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The 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 buy?

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.

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