Iraq rapidly approaches meltdown, but President Pangloss isn’t worried: "Our strategy," boasted George W. Bush to the National Guard last Tuesday, "is succeeding." I keep asking myself what world are he and his advisors living in, momentarily forgetting about the post-9/11 tear in the space-time continuum that catapulted us all into Bizarro World, where up is down, good is bad, and success means abject failure. But of course, in that kind of topsy-turvy universe, this is a great success, and this is just peachy, not to mention the moral and political triumph represented by this. The number of insurgent attacks is over 80 per day, the American casualty rate has never been higher, and, 16 months after we swept to "victory" in Iraq, large swathes of the country are closed to U.S. troops as well as to the police force of the ramshackle "interim" government.
As King Pyrrhus put it after the Battle of Tarentum, in 281 B.C.:
"One more such victory, and we are undone."
Antiwar.com’s regular readers will not be too surprised by this turn of events – after all, we repeatedly predicted an intractable guerrilla war long before the invasion ever took place. It now appears, however, that the sheer magnitude of the catastrophe is accelerating so quickly that the "d"-word is beginning to be heard. I’m not talking about the antiwar left, but retired military commanders and top military strategists. According to retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, we’re losing on every front:
"Bush hasn’t found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it’s worse, he’s lost on that front. That he’s going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It’s lost. Right now, the course we’re on, we’re achieving Bin Laden’s ends."
Odom isn’t the only one expressing the oddly counterintuitive idea – which nevertheless rings true – that we’re serving bin Laden’s cause more loyally than if al-Qaeda had a mole in the White House. It is also the theme of Imperial Hubris, the single best book on our current dilemma, in which the author, a currently serving CIA analyst, lays it on the line in the first paragraph:
"U.S. forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it is fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.”
This is "defeatism," according to the more moonbattish neocons, and even treason, if you take David Horowitz seriously. Isn’t that just like a neocon? They lie us into an unwinnable war, then declare that anyone who correctly perceives the unfolding disaster is a "defeatist." What a sense of humor these guys have! It’s positively Seinfeldian. But humor, as Ayn Rand once pointed out, is not an unlimited virtue, as the neocons are beginning to discover to their chagrin.
The real authors of the American defeat aren’t those of us who warned the Iraqi conquest would swell al-Qaeda’s ranks, empower the Iranian mullahs, and serve only to embolden the Israelis to push, push, push all the harder to achieve the goal of a "Greater" Israel. That’s like blaming Cassandra for the fall of Troy.
While ultimate political responsibility for this defeat must be borne by our beloved commander-in-chief, the real authors of this mad scheme are the neoconservatives. It was they who agitated for war with Iraq in a campaign that lasted for the better part of a decade and more. Ensconced in their various thinktanks, endlessly writing policy papers and articles for their numerous little magazines, their propaganda aimed squarely at the elites in Washington, that querulous faction of leftists-turned-rightists organized endless committees, colloquia, and scholarly concordances around the idea of "regime change" in Iraq. What was, for them, an obsession, has now enveloped us all in a non-stop horror show that gets more horrific by the day, the hour.
We know whom to blame. So now we need to ask: how did they pull it off – and why?
The real story of how we were lied into war, and by whom, is getting out there, in dribs and drabs, but the true loyalties and organizational affiliations of this self-described "cabal" have remained obscure, until fairly recently. What we’ve been saying, in this space, for close on two years, is now being said openly by a dissident wing of the American foreign policy establishment, including General Anthony Zinni, former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and diplomatic envoy, CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, and noted intelligence expert James Bamford.
This was a war waged, not for oil, or any other tangible commodity, but for purely intangible ideological reasons. Working in tandem with their handlers in Tel Aviv, an entire layer of the national security bureaucracy – ensconced in the Pentagon since the Reagan era – sought to liberate not Iraq, but Israel.
The neocons’ goal was to divert the attention and resources of the terrorists away from Israel, and toward a new and more inviting target – U.S. soldiers patrolling the streets of Iraq’s rebellious cities.
In this sense, then, the president is right: the strategy is succeeding. This "success" was underscored when the number of American dead passed the 1,000 mark, and will be reiterated with stunning force each time a car bomb explodes outside Iraqi police headquarters. That’s one suicide bomber who will never strike at Israel.
The Israeli connection to this covert campaign is only now coming to light, with the revelation that an Israeli agent in the Pentagon – Iran analyst Lawrence A. Franklin – has been "turned" and is cooperating with the FBI. Like Whittaker Chambers, Franklin may be the key to exposing an extensive, longstanding network of spies that has burrowed so deeply into the highest councils of our government that American policy has been indisputably distorted – and perhaps even decisively shaped – by their machinations.
The Amen Corner downplays the Franklin affair, writing it off as just a "misunderstanding," and, in any case, strictly limited in scope, but this is wishful thinking on their part. Numerous news reports have sketched in the outlines of a much larger investigation, in which Franklin was just an incidental figure, involving Israeli penetration of U.S. government agencies over a period of at least two years, and perhaps longer.
The frantic cries of the neocons, who are now trying to hide behind the protective shield of political correctness, are reverberating throughout Washington and environs: "anti-Semitism!" But as General Zinni put it:
"I think it’s the worst kept secret in Washington. That everybody – everybody I talk to in Washington has known and fully knows what their agenda was and what they were trying to do. And one article, because I mentioned the neo-conservatives who describe themselves as neo-conservatives, I was called anti-Semitic. I mean, you know, unbelievable that that’s the kind of personal attacks that are run when you criticize a strategy and those who propose it. I certainly didn’t criticize who they were. I certainly don’t know what their ethnic religious backgrounds are. And I’m not interested.
“I know what strategy they promoted. And openly. And for a number of years. And what they have convinced the president and the secretary to do. And I don’t believe there is any serious political leader, military leader, diplomat in Washington that doesn’t know where it came from.”
General Odom’s dark prognosis of what is occurring in Iraq is no comfort to the anti-war movement, as our worst fears are realized by a multiple of ten:
“This is far graver than Vietnam. There wasn’t as much at stake strategically, though in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with the war that was not constructive for US aims. But now we’re in a region far more volatile, and we’re in much worse shape with our allies.”
The neocons could care less about the fate of Iraq: that was yesterday’s "imminent" danger. Their sights are already fixed on Iran, Syria, Lebanon – and beyond. As the half-crazed neocon ideologue, a former top lieutenant of Lyndon LaRouche by the name of Laurent Murawiec, put it:
"Iraq is the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot, Egypt the prize."
Richard Perle brought this loon to an infamous briefing of the Defense Policy Board, where the neocon coven convened a serious discussion of whether – or, rather, when – to strike Mecca and Medina. The burgeoning guerrilla war we face in Iraq is nothing compared to the regional conflagration the neocons pine for: a series of conflicts that will level every regime in the Middle East, with only a single nation left standing.
Now which nation do you think that might that be?
The involvement of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in espionage on behalf of Israel ought not to surprise anyone. The group has long maintained that American and Israeli interests are not merely complementary, but identical. Every demand of the radical nationalist Likud government is echoed by a lobby rated high in the Washington sweepstakes of power and influence peddling: Forbes magazine rated AIPAC among the most effective lobbies in Washington, right up there with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the corporate giants. And while funneling campaign contributions to the congressional adjunct of the Amen Corner is always helpful, the main strategy is to apply direct pressure when anyone deviates from the Likud party’s pro-settlement expansionist agenda: AIPAC can generate hundreds of letters and phone calls to any legislator who unwisely steps out of line. In an election year, with Florida set to once again play a pivotal role, the power of Israel’s American fifth column is amplified to the nth degree.
Think of that famous photo of Lynndie England holding a leash connected to some poor slob of an Iraqi writhing naked on the floor, and you have a pretty good idea of Bush’s relationship with AIPAC at the present conjuncture – and AIPAC is holding the leash. That’s why the order went down from the White House for prosecutor Paul McNulty to slow down the investigation and rein in FBI field agents eager for an arrest in the Franklin case, as reported by the Financial Times. But that doesn’t mean the neocons are off the hook: they can always be prosecuted after November, but, in the meantime, they are frantic to limit the damage. Typical of the neocon response was the call, by David Frum, to investigate the anonymous FBI and other government officials who were quoted in news accounts as blowing the whistle on the Israelis. Treason isn’t the problem – talking about it is.
