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Thursday, August 29, 2002

Clues on the War with Iraq, and Beyond?

Recent reports out of the Middle East may provide clues as to the timing and extent of a war with Iraq and possibly an ongoing U.S. presence in the Middle East. This article from the World Tribune was particularly interesting: “The United States has told Israel that it
will attack Iraq before the end of November. Israeli military sources said a senior U.S.
military visited Israel earlier this week and toured facilities where the U.S. military has
prepositioned equipment and weapons for an emergency in the Middle East. The sources
quoted a visiting U.S. general who heads army logistics as saying that Washington
intends to strike the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by late November.”

The report goes on to say that the war won’t end in Iraq: “In joint military discussions
earlier this summer, Pentagon officials said Iraq would be only the first stop in the U.S.
war on terror, an Israeli parliamentarian said. Yuval Steinetz, chairman of the Knesset
subcommittee on military doctrine, said he held talks with senior Pentagon officials in
June regarding Washington's vision of a post-Saddam Middle East. Steinetz said
Washington envisions a new order in the Middle East after Saddam is toppled and a
democratic regime is installed. "Iraq is the key but not the last stop [in the U.S. effort],"
Steinetz said. "It is the first stop. After that there will be massive [U.S.] pressure on Syria
and Iran to halt weapons of mass destruction programs and Syria's occupation of

And Israel would retaliate if attacked: “Israeli military sources said the level of
Israel's response would depend on the number of casualties and damage caused by any
Iraqi strike. The sources said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has told the Bush
administration that it would not pledge any policy of restraint as that during the 1991
Gulf war.”

So if this report is true, we now have several crucial pieces of the “impending war with
Iraq” puzzle: When it will take place; the fact that Israel is now being used as a staging
area, and therefore will probably be a base of operations during the war; the fact that
Israel is likely to participate in the attack on Iraq if (or when) it is hit by Iraqi missiles;
and the fact that American ambitions are greater than the removal of Saddam and may
even include regime change in Syria and beyond.

How much of this could possibly be accurate and what are the implications if it is? Let’s start
with the “when.”

If the attack takes place in late November, it would be well after the
elections on the 5th. Bush has repeatedly said he would not attack
, but has never said he would wait until after the holidays. A late November attack would leave time
for new members of Congress to be sworn in and to get their bearings before taking a vote on a resolution. And it would also
square with the strategic imperative of Middle Eastern weather, given the reports that
“U.S. soldiers would probably have to slog through Baghdad's streets wearing
chemical-weapons suits and carrying extra equipment.”
However, in response to conservative critics of war, Bush also recently said he won’t rush a decision. But in Bush’s mind, a
post Thanksgiving attack might well mean he didn’t rush. Overall, it seems a late
November offensive is very plausible.

Now what about Israel’s participation? There is no question that Ariel Sharon hates Arabs and would probably
love to nuke as much of Iraq as
possible. There is no question that in a battle, Israel would be a fire-power asset, given that
it has the fourth or fifth strongest military in the world (and one that has had regular combat experience, albeit mostly against civilians lately). And of course there is its proximity
to Iraq. Because the Bush administration has been unable to rally any international support from either the
or the Europeans,
having at least one ally it can point to essential, even though Israel is hardly an objective one. So at this point, and after pumping nearly $100 billion into Israeli coffers over the years, it
seems the U.S. Government is finally set to utilize its expensive client in battle.

No doubt, as the Israeli Firsters see it, Israel's participation has the added bonus of further entangling our
alliance to the point where Israel’s military success in the region is synonymous with
America’s military success, and to where an attack on Israel is synonymous with an attack
on America.

How will this play in the Arab world? Not well. What the Iraqis and any other Arab states
that might come under attack will see on the horizon is a duplication of the brutal Israeli
occupation of Palestine, only in their front yards. They will see the Palestinian experiences
under the Israelis now as a precursor of what their own experiences under the
American/Israeli coalition will be later. And this will inspire a fight.

Within such a context, the
optimistic thinking in the Bush administration that once under attack, the Iraqi military will
suddenly turn on Saddam and finish the job for us becomes wishful thinking. Because of Israel’s bellicose behavior towards the Palestinians, their participation in this
offensive will stifle any opposition to Saddam that might exist within the Iraqi military and
unite it with the leadership. As bad as Hussein is, the Iraqi people will have to doubt that
an invading force made up of the two countries most responsible for the suffering of the Palestinan people and the sanctions that
have taken between 500,000 and one million Iraqi lives has the best interests of the Iraqi
people at heart, or will treat them any better than their current oppressor. It is better to be oppressed by the tyrant you know than by the tyrant you don't, or so the logic will go.

