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There it was, in black and white, the worst news one could imagine staring back at me. I was seeing it, but still not really believing: the latest Sy Hersh report in the New Yorker, “Plan B, Israel Looks to the Kurds” (21 June 2004).
I didn’t want to be reading this. I had better things to do, like bury my head in the Broncos official web page, where I occasionally go to escape: browsing foo-ball trivia and empty statistics about next season. With their big trade a done-deal and with the fabulous new free agents it looks like the Orange Crush will be back. But will the offense jell? Will Plummer step into Elway’s big shoes and deliver at QB? Is this the year the Broncos make another run at the Superbowl? Momentous questions such as these!
Instead, I was wading through this nightmare of print a la Hersh, about how the Israelis are now in Iraq, where they have no business being (Can this really be happening?), arming and training the Kurds in the north along the border with Iran. For what purpose? Toward what end? Questions that no one seems to be asking these days, certainly not in Washington, where Israel holds court in the US Congress, no less than in the oval office.
Of course, it’s possible Hersh got it wrong. Yes, maybe, there’s always a chance. But I knew better. Seymour Hersh is one of our best and most careful journalists. He once told me that he never prints anything without multiple sources. So it’s probably all too true. If one set out to create a doomsday scenario for the Mid East, one could not fabricate a more explosive trigger. The writing has been on the wall for many years, and now it all does appear to be coming to pass, yes, before our glazed eyes. And no one is doing anything to stop it, least of all John Kerry.
In 1991 George W. Bush’s daddy went to war in the Gulf, a war I vigorously opposed. But at least George Sr. had the sense to keep the Israelis out of it. From all reports George Sr. was strongly opposed to the recent debacle. But Junior didn’t listen to daddy. George W. was determined to one-up the old man.
The fact that Israeli operatives are now in Iraq explodes once and for all the oft-repeated claim that America is an honest peace broker. The whole world will now understand that this was just another of Washington’s many deceptions. Bush’s uncritical support of Sharon’s iron fist shows that even the pretense of impartiality has now evaporated. And, to the shame of every American who cares about justice, candidate Kerry has seconded Bush on Israel without qualification.
Bush’s Iraq policy has imploded. In fact, there never was a coherent policy, apart from grabbing the oil. It was always just a bunch of lies packaged as patriotic slogans for popular consumption here at home. And the Israelis, who wanted the war (just about any war is OK with them) are now where they’ve wanted to be for years, that is, on the Iran border, i.e., positioning themselves for the next round when the shinola really hits the fan: the shooting match that will make everything we’ve seen up until now look like a warm-up.
Clearly, Iran figures large in the Israeli calculus. Though it was not reported here in the US media — at least, I never saw one word about it — Iran was one of the key issues in the last Israeli election. Sharon and his opponent Benjamin Netanyahu squared-off during the campaign, and the issue was the specter of a nuclearized Shi’ite theocracy. The debate was bitter. Netanyahu took the view that it was too late to prevent Iran from going nuclear, and that Israel must accept this and come to terms. This inflamed Sharon, who accused Netanyahu of treason. Clearly, Sharon believed, and still believes, that Israel must go to any length to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, even if this means going to war (again), which means persuading, pushing, and if necessary dragging the Americans into it.
I hasten to add that it’s far from proved that Iran is building, or intends to build, Bombs. There is no smoking gun, and no hard evidence insofar as I know. It appears that Iran’s policy is to develop nuclear power for energy production while keeping its options open for the future. Such a policy is totally understandable, given Israel’s own massive nuclear arsenal, the existence of which is beyond dispute, even if the White House doesn’t want to be reminded. Let us remember, Israel’s nukes are aimed at Tehran. Put yourself in the Iranians’ shoes. It’s unreasonable to expect them to forswear nukes forever unless WE in America are also prepared to pressure the Israeli government to sign the NPT and open ALL of Israel’s nuclear sites to inspectors. I mean the strengthened IAEA regime of unannounced inspections, whenever and wherever.
Of course, the Israelis don’t need hard facts about what Iran is doing. They are perfectly capable of generating their own. If there were ever a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy-coming-to-fruition, the current slide toward the next Mid East war fits the bill.
A real leader in the White House would do the sane thing and order the Israelis to leave Iraq, IMMEDIATELY. But we haven’t had that kind of leadership since Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the IDF out of Sinai. At that time, in 1956, the Israelis had joined the Brits and French in an unprovoked assault upon Egypt. It was an attempt to oust Nasser, turn back the clock, and re-impose good old-fashioned colonial rule on the A-rabs. Ike foiled all of that, but not out of altruism. Ike’s purpose was to assert US predominance in the region. Those were the glory days after World War II when the US star was rising.
US predominance might have become a force for good in the Mid East, with inspired leadership here at home. But, again, we haven’t seen that kind of leadership for many a year — I would argue — not since the days of Abraham Lincoln. And without inspired leadership we went the way of empire.
Are the Israelis serious? Judging from the recent deep cracks in their alliance with Turkey, one would have to conclude: yes, deadly serious. Israel has long cultivated a close relationship with Turkey. Would they jeopardize this important alliance if they were not serious?
The Turks are furious with Israel and also with Bush. They have repeatedly warned the US that they will not tolerate an independent Kurdistan on their border. Yet, the outcome of Israel’s arming and training the Kurdish militias can only be to feed Kurdish national aspirations. Serious repercussions are likely too in the cases of Syria and Iran, which, like Turkey, have large Kurdish minorities; not to mention both Sunni and Shi’ite factions within Iraq itself, which have warned that Washington is playing with fire.
Bleeding a little more each day from the daily news of this disaster-in-the-making, the Bush administration has turned to theater, the trial of Saddam Hussein, hoping, once again, to divert attention. America loves a spectacle, bread and circuses. Just like in ancient Rome. Cradle to grave entertainment.
Bush has also pinned his hopes on the so-called transfer of power, banking that a hand-picked interim Iraqi government can hold things together through November 7. (US Ambassador Negroponte will be pulling the strings of power.) Beyond the election it’s virgin turf. There is no plan. Bush: “We’ll think of something!”
But events do not stand still. Don’t look now, but mighty America is facing defeat in Iraq, and the Israelis are preparing to turn our defeat toward their own ends!
MARK GAFFNEY is the author of a 1989 pioneering study of the Israeli nuke program, Dimona the Third Temple. Mark’s latest book, Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes, has just been released by Inner Traditions Press.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.