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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Inscrutable 

Via Zemblan patriot K.Z.: For the last year or so, former Pentagon analyst Karen Kwiatkowski (USAF, ret.) has been touring the college circuit with a speech entitled "Our Inscrutable Iraq Policy: Why We Did It, What To Do Now, and What Happens Next." It opens with a bracingly efficient demolition of the Bush administration's stated pretexts for going to war ("What the Pentagon senior civilian staff and the President were saying about Iraq did not match the intelligence I’d been looking at regularly for over four years"), but the meat of the speech is the middle section, in which Kwiatkowski attempts to catalogue the real causes for which 2,000 American soldiers have been killed and 25,000 seriously injured. "[I]mproved process in the decision making for the war in Iraq would have saved few lives. What we have here is a war designed in fact to take lives, to bring America to a new place where we are irrevocably physically, financially and emotionally invested in the Middle East – not just outsiders interested in peace or oil. It may be our first war of empire in over a hundred years":
  • One reason has to do with enhancing our military-basing posture in the region. We had been very dissatisfied with our relations with Saudi Arabia, particularly the restrictions on our basing. There was dissatisfaction from the people of Saudi Arabia, and thus the troubled monarchy. So we were looking for alternate strategic locations beyond Kuwait, beyond Qatar, to secure something we had been searching for since the days of Carter — to secure the energy lines of communication in the region. Bases in Iraq, then, were very important — that is, if you hold that is America’s role in the world. Saddam Hussein was not about to invite us in.

  • A major reason for the invasion, and the urgency of it, is that sanctions and containment had worked, and over the years, almost too well. They had become counterproductive. Many companies around the world were preparing to do business with Iraq in anticipation of a lifting of sanctions. But the U.S. and the U.K. had been bombing northern and southern Iraq since 1991. So it was very unlikely that we would be in any kind of position to gain significant contracts in any post-sanctions Iraq. And those sanctions were going to be lifted soon, Saddam would still be in place, and we would get no financial benefit. Some of you may have read Naomi Klein’s Harpers article, published in September 2003, called "Baghdad Year Zero." She makes a compelling case for the convergence of business interests and a kind of neoconservative free market ideology – and that the invasion and occupation was a clean slate transformation of a command economy into a free trade utopia. Neoconservative ideology does not embrace free trade in the sense that libertarians or Adam Smith embrace it, but instead prefers significant state involvement and leans towards a social democratic model of domestic governing. However, Klein’s article will be eye-opening for those of you who still think that we went in for the reasons stated by the administration.

  • Another reason is a uniquely American rationale, and it relates to our currency, and our debt situation. Saddam Hussein decided in November 2000 to sell his Food for Oil program oil sales in euros. The oil sales permitted in that program aren’t very much. But when the sanctions would be lifted, the sales from the country with the second largest oil reserves on the planet would have been moving from the dollar to the euro.

    The U.S. dollar is in a sensitive period because we are a bigtime debtor nation now. Our currency is still popular, but it’s not backed up like it used to be. If oil, a very solid commodity, is traded on the euro, that could cause massive shifts in confidence in trading on the dollar. A recent article by Robert Freeman called "The Bush Budget Deficit Death Spiral" has this to say:
    This run-up in debt represents the most rapid, predatory looting of public wealth in the history of the world. The interest costs alone will consume the government and, soon, the entire economy. In fiscal 2004, interest costs came to $321 billion against a deficit of $415 billion. So three quarters of all the current year borrowing is spent paying interest on past borrowing. This is the most immediate symptom of the deficit death spiral.
    Freeman also quotes Herbert Stein, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Richard Nixon was fond of saying, "Things that can’t go on forever, don’t."

  • In any case, the first executive order regarding Iraq that Bush signed in May [2003] switched trading on Iraq’s oil back to the dollar.

  • There are other reasons, beyond bases, contracts, and stability of the dollar during bad times. A big one is the general idea embraced by the neoconservative ideologues in the administration that the best thing we can do for Israel’s security is to be there. It is not enough to send several billions in economic and military aid each year, and it is not enough to veto UN resolutions that are unfavorable to Israel. It is not enough to have bases in Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab monarchies and oligarchies. Some of these American friends are not friends of Israel, and it makes taking diplomatic actions against them more difficult. In the view of many neoconservatives, America needs to be there, militarily and economically in the region, working closely with Israel, our lone democratic ally and one that has the human intelligence capability on the ground that we have never had, and never will have.

  • You may notice that building civil society, fostering democracy, and helping improve a bad humanitarian situation are not the reasons we went to Iraq, or why we are staying. We had no plan and fewer resources dedicated to building civil society. We actually don’t like democracies much, like those in Europe for example. We tend to prefer those we buy to stay bought, and this is the realm of dictators and monarchs in countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Staying bought is a problem for democracies. Consider the independence we saw in the democracy of Turkey when, in spite of many millions of loan guarantees and aid we were offering, they refused to allow our ground troops access to Iraq over Turkish territory.

  • Lastly, humanitarian reasons only make sense in an Orwellian scenario, where we kill people in order to save them. If humanitarian concern was a driver for our policies in Iraq, the economic sanctions would have been lifted instead of waiting until after we took over the country and unleashed chaos.
In the remainder of the speech Kwiatkowski outlines a pragmatic withdrawal plan -- prefaced by some pointed moral advice to the President, which we cannot resist excerpting:
I would advise that we pull out of Iraq completely, and leave any keys to our new bases with the local Iraqi in charge, if we can find him. We instruct our commercial companies in Iraq that they are no longer going to be subsidized by the American taxpayer at a monstrous markup, and that they are no longer going to be protected and served by American troops in armored, and unarmored, vehicles. Having done the right thing in Iraq, the President must then immediately fire, and in some cases bring up on charges the folks who advised him so terribly badly. This includes Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and Condi Rice. Tenet is already gone. The President would then need to apologize to the American people, and beg their mercy.

For obvious reasons, this isn’t going to happen.
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