FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gerson’s Crusade Against "Low-Hanging Fruit"

by GARY LEUPP

Neocon officials in the Defense Department call them “low-hanging fruit“— as though countries were produce ripe for picking and eating. The term refers to nations targeted for regime change that might be achieved with minimal strain, at least when compared with the effort needed to topple the regime in Iran. Some neocons are beginning to concede that the effort might not be feasible at this time (not that they would be climbing the tree and plucking the fruit; they’d stand below advising on how it should be done). They’re advocating instead that the Bush administration move soon against Syria.

From late 2003 to late 2005 it looked to me as though Syria would be the next “Terror War” target, largely because of Bush’s rhetoric, Israeli aggression against Syria and the Israeli propaganda campaign against Syria (suggesting that the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had been transported over the border into the Arab state). But then the Israeli government and Lobby urged the Bush administration to focus its energies on attacking Iran. (Asked by the administration for suggestions for a new leader in Syria to be installed after the toppling of Bashar al-Assad, the Israelis said they couldn’t think of one. This position has been repeated as recently as March 2007.) In any case the Israeli government sees Iran as the “existential threat” to itself, Syria more of an irritation.

But the advocated Iran attack has been long-delayed. The neocons have lost some influence, although they remain highly dangerous and influential. Rapid Islamophobes like Elliott Abrams, David Wurmser, Eric Edelman and Eliot Cohen retain their posts, while neocon ideologues such as Bill Kristol enjoy access to cable TV audiences and readers of op-ed pieces in the most widely-read newspapers. The latter very often articulate the view of Vice President Cheney’s circle. Cheney is known to be frustrated at the postponement of the planned Iran attack.

In this context, former Bush speechwriter and Christian rightist Michael Gerson published an op-ed in the Washington Post last Friday calling for an attack on Syria to stop its alleged support for the resistance in Iraq. He revives the horticultural metaphor. “Syria. . . . is what one former administration official calls ‘lower-hanging fruit,'” Gerson writes, adding “Syria’s Baathist regime provides a base of operations for its Iraqi Baathist comrades involved in the Sunni insurgency.” He immediately adds, “Suicide bombers from Saudi Arabia and North Africa arrive by plane in Damascus, and, with the help of facilitators, some 50 to 80 cross into Iraq each month. The Syrians say they lack the ability to stop them; what they lack is the intention.” He calls for “forceful action against Syria’s Ho Chi Minh Trail of terrorists.”

Absent here is any indication of a mature understanding of the complexity of the Arab world. We’re to believe that Syrian Baathists (secularists) are helping their “Iraqi Baathist comrades” by facilitating anti-Baathist, Islamist Saudis and North Africans’ passage into Iraq? It doesn’t make sense. Those jihadis, the Los Angeles Times reported last month, include 45% Saudis; 15% are either Syrian or Lebanese, 10% North African, 30% other. U.S. generals on the ground have repeatedly acknowledged that these fighters are a tiny fraction of the forces resisting the U.S. occupation. http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/05/06/09/168406.html The Saudis are responsible for the bulk of suicide bombings, and through their actions acquire a disproportionate ability to affect the overall political and military situation, but they have become increasingly shunned by the mainstream Iraqi resistance. They certainly feel little camaraderie with Baathists of any nationality!

The Syrian government has repeatedly stated that it is trying to prevent the passage of jihadis over its long border with Iraq into the U.S. occupied country. It (like Iran) enjoys cordial relations with the Iraqi regime brought to power by the U.S. The idea that it would help create a “trail of terrorists” at a time that it’s in the Bush administration’s crosshairs, accused of responsibility for the Hariri assassination and support for Palestinian and Lebanese “terrorism,” is inherently implausible, and the suggestion that the existence of such a trail is a product of Syrian and Iraqi Baathist cooperation is laughable given the composition of the “insurgency.” The Syrian government, concerned about its own survival, has indeed been seeking negotiations with the U.S. to resolve differences between the countries.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail analogy is stupid. That Trail was a well-coordinated logistical system that brought fighters and supplies from one part of Vietnam to another part of Vietnam through Laotian and Cambodian territory controlled by Marxist allies. The Syrian “Ho Chi Minh Trail” to which Gerson alludes is the supply line from the Euphrates (Iraqi) border town of al-Qaim to Baghdad, through which foreign fighters interested in joining the jihad against the U.S. invaders often pass. It is not the production of a state in alliance with a movement seeking national reunification. It’s a route for the movement of international Islamist fighters produced by the power vacuum created by an invasion.

But why should facts matter to Michael Gerson? As Bush’s chief speechwriter from 2001 to June 2006, he may have come up with the “axis of evil” phrase (although some attribute this to David Frum). As a member of the White House Iraq Group, tasked to disseminate frightening disinformation about Iraq preparatory to the attack on Iraq in March 2003, he proposed the “smoking gun turns into a mushroom cloud” metaphor used by Bush, Cheney and Rice in late 2002 to frighten the nation into war. He was selected as on of the top 25 Christian evangelicals in America by Time Magazine in 2005. His is a faith-based notion of geopolitical reality.

Gerson wants to transform the Greater Middle East, that biblical prophecy might be fulfilled and Jesus come back soon. According to the Book of Revelation, there must be a great war surrounding Israel before that happens, involving kings to the east of the Tigris and Euphrates. That implies war with Persia (Iran). So he wants the U.S. to provoke war with Iran, but if that’s not doable just now, he wants an attack on Syria.

I find his orchard imagery interestingly biblical. He wants to pluck the most succulent fruit: the Iranian peach. But if that fruit is out of reach, he urges, let us snatch up the Syrian date! (Date harvest, by the way, is typically in October. And dates are actually higher up than peaches so it might not be so easy.)

I personally see the Devil at work here. The snake telling innocent Eve, “eat of the fruit.” Recall how in the myth that led to disaster.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

 

 

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 29, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
No Laughing Matter: The Manchester Bomber is the Spawn of Hillary and Barack’s Excellent Libyan Adventure
Vijay Prashad
The Afghan Toll
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post’s Renewed Attack on Whistlblowers
Robert Fisk
We Must Look to the Past, Not ISIS, for the True Nature of Islam
Dean Baker
A Tax on Wall Street Trading is the Best Solution to Income Inequality
Lawrence Davidson
Reality and Its Enemies
Harry Hobbs
Australia’s Time to Recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Sovereignty
Ray McGovern
Will Europe Finally Rethink NATO’s Costs?
Cesar Chelala
Poetry to the Rescue of America’s Soul
Andrew Stewart
Xi, Trump and Geopolitics
Binoy Kampmark
The Merry Life of Dragnet Surveillance
Stephen Martin
The Silent Apartheid: Militarizing Architecture & Infrastructure
Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail