Monday, August 20, 2007

Polemic by Norman Ball

The Manifest Hijacking of Destiny
by Norman Ball

On CNN's January 18, 2003 Capital Gang program, two months before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, consummate Washington insider Robert Novak offered up a number of tantalizing off-the-record statements from a high-placed source suggesting a raison d'etre for the Iraq War. To my knowledge, none of the current retrospectives accommodate this line of inquiry.

Here are some excerpts from the transcript:

NOVAK: ...the last thing that the hawks inside the administration, and their friends outside the administration, want is a coup d'etat that would replace Saddam Hussein. They want a war as a manifestation of U.S. power in the world and as a sign that the United States is capable of changing the balance of power and the political map of the Middle East.

NOVAK: All right. Talking to a senior official, and he said to me, he said, Well, if we don't hit in Iraq, where are we going to hit? And they -- it's a desire that the United States, the superpower, is going to manifest its authority to the rest of the world.

Manifest --Novak uses the word twice. So we labor today under a manifestation of power and authority gone horribly wrong. The ensuing fiasco is only something resembling war; at least, it shares many common traits: bullets, tanks, generals, combat deaths. Yet sometimes the apt word eludes. Like our Malapropist-in-Chief, America seems at a loss, both for precedent and apropos language. In our loss, we retreat to a venerable term: war.

The implications of Novak's off-the-record comments from a senior administration official hint at what has become a maddeningly elusive smoking gun. In fairness, the smoke is thick. For not only were WMD's a pretext, Saddam Hussein's ouster was a pretext, which is to say regime change was a pretext, which is to say Iraq itself was a pretext. Imagine the Nazis being mere pretexts for WWII! The explosiveness of Novak's inferences cannot be overstated. The question begs on insufferably: Why did we go there in the first place?

The whole adventure was to be a bold demonstration of American power, and perhaps, if Novak's source is correct, nothing much more than a devastating and, dare we say, symbolic show of force. The words, many now ruefully discarded, offer an evolving fossil record. 'Shock and awe', pregnant with smug self-certitude, seems to promise Strangelove's bomb of last resort. Today, we contend with the term's ironic nexus: astonishing naiveté.

War is our default descriptor. The weight of accumulated error and unintended consequence -the storied fog of war--renders it the only word capable of approximating the present calamity. We graduated, both in rhetoric and circumstance, into war. This is mission creep of the worst kind.

Though of larger scale, the prototype for this operation was quite likely George H. W. Bush's Operation Just Cause which overthrew Panama's General Manuel Noriega in 1989. No one calls that fifteen-day operation a 'war'. But it might have sprouted bellicose wings had Noriega proven a more resilient opponent.

Novak's source goes so far as to express trepidation at the prospect of Hussein leaving power before a war can be commenced! After all, how could the neo-con aggression issue forth without the requisite scapegoat? What reason would then be offered to the American people? More important, why is the real reason still verboten even now?

Indeed this decidedly muscular, preemptory vision of America's strategic role in the post-Cold War world bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Leo Strauss' spiritual benefaction, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). And well it should. There's every chance Novak's senior official was a PNAC signatory: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Libby, Wolfowitz or Feith.

The obtuse complexion of the 'real' causi belli -not to mention the almost-cavalier disregard for the attendant human suffering (exemplified by Wolfowitz's inablity on one occasion to recall the number of American casualties)- confirms a distinctly Straussian trope --the elite vanguard inciting the plebes to action via visceral exoteric tales. Indeed the great WMD chase was but a comic book treasure hunt, the indispensable first-order pretext used for getting us over there. Certainly there is no more visceral manifestation of American might than boots on the ground. How much more tragic the current predicament becomes when we realize the intent of the Iraqi misadventure may have been nothing more geopolitically decisive than a grotesque parade of American hegemony -a fool's errand now veered into interminable conflict.

To my mind, the chronic flaw in the prevailing commentaries is that they consistently ascribe more 'deliberative gravitas' to the real motives than what frankly is really there. We grow up thinking the president of the most powerful nation on earth is, by some cosmic necessity, cut from comparable monumental timber. Transference of this sort towards facile tautology is practically irresistible. But what if the most powerful man in the world is a dynastic happenstance, an empty suit with the right surname on his lapel-pin? More probably, what if he's just an average guy drawn upon to make earth-shattering decisions? How can one expect the quality of the decisions to transcend the shortcomings of the Decider?

For instance, what if the motives for the Iraqi conflict were as capricious -really as ornamental-- as Novak's off-record sources infer? Rigorous analysis often tends to interpolate equal rigor onto the analysand. An avalanche of books notwithstanding, the American people may still not be privy to the real story in all its jaw-dropping banality. Sometimes the most striking aspect of history is the ordinariness of its participants.

What then would be the rationale for even a ceremonial manifestation of force? Might it confirm the worst of the anti-AIPAC charges, that the war was fought largely at the behest of Israel for the purpose of cowing any potential aggressors in the region? This would make America's military essentially a mercenary force, answerable in the first instance to Zionist interests as opposed to strictly American ones. But at this late juncture, who can reasonably suggest that Zionist and American interests are anything but inextricably linked, some might say tragically bound? This extinguishment of peculiar American regional interests may represent the single greatest triumph of Zionism to date; though it comes at a great cost to America's standing among anti-Zionist, usually oil-rich, entities with whom America does not share a demonstrable natural antipathy.

