U.S. military is doing its best to bluff
it out, but Turkey's decision to opt out has dealt
the War Party a crushing blow.
They were counting on Turkish compliance, and when that
didn't come through, you could almost hear the shifting
of gears – or was that the screech of brakes?
Occurring shortly after the President's
stirring call to democratize the Middle East, the irony
that this upset is due to a vote of the recently elected
Turkish parliament is too delicious to require any comment.
Suffice to say that it didn't take long for Colin Powell
to pick up the phone and let the Turks know that they
needed to reconsider. Meanwhile, as if to underscore
American contempt for democracy, Turkish style, U.S.
carriers offloaded 1,000 military vehicles and other
equipment at the port of Iskenderun on Sunday, after
new plan, apparently, is to airlift U.S. troops into
Kurdistan, but the number of airfields that could receive
them is limited, and there is still the question of
using Turkish airspace – which Ankara's ambassador to
the U.S. says has to be negotiated. But even if Turkey
relents, U.S. soldiers may not find themselves welcomed
in Kurdistan. The price the Turks want is the quashing of any
attempt by Kurdistan to declare its independence.
In that case, American GIs may be caught in the crossfire
between Turkish troops and Kurdish guerrillas, quite
apart from any threat posed by the Iraqi military.
Kurds, for their part, are not mollified by the Turks'
apparent reluctance to get involved, and are preparing
for war – against Ankara, not Baghdad. Thousands
turned out in the Kurdish city of Irbil the other day,
as the Washington Post reported, carrying signs
that said "Down with Turkey, Up with the United States!"
Turkish television broadcast images of Kurds burning
Turkish flags, while also filming the offloading of
U.S. military equipment in defiance of the parliamentary
vote. No wonder the Turkish government doesn't want
to submit another resolution: it could easily lose by
a bigger margin.
Aside from the political complications,
however, even the smoothest transition to Plan B would
result in a bottleneck on the northern front: General
Barry McCaffrey estimates a three week delay in the
administration's war plans. But that may be an understatement.
While the Americans are not likely to be very forthcoming
about the necessary change in their battle plans, the
Israelis were quick to make a realistic analysis, as
United States could launch an attack on Iraq as early
as next week if allowed by Turkey to use its bases,
General Aharon Ze'evi (Farkash), Director of Military
Intelligence, said Tuesday. 'If the United States is
allowed to deploy its forces in Turkey, the attack in
Iraq could open on any given day, beginning next week,'
Ze'evi told Channel Two television. Without Turkish
approval, the U.S. could postpone the war until April
or May, he said."
Rumors of a temporary peace abound.
The Israelis raise the possibility in a tone of disappointment,
but others see hope in this scenario. Capitol Hill
Blue reports that certain advisors to the President
are so eager to avoid "a humiliating defeat before the
United Nations" that they are for calling
the whole thing off, at least for the immediate
"'We've always needed an exit strategy,'
admits one White House aide. 'Circumstances have given
us one. We shouldn't ignore it.'"
only effective "exit strategy" is one that avoids war
altogether, and these nameless "senior advisors" aren't
alone in reaching this conclusion. Never mind the anti-war
movement: the Old Guard in the Pentagon is still putting
up roadblocks on the President's path to war. The grumbling
has gotten so loud that the warmongering civilians of
persuasion were forced to publicly
attack General Eric K.
Shinseki's testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services
Committee that "something on the order of several
hundred thousand soldiers would be necessary" to police
post-war Iraq. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
deemed Shinseki's estimate "way off the mark."
What does the Army's chief of staff know? Wolfowitz,
after all, has plenty of combat experience, albeit of
a different sort than Shinseki's.
The Wolf and his fellow wolves hunt
the corridors of power, and the casualties
lie thick on the ground. Inside this administration,
and on the Right generally, the neoconservative faction
has routed the enemy, purging all internal opposition.
A small army of them – former lefties (or liberals)
turned right-wingers, for the most part – invaded the
conservative movement in the 1970s in droves. This war
is their victory celebration.
I pointed out last week, however, events may be
conspiring to deprive them of their moment of glory.
Readers of this space were not surprised by the Turkish
reversal, having been forewarned well in advance that
the deal was "by no means a foregone conclusion." Nor
were they all that taken aback when Pyongyang fired up
its nuclear reactor, and intercepted
a U.S. spy plane. As I put it last Wednesday:
on the other side of the world, the North Koreans are
demanding our attention. As Colin Powell, Japanese Prime
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.'"
Remember, you read it here first.
It is not inconceivable that war in
Iraq may yet be averted. But only because war in Eastasia
is imminent. Last year, when the gnomish Kim Il Jong,
like Mr. Mxyzptlk, first materialized
this crisis out of thin air, I wrote:
"We may have been saved from the
prospect of war in the Middle East – only to be faced
with an even greater crisis on the other side of the
Asian landmass. We are out of the frying pan, and into
the fire – and isn't that the story of empires throughout
It is all a matter of timing. North
Korea's march toward becoming a full-fledged
nuclear power has accelerated,
and no one – least of all the South Koreans – doubts
their willingness to launch a preemptive strike. One
South Korean newspaper reports that the
warhead of a North Korean missile has been found in
Alaska! As more U.S. military
forces are hurriedly deployed in the region, the
Cowboy Caesar for
the first time declares that war is not out of the
question – an imperial edict that must have sent a shudder
of horror through Roh Moo-hyun and his newly-installed
The hapless hegemon
stumbles over its own feet as it makes its grand entry
onto the world stage. The Americans, the world notes,
have none of the finesse of their British predecessors.
A clumsy giant, apparently half
blind, stumbles into a bottomless quagmire, and
the world wonders: will he drag the rest of us down
complications caused by the Turkish defection, the North
Korean eruption, the entreaties of our allies – none
of this shows any sign of deterring the Bushies. Not
even the fast-softening
domestic support for this war, and the
drop in the polls, have so much as slowed them down.
That this administration is still hurtling toward war
with Iraq at warp speed is the full measure of its utter
recklessness, its fanatic irresponsibility, and its
unfitness to rule.
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