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Analysis Last Updated: Mar 11th, 2008 - 23:49:48

Neoconservatives� achievements in Iraq: A benchmark
By Abbas J. Ali, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Mar 12, 2008, 00:46

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Five years after the invasion of Iraq, the neoconservatives may well have a good reason to celebrate its outcome and congratulate themselves for a job well done. While some quarters in Washington and other parts of the world assert that the invasion has not achieved its officially stated goals -- democratization of the Middle East -- others tend to blame unforeseen events for the lack of tangible progress in building a free, democratic, and unified Iraq. Both accounts, however, misrepresent the scope and depth of the neoconservatives� intentions and discount their remarkable progress in Iraq.

Neoconservatives are shrewd students of history. Since their emergence after the 1967 Six-Day War, they have correctly viewed Iraq, at times a country of great potential and the heart of Arab progressive thinking and revivalism, as an obstacle to their Middle East design. Whether they are motivated by Biblical prophecies (Christian Zionists) or by the love of and identity with Israel (founding fathers of and secular neoconservatives), the neoconservatives� camp appears, in its foreign policy directions, to be motivated by sustaining the superiority and security of Israel.

The London Observer (Feb. 23, 2003) asserted that religion plays a significant role in shaping the neoconservatives outlook stating that Karl Rove (then Bush advisor) and Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, are the masterminds behind the invasion of Iraq and that �Rove�s position dovetailed with the beliefs of Paul Wolfowitz, and the axis between conservative Southern Protestantism and fervent . . . East Coast Zionism was gorged -- each as zealous about their religion as the other.� This led, according to Israeli political commentator, Aluf Benn (Feb. 17, 2003), to a policy that �is still focused on transforming the Middle East into an area under U.S. protection, in which Israel will enjoy privileged status.�

Since the early 1920s and until Saddam�s total grasp on power in the late 1970s, liberal and progressive thinking dominated Iraqi public discourse and Iraqis displayed an outward outlook and were hopeful and optimistic for a promising and prosperous future. While people in other Arab countries viewed this situation as a model to be emulated and a source for pride, the neoconservatives treated it as a menace for their design for the Middle East and the security of Israel.

Driven by their messianic and or dogmatic beliefs, the neoconservatives were determined to steer events in Iraq away from its progressive democratic path toward chaotic eventuality. For them a free and prosperous Iraq is contrary to a divine design and is inconsistent with their aggressively promoted image of the Arabs as pathetics, underachievers, and a backward people. Subsequently, obstructing Iraq�s progress and incapacitating its cultural, political, and economic institutions have topped their list of priorities.

Most political commentators and analysts have accepted at face value the neoconservatives� official claim that the invasion of Iraq would transfer the country into a democratic model for the whole Middle East. Unfortunately, this uncritical acceptance has prevented both intellectual and ordinary people from recognizing the fact that the neoconservatives� plan for Iraq has gone through various stages: suppression (docile and alienate, late 1970s-2003), starvation (late 1990s) and humiliation (occupation and demoralization, 2003-).

During the first two stages, the neoconservatives facilitated the rise of Saddam to power and enabled him to get rid of the progressive and patriotic elements in Iraq, including those in Saddam�s ruling Ba�ath Party, and encouraged him to invade Iran, thereby wasting Iraqi�s resources and destroying its capabilities. The cooperation between the neoconservatives and Saddam was exemplified not by Rumsfeld�s visit to Saddam and the unlimited support for him offered by the Reagan administration, but also in considering Saddam as a strategic ally in redesigning the Middle East.

Neoconservative thinkers such as Daniel Pipes and Laurie Mylroie wrote in the New Republic (April 27, 1987) that supporting Saddam served U.S. national security in the long term. Indeed, Saddam�s ambassador in Washington, Nazar Hamdoon, was the favorite speaker at neoconservative think tanks such as the Hoover and Hudson Institutes and was published in the Midstream, the magazine of the American Zionists. It is only when neoconservatives felt that Saddam failed to completely demoralize and polarize Iraqis that they decided to step in and directly colonize Iraq in 2003.

In an interview with The New York Times Magazine in 2002, neoconservative strategist and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz concisely outlined neoconservatives� goals: invading Iraq, ensuring the security of Israel, and �reforming� Islam. Michael Ladeen, a new conservative thinker and the under secretary of state, articulated in 2001 the long-term objectives stating, �we will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until . . . every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle.�

Known for their keen skepticism and sense of history, Iraqi intellectuals and ordinary people alike recognized that the neoconservatives� plan for the invasion of their country would be a prescription for disaster and have catastrophic consequences. Just before the invasion, an Iraqi opposition newspaper, Al-ishteraki (January 2003), published an analysis, Iraqi Invasion and the Undeclared Objectives. The analysis grouped the objectives into short-term and long-term.

To confirm whether or not the neoconservatives achieved their short-term goals, these are stated in their original order as they appeared in Al-ishteraki. Furthermore, a benchmark is provided to measure the degree to which each objective has been met:

  1. Divert World Public Opinion from the Tragedy of the Iraqi People Resulting from U.S.-led Economic Sanctions. The invasion and subsequently the occupation overshadowed what was done to Iraqis over 13 years as a result of harsh, unforgiving economic sanctions. In Orwellian terms, the invasion of Iraq not only �accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way� as it alters history and erases memory.

