The war in Iraq has not gone well for neoconservatives.
In the recent elections, Iraqis defied a "secular" candidate backed
by tens of thousands of U.S. government troops and hundreds of millions of American
taxpayer dollars, electing instead an anti-American Shi'ite coalition. The Bush
administration was dead set against that outcome, but then, supporters of the
war have found that reality has trumped them repeatedly in Iraq. Instead of facing
that reality with an abject apology and returning to the sane and constitutional
government promised by candidate George Bush in the 2000 campaign, the Bush administration
is now desperately seeking a crisis of sufficient magnitude to distract Americans
from Bush's Iraq failure.
The magnitude of that failure is hard to exaggerate. Even CIA
director Porter Goss now admits what critics of the war have pointed out
for two years: the U.S. invasion has created a recruiting and training ground
that has produced tens of thousands of new, hardened, experienced terrorists
bent on the destruction of America. Nine billion dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds
is unaccounted for in Iraq. The world now knows that U.S. government personnel
have tortured hundreds of prisoners and killed tens of thousands of innocent
civilians. The Pentagon has instituted a backdoor draft because it is virtually
out of troops. In the meantime, the war has lost America the support of virtually
the entire international community.
Should Americans address these issues squarely in debate? Not on your life.
Nobody in this administration wants to go down that road.
Frankly, no administration ever has. History amply demonstrates that politicians
bent on war must lie to the American people even as the government secretly
manipulates events to manufacture a "crisis" that turns America's
peace-loving world upside down. A year after he was reelected as the "peace
candidate," Woodrow Wilson lied us into World War One. A year after FDR
promised "again, and again, and again" that he would not send American
sons to foreign wars, he maneuvered the country into World War Two.
Supporters of expanding Bush's war to the rest of the Middle East are not unaware
of the results for Wilson and Roosevelt of their malevolence. Today, they are
heroes of America's civil religion. Their lies have been buried by sweet-sounding
myths like "the war to end all wars" and "the greatest generation."
And America has swallowed them whole.
Inspired by this legacy, neoconservative advocates of conflagration and revolution
throughout the Middle East are looking to FDR as they desperately seek a pretext
– any pretext – for a quick expansion of the U.S. war in Iraq to Syria
and Iran – and then beyond. They know that most Americans would consider
such a bald move tantamount to insanity or treason, but the neocons really have
no choice. If peace returns and the cards are laid face up on the table, they
are finished. It is no accident that the revolutionary consciousness the neocons
share with their Jacobin and Trotskyite intellectual forebears requires constant
war – "permanent revolution," as Lenin called it.
But neoconservatives know that Americans will hardly rally to the battle cry
of "Remember Lenin!" Instead, they have decided on another course
of action – and another slogan that was very successful in its day:
"Remember Pearl Harbor."
In the past few days, events have revealed just how earnestly neocons seek
a Pearl Harbor in the Middle East. Just a few days ago, Americans were surprised
to learn that U.S. government military aircraft have been violating Iranian
airspace for over a year. If the Iranians adopted Bush's theory of "preemption,"
they could logically call the intrusions an act of war. Nonetheless, the revelation
of this sustained and bellicose action has not outraged the American public
– and the neocons knew it wouldn't. After all, our national political
consciousness has long been unmoored from the twin anchors of rational prudence
and the Constitution. Now, with passions at the fore, there's little that
appeals more to "feelings" and "self-esteem" than a fine
war against barbaric evildoers.
Do the neocons care if we wind up in a few more "cakewalks"? Evidently,
quite the contrary. They long to goad the Iranians into a military response
– and they expect one. After all, if Iraqi drones had been flying over
New York and Los Angeles, few Americans would have objected to Bush's Iraq
invasion. It is a distant memory, but we should recall the 2001 collision of
a U.S. spy plane with a jet fighter off the Chinese coast. The Chinese pilot
was killed, and the damaged U.S. plane was forced to land at a Chinese military
airfield. Such provocations can quickly mushroom into flashpoints of war, and
even the bellicose Bush knew better than to push his luck. He knew he didn't
have a leg to stand on, so, after eleven days of bluster, he apologized to the
Chinese and agreed to pay them compensation (the exact amount was long the subject
That incident is instructive in two ways. First, it tells us that Bush did
not want a war with China. Second, it tells us he does want one with Iran.
