April 14, 2003

PHASE TWO BEGINS
The 'liberators' of the Middle East are ready for the next stage in their campaign to make the world safe for Israel

As the phony "liberation" of Iraq takes place against a backdrop of frenzied looting and clueless gloating, any doubt as to the real provenance of this war should be erased for good. This was and is a proxy war waged on behalf of Israeli interests, and Washington's next target clearly, Syria ought to make that obvious to even the densest of the pro-war conservatives and the "war for oil" crowd.

It didn't take long for the War Party to shift gears. Amid a barrage of threats, Damascus is now in Washington's crosshairs and military action could come sooner than anyone imagines. The pretext Syria supposedly shipped night goggles to the Iraqi military, is reportedly harboring Ba'athist leaders, and is now alleged to be in possession of Iraq's nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction" doesn't matter. At this point, they don't even need a pretext: the War Party is running on sheer momentum. What's interesting, however, is that phase two may be enacted in the name of you guessed it! "peace": that is, a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the [UK] Observer notes:

"The United States has pledged to tackle the Syrian-backed Hizbollah group in the next phase of its 'war on terror' in a move which could threaten military action against President Bashar Assad's regime in Damascus. The move is part of Washington's efforts to persuade Israel to support a new peace settlement with the Palestinians. Washington has promised Israel that it will take 'all effective action' to cut off Syria's support for Hizbollah - implying a military strike if necessary, sources in the Bush administration have told The Observer."

This is how Washington seeks to "persuade" the Israelis by caving to their every demand.

The Americans were driven out of Beirut by Hizbollah on October 23, 1983, when hundreds of American Marines were killed in a suicide bomber attack on their barracks. As retired Mossad officer Victor Ostrovsky points out,

"The loss of 241 U.S. Marines, most of them still sleeping in their cots at the time of the suicide mission, was the highest single-day death toll for the Americans since 246 died throughout Vietnam at the start of the Tet offensive."

It is just possible that the Marines are coming back this time, under the leadership of a President who won't make like Reagan, and, as Norman Podhoretz put it, "cut and run" at the first sign of trouble.

As I warned at the end of March, the Middle East escalator is going into high gear. The seeds of the next war have been planted in the soil of Iraq – and they are sprouting with dizzying speed.

But what's really bizarre is the manner in which Washington tries to rationalize a peculiar madness that in no way benefits the United States. In order to appease Ariel Sharon into agreeing to a phony Palestinian mini-state one without an army, without control over its foreign policy, and without doubt a joke the Americans are being blackmailed into knocking off Israel's many enemies in the region. Then and only then will Tel Aviv deign to even consider a compromise. Sharon can then go to his ultra-nationalist allies and say:

"With our influence extended from the West Bank to the Euphrates, I not you have fulfilled the dream of a Greater Israel. In partnership with the Americans, we dominate the Middle East. Israel can – finally! -- afford this compromise-in-name-only."

By the time Bush and Sharon are through, not a single Arab state will be left standing. Having installed a Palestinian Quisling where Arafat used to be, the two of them can stand amid the smoking ruins of a war-ravaged Middle East and declare that "peace" has come to the region at last – the peace of the grave.

Hizbollah, a political party in Lebanon whose members sit in that country's national legislature, is backed by Syria just as Israel once backed the Lebanese Falangists. But the "Free Lebanon Army" was driven out, in the end, along with their Israeli sponsors, and the Americans, having not learned from this precedent, or the lesson of Beirut, seem eager to repeat past mistakes.

Suicide bombers have already struck in Iraq, and more are on the way if the news that U.S. forces have uncovered a cache of "suicide-bomber belts" is to be believed. How long can we stand against that kind of enemy and, more importantly, why should we? Why oh why is the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Perle Axis of Asininity marching us headlong into this abyss? This is no quagmire it's an ambush.

It boggles the mind to realize that this administration is willing to risk another Beirut, 1983-style, only this time on a regional scale. The question is: why take that risk? Don't ask "is it worth it?" Better to ask: to whom is it worth it?

The imperial project of the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-neoconservative cabal is the Israeli occupation of Palestine writ large. I am told by people in the know that if anyone knew the number and nature of the stymied attacks on New York City alone, Manhattan and environs would soon be all but emptied.

The neoconservative militants' slogan of "creative destruction" as the solution to the problems of the Middle East always had a rather sinister aspect. Now imagine that concept applied to the domestic scene. George W. Bush's Middle Eastern rampage has made another terrorist attack on America all but inevitable. Explain to me again how this makes Americans safer.

