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Why the US and Israel Should Lose Middle East Wars

Former CIA Analyst

George W. Bush has once again thrown down the gauntlet. The Mideast wars of the United States, he announced to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention on August 22, must end only with a U.S. victory. He has not wavered in this position since September 11, 2001. The unspoken but real purpose of his efforts has been and will be to concentrate increasing power over the Middle East in the hands of the small group of rich and greedy elites who rule the U.S. and Israel today, and perhaps he will achieve this goal. The more important result, however, will be the elimination of any movement toward greater global justice, stability, and peace in the world for decades to come.

It is past time to challenge the arrogant Mr. Bush directly.

For overwhelming moral reasons, I do not want the U. S. and Israeli governments to be victorious in any present or future Middle East wars. I want them to lose such wars.

U.S. policies in the Middle East since 9/11 have already caused a million or so killings and have created more injustice in the world than existed formerly. Every day results in more killings, more injustice. Unless might does indeed make right, we have no right whatever to win these wars. We should lose them.

If the U.S. were to “win” these wars, whatever that means, more of the world’s people than at present would be ruled by the U.S. Most of these people do not want to be ruled by the U.S. — which makes the wars themselves anti-democratic. That fact alone is reason enough to conclude that our country should lose these wars.

My personal belief is that the United States and Israel will inevitably lose these wars over time in any case. If this loss is in fact inevitable, conventional wisdom would argue that it is better for the loss to happen rapidly in order to hold casualties down. In a continuing civil war over which outsiders have limited control, however, conventional wisdom may not apply.

Nevertheless, a truly rapid — meaning within the next six months — acceptance of defeat by the U.S. and Israel of their own Mideast policies would probably offer the only possibility of mitigating the blame assigned to these two nations by the rest of the world for future mass killings of human beings throughout this unstable area.

Much of global public opinion will in any case correctly attribute a large residual responsibility to the U.S. and Israel for the utterly disproportionate and one-sided killings already carried out since 9/11 in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank. Further killings that occur during even a short and rapid transition to inevitable U.S. and Israeli defeat will only enlarge this residual. But a short, quick, and determined acceptance of defeat will still reduce to some extent the charges of U.S. responsibility for future killings.

A lasting peace in the Middle East will only happen, of course, if the U.S. and Israel are wise enough publicly (and honestly) to end their drive for joint imperium over the Middle East and Central Asia and also to cease their efforts to bring about regime change in Iran and Syria. In other words, as has long been the case, the U.S. and Israel will need to make serious long-term changes in their own foreign policies if they wish to avoid a conflict lasting for generations that ultimately they cannot win.

As of now, no evidence exists that either country is willing even to consider such policy changes, and no evidence exists that either the Republican or Democratic Parties in the U.S., any political parties in Israel, the military-industrial complexes of the U.S. and Israel, the Israel lobby in the U.S., the U.S. Protestant Christian Right, the Catholic Church, or the ruling elites of any EU states will bring one jot of meaningful pressure to bear on the Israeli or the U.S. government to change their policies.

If change is to come, it must come from ordinary voters, particularly in the U.S., applying pressure on the various groups listed above, or from ordinary people succeeding in setting up new groups or parties that will succeed in bringing greater pressure to bear. The pressures must be very strong and very explicit. People must emphasize day after day to both Democratic and Republican members of Congress and to every presidential candidate that the U.S. must first and foremost change its own policies. And people must emphasize to all politicians that the Israel lobby is one of the strongest forces pressing both Democrats and Republicans not to change U.S. policies, thereby preventing healthy political debate in the country. This must stop.

Finally, my hope is that sensible U.S. voters will agree with the opinions summarized here and in addition create a groundswell of support for the immediate impeachment and conviction of Bush and Cheney. This is the only action, in my view, that opens up the possibility of rapidly bringing about the necessary changes in U.S. policies.

Other Considerations

Let’s say it bluntly. War with Iran is inevitable before January 2009 unless Bush and Cheney are both impeached first. New Israeli-U.S. hostilities in Lebanon are also likely. Either warfare or covert actions conducted by the U.S. and/or Israel to bring about regime change in Syria are also probable.

But those of us in the U.S. who claim to be peace activists ought to be ashamed. With rare exceptions, the powers in the movement are confident that things are already going our way, what with the Democratic Party’s success in the 2006 congressional elections and the continuing disaster the Bush administration faces in Iraq. Most self-labeled peace activists think the odds so favor further Democratic victories that, as a group, we do not need to run any risks or do anything new to take the presidency away from the Republicans in 2008. It’s old hat, maybe, but the best thing to do, most peace activists believe, is just to keep talking about withdrawal from Iraq, while patting ourselves on the back and emphasizing to each other that we are being admirably mature and responsible in not moving too fast toward actual withdrawal.

