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.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What we're fighting for in Iraq

During the last two weeks, the President has delivered a series of terrorism-related speeches (which are beyond partisan politics and have absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming elections) in which he identifies Iran as the prime enemy of America. And the administration's newly released National Strategy for Combating Terrorism claims that "Iran remains the most active state sponsor of international terrorism."

Apparently, the Government of Iraq which we fought to install and are still fighting to strengthen doesn't see it that way -- at all. The New York Sun reports:

Iraq's prime minister made his first official visit to Iran yesterday, asking Tehran to prevent Al Qaeda militants from slipping across the border to carry out attacks, an Iraqi official said. Iran's president promised to help Iraq establish security. . . .

Mr. Maliki, who lived in Iran during part of a long exile from Iraq during the rule of ousted leader Saddam Hussein, received a red-carpet reception at the presidential palace before talks with President Ahmadinejad.

Asked at a joint press conference following their talks about allegations that Iran was interfering in Iraq, Mr. Maliki said, "There is no obstacle in the way of implementing agreements between Iran and Iraq."

"All our assistance to the Iraqi people will be to establish complete security in this country," Mr. Ahmadinejad said, according to a state-run news agency report of the press conference. "Iran and Iraq enjoy historical relations. These relations go beyond from neighborly ties. Our relations will remain excellent," Mr. Ahmadinejad said.

What a nice gift we have delivered -- and continue to deliver -- to Iran:

The Iranian Preisdent, on his own site, yesterday celebrated the "excellent bilateral ties between the Iranian and Iraqi governments and nations." As Iran's news agency made clear (h/t Juan Cole), this was a true lovefest between the two countries, and the love was mutual:

Nuri al-Maliki described Iran as the good and great neighbor of Iraq and reiterated that there resides no impediment in the way of the implementation of the agreements signed with Iran.

"We have witnessed Iran's tolerance and preparedness and the agreements we have concluded in the different political, security and economic areas prove fruitfulness of our visit to Tehran," he stressed.

This is one of the most incoherent and baffling aspects of an extremely incoherent war -- even if our ongoing occupation of Iraq had any hope of stabilizing the Iraqi government, all we will have accomplished is ensuring that Iraq is run by a government whose primary allegiance is to the country which is, according to the Bush administration, our greatest enemy and the worst threat to world peace. We transformed Iraq from a steadfast enemy of Iran into a subservient colony. How could doing that even theoretically make us "safer"?

That was the question which Tim Russert posed to Dick Cheney this weekend -- what sense does this whole war make given that the Iraqi government is now so closely allied with Iran? -- and Cheney, after casually dismissing Iraq's alliance with Iran as nothing more than relations between "neighbors," then said:

But the fact of the matter is, you’re a lot better off today. You don’t have a government in Baghdad that’s pursuing weapons of mass destruction, you don’t have a government in Baghdad that is a state sponsor of terror. You don’t have a government in Baghdad that is doing all those things that Saddam Hussein did for so long. So we’re safer.

So, it's better that Iraq is now controlled by Iran because at least Saddam doesn't have his WMDs anymore to use as part of his close alliance with Al Qaeda. As Billmon has pointed out several times recently:

The bottom line, which an odd member of the punditburo might even reach one of these days, is that this is an administration that no longer makes any sense at all -- not even on the most formal, semiotic level. Shrub's speechwriters have literally been reduced to babbling, a relentlessly on-message babbling that shows just how ill suited the tools of domestic politics are for conducting a half-way serious foreign policy, much less an extremely serious war.

It's not just that this war is deceitful or destructive or immoral. The whole thing just makes no sense. The longer we stay, the more lives we lose, the more billions of dollars we squander, the best that we can hope for -- the best -- is to solidify Iran's control over this strategically vital country at exactly the time we have decided to decree Iran to be our worst enemy. Who could possibly defend that?

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