinking slowly in national polls, political reality seems to have begun to glimmer inside the Bush White House, to the point that the president has now decided the better part of valor would be an “independent inquiry” into the claims that Iraq possessed the fabled “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” For the White House even to grant such a concession is a blatant contradiction of what the president and his advisors have been saying ever since they started making the case for war with Iraq at all.

It is a contradiction because even as it became clear that there were no “Weapons of Mass Destruction” to be found, the administration persisted in claiming they had found them. Last spring, Mr. Bush himself babbled about two captured Iraqi trailers that supposedly were used to produce biological agents. By summer it was clear they were used to produce hydrogen for weather balloons. Until recently Vice President Cheney and other administration officials have also repeatedly insisted that the WMDs really existed, had been found, would be found, or might be found, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld still does.

“Until recently” means until (a) former chief weapons inspector David Kay testified to Congress last week that he now believes there were no such weapons and (b) the Democratic primaries began to paste Mr. Bush right and left and produce a candidate who has far more substantial support than the eccentric Howard Dean. Only at that point did something resembling reality began to creep tiptoe through the White House corridors.

But the White House would be ill advised to let reality creep too far. Reality is that there are not and never were (since at least the early 1990s) any WMDs in Iraq, and any “independent inquiry” into the “intelligence failure” that claimed there were will have to account for why “we” thought so. Sooner or later, for all the “intelligence failures” the administration and its “independent inquiry” discover, reality will lead inexorably to what the White House knows is unsayable: Somebody lied.

You can call it “massaging” the intelligence or leaping to the worst case interpretation or seizing on those analyses that fit your preconceived conclusion that Iraq did have such weapons or any other euphemism you can invent, but the point is that all the “intelligence failures” about Iraq’s WMDs pointed in one direction—that they existed. Incompetence is always random. Usually it’s wrong, but sometimes it’s right, which is why a broken clock is sometimes right. The “intelligence failure” that claimed Saddam had WMDs was never right and always wrong, so it was not a failure or the result of incompetence. It was—somewhere along the line—deliberate: a lie.

Why did “somebody” lie and who is “somebody”? I’ll bet my biological agents Mr. Bush’s “independent inquiry” won’t even ask those questions, much less answer them, because if they were asked and answered, more than a few heads would have to roll.

My own answer is that the lie was fabricated by neo-conservatives in the administration whose first loyalty is to Israel and its interests and who wanted the United States to smash Iraq because it was the biggest potential threat to Israel in the region. They are known to have been pushing for war with Iraq since at least 1996, but they could not make an effective case for it until after Sept. 11, 2001.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the Jerusalem Post’s Man of the Year last year, started the ball rolling only days after 9/11 with a proposal to the president that we attack Iraq. With adherents in the Pentagon, the Vice President’s office and the intelligence community, this fifth column twisted and twirled the intelligence about Iraq’s weapons capacities until it justified what they wanted to do.

Ever since Saddam was overthrown, the same cabal—there’s really no better word for it—has been pushing for more wars against Syria and Iran, also Israel’s enemies. Mr. Bush shows little sign of wising up to how these ostensible supporters have manipulated and exploited him and his administration and the country itself for their own ends. If he stays in office, we may well be at war with other states in the Middle East in the near future.

What is needed is not Mr. Bush’s predictably tame “independent inquiry” but a real and serious investigation of the cabal and its tentacles inside the administration, conducted by Congress or a real independent commission. What has been happening inside the Bush administration is no less a nest of treason than the Soviet spy rings of the New Deal era, and if political reality doesn’t demand its exposure, simple loyalty to the United States does.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq 
Sam Francis
About Sam Francis

Dr. Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) was a leading paleoconservative columnist and intellectual theorist, serving as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Patrick Buchanan and as an editorial writer, columnist, and editor at The Washington Times. He received the Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in both 1989 and 1990, while being a finalist for the National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for Editorial Writing of the Scripps Howard Foundation those same years. His undergraduate education was at Johns Hopkins and he later earned his Ph.D. in modern history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His books include The Soviet Strategy of Terror(1981, rev.1985), Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984); Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (1993); Revolution from the Middle: Essays and Articles from Chronicles, 1989–1996 (1997); and Thinkers of Our Time: James Burnham (1999). His published articles or reviews appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, National Review, The Spectator (London), The New American, The Occidental Quarterly, and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, of which he was political editor and for which he wrote a monthly column, “Principalities and Powers.”