“W,” a.k.a. “our Commander in Chief,” is apparently even more blindly stubborn and willfully ignorant than I had thought. As of this writing (December 2006), he is still distancing himself from the Iraq Study Group’s efforts to provide him cover for a withdrawal from the Middle East morass he has drawn us into. Bush Senior, being a good father and perhaps a bit concerned for the country he once bravely served, had dispatched James Baker, Robert Gates, and others to save his offspring’s hash and what Washington courtiers call (with a straight face) his “legacy.” Part of that effort was the Iraq Study Group’s report. What the report suggests seems quite simple: Withdraw U.S. combat troops by early 2008, while increasing the number of trainers for “Iraqi” units. (I did not realize that there was such a thing as a generic “Iraqi,” but Americans are not strong on questions of identity these days.) Washington will turn over the “civil war,” or “sectarian violence,” or all-against-all chaos the country has descended into since the U.S. invasion to the “Iraqis” and be done with it.
The ISG has provided the President with the appropriate boilerplate to cover himself and get out. If he follows instructions, the withdrawal will have supposedly “dealt a blow” to “terrorism,” while enhancing “stability”—and “America’s credibility, interests, and values will be protected,” or so we are told. The real story that unfolds in the initial report—the part our puerile chief executive does not like—is essentially what a lot of us already knew: The war is lost and probably could never have been won in the first place, at least in the utopian, democratist terms the Bush White House has employed throughout the shameful Iraq debacle. The report also tells us that “The situation in Baghdad and several provinces” is “dire” and that “violence is increasing in scope, complexity, and lethality.” (Alas, the group has to employ such a term as lethality to soften the plain fact that lots of people are being killed and maimed.) In short, “there is no guarantee for success in Iraq.” Overall, the situation is (not surprisingly) described as “grave and deteriorating.”
As some of Bush’s “sofa samurai” (Taki’s memorable term for neoconservatives) are abandoning ship, pointing the finger at everybody but themselves, the President seems intent on dismissing many of the report’s findings. And the New York Times tells us that a “huge struggle over Iraq policy” is only just beginning. That means that more people will be killed and maimed because of the President’s hubris. The end will be the same, regardless. Americans have no taste for this war, and the United States will eventually withdraw.
Those of us who opposed this reckless adventure from the start should now say, “We told you so!” in no uncertain terms. We must do this for the historical record and to reemphasize the morality and rightness of a foreign policy that is based on American interests and a realistic understanding of human nature and the world we live in.
The Bush administration willfully and knowingly manipulated the intelligence record to get the war it wanted well before September 11, which was used as a pretext for invading Iraq. The manipulation of intelligence helped reveal the zealously pro-Israel (or, more properly, pro-Likud) bias of the coalition of interests beating the war drums in the Bush White House. As Allen Dennis wrote in these pages (Cultural Revolutions, September 2003):
U.S. media have reported for months on the efforts of neoconservatives to push for war with Iraq before the September 11 terrorist attacks, as well as on their drive to make Iraq the primary target of U.S. military action after the attacks. Among the pro-war group’s leading lights were Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, who reportedly pressured U.S. intelligence agencies to produce evidence linking Iraq to the Al Qaeda terrorist network. When nothing materialized, Rumsfeld and his neoconservative allies set up the Office of Special Plans (OSP) as the shadow intelligence arm of the White House, while Vice President Dick Cheney and newly minted Pentagon “consultant” Newt Gingrich made numerous—and unprecedented—trips to CIA headquarters, reportedly demanding that agency analysts take a more “forward-leaning” stance on Iraq threat assessments. . . .
The war hawks’ amateur intelligence operation also forged close ties to a similar unofficial group in Israel. The Israeli group was reportedly charged with providing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with tougher and more alarming assessments of Iraq than official intelligence agencies were prepared to endorse. The Israel-OSP connection is not surprising: Both Rumsfeld’s undersecretary Douglas Feith and neoconservative hawk Richard Perle once served as advisors to former Likud Party boss Benjamin Netanyahu. Israelis were reportedly able to visit the OSP without being cleared through normal Pentagon channels.
. . . Ray McGovern, a former CIA officer, is one of several former agency analysts who have publicly attacked the Bush administration’s use of intelligence and is a member of a group calling itself Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. McGovern has claimed that the group is “hearing from dozens of [intelligence] people. A lot of them are very demoralized,” as they have been under pressure to “cook” intelligence assessments.
Two of the claims made by the Bush White House were hotly disputed by intelligence professionals: that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD); and that Saddam Hussein had colluded with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in planning and carrying out the September 11 attacks. No WMDs were found in Iraq, and no credible links between Iraq and September 11 have been uncovered. The Bush administration did not want to be encumbered by the reality-based community in its Tower of Babel blueprint for remaking the Middle East as a stronghold of democracy. To that end, as Mr. Dennis wrote in these pages (Cultural Revolutions, January 2005), the White House sent Porter Goss to the CIA to purge those deemed “disloyal”:
The purge began with the resignations of clandestine service chief Stephen Kappes and his deputy, Michael Sulick, followed by Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin. . . . Newsday’s source, identified as “a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and the White House,” claimed that the purge would be a direct response by the Bush administration to perceived disloyalty: “Goss was given instructions . . . to get rid of those . . . [CIA] leakers and liberal Democrats.” . . .
One agency official subsequently said that “the word is out: The place is under lockdown.”
A Goss memo to agency employees seemed to make clear the aim of the lockdown: “We support the administration and its policies in our work,” Goss wrote. “[W]e do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the administration or its policies.” Though the memo stated that intelligence officers should “let the facts” speak to policymakers, it seems clear that Goss intended to chill dissent.
