3/20/2006

Springtime for Bushland and Conservancy

Sidney Blumenthal, as accurate as usual. If Bush' speech reminds you of all his previous "Mission Accomplished" stunts, don't look at the Groundhog for clues. Unfortunately this is very real. This is not Groundhog Day -- law

The springtime of zeal

It is already hard to remember the heady days when the Iraq adventure began, trumpets blaring and banners unfurled. Vice-president Dick Cheney and the administration neo-conservatives arranged for the airlift of exiled Iraqi leader Ahmad Chalabi and about 500 of his fighters into the country. He had been a major source of the disinformation about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that had provided the justification for the war. Now he was expected to assume power, restore order and make Iraq into a base for the projection of US influence throughout the middle east.

Instantly, Iraq would become a beacon of democracy. Awestruck, the Palestinians would forswear terrorist groups like Hamas. From the Iraqi bastion, the US would topple the regimes of Syria and Iran, by military force if need be. The Iraq example would serve for invasions elsewhere. Saudi Arabia and Egypt would have no resort but democratising, their rulers yielding to secular figures in the inspiring mould of Chalabi. Like Saddam Hussein's regime, the entire region was supposedly a house of cards.

The month before the war was launched, in February 2003 neocon pundit Charles Krauthammer proclaimed that the Iraq war would transform the entire middle east in the neo-conservative image and that the task would be accomplished first in Iraq during a brief eighteen-month occupation.

In a column in Time on 17 February 2003, boldly titled "Coming Ashore", Krauthammer proudly embraced the arrogance of power. "Reformation and reconstruction of an alien culture are a daunting task. Risky and, yes, arrogant." Yet 9/11 justified not only invading Iraq but also, he insisted, overthrowing 22 other Arab governments. "Before 9/11, no one would have seriously even proposed it. After 9/11, we dare not shrink from it." And then again came out his bugle: "America is coming ashore."

Three years after coming ashore, some neo-conservatives are experiencing the torments of disillusionment. Their most cherished dreams are encrusted with the blood and sand of Iraq. There are no second chances. Having proclaimed Iraq as the ultimate test, neo-conservatism is being judged according to its own standard. Francis Fukuyama, neocon philosopher and signer of the original statement of the neocon Project for the New American Century, has produced a succinct synopsis of his disillusionment, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy. Like communists of a previous generation, he rejects a god that failed...

"I did not like the original version of Leninism and was sceptical when the Bush administration turned Leninist", he writes. Fukuyama chastises the neocons for believing that all societies and cultures share universal aspirations and can rapidly undergo the same path of modernisation. He describes the administration's "bureaucratic tribalism" as "poisonous," and blames its close-mindedness for its failures.

But the administration brushes aside the laments of the disillusioned – whether Fukuyama or William F Buckley Jr ("One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed"), mere scriveners. Bush no more pays attention to the criticisms of conservative Republicans than to those of liberal Democrats. He is consistent in his rejection of criticism of any kind from any quarter. But his granitic impassivity does not resolve any actual problem; nor does ignoring critics make his arguments more convincing.

A time of torment

More striking, Bush seems unaware of or unconcerned with the conflict of his recent statements with those of his ambassador and generals in Iraq. Khalilzad, who has been assigned the mission impossible of creating a strong Iraqi state out of negotiations with the hostile factions, said last week that the invasion had opened "a Pandora's box" of sectarian violence that might spread across the whole middle east. With this single remark, he attributed the source of the Iraqi crisis to the invasion. Instead of "coming ashore" being the first step in the march of democracy, he depicted it as the beginning of a nightmare.

"Sectarian and ethnic conflict is the fundamental problem in Iraq", Khalilzad said at a news conference last month. He warned the Shi'a that the key ministries of the interior and defence must be in the hands of people "who are non-sectarian, broadly acceptable and who are not tied to militias." This was a direct challenge to the Shi'a militias burrowed into these ministries and using them as cover for assassinations and death-squads. "American taxpayers expect their money to be spent properly. We are not going to invest the resources of the American people and build forces that are run by people who are sectarian", he said. The "potential is there", he concluded grimly in remarks last week, for full-scale civil war.

Bush’s world of illusion Sidney Blumenthal - openDemocracy

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