“If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?”
-- George Bush, October 7, 2002
In making the case for the war against Iraq, the Bush administration insisted that Iraq had WMDs and intimate relationships with Bin Laden. Two years and a billion dollars later -- the search is over and the president will stage his inauguration party with yet another dry hole on his hands. Bush can handle dry holes as well as any man. He already has a long history of losing other people’s money as a wildcatter in the Texas oil patch.
Neither does the absence of WMDs bother the Likudnik neo-con architects of the war who played a decisive role in manufacturing the so-called “intelligence failure” - with the capable assistance of rogue intelligence operatives in the Office of Special Plans. As Wolfowitz has already admitted, the WMDs were just a convenient pretext for launching this ‘cakewalk’. “For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on,” (Paul Wolfowitz (5/28/2003).
According to Bob Woodward, the neo-cons started agitating for a ‘preemptive’ war against Iraq immediately after the assaults on the World Trade Center. The Author of Bush at War reports that,
[O]n September 15, Wolfowitz put forth military arguments to justify a U.S. attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan. Wolfowitz expressed the view that “attacking Afghanistan would be uncertain,” voicing the fear that American troops would be bogged down in mountain fighting.... In contrast, Iraq was a brittle, oppressive regime that might break easily. It was doable.
One can speculate endlessly about what really motivated George Bush and his neocon Praetorian guards to go to war. Was their goal to convert the Middle East into a walking mat for Sharon and easy pickings for Halliburton? Did they set out to appease Bin Laden by lifting sanctions and dismantling the bases in Saudi Arabia? Was this war all about safeguarding the oil plantations in the Gulf and protecting Kuwaiti and Saudi client regimes while distracting Americans from focusing on the real causes of the 9/11 disaster? Maybe it was an attempt to insure that oil would continue to be priced and sold in dollars to soak up massive American trade deficits -- now running at $60 billion a month. Or perhaps the decision to do battle with Saddam was influenced by the president’s messianic visions of ‘bringing on’ Armageddon by igniting a war of civilizations. In all likelihood, it was a combination of all the above reasons. Who knows? The people who were privy to what really went on in the inner sanctums of the White House have yet to confess their motives. Historians will probably be speculating forever unless a ‘deep throat’ emerges and spills the beans.
To decipher the undeclared reasons for launching this illegal war, it might be helpful if one could take a peek at the administration’s cost-benefit analysis before the war. How many American soldiers did they actually expect to lose in this venture? How many Iraqis did they expect to kill? What was their worst-case scenario in terms of the cost in blood and treasure? How much oil were they expecting to pump out of Iraq? What was their price target for a barrel of black gold? Did they expect to occupy Iraq for twenty years or fifty years? Was Bremer’s tenure as Emperor of Baghdad supposed to be five years or longer? How many permanent bases did they plan to construct and how many soldiers did they plan to leave behind as a garrison? I believe it was fourteen bases staffed by thirty to fifty thousand soldiers and financed by Iraqi oil revenues. At least that was the estimate of neocon pundits with ready access to administration insiders.
It might still be useful to probe the ideological background of the neocon chicken hawks like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Elliot Abrams. Virtually all the major actors who promoted this quagmire trace their roots to think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute -- which is nothing more than a front organization for the Israeli lobby. One of the most intriguing aspects of this conflict is the intense coordination by neocon insiders with their fellow travelers in the mass media – like Judith Miller and Charles Krauthammer - who played a vital role in marketing this conflict to a gullible audience.
In any case, things have obviously turned out worse than the bleakest initial projections. We are now witnessing the end game. Which brings us to Iran -- a former founding member of the axis of evil -- now elevated to a partner in designing an exit strategy with the neocon weasels who orchestrated this war of choice.
All the exit signs point to Tehran. The Bush administration is now resigned to the fact that the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution is likely to win the elections on January 30. For the record, the SCIRI was established in Tehran two decades ago and continues to be financed by Iran. Along with Hezb al-Daawa al-Islamiyya -- the other major Shiite political party -- the SCIRI is part of the Iraqi Unified Alliance, which will enter the elections with a slate of candidates that includes the famed embezzler Ahmed Chalabi, the resurrected neocon favorite. To his credit, Chalabi was quite gallant in taking the fall for the ‘intelligence failure’ scam.
It wasn’t so long ago that Bush volunteered to “piss on Chalabi.” But these days, Chalabi can be found shuttling between Tehran and Baghdad as an intermediary between Iran and the Bush administration. It is now considered polite conversation for the Bushies to talk about constructive engagement and détente with Tehran. As a good will gesture -- Halliburton just signed a deal for a giant gas field project in Iran. The Iranian nuclear file has been handed over to the Europeans and the abrasive John Bolton has been ushered out of the State Department. It is worth noting that the Israelis are no longer making noises about launching strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. Also worth noting is that the blame for the insurgency has shifted from Iran to Syria.
The Iranians have already proven their ability to deliver. With the insurgency growing in strength, Tehran has played a pivotal role in keeping the Shiites out of the fray. They have also shown flexibility in dealing with the Europeans by accepting international supervision for their nuclear projects.
At this stage of the game, Bush has few options left. He can choose to stay in Iraq and confront a vigorous insurgency without a glint of light at the end of the tunnel -- at a cost of $5 billion a month and mounting casualties. His second option is to just declare victory and leave Iraq in a state of chaos -- a failed state that might become fertile ground for the recruitment and training of the very terrorists he supposedly came to vanquish. All indications are that he has chosen a third way -- by opting to swallow the bitter fruit of his neocon follies and leaving Iraq in the hands of Iran. Even if this last option results in civil war -- Bush is counting on Tehran’s Iraqi allies to prevail and contain the conflict from spreading to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. If the civil war results in partition, the United States will avoid direct blame - leaving Iran to take the fall for the breakup. The Turks and Iranians will then be left to pick up the pieces.
This is hardly the outcome that was expected by the neo-con wizards. But, no worries. George Bush has his spin teams hard at work. As his occupation army evacuates the Green Zone and hands over the keys of Abu Ghraib, and as Marine helicopters make one last reconnaissance flight over the ruins of Fallujah, Bush will declare that the United States has fought the good fight to bring democracy to Iraq. He can count on most Americans to buy that line. A good percentage of them continue to believe that WMDs have already been found and that Saddam was personally responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Like most gamblers, George Bush is not one to publicly admit his losses. It all brings to mind Gary Allan’s lyrics “I’ve been a wildcatter -- and a go-go getter Been an s.o.b. right down to the letter -- I’ve had misadventures -- I’ve even got pictures -- I’m even more than I can stand -- But startin’ today, all I’m gonna be is her man.” For Bush, the pictures are of Abu Ghraib and Fallujah and the lady in this song is Iran.
Other Articles by Ahmed Amr
Bush League Group