The neocons, as I have noted before, aren’t conservatives who want to preserve the American tradition of constitutional, limited government, but neo-authoritarians, who not only call for draconian restrictions and a general rollback of constitutional restraints on the power of government, but exhibit the commissar-like mentality of Soviet-era ideologues, intent on policing every public discussion for evidence of ideological impurity. Which means certain subjects, in their entirety, are completely off-limits: reporters should not even be writing about the Franklin affair or its implications. This was brought home to me when I read the following passage from a longer blog posting by journalist Laura Rozen, ostensibly about Douglas Jehl’s piece in the Times detailing the pessimistic National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq:
"I wonder if the neocons will put Jehl on the ‘enemies list’ I am told they are creating of articles and reporters they don’t like, or, I suppose, find threatening. After all, not only is Jehl reporting a brutally grim forecast for Iraq, but he’s citing the National Intelligence Council for his forecast, and we all know the neocons’ dim view of the US intelligence community (granted, their own pronouncements about Iraq and Chalabi’s virtue and WMD have hardly come to pass, but they apparently believe they should be given a pass on any demands for accountability. They demand nothing less than amnesia of us.)
"There’s something just fascistic about that sort of behavior of creating an enemies’ list. Seriously fascistic. To try to target people who are trying to report the truth.
"The neocons call those reporting unfavorably on Iraq, on the FBI counterintelligence investigation of alleged espionage and who allegedly leaked US Iran intel to Chalabi, etc. McCarthyites. But who’s really McCarthyite?
"Let’s be clear about what is going on here. They are trying to intimidate people from reporting on an existing investigation. To act as if it does not exist, as if that will make it go away. They are not just saying the allegations are not true, which they have a right to say, if that’s their opinion. They are obviously not the judge or jury. They are trying to make it illegitimate to even report on the investigation at all. As if reporting on its existence is in and of itself an unethical act. Think about it. Would they also want us not to report on allegations of, say, Saudi espionage in the US, or of Congressional investigations into terrorist finance? No, they champion that. What about French espionage at, say, NATO? We’ve heard of those cases during the Kosovo war. No, they champion reporting on that. They just want to prevent reporting on an existing investigation into who allegedly leaked US Iran intel to Chalabi and Aipac. Does that investigation make some of those people uncomfortable? Sure. Does that give them a right to try to threaten and intimidate people trying to report on it? To understand and report what the investigation is about? An investigation, after all, that the reporters did not create, but government agencies did? That’s insane."
Laura Rozen is not some left-wing tin-foil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist with a very large axe to grind: she is fairly described as a centrist, and not any sort of ideologue. Furthermore, as a journalist, she has been more than fair with the neocons, giving them every benefit of the doubt as to motives and intent – far too much so, in my opinion. But it looks like they’ve gone too far, this time. If, with these kinds of tactics, they are intent on pushing a lot of people, even including the usually fair-minded Rozen, into open opposition, then they’re really pulling out all the stops.
The gloves are coming off. And it seems, at least for the moment, to be working. The Forward headlined one of the last major stories on the Franklin affair: "As Leaks Dry Up in FBI Investigation, Activists Still Fear Jury Probe":
"In the face of a rising wave of criticism from lawmakers, Jewish organizations and neoconservative pundits, the leaks regarding the FBI probe have stopped. The reasons for the lull are not clear, but journalists and Jewish communal officials were floating several theories this week, including the notion that the sudden silence came in response to the condemnations from Jewish organizations and Capitol Hill.
"’I sure hope that this is the case and that there was a directive issued to stop leaking,’ said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Last week Foxman sent a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller and to Attorney General John Ashcroft asking that they investigate who leaked the information and why."
If Foxman believes a directive is all that’s necessary to quash public discussion of a major spy scandal that exposes a huge breach in our national security, then he is living in a fantasy land. In the eastern district of Virginia, U.S. attorney Paul McNulty is convening a grand jury, which is hearing evidence, and prosecutors are drawing up an indictment. Those "activists" have good reason to fear a jury probe. The neocons’ day of reckoning may be delayed until after the election, but it is coming.
The wheels of justice have begun to turn, albeit a bit slowly. Before they’re through turning, the traitors who sold out their country in order to serve a "higher" ideological calling – power, prestige, and war profits aplenty – will be wearing orange jumpsuits and making some lifer named "Butch" very very happy. That this is even possible, at this point, is nothing short of miraculous.
It makes you think: Gee, isn’t this a great country, still, in spite of everything? Isn’t it worth fighting for, as we slide down into the abyss of Empire? Perhaps, even at this late date, we can apply the brakes, which don’t seem to be broken after all.