It was a twofer for the serial killers at the helm in Tel Aviv. Israeli helicopter gunships had just taken out a blind paraplegic, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, when his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, also went up in a puff of smoke. The United States, as usual, exculpated Israel, while the Arab world blamed Uncle Sam. What made it all so typical of Israeli behavior was the timing.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had barely stepped off the plane, back from his triumphant visit to Washington where the President of the United States had capitulated to his every whim, agreeing to the annexation of key portions of the West Bank. While the Arabs writhed in helpless fury, and the fighting in Iraq rose to new heights of blood-drenched fury, Rantisi was struck down along with several bystanders, and the Arabs are blaming us for that, too.
Israeli policies are undeniably fueling the Iraqi insurgency, and swelling radical Islamist ranks. In a statement issued by a previously-unknown group claiming responsibility for the horrific death-by-mutilation of four American quasi-military contractors in Fallujah, the link was made explicitly:
“‘This is a gift from the people of Fallujah to the people of Palestine and the family of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin who was assassinated by the criminal Zionists,’ said in the statement from the ‘Brigades of Martyr Ahmed Yassin.’ ‘We advise the U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq and we advise the families of the American soldiers and the contractors not to come to Iraq.'”
How many more Americans soldiers will die in Iraq as a result of Sharon’s calculated murders is a grim statistic to contemplate. As an emboldened Israel continues its rampage through Palestine, that number will surely grow.
Far from trying to mitigate these fatal consequences, the Israelis revel in their leverage with the Imperial hegemon. As one member of the Israeli delegation put it:
“I think this will probably be remembered as one of the most important successful political initiatives that Israel has ever undertaken vis-a-vis the United States. It takes into consideration all the important elements: that the (Palestinian refugees’) claim of return is not to Israel but to a Palestinian state, the need for defensible borders and the recognition that Israel cannot return to the 1949 lines and a recognition of the demographic realities. As far as the statement is concerned, the outline of any future permanent agreement with the Palestinians has been documented and signed by the president of the United States.”
Recent events have greatly clarified the exact meaning and motives of the War Party in recklessly invading Iraq without a plan, without enough troops to police the place, and without a clue as to the consequences. As the body-bags come home and the bills come in, a growing number of conservative Republicans are beginning to ask: whatever possessed him to do it? Why did he go against the advice and example of his own father, and listen to the false counsel of the neocons and what was their motive, anyway?
While mind-reading George W. Bush is like trying to discern the hidden meaning of a blank page, the neoconservative mindset is hardly a state secret. In understanding what motivates them in their relentless pursuit of “regime change,” not only in Iraq but throughout the Middle East, one only has to ask: Who benefits, and who pays?
Israel’s West Bank annexation piously described as a “unilateral withdrawal” by Sharon and his amen corner in the West is the first big payoff. That it comes just as the American casualty rate is beginning to soar underscores the essence of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. While America’s fight against Al Qaeda and defending the homeland against terrorism is made more difficult by the occupation of Iraq, the Israeli goal of leveling any and all threats to its national security has been advanced and the chaos, too, is a benefit.
The de facto disintegration and break-up of Iraq as a unitary nation, an increasingly likely consequence of the U.S. invasion, is an outcome that, again, benefits Israel, to the detriment of American interests. A campaign to similarly atomize Syria is next, with economic sanctions already in place, and a border incident waiting to happen. But the War Party’s agenda doesn’t end in Damascus: it’s on to Tehran, Riyadh, and, eventually, Cairo. As Laurent Murawiec, the ex-LaRouche cultist who famously briefed the Pentagon Policy Board at Richard Perle‘s invitation, put it:
“Iraq is the tactical pivot,
Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot,
Egypt the prize.“
While Murawiec may not have fully recovered from his decade-plus immersion in a nut-cult, one has to wonder if the leaders of our own government are any less nutty. Which raises the question, just who is running things, anyway? The answer, according to Colin Powell, reports Bob Woodward in his new book, Plan of Attack, is not at all clear:
“Powell felt Cheney and his allies his chief aide, I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith and what Powell called Feith’s ‘Gestapo’ office had established what amounted to a separate government.”