  2. Changing the Iraqi Social Composition and Legitimizing Crimes Committed Against the Iraqi People During the 1991 Invasion and its Aftermath. The world appears to not only overlook the turning of Iraq, as James Baker proudly claimed, into a pre-industrial era but also the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, especially those who lost their lives on the �death road� between Basra and Kuwait and the seven thousand who were buried alive in the desert near Samawa, southwest of Iraq, around March 1991.

  3. Preventing any Popular or Military Movement from Coming to Power in Iraq and Directly Controlling Iraqi Government Affairs to Inhibit Genuine Democratic Transformation. This has been institutionalized through two strategies: placing former exiled organizations in the governing council and later facilitating their monopoly on power and marginalizing and forcefully suppressing emerging and homegrown popular groups. Likewise, through careful manipulation of events and infiltration of their ranks, the neoconservatives have been effective in steering these groups from patriotic issues and more toward sectarian and communal causes.

  4. Strengthening Sectarian and Ethnic Discourse and Outlook and Setting the Stage for Partitioning Iraq and Putting an End to Its Cultural and Intellectual Role. Faced with popular demand to hand authority to Iraqis and end occupation, the occupation authority was able to recruit communal and sectarian individuals and ethnic warlords to assume power. It managed to obscure national and patriotic issues, while highlighting differences rather than integration. Paul Wolfowitz recruited Noah Feldman and Larry Diamond to develop a flawed interim constitution in defiance of the will and desire of the majority of the Iraqi people. This interim document was applied as the platform for framing the new Iraqi constitution which is full of contradictions and practically institutionalizes division and sectarian strife.

  5. Paralyzing and Obstructing the Role of Culture and Religious Centers, Especially That of the Religious Authority, and Cultural and Heritage Centers in Najaf and Karbala. The neoconservatives embarked initially on four strategies: restraining and intimidating religious authority to prevent the voicing of patriotic concerns, institutionalizing the divisional representation of two Muslim communities, using members of the former exiled groups to further preach and inflame sectarian discord, and establishing new religious organizations and committees to further fragment and weaken well established authorities.

  6. Marginalizing the Role of the Patriotic and Religious Forces While Introducing Iraqi Exiled Groups . . . as a Substitute for Iraqi Movements Which Have Never Left the Country and Have a Strong Popular Base. Those Iraqis in exile who accompanied the invading forces and showed a commitment to the presence of foreign troops and agenda have been situated in the center of power and have been lavishly rewarded. Consequently, these groups have developed vast interests in the continuation and the presence of foreign troops and in inciting instability and chaos.

  7. Engaging in Intense Propaganda Against the Arab and Muslim People by Focusing on Saddam Hussein and His Alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction to Legitimize Any Action to Suppress their Civic, Political, and Economic Rights. While this goal has been gradually met at home, it is overseas where neoconservatives have been exceptionally successful in motivating Arab and Muslim dictators to severely limit freedom of expression and association for their people. Since then, foreign troops have been given the freedom to attack Arab and Muslim countries (e.g., Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, etc.) disguised as a �war against terror.�

In the context of long-term objectives, Al-ishteraki identified five goals. These are:

  1. Using Iraq as a Staging Ground to Strike Arab and Muslim Liberation Movements and Intimidating Existing Arab Governments to Go Along With the Neoconservatives� Design. Mobilizing foreign troops along Iranian and Syrian borders and stationing troops in Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Djibouti, etc. have been instrumental in silencing popular voices and strengthening dictators.

  2. Obliterating Iraq from its Arab National Identity and Partitioning it into Warring Sectarian and Ethnic Entities. This has been forced into the new neoconservative-backed Iraqi constitution, by the sharing of power in Baghdad based on ethnic and sectarian affiliation, and practical separation of the northern part from the rest of the country.

  3. Redesigning the Arab Political Map and Strengthening Arab Fragmentation and Alienation. This is an on-going project which has seen its fruition, so far, in Sudan, Lebanon, and occupied Palestine.

  4. Waging Intense Propaganda against Islam and Changing Its Foundations and Pillars by Spreading Extremism and Intolerance and Projecting Them as Islamic Concepts and Ideology. The emergence of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups and the slaughtering of Muslims by these groups in places like Iraq, Pakistan, Algeria, and Afghanistan demonstrate the effectiveness of the alliances between the neoconservatives and Arab dictators, not only in profoundly altering the image of Islam but also in institutionalizing chaos in the Arab world.

  5. Monopolizing and Controlling the Source of Energy in the Arab World and Central Asia and Utilizing That as an Instrument to Dictate the Fate of Other People. Oil in Saudi Arabia and many Arab and Central Asian countries have been mortgaged to Western oil companies.

Collectively, it appears that the neoconservatives have done exceptionally well in reaching their immediate goals and have made reasonable progress in achieving long-term goals. They have not only initiated a perpetual war but also legitimized cruelty and full scale destruction of what once used to be functional and economically thriving societies (e.g., Iraq, Lebanon). Underestimating their achievements may desensitize the public from grasping the depth of the threat which the neoconservative ideology poses to civilization and the international community.

Indeed, neoconservatives have neither experienced setbacks nor have they have made mistakes in their Iraqi venture. Their invasion of Iraq and the continuing bloodshed there demonstrates without doubt that the neoconservatives have reached a milestone in realizing their grand goals of militarizing the globe, the globalization of fear, and the institutionalization of chaos in the Middle East.

Abbas J. Ali, Ph.D., is a professor and director in the School of International Management, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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