As Heraclitus famously said, the same river is never crossed twice. The war is real today. It cannot be suspended with a muttered apology. Our enemies' passions and hatreds are not rescindable. A gratuitous misadventure at its inception perhaps, it is an incontrovertible war now.

So far we have grappled only with prolegomena, really the domain of historical inquiry. Here, today, however there are fresh looming perils borne of yesterday's mistakes. For just as the enormity of the judgmental errors --if not the outright malfeasance-- of our government dawns on the American people, we have a war that cares little how surreptitiously we were led into it. Wholesale disavowal of the unpalatable is a facet of human nature. At the point of maximum disgust, we are being asked to show maximum resolve, though every fiber of the body politic may wish to recoil from the dastardliness of the initial deception.

Today's relevant question thus may be, can the American people resolve to remain in a war that never needed to be fought but must be finished now? One very real peril is a knee-jerk post-Vietnam funk, a revulsion for 'all things war' and fresh calls for a new American isolationism. America's Iraq blunder could swing the pendulum away from war -any war-- for a generation or more. Unless of course fresh war can somehow be made to perpetuate itself and public opinion be rendered moot.

Realizing the growing fervor of the American anti-war movement, those with overriding interests in the region are aware of the insurmountable skepticism another WMD dog-and-pony-show would face. Thus the next intended war --with Iran-- must appear simply to happen thereby hopping over any deliberative preambles.

The recent deployment of two carrier groups to the Gulf, the apprehension of Iranian diplomatic personnel in Baghdad (an act of war by itself), the suspected kidnapping of Revolutionary Guard officers, any of these could serve as a sort of 'Archduke Ferdinand moment'. Certainly none of these actions are consistent with a newly circumspect government re-evaluating the prudence of short-fuse military intervention. Once the proper fuse is lit, the phenomenon-that-is-war seizes the initiative. Some factions would applaud such a fortuitous accident.

This strategy of obliquely 'teetering' into a war with Iran was lent further credence by real-politiknik Zbigniew Brzezinski in his testimony before The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 1. There, he outlined a plausible scenario whereby such an 'accidental war' might come to pass:

"The plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks, followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the United States blamed on Iran, culminating in a, quote, unquote, "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran, that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan."

In a recent New Yorker piece, 'The Redirection', Seymour Hersh details the covert activities being coordinated out of the Vice President's office for the purpose of inciting war with Iran. According to Hersh, Cheney is financing covert operations against Iran. The point is we may already be at war with Iran. Who knew?

Then there's this as reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on March 14:

AIPAC lobbying helped remove a provision from a bill that would have required President Bush to seek congressional approval for war against Iran. A number of congressional sources confirmed that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee backed dropping the provision from the Iraq war spending bill introduced Tuesday by Democrats. The bill ties funding to deadlines for withdrawal from Iraq.

AIPAC and a number of Democrats close to Israel said the provision would have hampered the president as he attempted to leverage Iran into backing down from its alleged nuclear weapon plans. Others said the provision simply reasserted the constitutional role of the U.S. Congress in declaring war that is believed to have been eroded by Bush during the Iraq war.

Sometimes the best remedy for a botched offense is more offense. The generals call it failing forward. To the extent there were myriad deceptions, we the American people, tragically, did not extract them soon enough from our leaders. In the interim, our nation's ill-considered aggression has birthed a new dynamic.

Let's be fair. There is always the possibility that the present gang that can't shoot straight stumbled upon a bona fide threat to western civilization in the guise of Islamo-fascism. Perhaps the post-hysteria of 9/11 propelled us into a war that was inevitable, if not for this generation then for the next. This is not a Pollyanna tract. Islam's hostile intent towards the West is abundantly displayed both in the Q'ran and in the rhetoric of its more radical adherents, the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda, etc.

There is the equal chance that, in an effort to eliminate some bad eggs, we fired into a peaceable crowd, slaughtered innocents, and in the process unleashed a blood-feud with the surviving, previously peaceable crowd. For better or worse, we are the Zionist interlopers. But how many in America understand why they provoke such hatreds? Absent this crucial knowledge, how can an effective war be waged, much less successfully prosecuted?

The 911 attack could have been portrayed as an anomalous act conducted by a handful of disenfranchised young men wed more to nihilistic despair than to Islam. Instead it was elevated --manipulated perhaps-- into the opening salvo of a war between civilizations. Was this a conscious inflation? These are historic paths-taken not easily reversed.

Of course two despairing realities can be true at once. We were spectacularly lied to and Islamo-fascism is a real threat to western civilization. Frankly we will never know if the enemy we now face predated our hostilities --or simply rose, by necessity, to meet them. If there weren't Islamo-nihilists hell-bent on America's destruction before, few would argue that they don't exist now, and in inestimably larger numbers.

Indeed the legacy of this war may be that it is the precursor to series of follow-on wars, the first confused battle in an inter-civilizational conflict. Gone is the luxury of calling the whole thing off. We have allowed lies and deceptions to govern our nation's actions for too long. Now we are tasked with defeating an enemy perhaps of our own making. The crowning tragedy is that the inevitability of this conflict will never be known. At this stage, the enemy isn't asking either.

Author bio:

Norman Ball is a Virginia-based writer and musician whose writing has appeared in Liberty, Clamor, Hazmat, Identity Theory, Noo Journal, Epicenter and others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The latest developments along the 'War in Iran' path.