While neocon revolutionary theory embraces the proactive provocation of crisis,
such as the brazen U.S. violations of Iranian airspace, the neocons also follow
Mao and celebrate "seizing the contradictions" presented by crisis
and disaster. Thus they have translated another recent event, the assassination
in Beirut of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, into a virtual
act of war by Syria against the United States. Freshly minted Secretary of State
Rice pulled our ambassador from Damascus, a provocative gesture hardly designed
to quell violence.
In fact, every aspect of the U.S. government policies in the Middle East appears
to be designed to foment conflict, not peace. Clearly, this is also the goal
of Osama bin Laden. Knowing this, why would Bush, of all people, foment in the
Middle East the very conflagration that he desperately tried to avoid with China
Remember Pearl Harbor.
The neocons recognize that American troop strength is stretched beyond capacities.
Yet they publicly and shamelessly advocate a much larger Army capable of fighting
a war throughout the Middle East. The only means to achieve their end is to
reinstitute the draft, but they know Congress is dead set against it –
and so are the American people.
What to do? In coming days, events in the Middle East will take many mysterious
turns, some of them violent ones. While most American policy-makers study history
in order to avoid past mistakes, neocon revolutionaries want to repeat those
very mistakes. Every spark of violence that rational people want to quench is
for the revolutionaries an open invitation to fan the flames.
What future event will present the neocons with their justification for all-out
war in the Middle East? Well, as diplomatic historian Charles Burton Marshall
said many years ago, there is no such thing as the foreseeable future. But the
ingredients inviting broadened conflict are already there. During the inauguration,
Dick Cheney blithely encouraged the Israelis to bomb Iran's multiple nuclear
research sites, asserting with a shrug that such an act of war would leave only
a "diplomatic mess" that the U.S. would have to "clean up."
Softer words were never spoken. But now Israel says that Iran's bomb is only
six months away and "a threat to the world." Thus the stage is set
for bombing Iran.
Ah, but what happens if the Iranians respond to such an act of war with a missile
strike on Haifa and Tel Aviv? Most Americans would be surprised to hear that
our politicians agree with Benjamin Netanyahu, who told Rush Limbaugh's audience
the day after 9/11 that "Israel is an outpost of America." For years,
American politicians have referred to Israel as "America's unsinkable aircraft
carrier." Israel's bombing of Iran would never be carried out without American
government consent, and Cheney's supposedly offhand remark signals that the
Bush administration has given it.
Dick Cheney is hardly a flippant man. His casual asides are studied and determined.
He inaugurated Bush's second term with a provocation that is almost a prediction.
However smug, dismissive, and cavalier, he is calling the shots. But wait. If
an attack on Israel is an attack on America, then an attack by Israel is also
an attack by America. With this, Cheney has virtually charted the course for
World War Three.
There are a hundred other scenarios that offer the neocons grist for their
malevolent mill. But make no mistake: every turn of events that is violent for
us is for them an opportunity. Their policies are designed to create more enemies
of our country, then provoke them into violent acts against us. CIA director
Goss confirms this when he reports that the war in Iraq is creating more anti-American
terrorists by the thousands.
Bush's supporters of wider war are longing for a violent event that they can
translate into a Pearl Harbor magnitude "attack on America," however
it is provoked, whatever its true ingredients. As Solzhenitsyn observed, lies
always bring violence in their wake – and the neocons want ever more violence.
And they have proved it by lying to us incessantly.
Someday soon, expect to hear that America has been attacked – in the Middle
East, in some other faraway land, or perhaps on our own soil. At that point,
George Bush will gravely stride to the podium and announce that, while "9/11
changed everything," everything has changed yet again. America must adopt
a "new realism," he will announce, and adopt a "true war footing"
to address the world war we are in. Taxes will skyrocket, government powers
will mushroom, and the draft will be brought back with a vengeance. And, like
my father and his companions in America First before World War Two, opponents
of this war will be expected to retire to the bleachers and cheer, wondering
all the while how their drafted sons and daughters are faring out there in some
distant desert far from home.
To ordinary Americans, this scenario might appear to be a nightmare. But it
is the neocon dream. Ideas have consequences, said Richard Weaver, and the neocons
are sowing ideas brimming with violent consequences, gleefully strewing minefields
across America's future.
Plato said that a tyrant is one who acts out his nightmares when he is awake.
The neocons want you wake up one morning to their nightmare. If you rub your
eyes and see violence on all sides, and your family starts getting draft notices
in the mail, you might wonder how it all happened.
Well, here's the answer:
Remember Pearl Harbor.