"Something Smells"

Who wants to revisit the reasons we went to war at this point? I do. Because the integrity of the project is one reason it has run aground. The American people have lost faith not just because we're losing, but because they harbor legitimate doubts as to the good faith in which the Iraq decision was made. I was once contemptuous of such doubts, but the evidence has forced me to revisit some of them. Here's a long reader email that lays out what he believes were the real reasons for the war, as opposed to the ones we were told about. It's not left-wing paranoia, although some element of paranoia about these people now seems to me to be a sign of mental stability. I'm not sure yet what I believe about what really happened. It's unknowable in many ways until historians get their hands on the records. But anyway, for the purpose of airing these themes, here's my reader's take (and he's not too kind to me either):

Ultimately, all of these scandals and revelations force us to confront the basic issues of why the Iraq War was launched in the first place. What do we know now or suspect to be largely true?

1. The WMD intelligence was flimsy, and there is a good deal of circumstantial evidence suggesting the inner core surrounding Bush all knew this and went to war anyway. This has as much been admitted both in the infamous Downing Street Memo and by Paul Wolfowitz.

2. Democratization and humanitarian relief only became an issue once WMDs fizzled. The president's lack of movement on Darfur also suggests 'human rights' and democracy aren't a motivating force with this administration.

3. 'Terror' - as with WMDs, there is a strong possibility this reason was knowingly overplayed by the inner core. They refused to move on Zarqawi and Iraqi Islamists, who were irregardless a minor force in Saddam's Iraq and lurking in areas of the country that Saddam could not reach them. We also know the president pulled away reinforcements from Afghanistan in order to put them in the deployment pipeline for Iraq as the now infamous as Tora Bora took place.

So, what was the reason? Consider this possibility...

The Bush/Cheney axis came to power in 2000 with an idée fixe that the primary threat to US security were traditional 'hard power' issues of national security. Thus, the pulling out of the anti-ballistic treaty and the early scuffle with China over a US reconnaissance flight in the South China Sea. (remember way back then?) There was also, importantly, a preexisting belief, especially among the neocons but really, as seen by your willingness to buy it, throughout the conservative establishment, that Iraq, but especially Iran and its offshoots were dire threats to US interests in the region.

Ultimately, those interests are two - Israel and oil. While this is not the place to discuss the influence of what some call the 'Israel lobby' in the United States, the fact remains, however, that the dominance of the religious right in the Republican party made pleasing them an important factor in any political calculation...and Israel plays an important part in the elaborate 'End Times' mythology popular among the christianist religious right.

As for oil, it is too crass to say oil profits is what motivated the invasion, but it is disingenuous to argue against the role that security of oil supplies and access to them played in the Bush/Cheney decision-making process. Indeed, access to oil and oil security has been a large part of the reason we are involved in the Middle East and stretches back to World War II when Roosevelt met with and forged a relationship with the reigning king of Saudi Arabia on an American warship off the coast of Egypt in 1945. It was the reason why we overthrew Mossadeq and backed the Shah of Iran in 1953. It’s why we intervened against Iraq in 1991. Oil and oil security have ALWAYS been at the forefront of US Middle-East policy.

This being the case, consider the geopolitics of oil supply after 9/11. We had been, first of all, been literally run out of Iran in 1979 and, after 9/11, the fact stands that the majority of the hijackers were Saudis and the man ultimately behind the operation, Bin Laden, was a rich Saudi. Saudi Arabia represents the pinnacle of Islamist autocracy and stands 100% opposed to American values – and yet we were dependent upon them for military bases to protect the Gulf’s oil assets. Couple this also with these facts:

1.  World, but especially Chinese, demand for oil had been growing and continues to grow exponentially.
2.  Western and western-friendly oil assets are either all in sustained decline or approaching the point of decline from peak oil production.
3.  The last time world oil discovery outpaced world oil consumption was twenty years ago.
4.  The remaining massive, potentially politically accessible deposits of oil left remaining available to the industrialized West were all contained in the Middle East.

Under these conditions the Iraq War makes sense geo-strategically, politically, in fact in almost every way. Regime change creates a secure client state in the middle of the world’s last remaining great oil patch at time of dwindling supplies. It protects Israel, and so satisfies the pro-Israel part of the party. Insofar as it uses the rhetoric of ‘freedom versus terrorism’ it can be spun ideologically in a way that garners support and splits the opposition – thus creating the political el dorado of Rove’s ‘permanent majority’. It provided lucrative contracts to the military-industrial complex. It gave the pro-Republican officer corps a prestige boost and something to put on their resumes. It appealed to liberal interventionists like Thomas Friedman, nauseating moralists like you, and salivating imperialists like Bill Kristol. Throw in an arrogant, ignorant president with a messianic complex and a chip on his shoulder, a subservient, politicized mass media, an incompetent opposition, and a supremely ignorant, panicked, and fearful citizenry and the question inverts itself. Under these conditions, how could we NOT go to war against Iraq in 2003?

The rest, as they say, is history.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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