Next Stop: Syria
The Road to Damascus Looks a Lot Like the Road to Baghdad
by Paul E. Maciekowich
November 18, 2003

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It’s not only hard to be humble but downright scary when you “nail it right on the head”. In an earlier article titled Bush World, I stated the following: 1) Secretary of State Colin Powell’s initiative to the U.N. was a ruse to ensure passing of Bush’s Iraqi Reconstruction Fund Bill; 2) that the UN resolution would change little in the way Iraq was administered; 3) that once passed, Powell would recede into the background; 4) the neocons would resurface and continue their anti-Syria, anti-Iran rhetoric; and finally 5) that passage of the bill would forestall any investigation into the misappropriation of the Iraqi funds by the White House. However, my read of George Bush, although accurate, were lacking in overall perspective.

Most of this failure was caused by my psychological addiction to the dominant anti-Bush rhetoric based on oil, money, and financial power. This failure was further compounded by a subconscious agreement with others that Bush & Cheney, Halliburton; Richard Perle et al are evil entities with a goal of destroying all that is good in the world. I also failed to recognize the significance of my own euphemism “Bush World.” These failures impaired my ability to “see” the obvious next phase of “Bush World.” It is quite clear to me now, that the past and present actions of the President have us pointed to a journey on the road to Damascus and an invasion of Syria.

The standard mode of operation used by “Bush World” is best revealed in an old article published by the Daily Times of Pakistan titled: Hawks recycle arguments against Syria. Written a few days after the fall of Baghdad, it chronicles the apparent contradictions seen by the untrained eye that systematically emanate from the White House.  The Times juxtaposes the pro-war rhetoric and actions of neoconservatives and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the more cautionary rhetoric and veiled promises of unnamed White House officials. The public, left in a quagmire of ambiguity, ultimately concludes that there are two forces battling for domination of Presidential policy. Thus both pro and anti administration forces are left neutralized for the time being.

The true intention and reality revealed in the article is quite the opposite. Those opposed to further preemption are tempted with a shiny lure of false hope that President Bush has come to senses and will not advance beyond Iraq. Those who have bought in to the Bush ideology believe they have received reassurances that the next phase of preemption is forthcoming with a slight adjustment to the timetable. Both sides, immersed in their own value system, become pawns in “Bush World.”

“Bush World” has an internal gyroscope designed to keep the President on task through setbacks, failures and even the summer heat of Washington D.C.. This ability to “stay on task” was quite evident this summer, where despite setbacks in Baghdad, intelligence questions and those “sixteen words,” Bush has kept on task and on the road to Damascus.

To understand this force you must understand that “Bush World” started this journey with four major obstacles impeding the roadmap. As of today all have either been removed or are in the process of being removed. These obstacles were money, men, perceived stability in Iraq, and a successful public relations program. “Bush World” has overcome these obstacles by never losing sight of their objectives and by directing all their energies towards its success. They also have demonstrated a high degree of creativity and adaptability in meeting these objectives.

The President realized that his ability to secure a very large amount of working capital was crucial to his mission. This seemed simple since Congress had been hounding him since September 1st for an amount to appropriate. The President, however, continued to sidestep this request for two reasons.

First, he did not want these funds tied to the regular budget because wartime emergency spending measures tend to zoom through Congress with remarkable speed, pushed along by the political imperative of supporting the troops and the practical necessity of moving resources to the battlefield. Second, this strategy also increased the probability that he would get his controversial contingency fund provision.

This contingency fund provision was a prime necessity. The President needed flexibility and cash to cover needs in Iraq, and to prime the roadmap to Damascus. He was also concerned about the amount of misspent and mismanaged funds from first $79 billion supplemental bill passed in April. The President finally settled on a figure of $87 billion to cover all these contingencies. Bush became so confident in this figure that he informed Congress that passage of the current bill would insure that no new requests for Iraq would be forthcoming next year.

