Bush Keeps Fueling the Fire

Listen to Scott’s interview with Eric Margolis


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When Seymour Hersh last appeared on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, he explained the administration’s foreign policy agenda to host Jon Stewart. After noting that this agenda was the work of the “neoconservatives, the Wolfowitzes, the people who work at the Pentagon, the civilians,” and their belief that Iran “shouldn’t exist,” Stewart began to seem a bit incredulous. Hersh took this opportunity to make it clear that he has every reason to believe there is more war to come:

“You have to listen to what the guy
[Bush] says. He says we’re going to bring democracy to the Middle East. He’s not talking about Egypt or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia (where there’s a lot of problems). He’s talking about Iran and then Syria, and then Lebanon. He wants to change the Middle East, he wants to bring democracy there, and he’s dead serious about it. He’s got four more years, and he’s going do it.” (emphasis Hersh’s)

The fact that the Syrian-backed government of Lebanon resigned on Feb. 28, two days after Syria announced that they were going to withdraw their troops, reversing Hersh’s prediction of the order of regime changes, probably only encourages those who push this policy. There does seem to be a debate among neoconservatives, and also among those opposed to them, about whether Iran or Syria is next, but since Iran and Syria seem at this point to be each other’s last allies, the former communists in the Pentagon and the vice president’s office must be considering bombing both at the same time.

For the record, the president has denied that he plans war, sort of: ” “This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table.”

Hersh thinks the neo-dopes have learned at least one lesson: Nation-building doesn’t work. He says they will use this newfound wisdom in combination with more stupidity in Iran:

“The goal is to hit three or four dozen targets this summer, or whenever, and the thinking is that if they can show … the people (67 million) that the theocracy isn’t that powerful, people will rise up in response to the American attack, and go after the leadership. … It’s loony to want to do it this way. It’s loony to think the people are going to do anything but support their country if it’s attacked.”

Hersh knows these things, he says, because, “If you disagree, you can’t get to the table. The only guys who get to the table are the guys who drink the Kool-Aid,” and so many people inside the government who don’t buy this fantasy are dying to talk to him.

Many people wanted to believe that Bush didn’t really mean it when, only seconds after solemnly swearing to uphold the Constitution in his second inaugural address on Jan. 20, he vowed to continue his “global democratic revolution.” We all know Bush wants to look great in the history books, but apparently some were hoping he’d just make Social Security worse and find other ways of destroying wealth domestically in order to establish his legacy. They may be sorely disappointed to find out how honest our liar president can be.

Is our new National Security Strategy really about spreading democracy? When I interviewed Eric Margolis of the Toronto Sun on Feb. 26 [stream] [download], he pointed out that the one true democratic election in the Arab world was in 1991 in Algeria. Islamists won, so the military canceled the results and jailed the winners with the express approval of the first Bush administration. Even with an election as bogus as the one that took place in Iraq on Jan. 30, the new leaders are declaring an Islamic state, one that will surely soon again be an enemy of the U.S., assuming we ever leave.

According to Margolis, “[T]he Bush administration has almost completely adopted Israel’s view of events in the Middle East – rightly or wrongly – and made all of Israel’s enemies … America’s enemies as well, and branded them as terrorists.” That is what this policy is really about – a clean break for Israel from past policies of “appeasing” their enemies. The Likud Party wants to restructure the entire order of the Middle East so that Israel is the unquestioned hegemon of the region, and the U.S. is doing it all for them, on our dime and with our lives.

Why else would our government be picking a fight with Syria and Iran? They have been doing everything they can to please the U.S. since 9/11. They’ve “been very helpful,” in fighting al-Qaeda types, and have turned over old Iraqi Ba’ath party members – heck, the Syrians have even tortured a Canadian for us. Yet the Bush administration adopts the Israeli view that the killing of former Lebanese prime ministerHariri must have been a Syrian effort, even though there are unsolved assassinations there all the time. The same assertions are made by both Israel and the U.S. about last week’s bombing in Tel Aviv. Condoleezza Rice has pulled our ambassador out of Damascus and made threats demanding the Syrians leave Lebanon, which seems to have worked in spades. They also continue to make unfounded assertions about Iran’s nuclear program, a pathetic excuse to attack that sovereign nation, since the IAEA says their nuclear program has nothing to do with weapons at all.

Brent Scowcroft, George Bush Sr.’s “alter ego,” told the Financial Times that Ariel Sharon has the president “wrapped around his little finger,” as the U.S. and Israeli reaction to the Hariri case seems to confirm. This conflation of Israel’s (or any other country’s) foreign policy goals with our own has got to stop, before the U.S. becomes a pariah state. As Margolis said on my show:

“The judgment of many of us has been clouded by feelings of revenge from September 11th. We’re thinking with adrenaline rather than with logic in the Middle East. I have seen the entire Muslim world turn violently against the United States. Not just the Muslim world – the whole outside world. I’ve spent a lot of my time traveling around the world. The entire world is angry at the the United States as I have never seen before in my six decades of life. It is appalling. We are generating enemies faster than we can count them.”

