Monday, April 03, 2006

Iraq: the real motives

Justin Raimondo’s latest on the Israel Lobby and, in particular, Chomsky’s scepticism at the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis (I’ve left out the links in the original text):

“. . . the big problem for Chomsky and his co-thinkers on the Left is that their reasoning is dizzyingly circular. They ascribe everything to the machinations of a ‘corporate’ cabal, but their case is stated in terms of the broadest generalities, leaving the details to the imagination.

It is the lack of details, however, that is most telling. Because wars are started not by abstract ‘forces’ nor by ideological constructs floating in mid-air, but by individuals – not corporate entities, but specific government officials, their advisers and employees. One could say that, in the abstract, the ‘stovepiping’ of false information about Iraq's alleged WMD was the result of late capitalism's moral corruption and the ‘class interests’ of Scooter Libby, but most people would find such a formulation baffling – and it is certainly inadequate.

The question of how and why we were lied into war is a matter of fact, not ideology. Abstract ‘forces’ had nothing to do with it: specific individuals carried out specific acts. The misinformation that was deliberately planted was produced not by decaying capitalism, but by the decayed moral sense of certain government officials. And I'd be very surprised if the Niger uranium forgeries were fabricated by capitalists in top hats.”

The value of socialist analysis is that it gives weight to class issues;  the problem is that it cannot comprehend anything except in terms of class issues.  The socialists make exactly the same mistake that the capitalist economists make, which is too ascribe way too much importance to economic interests, and deny that there are any other motives in human life.  The capitalists claim that the central focus of economics is the individual or family, and the socialists like to look at class, but they both make the same mistake.  People act for a large number of motives.  Some are economic, some relate to power, and some relate to more ethereal notions like religion, nationalism, or tribalism.  All three played a role in the attack on Iraq:

  1. The economic interests involved were surprisingly mundane and, well, crooked.  The Bush Administration wished to make money for itself and its friends in the corporate provisioning world of companies like Halliburton.  Dick Cheney is personally richer with each passing day of the occupation.  I know it’s not the giant intellectual motive that both the neocons and their critics like to talk about, but this kind of corruption plays a major role in the fact that there are still Americans in Iraq.
  2. I’ve already referred to the power aspect of war for politicians.  The Bush Administration was aimless until it had a chance to kill people.  Politicians use war to create a problem, which they then purport to solve.  While the occupation has been described as a disaster for Bush, where would he be without it?
  3. I’ve left Israel for last, but it is a critical motive, without which there almost certainly would not have been an attack and occupation.  Jewish neocons, supporters of Israeli colonialism for either religious (apocalyptic), nationalist or tribal (racial) reasons,  worked behind the scenes to manipulate intelligence (‘stovepiping’) and public opinion (aluminum tubes), all in aid of political motives stated in the ‘Clean Break’ paper prepared for Netanyahu.  They were backed up by the power over the Bush Administration held by Christian Zionists, but the actual manipulators were people like Feith, Wolfowitz, and Wurmser.  I’ll need another posting  -‘From Bitburg to Baghdad . . .’, if I ever get around to writing it -  to explain how Israel set up the Republican Party reliance on the Christian Zionists.

What about all the other reasons for war I keep hearing about?:

  1. Oil?  If the Americans and British just wanted oil, they would have negotiated a lifting of the sanctions, which were essentially an Anglo-American game.  They could have had their own people running the oil fields as part of the same negotiations. At the moment and for the foreseeable future, Iraqi oil and money to be made from it is off the table.  The oil companies didn’t want this war, as they knew what was going to happen, as did all the oil men in the Bush Administration.
  2. Bases in Iraq?  But why?  The Americans had to give up their best bases in the Middle East due to anger at the attack on Iraq.  Under Rummy’s thinking, one base is as good as another, and they don’t need to be close together.  The irony is that the billions are being spent on the bases in order to provide an excuse for the occupation.  Were it not for the bases, the Americans might just as well go home (i. e., the troops aren’t there to protect the bases, the bases are there to give the troops something to protect!).  The reason the Bush Administration wants to keep American troops in Iraq is to continue to make the money off provisioning, keep power through ‘fixing’ the problems caused by the occupation, and increase the insurgency thus leading to the civil war desired by Israel.
  3. Empire?  A reason completely without content.  The American Empire is hardly better off with thousands of troops tied up for the next ten or twenty years in Iraq.  Empire justifications are always useless, as whatever the United States does will be described as advancing its imperial interests.  It would make far more sense to say, had the Americans decided not to attack Iraq, that that decision would have been based on the interests of Empire.
  4. Geopolitics?  Same problem.  The idea that the United States is trying to encircle the Russians is not without merit, but the Iraq adventure has just strengthened Russia’s relative strength.                       
  5. Chomsky’s high-fallutin’ class-based Marxist analysis.  Completely circular.  No matter what happens, no matter whose interests are advanced, they will give you the same answer:  it’s all for the benefit of the American plutocracy.  They will tell you this even when it is obvious that the long-term interests of the plutocracy are hurt by it.  The funny thing is that the Americans are making exactly the same mistakes that the British made when the British Empire fell.  Free-trade, messing with the monetary system, wars.  It didn’t work for the British, and it won’t work for the Americans.  Are these people badly informed?  No.  Are they stupid?  No.  In each case decisions were made based on the short-term interests of people close to power, decisions which led inevitably to the loss of Empire.  The decisions weren’t based on ‘class’ interests, unless you define the term in a completely circular manner, but were based on the same mix of motives we see in the case of the American attack on Iraq.

The final response will be that all these motives played a role, but the Americans were just mistaken or misinformed.  As we learn more and more about what the Bush Administration actually knew, this argument becomes more and more silly.  The Pentagon and the State Department had – and have – rooms full of documents describing in meticulous detail exactly what was going to happen, and all of this was shared with the Administration.  The Administration didn’t want this stuff to get out, as it might have stopped the war, but they were completely aware of it.  They just didn’t care.  Their personal interests – money, power, and, yes, Israel – were more important to them.  This is the way the real world works.  It’s all a conspiracy.

 

 

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