Iraq and the Neocons: The Sequel

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tags: Iraq, Neocons



Professor of History, California State University, Sacramento. Professor Palermo's most recent book is "The Eighties" (Pearson 2012).

...We've recently heard prattling in the mainstream media about how successful the 2007 "surge" had been in Iraq and how President Barack Obama somehow "failed" because he didn't follow the neocon prescription of endless occupation. But the "surge" had not altered the underlying civil and sectarian ruptures in Iraqi society the US invasion unleashed.

Neocons and elite media personalities who got everything wrong on Iraq now darken my TV screen telling me to ignore the invasion, the eight-year occupation, the lies about weapons of mass destruction, "mushroom clouds" becoming "smoking guns," the torture at Abu Ghraib prison and everything else, and pretend the war started with General David Petraeus's miraculous "surge" where everything was wonderful in Iraq until the "dove" Obama pulled the plug.

It's a nice narrative if your goal is partisan advantage, but like so much else we've heard from policy elites regarding Iraq, it has nothing to do with reality.

When placed in the context of the ghastly human costs of the US occupation, the "surge" was only a small part of the wider picture. One reason why there was a lull in the car bombs, IEDs, and suicide bombers for a brief time was because the CIA was dispersing millions of US tax dollars via satchels full of cash to the cutthroats, killers, and warlords among the "Arab Awakening" in (Sunni) Anbar Province. Many of these same elements are now part of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The other cause for the cosmetic "success" of the "surge" was that Baghdad had been already ethnically cleansed by the time the "Baghdad Security Plan" was launched in February 2007.

You won't hear anybody on TV talk about the 2.2 million Iraqis who were internally displaced within the country at the time of the "surge" (and another 2 million that fled the country). Along with the steady increase of the refugee population in Iraq came the greater authority and expansion of the sectarian militias.

The leader of ISIL, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, reportedly spent years inside one of the many American-run prisons in Iraq. According to the New York Times ISIL's "rise is directly connected to the American legacy in Iraq. The American prisons were fertile grounds for jihadist leaders, and virtual universities, where leaders would indoctrinate their recruits with hard-line ideologies."

After all the car bombs, suicide bombers, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs); after all the torture and collateral murder; after all the beheadings, massacres, and power drills used as "interrogation" tools; it should come as no surprise that the US invasion of Iraq continues to produce more violence and horror.

The Kenneth Pollacks and the Michael O'Hanlons and the Robert Kagans and the Paul Wolfowitzes and others think-tankers and esteemed members of the commentariat all claim to be great "strategic" thinkers. Yet none of them are asked to explain how they missed the neon signposts that ousting the Sunni government in Baghdad would strengthen the power in the region of the clerical Shia government of Iran.

Nothing proves better the folly (or disingenuousness) of the neocon "strategic vision" for the Middle East than the United States today being forced to seek assistance from Iran to contain a Sunni jihadist insurgency in Iraq that didn't even exist until the US invaded.

Since many of the neocons cut their teeth inside the Reagan administration, it's hard to believe they were unacquainted with the "strategic" contours of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. America's Sunni Arab allies in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia wouldn't support the US invasion of Iraq, in part, because they saw Saddam Hussein as a buffer against Iranian influence.

So, even based on the neocons' own "strategic" terms the Iraq invasion was a total failure...




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