The American client government in Iraq has embarked on a remarkable campaign of diplomatic hostilities with its neighbor, Syria, accusing Damascus of, among other things, the modern-day blood libel that immediate consigns a nation to diplomatic hell, and makes it a target for what George W. Bush used to call "the path of action": supporting al Qaeda.
As Jason Ditz reports, America's Baghdad satrapy has been broadcasting confessions "obtained" (via "strenuous" but no doubt justified and right-minded interrogation) from captives blamed for the recent bombing attacks that have shaken the PR image of a calmer, surge-soothed Iraq. The bombings also pointed up the vast failures of the client regime to provide security or bring together the warring factions inside the country. These goals are of course impossible for a regime installed and maintained in power by foreign invasion; even so, they represent the Green Zoners' sole claim to "legitimacy." Thus any threat to the PR image undermines the regime's hopes to survive the partial reduction of American occupation forces (erroneously termed a "withdrawal" in the obfuscating argot of imperial message management).
And so the client state led by sectarian extremist Nouri al-Maliki has turned to the time-honored tactic used by governments since time immemorial to divert attention from its own manifest failures: blaming foreign devils. Naturally, the Maliki regime cannot blame its foreign masters in Washington for unleashing, arming, abetting and exacerbating the murderous chaos in the conquered land. Nor can they blame their long-time mentors and supporters in Iran. So that leaves Syria.
With the televised confessions, the Maliki regime has moved swiftly from blaming Baathist diehards who have been hiding amongst the multitude of Iraqi refugees to accusing the Damascus regime of openly directing the attackers -- and now, in the latest show-trial spectacle, of supporting al-Qaeda training camps on Syrian soil.
This is heavy stuff indeed. For as we all know, the presence of al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan was the sole, purported reason for the American invasion in 2001; and preventing the re-establishment of such camps is still one of the primary excuses for continuing the slaughter there. The presence (or threat) of al-Qaeda camps is also proffered as justification for extending the Terror War into Pakistan and Somalia. What's more, the continual -- and blatantly false -- trumpeting of a "connection" between al Qaeda and Iraq was, in the end, the principal reason why the Iraq invasion garnered so much initial public support; the act of unprovoked aggression was seen as "payback for 9/11," as so many U.S. soldiers put it in those heady early days.
The "al Qaeda" card trumps everything else. It justifies any action: invasion, torture, drone attack, rendition, death squads, covert ops, war profiteering, draconian power -- "the dark side, if you will," as one great American statesman put it. By openly accusing the Syrian government of sponsoring al Qaeda and directing terrorist attacks inside Iraq, the Maliki regime is laying the groundwork for any action their Washington masters might want to take against Damascus at any time.
The regime is also giving one more reason to delay and dilute the American drawdown (which is also a cherished goal of the American militarists): are you going to pull out troops from Iraq when al Qaeda is getting state protection on Iraq's borders and launching terrorist attacks?
Iraq's extraordinary accusations against Syria -- which have already led to a mutual withdrawal of ambassadors -- have thus far garnered little attention amongst the scribes who attend upon the imperial court. And who knows? At a nod from Caesar, the Iraqis might kiss and make up with Damascus tomorrow, if that is deemed more suitable for the immediate needs of imperial policy. But one should always remember that Syria has long been -- and still remains -- a prime target of that faction of American militarists known loosely as neo-cons. Indeed, at one point, it was a toss-up as to which "recalcitrant tribe" of Arabs they wanted the American war machine to hit first: Iraq or Syria?
As I noted way back in caveman times -- April 2003, to be exact -- the neo-cons had been putting Syria in the crosshairs for years:
A few months before PNAC's prophetic 2000 report [which longed for "a new Pearl Harbor" to "catalyze" the American people into supporting a vast and profitable militarist agenda], an allied group with an overlapping membership published a similar document outlining steps to be taken against Syria: first "tightening the screws" with denunciations and economic sanctions, then escalating to military action, as Jim Lobe of Inter-Press Agency reports. The architects of this document included Elliot Abrams, the convicted perjurer now running Bush's Middle East policy; Douglas Feith, one of Shifty's top aides; Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary to Colin Powell, and influential Pentagon advisors such as David Wurmser, Michael Leeden and everyone's sweetheart, Richard "Influence-Peddler" Perle.
The report sprang largely from the loins of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon, a curious grouping of right-wing American Christians, right-wing American Jews, and a sprinkling of Lebanese exiles. They object -- rightly -- to the fact that Syria has maintained "long-term access to major military bases" in Lebanon, using this minatory presence to exercise undue sway over Lebanon's political and economic life. Of course, some cynics would say this situation is remarkably akin to Israel's own 18-year occupation of, er, Lebanon, or the United States' decades-long -- and still-continuing -- military presence in Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Panama, etc. But you know what cynics are like.
The USCFL also provides highly insightful and very nearly literate analyses of vital regional issues, such as its seminal paper, "Even Arabs Don't Like Arabs." But the mindset of the group -- whose members now stalk the corridors of power in Imperial Washington -- is perhaps best displayed in its thoughtful 2001 treatise, "A Petition Demanding War Against Governments That Sponsor Terrorism" (Except, of course, for governments who enforce their will by the ever-present threat and use of violence -- i.e. terrorism -- but are run by nice white men educated at Yale and Oxford.)
Here, the proto-Bushist group demands that six "rogue nations" -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya and Sudan -- "turn over their governments to the United States" on pain of massive military response. The United States will then "occupy these territories until proper governments" -- ones that allow "long-term access" to major military bases, no doubt -- "can be established." And just how massive should that threatened U.S. military response be? The USCFL is, as always, admirably -- and brutally -- forthright: "America must set a clear example-identical to that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If you tread on me, I will wipe you off the face of the earth."
In the end, of course, Iraq represented too glittering a prize for all the various militarist factions to pass up on the first course. But you must never underestimate the appetite -- and persistence -- of our militarists. The latest accusations of the Iraqi client regime will be used to stoke the never-ending fires of militarist warmongering; they won't rest until every knee bows to their god of American Dominance.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on August 31, 2009.