War Anniversary: Israel, Palestine Links Absent
By Ramzy Baroud
The Stockholm air was too cold, even for the most animated speaker to excite
a crowd. But I had little choice: thousands of anti-war protesters had
descended on the capital’s main square to show their support of the Iraqi
people on the four-year anniversary of the US invasion, and to demand an
immediate American withdrawal.
As I took to the stage and began my speech, I was struck by the fact that
there was not one Palestinian or Lebanese flag. Even the Venezuelan flag,
which is often an invited sign of defiance and steadfastness, was absent. If
that spectacle was a sign of strategic calculation: to distance the war in
Iraq from all others, it was a grave mistake. I spoke exactly of that: it’s
the same war, the same occupation; Israel and its neoconservative
benefactors are recurring faces in the Middle East’s ongoing chaos. That is
a fact that anti-war movements everywhere must keep at the forefront if they
want their message to have validity or relevance.
The Israeli connection to the political ‘realignments’ in the region goes
back as early as 1992. The draft Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), which was
circulated around the Pentagon for weeks before being ‘leaked’ to the New
York Times, envisaged a future in which the US establishes uncontested
supremacy in the post cold-war world. Though the guidance didn’t underscore
Israel and its role in that new world, those who composed the document were
primarily the well known Israel crowd in Washington: then-Defense Department
staffers Ewis Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, and America’s man in Iraq a few years
later, Zalmay Khalilzad.
Israel’s role in that ‘vision’ didn’t crystallise fully until Richard
Pearle, a leading neocon, along with Douglas Feith and others, proposed “A
Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” to Israeli Likud leader
Benjamin Netanyahu. The policy document envisaged a larger role for Israel
in the region that would equate its influence to that of the US, not a mere
client state but an equal hegemon. It plotted for the toppling of the Iraqi
regime and the re-drawing of the geopolitical map of the entire region. The
same recommendations were marketed to the Clinton administration in 1997/98
but failed; Clinton, who conceded much of America’s interests to Israel’s,
was, perhaps, not yet ready to accommodate such a grand vision.
That vision, an Israeli one to the core, was often presented as exclusively
American, most notably by the Project for the New American Century,
established by leading neocons in 1997, the same individuals who vowed
allegiance to Israel for many years. PNAC was the key group behind the war
in Iraq. The moment terrorists struck the Twin Towers with their deadly
airplanes, PNAC campaigners were ready with a map of the Middle East,
pointing out the countries they wished to bomb and the regimes that needed
to be changed.
This should not absolve other war enthusiasts, but to underestimate the
neocons’s leading role, in which Israel’s interests were part and parcel is
to defy damning facts.
The influence of the neocons has faded, or more accurately has gone into an
early state of hibernation due to the disasters they have inflicted on the
country, the scandals they have generated and the negative media coverage
that they could not possibly survive unscathed.
Based on their vision, the US administration has hoped that its occupation
of Iraq would reconfigure the region and inspire a New Middle East. Four
years later, the US-Israeli plan is faltering. The stiff resistance in Iraq
is costing the US its military reputation and is strengthening the Iranian
position, especially since Iran has its own proxies in Iraq. Syria is also
in a strong position despite its withdrawal from Lebanon which actualised
under intense US-led international pressure. Hezbollah is keeping the
Lebanon domain somewhat free from Israeli influence. In the final analysis,
Israel, though it has gained through the toppling of Saddam and his regime,
is still facing a serious challenge from Iran. The US is losing on all
fronts, politically, financially and militarily.
The US’ so-called de-Baathification of the country, also a neocon scheme,
was its greatest blunder, for it meant stripping the country from its most
important tools of unity: the army, civil services, thus it national
cohesion. This invited disaster, which rendered all subsequent US efforts
irrelevant. The US military administration replaced the existing regime
apparatus, which affected millions of people, with a sectarian regime that
itself was an amalgam of Shia exclusivism, pro-Iran political groups, unruly
militias, etc. This new assortment reflected itself in the set up of the
Iraqi army, police, government and parliament; the result was devastating,
since the national army and government were tools of division, a fact that
drove the sectarian divide into a civil war. The US democracy project —
tailored perfectly to fit American interests — was also an astounding
failure, and predictably so. The fact was dismissed that real democracy
doesn’t get delivered via tanks and cruise missiles, but by a civil society
capable of asserting itself without fear or intimidation. What’s happening
in Iraq is America’s definition of democracy for the Arabs, and certainly
not the Arabs’ choice for themselves.
The US will leave Iraq; that should hardly be questioned. It cannot possibly
bear such financial and material losses indefinitely. The New Statesman
reports that caring for the war wounded alone will cost the country $2.5
trillion in the next few decades. But to ensure that such military chaos,
such awesome losses of irreplaceable lives on all sides are not repeated,
one must not speak of the Iraq war in too general terms: empire, oil and
hegemony, and lose sight of most relevant specifics. Israel and its
benefactors have played and continue to play a major role in all of this.
Ignoring this fact for the sake of not ‘mixing’ the issues would simply mean
fighting the right cause with the wrong strategy, to say the least.
-Ramzy Baroud is a US writer and journalist. His latest book: The Second
Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press,
London) is available online via Amazon.com and the University of Michigan