Amid all the back-and-forth between the administration and its critics about how to measure “progress” in Iraq, what gets lost is the question asked by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) at the Petraeus-Crocker hearings the other day:
“I have to ask this question: where is this going? Are we going to continue to invest American blood and treasure at the same rate we are doing now. For what? The president said let’s buy time. Buy time? For what?”
Petraeus is surely cooking the books, as the MoveOn.org folks aver in their great New York Times ad nice to see they’re (finally!) growing a pair but this avoids the larger question: what is the administration really up to in Iraq? They’re hanging on, “buying time,” as the pundits ceaselessly report but what do they hope to accomplish?
If you go through the Petraeus report, the key passages are those that deal with Iran. Petraeus continually points the finger at Tehran as an explanation for the lack of “progress” in Iraq. He claims to have “disrupted Shia militia extremists” you know, the ones that sit in the Iraqi parliament and to have captured the leaders of “Iranian-supported Special Groups, along with a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative supporting Iran’s activities in Iraq.” Who is this operative, and what are these “Special Groups”? Apparently, they are too special to be named in testimony before Congress. The “ethno-sectarian competition,” Petraeus avers, is being pushed toward violence, in part because of “malign actions by Syria and, especially, by Iran.”
What actions? No answer is given: not that anyone is asking, at least not in the Congress or among the presidential candidates of either party. Prior accusations that IEDs found in Iraq were manufactured in Iran have proved sketchy, at best, and pure invention, at worst. Yet Petraeus’ words are simply taken as gospel, much as Colin Powell’s peroration of Scooter Libby-produced lies performed in front of the UN was hailed as a home run. Years from now, will we look back on the Petraeus-Crocker dog-and-pony show with the same bitter regret that nobody or almost nobody doubted them?
You can bet the ranch on it.
More lies from the “honorable” Gen. Petraeus:
“In the past six months we have also targeted Shia militia extremists, capturing a number of senior leaders and fighters, as well as the deputy commander of Lebanese Hezbollah Department 2800, the organization created to support the training, arming, funding, and, in some cases, direction of the militia extremists by the Iranian Republican Guard Corps’ Qods Force. These elements have assassinated and kidnapped Iraqi governmental leaders, killed and wounded our soldiers with advanced explosive devices provided by Iran, and indiscriminately rocketed civilians in the International Zone and elsewhere. It is increasingly apparent to both Coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Qods Force, seeks to turn the Iraqi Special Groups into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.”
What, in the name of Allah, is “Department 2800”? There ain’t no such creature on God’s green earth. I can find no reference to it anywhere: not in the standard studies of Hezbollah, not on the Internets, not anywhere. The only other reference to this mysterious organization, aside from the testimony of Petraeus, is on the Web site of Veterans for Freedom, a pro-administration front group that exists as a prop for their leader, the square-jawed Pete Hegseth, to appear on television as a counterweight to VoteVets.
In other words, they just make stuff up.
Refuting this farrago of half-baked fantasies doesn’t require any special knowledge, only a basic understanding of the current situation in Iraq and a bit of common sense. For example, why would Shi’ite militias go after the Shi’ite government in Baghdad when, in reality, they are the armed wings of the parties that make up that government?
Even more egregious is the contention that “it is increasingly apparent to both Coalition and Iraqi leaders” that “Iran seeks to turn the Iraqi Special Groups into a Hezbollah-like force” to “fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state.” Is that why Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki traveled to Iran recently, where he walked hand in hand with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then took off for Damascus, where he was warmly greeted by the last of the Mesopotamian Ba’athists?
A proxy war is being fought in Iraq, but it isn’t one pitting the Iranians against the Iraqis: the U.S. is the proxy, fighting on behalf of Israel against Iran and Syria.
That’s what all this malarkey detailing how the Iranians want to “Hezbollah-ize” the Iranian-run “Special Groups” is about. So now we’re fighting Hezbollah, a group that arose because of the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and is concerned exclusively with ridding their country of Israeli troops and influence.
The “surge,” as the escalation of the war is being euphemized, is working, albeit not in the way the hapless Democrats and the American public understand it. “Progress” in Iraq, insofar as this administration is concerned, means we’re closer to war with Iran. That has always been our target, and now that we’ve got the Ba’athists out of the way, we don’t mind allying with the “dead-enders” against the real enemy: the Shi’ite mullahs of Tehran.
