February 26, 2003

No, there's a glimmer of hope for peace – but the War Party is working overtime to extinguish it

Events may be conspiring to deny George W. Bush and his war-maddened advisors the chance to implement their plan for the conquest and occupation of Iraq. To begin with, the United Nations Security Council has been turned into the first battlefield in this war, and it doesn't look good for the War Party. As the Anglo-American proposal to unleash the dogs of war was raised in the latest session, France, Germany, and Russia were quick to offer their own resolution – giving Iraq another 120 days to comply. By that time, even if the Iraqis still refuse to cooperate, summertime in the desert would make warfare on the ground difficult if not impossible.

Another obstacle looming large is Turkey's continued unwillingness to allow U.S. troops on its soil, even in exchange for a generous bribe. And supposing they eventually cave, a crucial question is the number of troops they'll permit in the country, and for how long. Before the U.S. can open up the crucial northern front in the administration's invasion plan, the Turks must not only negotiate their price but also convince Turkish legislators to accept the deal – by no means a foregone conclusion.

And on the other side of the world, the North Koreans are demanding our attention. As Colin Powell, Japanese Prime Minister Junichero Koizumi, and other dignitaries arrived in Seoul to attend the inauguration ceremony installing Roh Moo-hyun as South Korea's new President, the North Koreans launched a missile into the Sea of Japan, as if to say: "Trouble is on the way."

Trouble on the home front has already arrived, at least for the President and the GOP. Antiwar sentiment is on the rise, with a number of congressional Republicans deeply troubled by what they're hearing from their constituents. The Los Angeles Times reports:

"With the U.S.-Iraq showdown possibly headed to a climax, many Republicans who have spent months staunchly behind President Bush's hard-line posture are confronting anxiety, skepticism and some outright opposition among their constituents."

"… Even some members of Bush's own party are expressing concern about the need for more allied support. 'Today, America stands nearly alone in proclaiming the urgency of the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein,' Sen. Charles Hagel (R-Neb.) said in a speech Thursday at Kansas State University. 'America must balance its determination with patience and not be seen as in a rush to war.'"

Richard Lugar is another prominent Senator who wishes the President would cool down the war fever at the White House, just a bit, and the Indiana Republican is far from alone on his side of the aisle. According to Capitol Hill Blue, some of the President's advisors are beginning to counsel backing away from the brink:

"Some strategists within the Bush Administration are urging the President to look for an 'exit strategy' on Iraq, warning the tough stance on war with the Arab country has left the country in a 'no win' situation."

More good news:

"In addition, Republican leaders in both the House and Senate are telling the President privately that he is losing support in Congress for a 'go it alone war' against Iraq. 'The President's war plans are in trouble, there's no doubt about that,' says an advisor to House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert. 'Some Republican members want a vote on military action and some of those say they would, at this point, vote against such action.'"

But not that good:

"Some White House advisors are urging the President to consider complying with the UN position or to look for other 'face saving' ways to avoid war with Iraq. President Bush, however, is reported to be 'hanging tough' on plans to invade Iraq, even though his closest advisors tell him such a move could be 'disastrous' politically."

When a Republican strategist confides that he's advising his clients to distance themselves from Bush and his war, you know that something is up:

"Republican campaign strategist Vern Wilson says he is advising his clients to 'put some distance between themselves and the President' on war with Iraq. 'When you have former military leaders questioning the wisdom of war, then you have Vietnam and Gulf War veterans marching against the war, when you have Republicans in Congress questioning the President's judgment, it tells me we could have a problem,' Wilson said."

If the President isn't even listening to his own supporters, then the whole question of just what this war is really about looms larger and ever more mysterious. Why is Bush 43 willing to alienate not only our allies overseas, but an increasing number of prominent Republican office-holders? Among the most bothered and bewildered are state and local officials, already burdened with extra costs, forced to watch as Turkey openly extorts $24 billion from the U.S. Treasury – and then rejects it as too little! It's a bitter pill for grassroots Republicans to swallow while their own voters face steep tax hikes or politically difficult cuts to cover record deficits.

Brent Scowcroft, the Pentagon, and more than six million antiwar marchers planet-wide have all registered their protests, to no avail, and now the polls and his fellow Republicans are telling the President the same thing: lay off, George. But the Cowboy Caesar is deaf to their pleas, and gives every indication that he just can't wait to cross that Rubicon. What kind of hold does the War Party have on this guy that he would be willing to sacrifice so much? Is it blackmail, or a simple case of demonic possession?

Although a case might be made for the latter, the former, it seems to me, is closer to the truth, at least in a metaphorical sense. One of the great strategic advantages of the War Party is that it's a bipartisan affair: they effectively control the leadership of both parties. So if the Republican wing starts to waffle, the Democratic branch office moves in to close the deal. Writing in the Washington Post, Richard Holbrooke, the shadow Secretary of State in the Democrats' putative cabinet, attacked the Bushies for being insufficiently warlike:

"In a roughly similar situation, in 1999, the Clinton administration and our NATO allies decided to bomb Serbia (for 77 days) without even seeking UN approval, after it became clear that Russia would veto any proposal. This contrast with the supposedly muscular Bush administration is especially odd when one considers that Saddam Hussein is far worse than Slobodan Milosevic, and that Iraq has left a long trail of violated Security Council resolutions, while there were none on Kosovo."