One of those whom Goss (who has since been replaced by Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden) purged was Michael Scheuer, an intelligence veteran who had headed the CIA unit responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden. Scheuer was the anonymous author of Imperial Hubris, a devastating critique of the “War on Terror.” What follows are excerpts from my review of that book (“A Rumor of War,” Reviews, May 2005), which includes quotes from Scheuer:
“I intend in this book,” Scheuer writes, “to show that there is not now, and never has been, a shortage of knowledge about the nature and immediacy of the bin Laden threat, but only a lack of courage to tell the truth about it fully, openly and with disregard for the career-related consequences of truth-telling. Unfortunately, many in my generation of leaders find the task of doing their duty next to impossible. The failure of many to perform their duty lies at the heart of why three thousand Americans perished on 11 September 2001.”
Some, having tried to tell the truth, were punished by a system that claims it wants its bureaucracy to “think outside the box” but, in fact, hates and fears honesty, integrity, and expertise in all things apart from career advancement. In the end, “you can lead jackasses to water, but you cannot make them drink.”
Instead of doing their duty, which would entail “facing reality,” our “hubris-soaked . . . leaders, elites, and media, locked behind an impenetrable wall of political correctness and moral cowardice, act as naïve and arrogant cheerleaders for the universal applicability of Western values and feckless military operations . . . while al Qaeda-led, anti-US hatred grows among Muslims, US leaders boast of being able to create democracy wherever they choose, ignoring history . . . ” As a result, “it is fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.” Scheuer goes on to make a convincing case that the character of public “leadership” as described above not only helped make the September 11 attacks possible but is leading this country into quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq. . . .
“On Iraq, I must candidly say that I abhor aggressive wars like the one we waged there . . . [it was] an avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat,” writes Scheuer. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was nothing less than “Osama bin Laden’s gift from America, one he has long and ardently desired, but never realistically expected.” An Iraq without Saddam would “obviously become what political scientists call a ‘failed state’ . . . a land where al Qaeda or al Qaeda-like organizations would thrive.” Bin Laden could only dream of such a gift—until March 2003, when his dream came true. All he could have hoped for has come to pass. The United States, having already stayed too long, is insistent on a non-Islamic government that would subordinate the long-dominant Sunnis. Meanwhile, Arabs can see the destruction of the second holiest land in Islam, along with the prison torture scandal, on satellite TV and the internet. Young Islamic men are rushing to Iraq in the name of jihad, even as Washington is faced with the problem of dealing with a newly elected leadership weighted toward Shiites with historic ties to Iran. And all that is to say nothing of Kurdish aspirations in northern Iraq, where the establishment of a Kurdish state could provoke Turkish intervention. Does this look like a “mission accomplished” to anyone apart from the deluded inhabitants of the Bush White House?
As we predicted, the war in Iraq, a conflict cooked up by ill-formed ideologues intent on pursuing a Jacobin democracy-at-bayonet-point foreign policy backed by pro-Likud interests in the White House, has indeed been a disaster for the United States. It has unleashed chaos that will probably lead to the breakup of the country. And the chief beneficiary of the war has likely been Osama bin Laden.
I will mention one other prediction: that the toppling of Saddam and the subsequent chaos would be a disaster for the 2,000-year-old Christian community in Iraq. Before the war even started, I had written (Cultural Revolutions, March 2003) that “Iraqi Christians are paying the price of the Bush administration’s desire to remove Saddam Hussein.”
Iraq’s Christians fear that they will be the first victims of a war that might dismember the country, unleashing ethnic and religious conflicts that Baghdad had previously suppressed. Tariq, a Christian merchant in Baghdad, told the French weekly Marianne that “If the United States goes to war against our country . . . [t]he Wahhabis and other fundamentalists will take advantage of the confusion to throw us out of our homes, destroy us as a community, and declare Iraq an Islamic nation!” If recent history is any indication, Tariq has cause for concern: The Shiite uprising in southern Iraq during the Gulf War—encouraged and then abandoned by Washington—targeted Christians.
What followed the invasion were exactly the kind of attacks Iraqi Christians—who are leaving in large part for the relative safety of “Axis of Evil” member Syria—had feared. In a subsequent article (Cultural Revolutions, April 2006), I looked at what the invasion had wrought for the Christians of Iraq and what it might mean for Christianity in the Middle East:
[T]he Bush administration, not bound by law or even common sense, has helped bring on, with its insistence on “regime change” in Iraq and democratist utopianism, what sensible Middle East analysts had predicted: Islamic militant groups are winning electoral victories across the region, setting the stage for a kind of “regime change” the White House may not have anticipated. Christianity in the Middle East could well be snuffed out once and for all.
While Iraq’s Christians are murdered, kidnapped, and forced to flee their homes and churches, the Praise Leader in Chief in the White House has ignored them, as have the Bush administration’s ardent dispensationalist supporters, obsessed with their “end-times” theology and ignorant of the history of their own Faith. As the body count rises and the administration reloads for a new war, maybe these followers of the Prince of Peace should pause and ponder a timely question: What would Jesus do?
It has been suggested that, should the U.S. forces withdraw, Iraq will collapse and the United States will no longer be considered a “superpower.” I doubt very seriously that the worsening of the situation in Iraq can be prevented by continuing to supply American targets for would-be jihadists. That is sad but true. It is partly out of sympathy for the sufferings of the people of Iraq that many of us have opposed this war. As for superpower status—please, take it, take it away from us, together with the blasphemous belligerence and fanaticism that accompanies it. I pray my children can live in an America that does not sacrifice her young people to maintain her status as a “superpower.”