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Here come the odious excuses

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    The philosophers behind the bloodbath in Iraq are now washing their hands Here come the odious excuses By Robert Fisk www.independent.co.uk 11/11/06 The
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 13, 2006
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      The philosophers behind the bloodbath in Iraq are now washing their hands


      Here come the odious excuses
      By Robert Fisk
      www.independent.co.uk


      11/11/06 "The Independent" -- -- "Great news from America!" the
      cashier at my local Beirut bookshop shouted at me yesterday morning,
      raising her thumbs in the air. "Things will be better after these
      elections?" Alas, I said. Alas, no. Things are going to get worse in
      the Middle East even if, in two years' time, America is blessed with a
      Democrat (and democratic) president. For the disastrous philosophers
      behind the bloodbath in Iraq are now washing their hands of the whole
      mess and crying "Not Us!" with the same enthusiasm as the Lebanese
      lady in my book shop, while the "experts" on the mainstream US east
      coast press are preparing the ground for our Iraqi retreat - by
      blaming it all on those greedy, blood-lusting, anarchic, depraved,
      uncompromising Iraqis.

      I must say that Richard Perle's version of a mea culpa did take my
      breath away. Here was the ex-chairman of the Pentagon's Defence Policy
      Board Advisory Committee - he who once told us that "Iraq is a very
      good candidate for democratic reform" - now admitting that he
      "underestimated the depravity" in Iraq. He holds the president
      responsible, of course, acknowledging only that - and here, dear
      reader, swallow hard - "I think if I had been Delphic, and had seen
      where we are today, and people had said: 'Should we go into Iraq?' I
      think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other
      strategies...'"

      Maybe I find this self-righteous, odious mea culpa all the more
      objectionable because the same miserable man was shouting abuse down a
      radio line to me in Baghdad a couple of years ago, condemning me for
      claiming that America was losing its war in Iraq and claiming that I
      was "a supporter of the maintenance of the Baathist regime". This lie,
      I might add, was particularly malicious since I was reporting Saddam's
      mass rapes and mass hangings at Abu Ghraib prison (and being refused
      Iraqi visas) when Perle and his cohorts were silent about Saddam's
      wickedness and when their chum Donald Rumsfeld was cheerfully shaking
      the monster's hand in Baghdad in an attempt to reopen the US embassy
      there.

      Not that Perle isn't in good company. Kenneth Adelman, the Pentagon
      neocon who also beat the drums for war, has been telling Vanity Fair
      that "the idea of using our power for moral good in the world" is
      dead. As for Adelman's mate David Frumm, well he's decided that George
      Bush just "did not absorb the ideas" behind the speeches Frumm wrote
      for him. But this, I'm afraid, is not the worst to come from those who
      encouraged us to invade Iraq and start a war which has cost the lives
      of perhaps 600,000 civilians.

      For a new phenomenon is creeping into the pages of The New York Times
      and those other great organs of state in America. For those
      journalists who supported the war, it's not enough to bash George. No,
      they've got a new flag to fly: the Iraqis don't deserve us. David
      Brooks - he who once told us that neocons such as Perle had nothing to
      do with the President's decision to invade Iraq - has been ransacking
      his way through Elie Kedourie's 1970 essay on the British occupation
      of Mesopotamia in the 1920s. And what has he discovered? That "the
      British tried to encourage responsible leadership to no avail",
      quoting a British officer at the time as concluding that Iraqi Shia
      "have no motive for refraining from sacrificing the interests of Iraq
      to those which they conceive to be their own".

      But the Brooks article in The New York Times was also frightening.
      Iraq, he now informs us, is suffering "a complete social integration",
      and "American blunders" were exacerbated "by the same old Iraqi
      demons: greed, blood lust and a mind-boggling unwillingness to
      compromise, even in the face of self-immolation". Iraq, Brooks has
      decided, is "teetering on the edge of futility" (whatever that means)
      and if American troops cannot restore order, "it will be time to
      effectively end Iraq", diffusing authority down to "the clan, the
      tribe or sect" which - wait for it - are "the only communities which
      are viable".

      Nor should you believe that the Brooks article represents a lone
      voice. Here is Ralph Peters, a USA Today writer and retired US army
      officer. He had supported the invasion because, he says, he was
      "convinced that the Middle East was so politically, socially, morally
      and intellectually stagnant that we (sic) had to risk intervention -
      or face generations of terrorism and tumult". For all Washington's
      errors, Peters boasts, "we did give the Iraqis a unique chance to
      build a rule-of-law democracy".