The Democrats are now sending the same message as the neoconservative wing of the GOP: to heck with consulting anyone outside of Washington, screw that second resolution, and let's roll! Joe Loserman and Dick Gephardt are waiting in the wings to use that line if the President fails to, and that is Karl Rove's greatest fear. Or perhaps there is one greater….

With the outflanking of the GOP on the war question, the way is paved for a series of attacks smearing the Bush family as a tool of Saudi interests. We have already seen a few trial balloons floating overhead, and if Bush backs down the War Party will certainly turn on him with all the viciousness they once reserved for the antiwar movement. In the neoconservative demonology, the Saudis are identified as the epicenter of evil, the world capital of "Islamo-fascism," and the cradle of Al Qaeda. Bin Laden's implacable hostility to the House of Saud, and his stated aim of overthrowing it, are irrelevant to the advocates of this theory, whose analysis of the forces at work in the Middle East never rises much above the level of a comic book. Such a view, however crude, has its uses….

Here is where the completely erroneous "war for oil" mantra of the antiwar left serves the political purposes of the pro-war Lieberman-Gephardt-Beinart Democrats. Having portrayed George W. Bush as the pawn of the Texas oil barons, the liberal wing of the War Party can stand the "no war for oil" slogan on its head, and accuse Bush of "appeasing" the antiwar Saudis and other regional powers in the interests of Big Oil.

Well, then, if this isn't a war for oil profits, then why is the President defying not only most of the rest of the world, but also the best advice of those who wish him well? Both Michael Kinsley and Arnaud de Borchgrave, two very smart people with very different politics, have come up with the same answer. The latter said it most recently, and the former Washington Times editor's column on the subject was cited by Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" in a joint interview with congressman Dennis Kucinich and neocon "Prince of Darkness" Richard Perle:

"Mr. Perle, there's been discussion about the role of Israel and the formulation of American foreign policy regarding Iraq. Let me show you an article from the Washington Times, written by Arnaud de Borchgrave:

"'The strategic objective is the antithesis of Middle Eastern stability. The destabilization of 'despotic regimes' comes next. In the Arab bowling alley, one ball aimed at Saddam is designed to achieve a 10-strike that would discombobulate authoritarian and/or despotic regimes in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf emirates and sheikdoms. The ultimate phase would see Israel surrounded by democratic regimes that would provide 5 million Israelis – soon to be surrounded by 300 million Arabs – with peace and security for at least a generation. ...The roots of the overall strategy can be traced to a paper published in 1996 by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli think tank. The document was titled 'A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Security the Realm.' ...Israel, according to the 1996 paper, would 'shape its strategic environment,' beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein... ...Prominent American opinion-makers who are now senior members of the Bush administration participated in the discussions and the drafting that led to this 1996 blueprint.'

Glancing up from his notes, Russert turned to Perle, looked him in the eye and said:

" Can you assure American viewers across our country that we're in this situation against Saddam Hussein and his removal for American security interests? And what would be the link in terms of Israel?"

Although one of Perle's Pentagon proteges brought in during the Reagan administration was investigated "on suspicion of passing classified military information to the Embassy of Israel and an Israeli Defense Ministry official," this is the closest anyone has ever come to calling him an agent of Israel. But he didn't even blink – the snake! – and slithered out of answering the question with admirable ease:

"Well, first of all, the answer is absolutely yes. Those of us who believe that we should take this action if Saddam doesn't disarm – and I doubt that he's going to – believe it's in the best interests of the United States. I don't see what would be wrong with surrounding Israel with democracies; indeed, if the whole world were democratic, we'd live in a much safer international security system because democracies do not wage aggressive wars."

Never mind the whole world – what about Iraq? Why that particular nation, in that particular region of the world? Why are all the countries listed Israel's worst enemies? Where is China, where the gulag rivals Stalin's and may even surpass it, in this Axis of Asiatic Evil, or the crypto-authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin, whose cult of personality is rapidly reaching Stalinesque proportions? No doubt their turn will come soon enough, but if there is meaning in the order of our chosen targets, then what is it? Kinsley provides us with a clue to the mystery:

"The lack of public discussion about the role of Israel in the thinking of 'President Bush' is easier to understand, but weird nevertheless. It is the proverbial elephant in the room: Everybody sees it, no one mentions it. The reason is obvious and admirable: Neither supporters nor opponents of a war against Iraq wish to evoke the classic anti-Semitic image of the king's Jewish advisers whispering poison into his ear and betraying the country to foreign interests. But the consequence of this massive 'Shhhhhhhhh!' is to make a perfectly valid American concern for a democratic ally in a region of nutty theocracies, rotting monarchies, and worse seem furtive and suspicious."

Kinsley is right, but for one important matter: this is not about the influence of Jews in the GOP, and the corridors of power, but of the Israeli government and its agents, conscious or unconscious – most of whom are fundamentalist Christians, or plain ordinary conservative Republicans. Now that even Tim Russert is asking about the central role played by Israel and its amen corner in fomenting the war on Iraq, Paul Craig Roberts gets the prediction of the year award for writing in his New Year's column:

"In 2003 the story will be confirmed that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a secret Israeli plan designed to involve the U.S. long-term in the Arab-Israeli conflict, cynically sold to the Bush White House by neoconservatives as a reelection strategy."

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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