After much rhetoric of little substance the fight over the spending bill was over. Finally on November 4th, the Senate passed the Congressional compromise and sent it to the White House for the President’s signature. Ironically, the controversial contingency provision in the bill gave President nearly 100% control over the entire $87 billion. Good-bye Baghdad, hello Damascus. President Bush has utilized a more direct approach on the issue of available troops for Syria. As a Bush confidant, Rumsfeld understood the importance of supplying enough troops for the Syrian invasion. A wizard in his own right, he burned the midnight oil concocting his witches brew of troop movement that would supply the men needed while hiding his true intent from both conservatives and liberals in Congress. Thus was born the largest series of troop rotations — 85,000 — since WWII, along with a call up of 43,000 National Guard and Reserve support troops — all designated for Iraq.

Also out of the pot came a Marine Corp announcement that two 20,000 marine contingents would be on a temporary duty assignment to Iraq rotating seven months in country and seven months out of country. The final available number may be unclear at this time, but you can be assured that President Bush will get the troops he needs.

The interested person desiring to witness first hand this magic, should keep his eye on troop movements in both the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) starting next spring. Under military gerrymandering, Syria does not fall under CENTCOM but under EUCOM. This will allow troop buildup in the European Command to go mostly unnoticed but will portent a definite go on Syria. Also watch for “paper transfers” of troops out of CENTCOM to EUCOM. This type of transfer will most likely involve troops along the Iraq-Syrian border and could wind up as the lead units into Syria.

The “Stable Iraq Program” is “Bush World” at its finest. As with all “left turns” taken by President Bush, this one started with a declaration that nothing will change. Speaking to the American Legion Convention in St Louis on September 2nd, Bush said, “Building a free and peaceful Iraq will require a substantial amount of time.” "A free and peaceful Iraq" has been the President’s euphemism for staying the course in Iraq, which was a constitution first, then elections to follow. Then on September 22nd he slid the U.N. into the picture by saying he would welcome constitution-writing and election monitoring assistance from the organization. By September 27th the President had vaguely broadened the U.N. role and replaced “substantial amount of time” with the “speediest possible settlement and normalization of the situation…” Bush emphasized that “We want to see Iraq a free, democratic and united state. We believe that in solving the very difficult problems that the people of Iraq are — that the people of Iraq are facing today; an important role shall be played by the Provisional Governing Council of Iraq, along with the special representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations.”

By October 27th the administration was talking about a democratic process, opening the door to cleric type ruling body. This was followed by an article in the Wall Street Journal penned by former CIA Chief James Woolsey and Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis on November 7th. Woolsey, one of President Bush’s Para-government spokesman, and Lewis proposed the reinstatement, with some amendments and on an interim basis, of a constitutional monarchy in which there would be an elected parliament and a king who would appoint a prime minister. Further, they wrote that the king would appoint the prime minister, who "should be a modern Shiite with a record of opposition to tyranny and oppression," a description that would seem to fit Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi. For King they floated the names of former Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan and Chalabi, although they gave no formal endorsement of either.

Two days later, the important role of the Governing Council of Iraq fell out favor. A group of unnamed spokesmen for Bush told the Washington Post that the United States is deeply frustrated with its hand-picked council members because they have spent more time on their own political or economic interests than in planning for Iraq’s political future, especially selecting a committee to write a new constitution, the officials added. “We're unhappy with all of them. They’re not acting as a legislative or governing body, and we need to get moving,” said a well-placed U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “They just don’t make decisions when they need to.”

Bush sealed the Council’s fate the very next day when another group of his unnamed spokespersons told the Financial Times that the Coalition Provisional Authority had been advised to put on hold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of mobile telephone contracts, while they investigate allegations that the bidding process was hijacked by associates of the new Iraqi governing council.

Moving swiftly, On November 11th President Bush had Former Ambassador and current Envoy to Iraq (i.e., Emperor) Paul Bremer unceremoniously rushed back to Washington. President Bush and other administration officials will inform Bremer of changes in the structure and timing of Iraq's transition self-governance, including a new Iraqi constitution and elected government. Out the door will be Bremer’s seven-step plan that he had just announced in September. At the time, Bremer stated "The path to sovereignty is very clearly laid out. There must be a written constitution ... followed by democratic elections. That will then lead to a fully sovereign Iraqi government. This will happen as quickly as Iraqis can write the constitution." Bremer’s completion date, approved by President Bush, was September 2004. But events move fast on the road to Damascus. Bremer’s return to Washington should be titled: Paul Bremer Meets “Bush World.”

