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10 Dec, 2006

Iraq Study Group report warns U.S. about dangers of staying the course

Originally Published: 10 Dec 2006

Like many Middle East watchers around the world, I carefully read through the Iraq Study Group report which, curiously enough, seemed to reflect the views of many of my columns over the past five years.

And the global media reporting of its contents also seemed to reflect the same line. While the report was rife with suggestions about how to handle the situation in Iraq (the symptoms), the real solutions (the cause) which got no virtually no coverage were featured on page 54.

The report said: “The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.”

And then on page 55 it laid out “The Way Forward – A New Approach”. These were the bulletpoints:

“<> There is no military solution to this (Israeli-Palestinian) conflict.

“<> The vast majority of the Israeli body politic is tired of being a nation perpetually at war.

“<> No American administration — Democratic or Republican — will ever abandon Israel.

“<> Political engagement and dialogue are essential in the Arab-Israeli dispute because it is an axiom that when the political process breaks down there will be violence on the ground.

“<> The only basis on which peace can be achieved is that set forth in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and in the principle of “land for peace.”

“<> The only lasting and secure peace will be a negotiated peace such as Israel has achieved with Egypt and Jordan.”

For many years, democratically elected leaders, politicians government officials, businessmen, academics and journalists throughout the Arab/Islamic world have been repeating this call persistently and consistently. I, too, mentioned the land-for-peace factor in my last column.

We have been ignored and/or criticised.

A dying patient seeing no positive results from the treatment being administered would have long ago sought a second opinion. The Iraq Study Group report is precisely that, a second opinion.

The solutions suggested therein are painful either way. They recommend that the US can either stay the course and continue to bear the significant and escalating financial and human pain and cost. Or it can change course and bear the pain of admitting that it was wrong.

For the rich, proud, powerful, influential and strong, mesmerised by their delusions of grandeur and the illusory imagery of Hollywood good-vs-evil blockbusters, to admit to being wrong, having listened to the wrong advice, made a mistake, is a worse form of pain.

And the reason for that is simple: It hurts the pride, not for nothing considered to be the first of the Seven Deadly Sins. It means a humiliating loss of face and affects status and position by reflecting a climb-down.

Merge pride with stupidity and ignorance, and the combination becomes even more lethal – as many hundreds of bereaved families will find out by this Christmas and New Year in America and by the Islamic festival of Eid Ul Adha at roughly the same time in Iraq.

Which of the two “pains” will the US opt for? The majority of Americans made their choice clear in the new Congress they elected.

But they are up against the shrill and hysterical hand-wringing of the same minority that led them into this morass – and actually wants to see more pain of the wrong kind.

Take for example people like Joshua Muravchik, described as “a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute” who wrote a column in the November 19, 2006, issue of the Los Angeles Times that began with the no-ifs-and-buts assertion: WE MUST (his caps) bomb Iran.”

After going through the usual simplistic, arguable and in parts totally false arguments about the Iranian “threat” to just about everyone, the “scholar” said more violence would be well worth the pain.

“Wouldn’t such a U.S. air attack on Iran inflame global anti-Americanism? Wouldn’t Iran retaliate in Iraq or by terrorism? Yes, probably. That is the price we would pay. But the alternative is worse.”

“Scholars” like Joshua Muravchik, and “think-tanks” like the American Enterprise Institute were the primary players behind the lies told to the world about the “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.

Not only are these rogues being held unaccountable, they have the freedom to openly and blatantly seek more pain, violence and state terrorism at a time when the world is saying “enough is enough”.

Note the callousness of that comment: “That is the price we would pay.” Who precisely is “we”? Mr Muravchik? His wife and children?

No sir, the pain would be borne by someone else’s children – the same children being sent to the killing fields of Iraq to pay the price of protecting the world from the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein turned out not to have.

What the Iraq Study Group does not do, and what is badly needed, is to recommend a post-mortem – a thorough analysis of the lobbying groups, academics, media and “think tanks” who have influenced US politicians and policy over the years.

These are the main culprits, and unless they are bought to book with the same fervour as “Islamic terrorists”, the conflagration will continue to spread.

Indeed, there is every sign that that is exactly what will happen in 2007 – creating more death and destruction is one sure-fire means of shirking responsibility for having caused it in the first place.

As long as the fire keeps burning, and more fuel continues to be poured on the flames, investigators cannot go in to probe its causes.

The policy is no different from that in Vietnam, to which the situation in Iraq is being increasingly compared: One has to destroy the village in order to save it – the consequences be damned.