In answer to questions from the senators, Petraeus gave away the show when he bluntly stated, “We cannot win Iraq solely in Iraq.” Oh no, we have to conquer most of the rest of the Middle East, including Iran, Syria, and who-knows-where-else before we can even begin to talk about winning in Iraq.
I have emphasized, in this space, that nothing short of complete and immediate withdrawal from Iraq is going to avert a regional war in the Middle East, because that’s exactly what’s on the administration’s agenda. That’s what Bush and Petraeus are buying time for what Norman Podhoretz calls “World War IV.”
Every political leader who claims to be “antiwar” yet claims that we cannot just leave Iraq is complicit in this conspiracy to drag us into a conflict with Iran. Hillary, Obama, and all the Democrats except, perhaps, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel, and surely each and every one of the Republicans, with the single exception of Ron Paul all are guilty, no matter how much they protest, of enabling this administration in its plans to carry the war into Iran, Syria, and even beyond: Pakistan, perhaps, or the oil-rich regions of Central Asia.
We’ve said this over and over down through the years! until we’re blue in the face, and as the reality of it is becoming too apparent for even the worst evaders to continue dodging, I see that Andrew Sullivan has finally caught on. Well, bully for him now that he, in his previous pro-war incarnation, helped bring us to this moment. The same realization is also dawning over at National Review, where Petraeus’ emphasis on blaming Iran for the mess we made in Iraq is being interpreted as good news (which it is, if you’re a warmongering, wholly-owned adjunct of the Israel Lobby).
The dynamic sweep of the neoconservatives‘ grand plan to “transform” the Middle East and “drain the swamp,” as they put it, is something to behold. First, take on the Ba’athist Sunnis, pulverize them, isolate them, and let the Shi’ites fill the power vacuum left behind by Saddam. Then, change course abruptly, declare the Shi’ites supported by Iran to be the main enemy, ally with the Sunni remnants, and launch a final offensive against Tehran. Strike, stall for time, and strike again.
Note, also, how the “redirection” in favor of the Sunnis allows the administration to claim substantial progress in Iraq: by allying with these former “dead-enders” and “terrorists,” we can say we’re bringing Iraqis “together” even as the insurgents continue their battle with the ostensibly pro-American government. This is supposed to keep war critics at bay on the home front, but not everyone is falling for it.
The sharpest questions at the Petraeus-Crocker hearings were asked, tellingly, not by the Democrats, who remained cautious in their criticisms, but by two Republican senators, Hagel and John Warner, who, not coincidentally, are retiring this year. The latter opined: “I hope in the recesses of your heart that you know that strategy will continue the casualties, the stress on our forces, the stress on military families, the stress on all Americans,” and then asked Petraeus if his recommendations to continue the surge for another six months would make the U.S. “safer.”
The general replied, somewhat sheepishly: “Sir, I don’t know, actually.”
Yet isn’t that the mission of the U.S. military to make us safer? To protect us from our enemies, here in the “homeland” (as they now call America)?
It most certainly is not, at least not in the Bizarro World we fell into after the 9/11 attacks blasted a hole in the space-time continuum and rocketed us into an alternate universe where up is down, right is wrong, and “security” means placing us all in imminent danger of yet another terrorist assault.
Our camarilla of would-be conquistadors could care less about the security and safety of the American people: all that matters to them is their vision of “benevolent global hegemony” and, of course, the security of Israel. That’s why the Lobby is moving full-bore into propaganda mode and we’re hearing the drumbeat of yet another council of war rising and drowning out the peoples’ plea for peace. Democracy? Forget it. The two wings of the War Party, known as the Democrats and the Republicans, have a monopoly on the political process here in the cradle of liberty, and, what’s more, they know it. No need to pay attention to the polls when both parties are committed to war.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I‘ll mention, again, that I’m giving a talk at the 18th annual meeting of the John Randolph Club: “Speaking Truth To Power,” Sept. 21-22, 2007, at the Hotel Washington, 515 Fifteenth Street, NW, Washington, D.C. My topic: how the Washington wonk-ocracy keeps the foreign policy debate within certain “respectable” parameters. If you’re in the area, by all means drop by and say hello. For more information on the meeting, call 815-964-8111. Ask for Christopher Check.
I’d also like to point you in the direction of Taki’s Top Drawer, a new online magazine founded by the fabulous Greek, Taki Theodoracopulos, where I’ve been blogging up a storm. It’s the one place where I can write what I like, and not necessarily about issues of war and peace (as important as those issues are, and as much as I enjoy writing about them, a guy needs a break every once in a while, and I’m grateful for the opportunity that the editors of Top Drawer have provided).