In most circumstances, “We told you so” is a classless statement. But in this case, it’s justified. In 2003, in the largest global protest in human history, millions of us marched in the world’s streets, loudly proclaiming that invading Iraq would be an unmitigated disaster. Meanwhile, Israel’s neocon loyalists achieved exactly what they wanted: a perpetual nightmare of internecine conflict. While Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser dreamt up the ‘Clean Break’ war in 1996, long before the Second Intifada, surely part of the motivation to pull the trigger was revenge for Saddam Hussein’s financial support for Palestinian suicide bombers.
Owen Jones writes in The Guardian:
The catastrophic results of the Iraq invasion are often portrayed as having been impossible to predict, and only inevitable with the benefit of hindsight. If only to prevent future calamities from happening, this is a myth that needs to be dispelled. The very fact that the demonstration on that chilly February day in 2003 was the biggest Britain had ever seen, is testament to the fact that disaster seemed inevitable to so many people…
The commentators who cheered on the conflict, far from being driven from public life are still feted: still writing columns, still dispensing advice in TV studios, still hosting thinktank breakfasts…
In a way, opponents of the war were wrong. We were wrong because however disastrous we thought the consequences of the Iraq war, the reality has been worse. The US massacres in Fallujah in the immediate aftermath of the war, which helped radicalise the Sunni population, culminating in an assault on the city with white phosphorus. The beheadings, the kidnappings and hostage videos, the car bombs, the IEDs, the Sunni and Shia insurgencies, the torture declared by the UN in 2006 to be worse than that under Saddam Hussein, the bodies with their hands and feet bound and dumped in rivers, the escalating sectarian slaughter, the millions of displaced civilians, and the hundreds of thousands who died: it has been one never-ending blur of horror since 2003.
Meanwhile, Israel’s American neocon supporters got exactly what they wanted: a reshaping of the Middle East through pre-emptive warfare, imposed destabilization, and chaos. Brian Whitaker in the Guardian:
For the hawks, disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is going according to plan.
In their eyes, Iraq is just the starting point – or, as a recent presentation at the Pentagon put it, “the tactical pivot” – for re-moulding the Middle East on Israeli-American lines.
This reverses the usual approach in international relations where stability is seen as the key to peace, and whether or not you like your neighbours, you have to find ways of living with them. No, say the hawks. If you don’t like the neighbours, get rid of them.
The “skittles theory” of the Middle East – that one ball aimed at Iraq can knock down several regimes – has been around for some time on the wilder fringes of politics but has come to the fore in the United States on the back of the “war against terrorism”.
Its roots can be traced, at least in part, to a paper published in 1996 by an Israeli thinktank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Entitled “A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm”, it was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Binyamin Netanyahu. As the title indicates, it advised the right-wing Mr Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism …”
The paper set out a plan by which Israel would “shape its strategic environment”, beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad.
In 2003, a small number of voices on the liberal left and anti-neocon conservative right questioned what was, at least in large part, a war for Israel. Patrick Buchanan wrote:
Though we have given Israel $20,000 for every Jewish citizen, Israel refuses to stop building the settlements that are the cause of the Palestinian intifada… Israel suborned Jonathan Pollard to loot our secrets and refuses to return the documents, which would establish whether or not they were sold to Moscow… When Clinton tried to broker an agreement at Wye Plantation between Israel and Arafat, Bibi Netanyahu attempted to extort, as his price for signing, release of Pollard, so he could take this treasonous snake back to Israel as a national hero…
Though we have said repeatedly that we admire much of what this president has done, he [Bush II] will not deserve re-election if he does not jettison the neoconservatives’ agenda of endless wars on the Islamic world that serve only the interests of a country other than the one he was elected to preserve and protect.