September 15, 2003

Will the President escalate an increasingly unpopular war?

by Justin Raimondo

Since everything else about this war is a lie – the shifting rationales, the mendacious propaganda, the promises of "democracy" and "liberation" – is anyone really surprised that they're lying about the number of American casualties as well? The British Guardian reveals the truth:

"The true scale of American casualties in Iraq is revealed today by new figures obtained by The Observer, which show that more than 6,000 American servicemen have been evacuated for medical reasons since the beginning of the war, including more than 1,500 American soldiers who have been wounded, many seriously."

Americans, the Guardian avers, "will be shocked" by the numbers, which are significantly higher than those reported by the U.S. media. That's presuming most of them will even hear about it, which they won't. But a pliant media, firmly embedded in the War Party's pocket, won't stop the rising disaffection with this war: it can only slow it down. The Iraq war, deemed officially over by a President who stood before a huge banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished," is increasingly unpopular, especially among the families of reservists whose tour of duty has been extended from six months to a year. The $87 billion price tag – and that's just to start – didn't help matters much: a new poll is out showing that 61 percent are against spending the money, and a majority support rolling back the tax hike if Bush and a complicit Congress go ahead and spend the money anyway.

That's bad news for tax-cutting conservatives, who are beginning to grumble that the President's obsession with the war is knocking his other ostensible policy goals right off the Republican agenda. It's also potentially bad news for Howard Dean, who has been saying that we have to spend more money on rebuilding Iraq, and who has so far completely ruled out an American withdrawal any time soon.

This is not to say that he won't flip-flop when he reads that more than 80 percent of Democrats say no to this outrageous outlay, as he has on so many other issues (from a free trader to a protectionist, from no to yes on Cuba sanctions, etc.) I hear he's changed his position yet again on the American troop presence in Iraq: instead of calling for sending more, as he did earlier in an interview with the Washington Post, now he's saying no more American troops should be sent: they should all be "foreign." As to what he'll say tomorrow, your guess is as good as mine.

Without any real opposition to the war coming from the Democratic party, as yet – except from the well-meaning but financially strapped campaign of Dennis Kucinich – the most effective opposition is so far coming from within the administration, and from senior military officers, as it has all along.

The perpetual game of seesaw between the State Department and the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz clique continues unabated, but lately the tempo is increasing. The former is in the driver's seat, at least for the moment: in the pause between the Middle Eastern wars, Colin Powell is doing his damnedest to contain the conflict, while the neoconservatives who dominate the civilian leadership of the Pentagon push to expand it.

Powell has a built-in disadvantage, aside from the natural tendency of any military action to take on a momentum of its own, in that the clock is ticking on Iranian compliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which suspects Tehran is trying to build nukes. UN inspectors recently found traces of weapons grade uranium at Iranian nuclear facilities, while the accused claim their equipment was contaminated by "previous owners."

On the Iraqi front, Powell's courting of the Europeans has been largely spurned, with the French heroically insisting that power be transferred from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to a new Iraqi government by next month, with the drafting of a constitution and elections held by the spring.

The neocons claim that Paris is the epicenter of "anti-Americanism" in the world, but it's an infamous libel. The French proposal would save untold numbers of American lives by precipitating a U.S. withdrawal. Sounds pretty pro-American to me. Too bad our own leaders won't follow suit: but they are going to have to do something, and fairly soon.

The Congressional Budget Office reports that present troops levels can't be maintained much beyond March of next year, so where are the soldiers going to come from? Either the "coalition of the willing" comes to include the UN, with France, Germany, India, Pakistan, Turkey, and others taking up the slack, or the U.S. pulls out of Europe and much of the Far East. With the former unlikely, although possible, I expect the further downsizing of our troop presence in Europe, and perhaps even the beginning of the end to the half century U.S. military occupation of Japan.

But the price Tokyo pays for ridding itself of an ongoing humiliation may be too high. In the event that U.S. troops are largely withdrawn from Japanese soil, the American yoke, far from being broken, will only be tightened around Nippon's neck. This is underscored by the news that the U.S. is getting impatient with their usually obedient ally, and is furious that the Japanese haven't already sent troops to Iraq: A U.S. Defense Department official is cited by the Tokyo Shimbun as demanding to know:

"Why don't you shape up?"

In the American empire, satellites must know their place. Unless they're Israel, of course, in which case they can rip up the "road map," and thumb their noses at the U.S. by building "settlements" on Palestinian land – and a "wall of separation" that separates the Palestinians from even more of their land. In defiance of the President of the United States, their principal backer and patron, the Israelis can threaten to liquidate not only Yasser Arafat with impunity, but also the Palestinian civil administration in its entirety. Won't any American official dare ask the Israelis why they don't shape up?

To get some idea of why this may never happen, one has only to observe the theater of the absurd that is the Democratic presidential primary, where the latest act is a furious attack on Dean by the other major candidatesLieberman striking the first blow – because he dared to say that the U.S. must be even-handed when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Oy vey! Such a commotion! The evil Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who I ran against in 1996, circulated a letter condemning Dean for daring to suggest that the Israelis and Palestinians could possibly exist on the same moral plane, although that can't have been what Jeanne Kirkpatrick meant when she coined the term "San Francisco Democrats." In any case, Dean was quick to back down: he called Pelosi, and "clarified" his position, agreeing that "this is not a time to send mixed messages" and that our support for Israel must be "unequivocal."