The advertising of the “Operation Freedom Damascus” started in 2002. On April Fool’s Day 2002, inside front man Donald Rumsfeld singled out Iraq, Iran and Syria as countries that are encouraging terrorists while oppressing their own populations.

In July 2002, the State Department produced a report authored by Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a right-wing, neoconservative think tank. Cordesman reported that Syria has mustard gas and several varieties of nerve agents that are stockpiled in bombs and missile warheads and possibly in artillery weapons.

President Bush re-launched the 2003 ad campaign for “Operation Freedom Damascus” soon after the fall of Baghdad. At the State Department, the undiplomatic Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, John R. Bolton, renewed the tough Syrian rhetoric. He accused Libya, Syria and Cuba of pursuing weapons of mass destruction. The terms of this warning, reflecting his role as President Bush’s alter ego, strongly resembled language used by the President in reference to Saddam Hussein. The President also ordered Donald Rumsfeld to draw up contingency plans for a war on Syria as well as a briefing paper that would lay out a case for such an action. Rumsfeld subcontracted this work to the "ad agency" of Doug Feith & William Luti, who worked at the now-disbanded Office of Special Plans (OSP) — the source of all the made-up intelligence on Iraq.

In September, President Bush started the assault on Congress campaign about Syria, very similar to the successful strategy that falsely linked Iraq and terrorism. Applying the Bush method of “unrelated linkage,” Bolton appeared before Congress and methodically laid out the case that Syria was a prime supporter of terrorism in the Middle East and was connected to hundreds of deaths at the hands of suicide bombers. Coining other Bush euphemisms, Bolton testified that “in order to roll back proliferation and protect innocent American citizens, as well as our friends and allies, we must allow ourselves the option to use every tool in our nonproliferation toolbox.”

Bolton used another Bush linguistic tool, the “absence of evidence does not disprove our preconceptions,” with regard to the rumor of Iraq sending their weapons of mass destruction to Syria before the war. The Undersecretary testified that “Thus far, we have been unable to confirm that such transfers occurred. We are continuing with the full breadth of resources at our command to seek conclusive evidence that any such transfer has taken place.” Notice that he is not looking for the truth but for evidence that will prove the transfer took place. He also implied that he sensed that Syria was not being completely transparent on the issue.

Bolton then receded into the standard Bush mantra of nuclear programs and chemical weapons, highlighted by mention of the dreaded VX, a newly revitalized biological program, and of course the standard missile development story to deliver these weapons against America and her friends. Bolton then invoked the Bush God of secrecy by stating “Of course, I will have much more to say on all of these subjects during the closed hearing and I look forward to a more specific and detailed discussion than we can have in an open hearing.”

Of course, Bolton fails to mention that behind close doors he will regurgitate the same combination of old reports, intelligence manufactured by the OSP, and testimony from defectors that was so effective in convincing these very same committees on the rationale of invading Iraq and that had caused such an uproar within the beltway. But Bush is fearless in his belief that no one in congress is smart enough to draw a parallel between the intelligence on Iraq and the intelligence on Syria.

Realizing that all was in order, Bush spoke before the National Endowment for Democracy on November 6th, announcing his new "Forward Strategy of Freedom" for the Middle East. But the new strategy relied on many of the old words used for Iraq. Familiar words and phrases speak of America’s effort and sacrifice, and tell us democracy and Islam can coexist. We hear that the continued advance of freedom will increase chances for peace and security for Americans as well as for the people of the Middle East, our policy is based on core values that uphold human rights through democracy and the rule of law, and we are committed to pursuing freedom and promoting democracy and human rights through both words and deeds. These are jingles and euphemisms that that have been uttered before, but President Bush is not one to tinker with success. He firmly believes and rightfully so, that if it was good enough for Iraq it will be good enough for Syria. In “Bush World,” all is well.

Paul E. Maciekowich is a Vietnam War vet, a freelance writer and “full-time Bushologist” living in Houston, Texas.




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