      But those pesky Iraqis, it now seems, "preferred to indulge in old
      hatreds, confessional violence, ethnic bigotry and a culture of
      corruption". Peters' conclusion? "Arab societies can't support
      democracy as we know it." As a result, "it's their tragedy, not ours.
      Iraq was the Arab world's last chance to board the train to modernity,
      to give the region a future...". Incredibly, Peters finishes by
      believing that "if the Arab world and Iran embark on an orgy of
      bloodshed, the harsh truth is that we may be the beneficiaries"
      because Iraq will have "consumed" "terrorists" and the United States
      will "still be the greatest power on earth".

      It's not the shamefulness of all this - do none of these men have any
      shame? - but the racist assumption that the hecatomb in Iraq is all
      the fault of the Iraqis, that their intrinsic backwardness, their
      viciousness, their failure to appreciate the fruits of our
      civilisation make them unworthy of our further attention. At no point
      does anyone question whether the fact that America is "the greatest
      power on earth" might not be part of the problem. Nor that Iraqis who
      endured among their worst years of dictatorship when Saddam was
      supported by the United States, who were sanctioned by the UN at a
      cost of a half a million children's lives and who were then brutally
      invaded by our armies, might not actually be terribly keen on all the
      good things we wished to offer them. Many Arabs, as I've written
      before, would like some of our democracy, but they would also like
      another kind of freedom - freedom from us.

      But you get the point. We are preparing our get-out excuses. The
      Iraqis don't deserve us. Screw them. That's the grit we're laying down
      on the desert floor to help our tanks

      ===

      Neocons turn sharply on Bush administration


      Neo Culpa
      by David Rose
      November 3, 2006
      Vantiy Fair
      http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2006/12/neocons200612?printable=true¤tPage=all


      As Iraq slips further into chaos, the war's neoconservative boosters
      have turned sharply on the Bush administration, charging that their
      grand designs have been undermined by White House incompetence. In a
      series of exclusive interviews, Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David
      Frum, and others play the blame game with shocking frankness. Target
      No. 1: the president himself.

      I remember sitting with Richard Perle in his suite at London's
      Grosvenor House hotel and receiving a private lecture on the
      importance of securing victory in Iraq. "Iraq is a very good candidate
      for democratic reform," he said. "It won't be Westminster overnight,
      but the great democracies of the world didn't achieve the full, rich
      structure of democratic governance overnight. The Iraqis have a decent
      chance of succeeding." Perle seemed to exude the scent of liberation,
      as well as a whiff of gunpowder. It was February 2003, and Operation
      Iraqi Freedom, the culmination of his long campaign on behalf of
      regime change in Iraq, was less than a month away.

      Three years later, Perle and I meet again at his home outside
      Washington, D.C. It is October, the worst month for U.S. casualties in
      Iraq in almost two years, and Republicans are bracing for losses in
      the upcoming midterm elections. As he looks into my eyes, speaking
      slowly and with obvious deliberation, Perle is unrecognizable as the
      confident hawk who, as chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board
      Advisory Committee, had invited the exiled Iraqi dissident Ahmad
      Chalabi to its first meeting after 9/11. "The levels of brutality that
      we've seen are truly horrifying, and I have to say, I underestimated
      the depravity," Perle says now, adding that total defeat—an American
      withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic "failed state"—is not yet
      inevitable but is becoming more likely. "And then," says Perle,
      "you'll get all the mayhem that the world is capable of creating."

      According to Perle, who left the Defense Policy Board in 2004, this
      unfolding catastrophe has a central cause: devastating dysfunction
      within the administration of President George W. Bush. Perle says,
      "The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get
      made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out
      endlessly.… At the end of the day, you have to hold the president
      responsible.… I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition
      within his own administration, and the disloyalty."

      Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would
      not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been
      delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should
      we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's
      consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us
      most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to
      terrorists.' … I don't say that because I no longer believe that
      Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or
      that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two
      premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means
      other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have."

      Having spoken with Perle, I wonder: What do the rest of the pro-war
      neoconservatives think? If the much caricatured "Prince of Darkness"
      is now plagued with doubt, how do his comrades-in-arms feel? I am
      particularly interested in finding out because I interviewed many
      neocons before the invasion and, like many people, found much to
      admire in their vision of spreading democracy in the Middle East.

      I expect to encounter disappointment. What I find instead is despair,
      and fury at the incompetence of the Bush administration the
      neoconservatives once saw as their brightest hope.

      To David Frum, the former White House speechwriter who co-wrote Bush's
      2002 State of the Union address that accused Iraq of being part of an
      "axis of evil," it now looks as if defeat may be inescapable, because
      "the insurgency has proven it can kill anyone who cooperates, and the
      United States and its friends have failed to prove that it can protect
      them." This situation, he says, must ultimately be blamed on "failure
      at the center"—starting with President Bush.

      Kenneth Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who
      served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed
      article in The Washington Post in February 2002, arguing: "I believe
      demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a
      cakewalk." Now he says, "I just presumed that what I considered to be
      the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed
      going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most
      incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them,
      individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly,
      dysfunctional."

      Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that
      neoconservatism itself—what he defines as "the idea of a tough foreign
      policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral
      good in the world"—is dead, at least for a generation. After Iraq, he
      says, "it's not going to sell." And if he, too, had his time over,
      Adelman says, "I would write an article that would be skeptical over
      whether there would be a performance that would be good enough to
      implement our policy. The policy can be absolutely right, and noble,
      beneficial, but if you can't execute it, it's useless, just useless. I
      guess that's what I would have said: that Bush's arguments are
      absolutely right, but you know what, you just have to put them in the
      drawer marked can't do. And that's very different from let's go."

      I spend the better part of two weeks in conversations with some of the
      most respected voices among the neoconservative elite. What I discover
      is that none of them is optimistic. All of them have regrets, not only
      about what has happened but also, in many cases, about the roles they
      played. Their dismay extends beyond the tactical issues of whether
      America did right or wrong, to the underlying question of whether
      exporting democracy is something America knows how to do.

      I will present my findings in full in the January issue of Vanity
      Fair, which will reach newsstands in New York and L.A. on December 6
      and nationally by December 12. In the meantime, here is a brief survey
      of some of what I heard from the war's remorseful proponents.

      Richard Perle: "In the administration that I served [Perle was an
      assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan], there was a
      one-sentence description of the decision-making process when consensus
      could not be reached among disputatious departments: 'The president
      makes the decision.' [Bush] did not make decisions, in part because
      the machinery of government that he nominally ran was actually running
      him. The National Security Council was not serving [Bush] properly. He
      regarded [then National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice] as part of
      the family."

      Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute freedom scholar: "Ask
      yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are
      women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet
      Miers, and Karen Hughes."

      Frank Gaffney, an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan
      and founder of the Center for Security Policy: "[Bush] doesn't in fact
      seem to be a man of principle who's steadfastly pursuing what he
      thinks is the right course. He talks about it, but the policy doesn't
      track with the rhetoric, and that's what creates the incoherence that
      causes us problems around the world and at home. It also creates the
      sense that you can take him on with impunity."

      Kenneth Adelman: "The most dispiriting and awful moment of the whole
      administration was the day that Bush gave the Presidential Medal of
      Freedom to [former C.I.A. director] George Tenet, General Tommy
      Franks, and [Coalition Provisional Authority chief] Jerry [Paul]
      Bremer—three of the most incompetent people who've ever served in such
      key spots. And they get the highest civilian honor a president can
      bestow on anyone! That was the day I checked out of this
      administration. It was then I thought, There's no seriousness here,
      these are not serious people. If he had been serious, the president
      would have realized that those three are each directly responsible for
      the disaster of Iraq."

      David Frum: "I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could
      persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would
      feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the
      big shock to me has been that although the president said the words,
      he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe,
      everything."

      Condoleezza Rice. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

      Michael Rubin, former Pentagon Office of Special Plans and Coalition
      Provisional Authority staffer: "Where I most blame George Bush is that
      through his rhetoric people trusted him, people believed him.
      Reformists came out of the woodwork and exposed themselves." By
      failing to match his rhetoric with action, Rubin adds, Bush has
      betrayed Iraqi reformers in a way that is "not much different from
      what his father did on February 15, 1991, when he called the Iraqi
      people to rise up, and then had second thoughts and didn't do anything
      once they did."

      Richard Perle: "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear
      on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no
      voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened
      after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I'm getting damn tired of
      being described as an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing
      down Saddam. Nobody said, 'Go design the campaign to do that.' I had
      no responsibility for that."

      Kenneth Adelman: "The problem here is not a selling job. The problem
      is a performance job.… Rumsfeld has said that the war could never be
      lost in Iraq, it could only be lost in Washington. I don't think
      that's true at all. We're losing in Iraq.… I've worked with [Rumsfeld]
      three times in my life. I've been to each of his houses, in Chicago,
      Taos, Santa Fe, Santo Domingo, and Las Vegas. I'm very, very fond of
      him, but I'm crushed by his performance. Did he change, or were we
      wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged
      before? I don't know. He certainly fooled me."

      Eliot Cohen, director of the strategic-studies program at the Johns
      Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and member of the
      Defense Policy Board: "I wouldn't be surprised if what we end up
      drifting toward is some sort of withdrawal on some sort of timetable
      and leaving the place in a pretty ghastly mess.… I do think it's going
      to end up encouraging various strands of Islamism, both Shia and
      Sunni, and probably will bring de-stabilization of some regimes of a
      more traditional kind, which already have their problems.… The best
      news is that the United States remains a healthy, vibrant, vigorous
      society. So in a real pinch, we can still pull ourselves together.
      Unfortunately, it will probably take another big hit. And a very
      different quality of leadership. Maybe we'll get it."


      David Rose is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.

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