Eric Margolis has covered 14 wars in his life; he knows.

Another person who knows is Michael Scheuer, former CIA analyst at “Alec Station,” the CIA’s old bin Laden unit, and the formerly anonymous author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. He says the U.S. is Osama bin Laden’s indispensable ally. Scheuer believes, as does Margolis, that the attacks of 9/11 were planned as a trick: to strike us in such a way that we were sure to lash out, then sit back and snipe. Bin Laden calls it the “bleed until bankruptcy” plan:

“All that we have to do is to send two mujahedin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written ‘al-Qaeda’ in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.

“This is in addition to our having experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers, as we, alongside the mujahedin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.”

This touches on another major theme of Scheuer’s book, that the war in Afghanistan in the ’80s and early ’90s taught the mujahedin that if they believed in God enough, they could defeat anyone. That is why they lured America to Afghanistan, and why bin Laden considers our invasion of Iraq a “gift.” They succeeded in bringing Americans close enough to shoot. Their hope to defeat the American empire rested on the presumption the we would overextend ourselves. That presumption has thus far proven to have been correct.

The glaring contradiction between rhetorical distinction and indiscriminate aggression actually encourages Muslims of all sects and nationalities to put aside their old grievances with each other and concentrate on fighting a common enemy – us. Lucky for them, the U.S. is giving them plenty of ammunition in the war for hearts and minds. Referring to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, Scheuer writes in his book,

“In conducting these activities, and the conventional military campaigns preceding them, U.S. forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden had been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990’s.”

Scheuer’s belief that we must show this insurgency how ruthless we can be to incite fear, however, is like throwing water on an oil fire. That the U.S. should ruthlessly hunt down only the real enemy – the “incorrigible ones,” as opposed to the axis of evil – still has terrible consequences in real life. How does our government use the American military to overwhelming defeat the enemy? Scheuer himself points out that they invite the Russians and Indians to help, and they get “distracted” into extraneous pre-planned wars and burn holy sites to the ground when they get there. If they did catch Osama bin Laden, they’d probably hold his head up in the air like a trophy for the cameras (not unlike what they did with Saddam Hussein’s sons’ corpses) in their belief that Muslims everywhere will see how mean we are and will never want trouble with us tough hombres again. This, of course, would instead only draw untold numbers into his movement, resulting ultimately in the deaths of more Americans, as another former CIA analyst said not long ago.

It is two wars too late for a limited response to the attacks of 9/11. Our window of opportunity to act, but with restraint, is over.

One American intervention has begotten the next since Wilson lied this country into the “Great War.” Intervening in that catastrophe led to the creation of the Soviet Union and the rise of National Socialism in Germany, and allowed the British and French to carve up the Middle East for themselves, with Lord Balfour’s declaration to boot. To defeat the Nazis, the U.S. built up the Soviet Union, which then became (for the second time) the “Red Menace.” To counter the threat of socialism in South Asia, in 1953 the U.S. sent Kermit Roosevelt and a million dollars to Iran to overthrow the democratically elected president, Mohammed Mossadegh, and replace him with the cruel Shah Pahlavi. To pay the Soviets back for our humiliation in the proxy war in Vietnam, our government helped the mujahedin in their Afghan holy war.

After the shah was overthrown and replaced by the theocratic Shi’ite rule of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the U.S. government increased its support for Iran’s main rival, long-time CIA asset Saddam Hussein. After that war was finally over, and he got out of line (or perhaps misunderstood his instructions) and invaded Kuwait in 1990, our government went to the desert to throw him out. This just happened to outrage a few of the leaders of our old friends the mujahedin, among them Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who put Desert Storm and the ensuing permanent Saudi bases, sanctions, and continual bombing of the no-fly zones, at the top of their list of reasons to hate America.

For the record, the other reasons are: “Unquestioning” support for Israel; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (replacing sanctions and no-fly zones on the list); support for kings and military regimes across the Middle East; support for Russia, China, and India in their wars against Muslim rebels; and continual pressure on Middle Eastern states to keep oil prices artificially low. Our freedom is not on the list.

Porter Goss, the new director of Central Intelligence, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the battlefield we have made of Iraq will be a spawning ground of terrorists for years to come:

“Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists. … These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups, and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other countries.”

The National Intelligence Council wrote a report saying the same thing. Maybe this is what those who control our government want. After all, “war is health of the state,” unless the state loses.

Some say leaving Iraq now would make matters worse, but the longer we stay the easier it will be for the conflict to spread and the seeds of future conflicts to be sown. Unless we end this disastrous policy of of entangling ourselves in unwise alliances and using force to impose our will on the world, it is only a matter of time before it blows up in our face.

Author: Scott Horton

Scott Horton is editorial director of Antiwar.com, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2021 book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, and the editor of the 2019 book, The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,500 interviews since 2003. Scott’s articles have appeared at Antiwar.com, The American Conservative magazine, the History News Network, The Future of Freedom, The National Interest and the Christian Science Monitor. He also contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, The Impact of War. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna Horton. He is a fan of, but no relation to the lawyer from Harper’s. Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.