I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The new Pro-War Justification is Unveiled

We have seen in the past couple of weeks a brand new excuse unveiled for why we must prolong our occupation of Iraq. The most zealous of the pro-Iraq-war fanatics in this country have always had as their express goal in invading Iraq the establishment of a compliant, pro-U.S. (and pro-Israel) Iraqi government which would serve as the anchor for American domination of the Middle East. They have waited a long time to get their hands on Iraq, and no matter how disastrous our occupation becomes, they have no intention of allowing the U.S. to leave Iraq until that dream is fulfilled.

But with virtually all of their pre-war justifications for the invasion now wholly discredited -- there were no WMDs, we are not more popular or less hated among Middle Eastern Muslims, democracy has not spread like wildfire throughout the region, the region is not more stable -- they are in desperate search for some good reason to continue to pursue and even intensify what has been a relentlessly self-destructive enterprise.

The new rationale they have now embraced for insisting that the U.S. cannot leave Iraq for a long, long time is as shameless as it is ironic, and those who want to see an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq any time soon must highlight and attack it.

The pro-war zealots’ new justification for prolonging our occupation of Iraq indefinitely goes like this:

Back in 2002, we mocked and ridiculed anti-war critics who warned that our invasion of Iraq would spawn chaos and anarchy in that country, would allow Al Qaeda to operate freely, would trigger dangerous regional instability among Iraq’s neighbors, and would unleash vicious sectarian tensions and lead to endless, violent civil wars.

As it turns out, the war critics were right about this and we were wrong. Even though we were snidely dismissive of these concerns before the war, this is exactly what our invasion has spawned. Just as they predicted – and just as we vehemently denied would occur – Iraq is a mess, a dangerous, unpredictable disaster.

For these reasons, we cannot leave Iraq any time soon and, instead, have to re- double our occupation and resign ourselves to being in Iraq for a long, long time.

Although they ought to be deeply embarrassed by this rationale – as it literally amounts to a bizarre declaration that they were entirely wrong about what would happen in Iraq if we invaded, and therefore we must keep following their path and re-commit ourselves to a prolonged and intensified occupation – they are unabashedly trumpeting exactly this reasoning.

Here is the leading pro-war pundit Bill Kristol, along with Robert Kagan, in The Weekly Standard yesterday, announcing their demand that the U.S. remain in Iraq for a long time:

Victory is in fact possible, though it will require a longer war than anyone would like but not so long a war as to be intolerable. What would be intolerable would be to lose to the terrorists in Iraq.

It's quite clear that Bill Kristol has no intention of leaving Iraq any time soon. And why must we resign ourselves to having our troops remain in Iraq into the foreseeable future? Here is Kristol and Kagan telling us why in the same article, as they sternly lecture Rep. Jack Murtha about geopolitical and military realities in Iraq:

[Murtha] knows perfectly well that the Iraqi people are not yet capable of defending themselves against the monsters in their midst and that, therefore, a U.S. withdrawal would likely lead to carnage on a scale that would dwarf what is now occurring in Iraq.

But that would be just the beginning. If U.S. troops were withdrawn and the Iraqi people were not able to defeat the terrorists and Saddam loyalists, what would happen? What if Zarqawi and his al Qaeda allies were able to make common cause with the Baathists to turn Iraq into a terrorist state or to provide a haven for terrorists, complete with an oil supply to finance their global activities? And what of Iraq's neighbors, which include Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia? They would likely decide that they could not afford to let a vacuum develop in Iraq or allow their adversaries to establish a base there. All these nations would contemplate militaryintervention in Iraq, directly or indirectly through the arming of allies.

The possibility of a regional conflict erupting among any or all of these powers could not be excluded. Is this is a tolerable outcome for the United States?

In other words, the pro-war Right, amazingly, is now telling us: "what is happening in Iraq now is exactly what anti-war critics said would occur if we invaded and what we vehemently insisted would never happen, and as a result, you have to keep following our pro-war path because, given the utterly heinous mess we made in Iraq, we cannot possibly leave now."

This is exactly what they insisted would not happen when they were selling us this war. Listen to Vice President Cheney speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in August, 2002, as he mocks the pre-war concerns of anti-war critics by insisting that the invasion would not lead to the chaos and violent anarchy which now, in fact, plagues every corner of that country:

Another argument holds that opposing Saddam Hussein would cause even greater troubles in that part of the world, and interfere with the larger war against terror. I believe the opposite is true. Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region. When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace. As for the reaction of the Arab "street," the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are "sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans." Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of Jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart.

This is the same speech where Vice President Cheney told us:

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors -- confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today, and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth.

Could the irony be more intense, or more tragic? These pro-war True Believers are now pointing to the very disasters in Iraq which they promised would never occur (and which they caused) as the principal reason we must continue to follow their war-crazed schemes and remain in Iraq indefinitely.

But it is now clear to all but the most wild-eyed fanatics that the same people peddling this new rationale have been wrong about everything thus far -- literally -– when it comes to Iraq. They have not only been radically wrong in their snide, self-assured predictions as to what would happen in Iraq if we invaded, but far worse, they are the ones whose policies have caused the unparalleled and dangerous chaos that now reigns in that country. They are the last people whose predictions and prescriptions ought to be listened to.

The situation in Iraq which they created is so undeniably disastrous that scores of the most prominent and vocal pre-war advocates of the invasion have been forced to confess that their assumptions about the war and its likely results were mistaken. Everyone can see that Iraq is a complete disaster, that we have transformed a previously stable (albeit internally oppressive) country into a cesspool of anarchy, violence, sectarian strife bordering on civil war, and worst of all, a new Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda thrives, operates freely and recruits easily. In short, Iraq has become exactly what pre-war opponents of the war -- who were mocked and laughed at by the media and politicians alike -- warned that it would be if we invaded.

Having the people who led us down this self-destructive path now insist that we must keep following them, and in doing so, watching them point to the mess they have created as the reasons why we should, is confounding -- and shameless -- beyond belief. But despite the facial absurdity of these claims, this is a quite formidable political force which will be a serious impediment to any efforts to withdraw from Iraq any time soon, even if the Bush Administration decides it wants to do so in order cynically to help Republican Congressional candidates be free of this unpopular war in time for the 2006 mid-term elections.

The new rationale the pro-war Right has concocted and which it is now assertively hawking for why we must remain in Iraq indefinitely can and should be used against them. Having been forced by undeniable reality to acknowledge the unparalleled dangers which their policies have created in Iraq, they cannot be permitted to use those dangers to justify remaining on the path which has proven so disastrous for every aspect of our national security.

From the moment we invaded Iraq until the present, the presence of American troops has caused increased violence, regional instability, and terrorist threats -- exactly the opposite of what these pro-war advocates insisted would occur. There is absolutely no reason to believe that this causal relationship between our occupation, on the one hand, and increased violence and instability, on the other, is going to be reversed any time soon. And there is even less reason for listening to the people who are trying to make us believe that it will.


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