The White House has been captured by the pernicious political correctness of the post-9/11 neoconservative tendency in the GOP, best expressed by liberal Democrat Martin Peretz, publisher of The New Republic, who wrote in his magazine days after the attack that "We're all Israelis now."

Excuse me, but no we aren't. We are Americans, first, last, and always, a nation with a character and interests unique to ourselves. The terrorist attack on America made us more, not less, dependent on our Arab and Muslim allies in the region. The propagandists who insist that we have always been at war with Islam and just didn't know it are intent on fulfilling their own prophecies of Armageddon in the Middle East.

The heretical sect of dispensationalist Christians who see Israel as the embodiment of God's Will on earth are motivated not by "dual loyalty," but by a single allegiance to a mystic faith that is not only American but also universal, a creed that promises redemption to sinners everywhere. If God says that the interests of the U.S. and Israel are identical, their destinies mystically intertwined, then who are we to deny it?

The neoconservative theology, while differing with the dispensationalists in particulars as well as in style, also promises universal redemption, via the god of Democratic Capitalism. Neocon evangelists spread the word, in their newspaper columns and heavily-subsidized magazines, and the rafters of the American Enterprise Institute ring with the hosannas of the faithful. The sight of U.S. military might taking down a fifth-rate military power in a matter of weeks is all the "argument" they require. They worship a different god: Ares, by name.

God is on our side, and might makes right: these are the two principles that unite the War Party. Their partiality to Israel is, on the one hand, religious, as far as the dispensationalists are concerned, and, in the case of the neocons, ideological, but in both cases it amounts to support for a dangerously unbalanced foreign policy – one so potentially disastrous that it constantly teeters on the brink of treason.

Americans will soon be disabused of the myth of the welcoming Iraqis, who hailed their own conquest and embraced the destroyers of their cities. One particularly volatile factor is the Shi'a majority and the recent slaughter of two Iraqi mullahs at a meeting that was supposed to bring about "reconciliation" is a warning the Americans ignore at their peril. Another explosive factor is the role of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), formerly based in Teheran. SCIRI is the only opposition group that ever had cadres inside Iraq; unlike the Iraqi National Congress, SCIRI did not have to be flown to Iraq courtesy of the American taxpayers: they already have troops on the ground, particularly in the south.

The main political consequence of the war, internally, is to increase Iranian influence: if free elections were held in the southern Shi'a provinces of Iraq, they would undoubtedly usher in some sort of "Islamic Republic." The effort by the neocons in the administration to install Ahmed Chalabi as the Pentagon's puppet, far from forestalling this possibility, only makes it a more credible threat to the postwar order. I guess it all comes under the heading of "creative destruction".

The degeneration of Iraq into a maelstrom of violence and looting; the targeting of American soldiers; the incredible costs, both economic and personal: one has to ask who benefits? Iraq, a smoldering ruin, will never again threaten Israel.

They never did threaten us not even when we invaded. Those "weapons of mass destruction" the Iraqis supposedly had which George W. Bush declared could be flown over U.S. territory in drones, or passed on to terrorists somehow never got used. Richard Perle declares that the U.S. struck so swiftly that the Iraqis may not have had time to launch whatever it is they might have launched, but nobody believes this. There was no poison gas attack; no biological weaponry was deployed; so far there have been no sites where such weapons are to be found, in spite of several false alarms. But the original reasons for our intervention will be lost in the war crimes trials to come, the atrocity stories, and the tendency of Americans to forget by Wednesday the sermon they heard last Sunday.

SCIRI is demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops, and the demand for free elections in Iraq is rising, while the Axis of Asininity is intent on installing an "interim" American-led government festooned with a few handpicked Iraqis for decorative purposes. The "interim," you can be sure, will be endless. If you want to see the future of the region, look toward the West Bank and Gaza. That is the sort of "democracy" the neocons are bringing to the Middle East.

So far, the U.S. is not committing itself to action against Syria and Iran, but that is an oversight a delegation of Israeli negotiators is determined to correct this week, when they arrive in Washington for talks. The drumbeat is being sounded by Israel's amen corner in the U.S., and has been taken up by the Republican congressional leadership: the "Syria Accountability Act" would freeze all trade relations and impose draconian sanctions, paving the way for war. There is no "Israel Accountability Act". But then, you knew that, didn't you?

– 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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