In effect, the neocons pulled off a coup d’etat, a palace revolution in which veteran government officials like Richard Clarke, and the CIA and Pentagon “old guard,” were pushed aside. (Go here for an up close and detailed description of the purge by former Pentagon analyst Karen Kwiatkowski.) If the purpose of the U.S. government is to protect American security and interests, then why did there need to be a “separate” and competing government unless that government was pursuing other, non-American interests?
Not only the Woodward book, but the series of whistleblowers who have come out of the closet and revealed the inner workings of the Bush administration, lead us into territory that, for want of a better word, can only be called a “conspiracy theory.” Which, one supposes, is one way of saying that everything is not an accident. There is, however, no way to understand where we are, and how we got here, unless we see the push to get us into Iraq as a successful covert operation. A success, that is, not in terms of American interests, but in the terms of those who carried it out.
The Iraq war, the diversion away from the real authors of 9/11, the costly obsession with Saddam Hussein, the professed intention of “staying the course” of an unsustainable policy none of it makes any sense when viewed through the prism of American national interests. The entire thrust of our Middle East policy is counter-intuitive and counterproductive. Only two parties benefited from the invasion of Iraq: the Likudniks (and their American branch office) loyal to Sharon and the jihadists associated with Osama Bin Laden.
Sharon now has a weapon to wield against the radicals in his own party, who want all the settlements to stay in the West Bank, and the Labor Party, which accuses him of being too intransigent. Also, perhaps, his triumph has provided him with a shield to ward off the growing stench of personal scandal. Bin Laden, on the other hand, is winning a worldwide following and recruiting hand over fist, forging the next generation of suicide-bombing fanatics, who dream of two, three, many more 9/11s.
No, I’m not saying that agents of Osama bin Laden have taken over the U.S. government. Although Coleen Rowley and her co-workers at the FBI used to joke that headquarters acted at times as if it had been infiltrated by Al Qaeda, and Clarke quips in his book that Bush must have been “channeling Osama bin Laden” in coming up with the scheme to invade Iraq, this kind of rhetorical flourish is not meant to be taken literally.
On the other hand, the concept of the Iraq war as a successful Israeli covert operation is altogether plausible. It would hardly be the first time a foreign government made a concerted effort to drag us into war on their side. And just look at the pattern of recent events: Israel gains, America pays: Israel assassinates, Americans die: Israel conquers, and the American government concurs wholeheartedly: Israel says “Jump!” and the government of the United States only wants to know how high. Israel’s partisans inside the U.S. government who, according to top officials and other “defectors,” set up their own “separate government” seized the helm and steered the American ship of state into turbulent waters.
The storm, I fear, is only just beginning. What began as a police action, a “mopping up” of Ba’athist “remnants,” is now taking on the scope of a nationwide anti-American insurgency. Americans want to know how and why we were rushed into war and by whom.
This war, and the policy that gave birth to it, is criminal in so many different ways, but surely treason is not the least of the crimes that can be ascribed to the leaders of the War Party. The investigation into the machinations of this group who acted, in effect if not consciously, as agents of a foreign power is a ticking time-bomb for this administration or, at least, for the “separate government” set up by the Cheney-Wolfowitz-Feith junta.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I hate to say “I told you so,” but, hey, didn’t I predict that military operations in Iraq would soon come to resemble the siege at Waco? The news that our “psyops” brigade is playing heavy metal rock really really loud in hopes of flushing out Fallujah’s defenders confirms it. Okay, so I was writing about the siege of Najaf, not Fallujah, where the heavy metal weapon is being deployed, but, hey, it’s all the same, isn’t it at least according to professional ignoramus Andrew Sullivan, who writes:
“SADR CAPITULATES: I’m unnerved by the presence of Iranians helping to broker some kind of deal with al Sadr, but heartened by the fact that the extremist revolt in Fallujah seems to have been quelled largely by Marine force and by moderate Shiite realism.”
But of course Sadr is in Najaf, not Fallujah, which is Sunni, not Shi’ite. And somebody ought to tell those rebellious Fallujans they’ve been “quelled,” because they don’t seem to have realized it as yet. Why anyone takes Sullivan seriously gay affirmative action? is waaaaay beyond me.