Now let’s move the last piece of our puzzle, the larger ambitions of the Bush
Administration for the region. Let’s re-examine the quote from the Israeli Government
official from above: “Iraq is the key but not the last stop [in the U.S. effort]," Steinetz
said. "It is the first stop. After that there will be massive [U.S.] pressure on Syria and Iran
to halt weapons of mass destruction programs and Syria's occupation of Lebanon.”
--Yuval Steinetz, chairman of the Knesset subcommittee on military doctrine

It reads like an Israeli government fantasy, a wishfull-thinking prophecy that it hopes will become
self-fulfilling. Iraq, Iran, Syria, emasculated and compliant, probably occupied by
American soldiers who will do the brutal and dangerous work of trying to pacify a
stubborn, defiant and angry Muslim population, all without the Israelis having to lift a

Granted, with the oil-loving, Arab-hating clique of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and
Perle holding such sway over Bush decision-making, such a scenario is possible; but
fortunately, this group of “Oil and Israel Firsters” is counterbalanced by the Colin Powell
State Department and, importantly, the Pentagon, which would actually have to do the
heavy-lifting of an occupation and has some perspective of how costly and dangerous such
a feat would be.

Would the Oil and Israel crowd gladly stretch the American military as thinly as possible over as
much of the Middle East as it possibly could get away with? No question. But will they be allowed to?
That all depends on the fortitude of President Bush to resist the grandeurous delusions of
some of those who surround him.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Conservative Warnings on Iraq a "Shot Across the Bow" to Neocons

In today's news, former Secretary of State James Baker became the latest in a series of old-school
conservatives to warn Bush against going it alone in attacking Iraq href="
5&dt=20020824233300&w=RTR&coview=">(US Needs Allies to Hit Iraq-Former
Secretary Baker)
. He joins other Republican elder-statesman such as Chuck Hagel,
Brent Scowcroft, Dick Armey and Lawrence Eagleburger in sounding the general alarm
over the risks of a unilateral invasion and, by extension, any invasion at all.What's going
on here? Has this bunch gone soft? Are they all now "peaceniks," "appeasers," "Arabists"
and "terrorist sympathizers"?

While the pro-war lobby and warfare-socialists would no doubt like to brand them as such, this is hardly the case. What they really are, on this issueat least, is traditional conservatives who, like many others, are able to see the pro-war
propaganda emanating from neo-conservative and "democratic-centrist" circles for what it
is: namely a special-interest effort to leverage the anger and nationalism brought on by the
9/11 attacks into an all-out war against Middle-Eastern Arabs.

So who are these "special
interests" and what are their motives? Two words: “Oil” and “Israel.” Oil, because Iraq is
second only to Saudi Arabia in known reserves, and Israel because of the Zionist
movement -- including “Christian” and Jewish, Israeli and American. Independently, probably
neither would be able to attain the critical mass necessary to pull America into a war; but
together, and in the context of the terrorist attacks (which provide the two interests with
the propaganda cover they need) anything is possible.

But where does the crop of anti-war
conservatives fit in? Don’t they also support Israel? Don’t they also support big oil? The
short answer is: “yes, but unlike the war-lobby, they support the interests and well-being
of Americans first.” Theirs is not a single-issue patriotism. They understand that a victory
over Iraq may indeed be a short-term boon to the oil interests and perhaps the first major
component in a “Greater Israel” plan (or at the least will kill off one of it’s major enemies).
But they also understand that neither goal dovetails with the long-term moral or
geopolitical interests of Americans, and worse than that, sets them up as targets of Islamic
retaliation -- targets both as foreign occupiers, and as enablers of a slow-motion race war
being carried out by the current Israeli government against the Palestinians now, and
potentially the larger Arab world later.

The warnings coming from Hagel, Baker, Armey,
Eagleburger, Scowcroft et al are simply shots across the bow of the pro-war lobby;
unspoken messages: “we know who you are and what you’re up to; we know what you
want and how you want to go about getting it; and we know that you’re manipulating the
impressionable Bush Jr.; but we also know what the long-term interests of Americans are,
both in terms of maintaining their well-being and effectively attacking real terrorists, and
we won’t allow you to put Israel or oil before them.”

From the libertarian perspective, that
the larger Republican and Democratic establishment can be so easily used and manipulated
is not only pathetic, but scary. And scarier still is the silence that, until recently, had grown
so loud. The lesson that Democratic voters should draw from these events is that their
leaders are cowed and cowardly, trembling before the special interests and completely
lacking in morality and principle. The lesson that Republican voters should draw is that,
while some in their party have the courage to take a quiet stand, the Party itself is as easily
co-opted, compromised and corrupted as is the Democratic Party, and the only way to
prevent a compromised government from using and abusing the American people is to
explicitly limit it’s ability to do so -- in other words, join the Libertarians.