Neocon ambitions and the spectacular disaster of Iraq
ON THE third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, we are now able to discern the real motivation behind what Washington claimed was a pre-emptive operation to save mankind from the threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
In reality, the Bush Administration went to war to attain two objectives: 1. Seizing Iraq’s vast oil reserves, and turning Iraq into a base to dominate the Middle East; 2. Destroying one of Israel’s two main enemies( Iran being the other).
Three years on, the first goal has not been reached while the second was decisively achieved. Large parts of Iraq —once one of the Arab world’s most developed nations —are in ruins, anarchy, or approaching civil war. The squabbling, US-engineered regime in Baghdad represents only the Shia majority.
US occupation forces in Iraq struggle just to defend their bases and vulnerable supply lines. Their fruitless, Vietnam-style search-and-destroy missions, like the recent ‘Operation Swarmer,’ are a sure sign of strategic failure and senior officers too stupid or arrogant to draw obvious lessons from recent guerilla wars. The US military is repeating many of the same mistakes that led to its defeat in Vietnam.
Over 2,300 American soldiers have died; 16,300 are wounded —and these figures are likely understated. At least 30,000 Iraqi civilians have died; some estimates put the figure far higher. The US holds 15,000-18,000 Iraqi prisoners —more than Saddam Hussein ever did.
The stalemated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing Washington a staggering $US 9.8 billion monthly as the US Treasury borrows billions from China and Japan just to keep the government operating. The above figure excludes hundreds of millions in secret CIA bribes to rent cooperation from tribal chiefs and politicians, or hire mercenaries called ‘contractors.’
What was to have been a jolly, self-financing little war promoted by pro-Israeli neocons to ‘liberate’ Iraq’s oil has cost over $500 billion so far. That’s $50 billion more than the Vietnam War’s total cost (in 2006 dollars). Clearly, the US armed forces are too expensive to send to a war lasting longer than a few months.
While a debacle for the US and Iraq, the war has greatly benefited Iran and Israel. Saddam Hussein, responsible for over 300,000 Iranian deaths, is in jail. Iran’s influence in Iraq grows daily. The recent remarkable public agreement by Washington to open talks over Iraq with Great Satan Iran shows even the Bush people are finally facing reality. Besides, occupying Iraq has left the US too weak to invade Iran. Now, the Bush administration, facing rising domestic opposition over the war, is desperately trying to get Iran to help it out of the bloody mess it created in Iraq.
After getting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran in 1980, and funding the ensuing eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the US now watches helplessly as Iran slowly ingests large portions of Iraq. The US invasion of Iraq has handed power to pro-Iranian Shia religious parties. Shia spiritual leader, Ali al Sistani, warned followers they would go straight to hell —and lose their wives —if they did not vote for Shia religious candidates.
Israel has been the second major beneficiary of the Iraq war. The long-term strategic goal of Israel’s Likud Party rightists —shattering unstable Arab states to leave Israel dominant in the region —has been half attained by Iraq’s fragmentation into three parts. Syria’s regime is destabilised and faces possible civil strife. Any future challenge by Iraq to Israel’s Middle East nuclear monopoly has vanished.
Meanwhile, Israel has been able to cut defence spending, intensify repression of the Palestinians, and is quietly extending its influence into the semi-independent, oil-rich Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
Ironically, the third major beneficiary of Bush’s war has been his nemesis, Osama bin Laden. The only way to drive US influence out of the Muslim world, Bin Laden has long maintained, is to tie it down in a series of small wars that bleed it financially. The nearly $10 billion a month wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are doing just that. Iraq, as even Bush admits, has become an incubator, magnet, and call to arms for anti-American jihadists across the Muslim World.
Worse than the billions poured into Iraq, and the $1.5 billion stolen from Iraq’s government during 2004-2005, the US has lost its honour in this brutal little neo-colonial war. The neoconservatives’ ambitions to plunder Iraq’s oil have become a mirage. An odour of pessimism and defeat hangs over the stalemated US military adventure in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Bush-Cheney presidency sinks into the quick-sand of Iraq.
Eric S Margolis, a veteran media professional based in Toronto, is contributing foreign editor of The Toronto Sun. He can be reached at margolis@ foreigncorrespondent.com
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