So let’s admit that many of us sustain ourselves with hot air even when the subject is limited to Iraq. Let’s admit too that few want to discuss the role Israel played in encouraging the U.S. to invade Iraq in 2003, because that would be unnecessarily criticizing Israel. In fact, both the Israel lobby and the Israeli government probably concluded as early as May 2003 that they had already achieved their own principal objectives in Iraq, and that it was counterproductive for them to waste their own credibility by continuing to oppose every aspect of the U.S. peace movement’s criticism of the war. Even before things began going wrong in the war’s execution, Israeli propagandists were soft-pedaling their own top officials’ support for the war. But underneath, the support was definitely there, hard and firm.

When it comes to matters in the Middle East other than Iraq, most peaceniks are even less willing to address questions of the Israel lobby’s involvement in U.S. policymaking. Talking about this would be the surest way to reveal the disunity and embarrassing differences within the so-called peace movement. In order to avoid an open discussion, it is easier for most of us simply to ignore the voluminous evidence that both the lobby, and senior U.S. officials who are in effect part of the lobby, are pushing the U.S. toward war, particularly with Iran, but also toward regime change in Syria and resumed hostilities in Lebanon. If it comes to war with any or all of these countries, most peace types note that they are not pushing for it, and they will silently hope more wars do not erupt, but they will not make a lot of noise about stopping such wars before they start. In this, they are simply following most of the leaders of the Democratic Party.

All of this, of course, is logically nonsensical. Take a minute and think of the mess the peace movement has created. First, the very name reflects the movement’s shallowness. What good is a hypocritical, utterly out-of-touch and ineffective “peace movement,” when beyond question ordinary people on this earth want justice before they want peace? The U.S. government and its ultra-close ally Israel actually want more unjust colonial wars and covert action to strengthen their own already unjust influence over a major part of the globe, in this case the Middle East. Peace above all is for those who support the status quo, but if you’re in that category you’re in a small minority. So let’s banish the peace movement and get a global justice movement going. Peace may be all right long-term, but if you’re one of the angry billions on this earth constantly surrounded by a stench of injustice that smothers all hope, chances are that, in your mind, peace should follow justice, not precede it. Chances are, in fact, that you have no favorable thoughts of any type about U.S. peaceniks.

Let’s look at another question that is not just about the Middle East but is about the broader Islamic world as well. It seems clear that Samuel Huntington’s concept of a clash of civilizations has expanded its intellectual appeal since September 11, 2001. We do indeed seem to have an example of a clash of civilizations that has become a growing force today. This force is nourished by the desire of Muslims for real freedom from the increasing political domination over the Islamic peoples by Western (Christian and Jewish) parts of the world. The principal Islamic motivation has little to do with “hatred of our freedoms.” The Islamic hatred (and it does exist) is aimed at U.S., Israeli, and Western policies.

Huntington’s book was published in the mid-1990s, and the events of September 11 can be seen as a major example of this type of clash of civilizations. The point to be made here is that ideas in the book, conveniently titled The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, lend themselves to being twisted fairly easily into ideas that the neocons, the Israel lobby, recent Israeli governments, EU elites, the Catholic Church, the Protestant Christian Right in the U.S., and the Bush administration itself all have established as part of their own views toward the Islamic world. The book therefore becomes an object of considerable value to the present rulers of the United States and Israel, since it can be seen as providing intellectual justification not only for the special relationship between these two nations, but also for the newly cordial ties of the European Union to U.S. and Israeli policies.

Those among us who wish to counter the notion that a clash of civilizations justifies what the U.S. and Israel are doing in the Middle East today should stand up and state their opposition loudly and directly. Supporters of the concept that the “clash” is a significant part of the present global political system seem to suggest that the very existence of the clash makes unjust, oppressive treatment of Islamic people somehow acceptable. But we should point out that the existence of a real clash is questionable, and that in any case injustice and oppression are never acceptable. People everywhere should realize that in this increasingly globalized world the importance of nationalism is beginning to fade. All of us should begin thinking much more about what are the best policies for the entire world to pursue, not what are the best policies for their own nations. To start this ball rolling, those who happen to live in the U.S. should stop thinking of themselves as exceptional. Americans are perfectly average — no better and no worse than average people everywhere else. There are some — a few — exceptional people anywhere you look, but most of us do not make the cut.

We should emphasize that in today’s world a Middle East empire dominated jointly by two nationalist powers, the U.S. and Israel, is not only anti-democratic, but is impossibly anachronistic as well

BILL CHRISTISON was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis. He can be reached at


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