Elephant in America's War Room
January 28, 2003
By Maureen Farrell
As the weapons of mass destruction excuse becomes increasingly
more difficult to swallow (thanks, in part, to North Korea
and to the Bush administration's painfully obvious disappointment
in Iraq's weapons inspection cooperation), two theories regarding
the underlying reasons for the upcoming war have gained momentum.
Most critics assert that the war is mostly about oil and certainly,
several signs suggest that's so. The premeditated divvying
up of Iraq's resources and Ahmed Chalabi's promise to reward
American oil companies with "a big shot at Iraqi oil' are
but two examples. Others cite America's desire for global
domination as the primary motivation, referring to Zbigniew
Brzezinski's THE GRAND CHESSBOARD: American Primacy And
Its Geostrategic Imperatives, the Project for a New America
Century and President Bush's official military strategy as
sources. Both arguments make sense, as greed and power have
traditionally underscored military conflicts, and members
of the administration have shown they're not above dirtying
their hands in murky deeds and deals.
There is a third reason for this war, however, which is rarely
discussed: the absurd notion that waging war in Iraq and other
parts of the Arab world will stabilize the Middle East and
make it more hospitable to Israel. In other words, at least
500,000 more Iraqis will die, and at least $100 billion more
U.S dollars will be spent on a preemptive war based on the
assertion that Arab countries will welcome a U.S-led "liberation"
and Israel will finally be safe and secure.
In an article entitled, "The
Peace Movement is Making a Mistake: Oil Shouldn't Be The Only
Reason for Opposing This War," former CIA analysts Kathleen
and Bill Christison address this concern, arguing that Ariel
Sharon has been calling for Saddam Hussein's removal as a
plan for "transforming" the Middle East for more than two
decades. Neo-Conservatives argue that America can topple Iraq's
dictator, move onto other countries and spread democracy throughout
the region, as if Middle Eastern history would suddenly reverse
course and take a pro-Israel, pro-American turn. Perhaps they
might recall Secretary of State George C. Marshall's famous
warning regarding how the recognition of Israel would result
in war? Today's warning bells echo with similar understatement.
Then, too, perhaps they have forgotten our dismal record
establishing democracies in places like Iran, Chile, Nicaragua,
Grenada, Panama and other parts of the world - including the
coup that put Saddam Hussein's party into power in the first
place. Or how the U.S. ambassador's warning to Bolivia's citizens
against supporting the Socialist candidate in last year's
election was met with a 198 percent increase in support for
the candidate - just as public support for Yassar Arafat was
revived by Bush's directive he step aside. Will Iraq be more
compliant to U.S. wishes? Or will occupying forces have to
continuously make them offers they can't refuse?
The Christisons also believe that George Bush and Karl Rove
are using the Middle East transformation approach to increase
their chances of earning votes in the presidential election.
Arguing that this issue is at least as important to the war
in Iraq as oil is, they say that those who oppose the war
"should be facing this issue of Middle East transformation
head-on, not ignoring it for tactical reasons or out of fear
of charges of anti-Semitism."
Yet that is not so simple. Others, like Robert Fisk, who
have openly questioned Ariel Sharon's influence on U.S. policy,
know too well how such charges arise. "[I]n much of the Western
world, a vicious campaign of slander is being waged against
any journalist or activist who dares to criticize Israeli
policies or those that shape them," he wrote in the Independent.
"The all-purpose slander of 'anti-Semitism' is now used with
ever-increasing promiscuity against anyone - people who condemn
the wickedness of Palestinian suicide bombings every bit as
much as they do the cruelty of Israel's repeated killing of
children - in an attempt to shut them up."
Perhaps this is why activists ignore this elephant in America's
war room. Should America spend billions of dollars and spill
American blood on the unlikely premise that it would make
the Middle East more stable and more secure for Israel? Especially
when many believe it will make Israel and America less safe
in the long run?
Increasingly, traditional conservatives are joining liberal
counterparts in opposition to such Neo-Crazy war plans. A
group of business leaders who took out an ad in the Jan. 14,
2003 Wall Street Journal, for example, addressed the
ridiculous notion that Arab nations would welcome American
occupation. In an open
letter to George W. Bush, they reacted to the Neo-Conservative
agenda thusly: "Our jaws drop when we read that you may decide
we have to occupy Iraq for years, that the next ruler of Iraq
may be ... an American general! Is there anyone who thinks
that will work? Your odds of success are infinitesimal."
Yet a Jewish friend wrote that yes, she thinks America and
Israel can pull this off, and that the war in Iraq will be
welcomed by Arabs and the world. "To me, a liberated Iraq
means another place to visit with my husband when my kids
go to camp in the summer," she wrote, "I will spend lots of
his money on souvenirs, thus helping their economy."
If an attack on Iraq didn't loom so large, I'd tell her she
might be better served vacationing in the Land of Wishful
Thinking. Yet our foreign policy is being hijacked by people
who believe in this fairy tale. Will Iraq suddenly be transformed
into the tap-dancing slave in a Shirley Temple movie? Thanking
us for pats on the head and the bobbles and trinkets we generously
No, many of us are more prone to agree with the likes of
Gen. Brent Scowcroft who warns that an attack on Iraq will
cause an "Armageddon in the Middle East" and believe those
Wall Street Journal-reading Republican dissidents who
remarked that, "A billion bitter enemies will rise out of
this war." We don't see grateful Iraqis living happily off
the kindness of strangers, but a tragic legacy that will harm
our children - and theirs.