Hey, all you San Francisco "progressives" – how is it that the most beautiful and the most "liberal" city in the U.S. allows the blight of Pelosi to disfigure its fair visage? The one meaningful gesture made by a Democratic presidential candidate on the foreign policy front is immediately condemned by this pop-eyed harpy, who dug her talons deep in Dean's back, shrieking all the while. If this Gorgon is the face of contemporary "liberalism," then thank the gods I'm a (paleo)-conservative. We paleocons are only a tiny minority here in San Francisco – perhaps even a minority of one! – but with "liberals" like Pelsoi and her San Francisco supporters taking the position that the Palestinians deserve only our utter contempt, perhaps we can make some real inroads even here, in Baghdad-by-the-Bay.

But, seriously, fellow San Franciscans: we can do better than that! Can't we?

The ugly reality of American politics is that the Democrats are competing with the Republicans in kow-towing to Ariel Sharon – and that's why an American diplomat could never tell the Israelis to shape up without getting reassigned to Outer Mongolia.

There is, however, a significant faction of the American Establishment that resists this kind of subservience, and Powell is their voice in this administration. The American Secretary of State, far more popular than his boss in the White House, is taking on a rabidly pro-Israel cabal that is frantically trying to expand the present conflict in the Middle East. Whether he can succeed is a question of timing. Will hard-liners in Iran and the U.S. prevail, bringing Tehran into collision with a united front of the Western powers (including Russia), or will Powell head them off at the pass?

The neocons, emboldened by the President's recent "stay the course" speech, are pressing hard to widen the conflict. The prospect of UN or other foreign troops entering the fray seriously complicates their efforts, however: once blue-helmeted "peacekeepers" from Sweden are in, and the UN takes over the civil administration from U.S. viceroy Paul Bremer, the War Party can forget about using Iraq as a launch pad for new conquests.

So it's a race to see which pot can be brought to boil quickest, a countdown to containment – or catastrophe.

Unless the anti-interventionist movement begins to make its voice heard, my money is on the latter. The Israelis are said not to have the firepower to take out all of Iran's widely scattered nuclear facilities, but a demonstration raid would have the same effect. It would up the ante at a single stroke, and unleash the "creative destruction" so beloved by Michael Ledeen and his fellow neocons, who will be cheering the Israelis on – undeterred by the prospect that this will have to mean increased attacks on American targets in Iraq.


I call it synchronicity. No sooner had my September 2 column on the Mujahideen e Khalq's possible connection to the Najaf bombing been posted, then the State Department came out with accusations that the group had not been reined in. In the previous week – about the time my column was written – Colin Powell wrote a letter to the Pentagon alleging that the group had not been disarmed, and was still active militarily, regularly crossing the border into Iran. Not that I'm claiming to be the Secret Master of the State
Department, or anything: I only note that my column on the problem posed by the MEK preceded public disclosure of this internecine feud.

MEK has been a problem for quite a while, but why is this all coming out now? While this hardly confirms my thesis that, out of all possible suspects in the Najaf bombing, MEK is the most likely candidate, it certainly points in that direction. Far from being neutralized, MEK has not been disarmed, and is militarily active. This report has it that:

"Splinter elements within the People's Mujahedeen have taken to the rugged mountains separating Iran and Iraq, and were preparing to wage attacks against US troops, ethnic Kurds and Tehran, local officials and military sources said."

About 1,000 MEK militants are running around loose: heavily armed and itching for a fight. But I wouldn't take that speculation about their willingness to fight the Americans too seriously. The MEK knows what side its bread is buttered on: word is out that it has become the instrument of a faction within the Department of Defense determined to provoke war with Iran. This in spite of their official designation by the U.S. as a terrorist organization.

Speaking of terrorist organizations, check out the story of Nima Zamar, an assassin for the Mossad, who has now gone public with her story:

"A powerful handshake is probably standard for professional killers who dispatch victims with their bare hands. Yet the vigorous grip is a surprise when you meet Nima Zamar, a 33-year-old French woman who has just gone public with an account of life as an agent with a licence to kill for the Israeli secret service, Mossad."

It's a tale of grisly execution-style murders carried out without remorse. With more guile than James Bond, Ms. Zamar spills more blood and guts than Ah-nold the Terminator. Described as '"tall and muscular," Ms. Zamar might have a certain appeal to men under other circumstances, but the poor thing is complaining about the lack of a love life:

"Zamar says that she is lonely in Paris with no family or boyfriends…. Men are frightened of her, she laughs. 'Having lived like that makes it difficult to have a normal relationship with a man. It's a great solitude.'"

I'm just guessing, here, but her solitude could have something to do with the following passage in her best-selling book:

"'Slowly, I move behind her, hit her in the throat with a violent blow of the forearm and then strangle her. She lies dead in my arms. I put her on the ground,' she writes…. There's someone opposite you and there will only be one winner, the one who kills.' In the book, she describes her many other victims in similar terms, noting details such as cleaning the flesh off a 'useful' foldable knife after the murder of a terrorist official. Women, she says, are perhaps better killers than men because they are less dominated by ego and more willing to serve humbly in the shadows without glory or recognition."

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of 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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