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The Road to Jerusalem Goes Through Baghdad

by FAREED MARJAEE

“Sometime around the late 1950s, American conservatives picked up a hitch-hiker on the road to power who wound up hijacking their movement….smear campaigns, race-baiting, expulsions, and enforced ideological conformity was imported to the Right via the neo-conservative influx.”

Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com

So who is really behind this unpopular war? Is the impetus behind the war a politically cohesive force? What is the true drive behind the war campaign? What are we to make of the assertions of “bringing democracy to the region?” In the end, will the White House hawks be checkmated by that other superpower — the world public opinion?

As noted in a previous piece (1), in Jan. 2003, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a 42-page report titled “Iraq: what is next?” assessing the weapons inspection regime. On the question of Iraq disarmament, the paper takes a markedly different position than the Bush Administration.

One of the authors of this report, Joseph Cirincione, is Senior Associate and Director of the “Non-Proliferation Project” at the Carnegie Endowment; he worked for 9 years in the US House of Representatives and served on both the Armed Services and Government Operations Committees. Mr. Cirincione is also a member of International Institute for Strategic Studies. He was interviewed by the National Public Radio on Tuesday, January 28, 2003, hours before the State of the Union address. You can listen to the interview at here. Here is an excerpt:

“There is a group in the Administration that has the ear of the President that has apparently won the debate inside the Administration that wants to go to war. They see this as being about much more than simply Weapons of Mass Destruction, and, in fact, much more than just revenge on Saddam Hussein, or the concern for oil supplies. For some, this is part of a plan to democratize the Middle East, to shake up the regimes that were put in place during the Cold War, supported by one side or the other that are now, what they think of as strangling the prospects for a Middle East peace solution. They want to go into Iraq, establish Iraq as a ‘democratic beacon!’

“In that process, they will encourage people in Syria, in Iran and other countries to rise up and overthrow their regimes; that will in turn help bring about a democratic Palestinian Liberation Organization that will give Israel a true reliable partner to negotiate with, and thus, you can bring about peace in the Middle East. So, in their view, the road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad, and we have the ability to do this. It’s almost our duty, our mission to do this. This is part of the grand view in the eyes of some in the Administration that will unleash a democratic tsunami, they say in the Middle East, and bring about a fundamental re-ordering of not just the Middle East, but the global politics; that is a very seductive view, a very powerful view of what you think the US can accomplish, the historic mission, that now you are in a position to fulfill. That is in great part what’s motivating the drive to go into Iraq….

“There is a group in the Administration including Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, head of the Defense Policy Board, John Bolton, Douglas Fieth and others who are really on the extreme edge of foreign policy theory. And I am not sure the people appreciate just how radical a group this is; we really haven’t ever seen anything like this. And they have a real messianic vision; they feel that their historic moment is here. They compare the current situation to 1949, when a small group of people in the National Security Council around Harry Truman basically created the world as we know it, created the institutions of NATO, the UN and the new national security strategy for the US, “Bretton Woods”(2), and structured the Cold War world. They think that they are in a position to do the same for the post-Cold War world, that we have wasted 8 years in the Clinton Administration. They were on the verge of doing this when they were in the Reagan Administration, they were rubbed of the opportunity by the loss in 1992, they are back, they don’t want to miss this opportunity; they have a missionary zeal. The question is whether America is going to be dragged along with this missionary zeal. I think this vision is extremely dangerous; that they are seducing America into embarking on a long-term military occupation of a foreign land. We had never done anything like this.”

Now, with the prospect of an unpopular war, this agenda-driven group in the leadership is increasingly receiving more exposure and attention. Beyond the moralist critics in the media, now, out of frustration and in breach of conventional protocol, some ex-officials, experts and policy advisors have seemingly been forced to point out that specific clique constituency in the administration. David Gergen, who served in the White House as Reagan’s communications director, now in Harvard University, also referred to this on public television [PBS, Jan 30, 2003]. Pointing to this group, Gergen said this was a group of junior ministers during the Reagan term who now in Bush’s government have become senior viziers. It is very telling that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, twice in one day [Feb 14, 2003] in two different interviews on Public Broadcasting Service, said: “You know, there were people in the Bush administration this time that wanted to have a war with Iraq in the worst way. They have managed to do that.”

A contributor to the Pacific News Service, William O. Beeman, Professor of Anthropology at Brown University, believes that the plan to invade Iraq predates 9/11; the tragedy of Sept. 11 and the rise to power of pro-war neo-conservatives gave it life and momentum. In an article for PNS, he writes [Jan. 24, 2003], “The coming U.S. invasion of Iraq was not prompted by the events of Sept. 11. It is a 5-year-old plan, conceived by a cabal of officials running defense and security in the White House today, when they were out of power during the Clinton administration. The Sept. 11 tragedy, along with the Bush presidency, gave them the momentum they needed to implement the plan, which lumbers forward like a drunken elephant threatening to destroy everything in its path.”

Also troubled is Joseph C. Wilson, who was the senior American diplomat in Baghdad during the Desert Shield conflict, and is now a Middle East Institute Adjunct Scholar. He writes in the Nation magazine [“Republic or Empire”, March 3, 2003]: “Then what’s the point of this new American imperialism? The neo-conservatives with a stranglehold on the foreign policy of the Republican Party, … want to go beyond expanding US global influence to force revolutionary change on the region…. Nothing short of conquest, occupation and imposition of handpicked leaders on a vanquished population will suffice…. Iraq is the linchpin for this broader assault on the region. The new imperialists will not rest until governments that ape our worldview are implanted throughout the region, smacking of hubris in the extreme.”

In a Jan 27, 2003 interview on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Zbigniew Brzezinski remarked, “I suspect many of them [countries] are convinced that our ultimate objective is not disarmament. It still is regime change for reasons which in some cases are openly stated, and for reasons which many around the world suspect we deliberately refrain from stating.”

Joe Klein writing in Time Magazine’s Feb 10 edition is more direct in implicating certain political forces. He writes, “A stronger Israel is very much embedded in the rationale for war with Iraq. It is part of the argument that dare not speak its name, a fantasy quietly cherished by the neo-conservative faction in the Bush [Administration]….”

Kathleen and Bill Christison are former CIA political analysts; in an article for [Counterpunch 13, 2002 (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs -March 2003)], they state that much has been written about the Neo-con circle, but dual loyalty better describes Bush Administration policy makers. Under Clinton Administration, the three most senior officials dealing with the Middle East affairs, had previously either lived in Israel, or engaged in lobby work for Israel. Speaking of this double allegiance, Christisons indicate that the link between promoters of Israel and policy makers gets even much stronger under the Bush Administration, to the extent that these high and middle level officials see no difference between US national security interests and those of Israels’.

A disciple of Neo-conservatism, Max Boot published an interesting essay on the nature of this political movement. In his op-ed essay in the Wall Street Journal [“What the Heck is a ‘Neocon’? ” December 30, 2002] he deliberates on the concept of interventionism in foreign policy; he maintains that President Woodrow Wilson was soft, and that Neo-cons like Ronald Reagan are “hard Wilsonians.” Boot explicitly states that Neo-cons “want to use American might to promote American ideals.”

In the end, will the White House hawks be checkmated by that other superpower — the world public opinion?

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