The search for the "noble purpose" in Iraq is more
elusive than the search for weapons of mass destruction. But the logic of U.S.
policy is being clarified in the present constitutional talks.
summarize the situation at the moment:
- The new U.S. ambassador to
Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, has backed language "that would have given clerics sole
authority in settling marriage and family disputes." [NY Times, Aug. 21,
- Language in the current draft reserving 25 percent of the
Assembly's seats for women is being defined as "transitional", which means it
lacks constitutional character.[NY Times, Aug. 24, 05]
- A former
clandestine CIA officer and current neoconservative analyst says on "Meet the
Press" that "women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of
democracy." [Reuel Marc Gerecht, in [Maureen Dowd, Aug. 24, 05]
the vast majority of the "Iraqi security forces" are composed of Shiite and
Kurdish militias, deployed against Sunnis.
- The current Baghdad
regime has agreed on opening the oil-export business to private foreign
investors, and plans to scale back fuel subsidies after the next election. [NY Times, Aug. 11, 05]
- The Washington Post, announcing that the U.S. is "lowering its sights" on what can be achieved in Iraq, reports that "the
document on which Iraq's future is to be built [the constitution] will require
laws to be compliant with Islam. Kurds and Shiites are expecting de facto
long-term political privileges. And women's rights will not be as firmly
entrenched as Washington has tried to insist, U.S. officials and Iraqi analysts
say...we set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will
have some form of Islamic Republic." [Aug. 14, 05]
Now begins the
spin, with simultaneous op-ed articles in the New York Times and Los Angeles
Times by leading neo-cons. [Aug. 25, 05] John Yoo, who wrote the torture memos in
the Justice Department, is described as a university law professor and visiting
scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. David Brooks is the snappy neo-con
"affirmative action" hire at the New York Times op-ed page. Both argue that
achieving a united Iraq was never important anyway, despite several years of
official Administration rhetoric. Instead they promote a vision of a "federal"
Iraq where power devolves to the Shiite south and the Kurdish north, which
happen to coincide geographically with the country's major oil fields. As cover
for his argument, Brooks quotes Peter Galbraith, a former Clinton official with
liberal credentials, who long has favored dividing Iraq into three parts.
Yoo is very clear in his belief that "free trade" should and must break
down nation states like the former Iraq [and Yugoslavia before it]. Brooks says
it is "crazy" to envision an Iraq without the ayatollahs in a significant role
because they are the "natural" leaders of society. He reprimands his readers
against "screaming about a 13th century theocratic state."
shift, the US government has erased its last of its rhetorical rationales for
the war, the claim that "liberty" and "democracy" and "women's rights" would be
installed through armed persuasion in Baghdad. Now they are arguing that
Americans should accept the emergence of a flawed Islamic state, just as similar
Americans accepted slavery and disenfranchisement as the price of the original
There's a small practical problem with this revised
vision. It is likely to intensify the war on two levels: Iraqis against the
Americans and Iraqis against each other. I don't have a particular philosophical
preference for centralized government, but the alternative in Iraq is a
devolution to warring ethnic and religious fiefdoms under the control of the
international market. Yoo, Brooks and Galbraith are silent on this untidy aspect
of their scenario, with Yoo even reminding Americans that we had to go through
the "fiery experience" of civil war before becoming a nation. Leaving aside the
fact that Americans threw the British out by force, that's a macabre future for
Iraqis who were promised "liberation." Since the civil war will not be won
militarily, the Administration will argue that the occupation must be permanent.
If this sounds mad, manipulative or both, what does it reveal about US
intentions in Iraq?
It suggests that the American purpose has been to
destroy Iraqi nationalism, as in the previous Baathist state and the
continued de-Baathification policies.
It suggests that our "best
and brightest" want to weaken any future possibility of a strong Iraqi state
with control of its own enterprises and resources.
It suggests that the
US has chosen to ally itself with Islamic fundamentalism rather than a secular
state with a centralized government.
It suggests that civil war against
the Sunnis and any other "diehards" is the US preference rather than a political
settlement that brings the nationalist resistance, including the Sunnis, into
negotiations rather than war.
This is the same strategy the Israelis
chose decades ago when they directly and indirectly supported the Islamic
religious groupings as preferable to the secular and "Marxist" Palestinian
Liberation Organization [PLO] two decades ago. That strategy contributed
directly to the creation of Hezbollah and suicide bombers.
It is the
same strategy that led the US to support the mujahadeen, the embryonic Al Qaeda,
against the secular, pro-Russian Afghan government. In 1998, two years before
9/11, Zbigiew Brzezinski flippantly dismissed critics of the policy this
Question: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic
fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future
Answer: What is more important in world history? The Taliban
or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Muslims or the liberation of
Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?
Question: "Some agitated
Muslims"? But it has been said that repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents
a world menace today...
Answer: Nonsense... [Le Nouvel Observateur,
Paris, Jan. 15-21, 1998]
The US opposes independent nationalism from Iraq
to Venezuela. It prefers to weaken independent states to diminish their military
potential in either the Middle East or Latin America, and to break down what are
described as "protectionist" barriers to the "free trade" model of Halliburton
In seeking to impose both Pentagon dominance and a neo-liberal
economic model on the world, the US is prepared to accept alliances with
religious forces that insist on strict censorship and punishment of freedom of
association and belief. For Bush and the neo-conservatives, it seems, freedom
for American investors can't wait, but women - their rights "are not critical to
the evolution of democracy."
Far from achieving stability and security,
these policies will foment more violent hatred of the US. Far from planting
democracy, US policy is squelching what little democracy there is, threatening
to dismember Iraq, causing a civil war that will be the pretext for US troops to
remain, and re-arranging the Middle East to include a de facto Shiite alliance
from Teheran to Basra. That's why Bush can find no "noble purpose". It is about
a war for dominance, not democracy.
Tom Hayden is a former California state senator and the author of "Street Wars" (Dimensions, 2004).