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Why the US Is Supporting Civil War
Published on Friday, August 26, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Why the US Is Supporting Civil War
by Tom Hayden
 
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.

Let's summarize the situation at the moment:

  1. 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, 05]
  2. 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]
  3. 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]
  4. Fact: the vast majority of the "Iraqi security forces" are composed of Shiite and Kurdish militias, deployed against Sunnis.
  5. 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]
  6. 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."

With this 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 constitution.

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 way:

Question: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future terrorists?

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 or Wal-Mart.

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).

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