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Apocalyptic views « Previous | |Next »
February 15, 2007

Barack Obama challenges the view that an American withdrawal from Iraq will result in unbridled civil war and massive carnage. This view, which is peddled by John Howard, is based on what Robert Dreyfuss calls a worst-case assumption: that if America leaves quickly, the Apocalypse will follow. This, says Howard, will spread to South-East Asia and threaten Australia's national security in a substantive way. Will it?

IraqSA.jpg
John Spooner

It's reasonable to question when the whole context of the debate around the Iraq war has shifted towards when and how to withdraw. Only Howard and Bush and their neocon supporters are sticking to their old lines of staying the course until victory is achieved, without really saying what victory actually means these days, given that it's no longer about democracy. What they do instead is push the fear button when what is needed is a national debate on the floor of Parliament and in civil society on the American/Australian course in Iraq.

What is being suggested by Bush and Howard about the consequences of a staged withdrawal. In a post-occupation Iraq al-Qaeda or other (unnamed) Islamic extremists will seize control once America departs; or that al-Qaeda will establish a safe haven in a rump, lawless Sunnistan and use that territory as a base, much as it used Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. This hardly squares with the realities on the ground: sinccethe bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra a year ago, the sectarian map of Baghdad has been almost completely redrawn as Shiites pushed Sunnis from area after area.

The Robert Dreyfuss article in The Washington Monthly is good and well worth reading.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:33 AM | | Comments (12)
Comments

Comments

Interesting the contrast between Howard's language here and with climate change.

With Iraq, where we really have little idea what will happen, no matter what course we take, it is all apocalyptic,as you pointed out. Western civilisation will fall and suicide bomber's will be runnuing around our local Westfield rather than a crowded market place in Baghdad.

On climate change, with most evidence and scientific opinion backing the view that this could actually be apocalyptic for ALL of humanity, we get denial, followed by downplaying of it's significance.

If Howard is as badly wrong on climate change as he has been on Iraq, we are all screwed.

BigBob,
Nice analysis. What is common to both of Howard's responses is the political context:--Howard is on the back foot and defending his corner.

On Iraq, Howard cannot afford to acknowledge that the US has probably been defeated in Iraq by the insurgency already. So he is prone to slips--exaggerations re Barach Obama ---because he cannot admit to being wrong on Iraq.

On climate change he slipped as well--remember him saying that the jury was still out on the link between climate change and greenhouse emissions.

I read these errors or slips as Freudian slips. Adorno wrote somewhere that the truth of psychoanalysis was the exagerations.The exaggerations allow us a peep into Howard's political unconscious. What we see doesn't look pretty.

Gary, An oblique comment--perhaps.
According to a post on todays Truthout Rush Limbaugh has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize!

The right-wing pro-war mob would have us believe that a withdrawal from Iraq would cause an escalating scenario of inter-Islamic violence (Shiite/Sunni) that would have a ‘domino effect’ throughout the entire Middle East region.

Sounds familiar. US withdrawal from Vietnam, so we were told, would allow all of South East Asia to fall to communism. We were also told that capitulation in Vietnam would lead to a massive bloodbath inflicted on the South Vietnamese by the North Vietnamese. While US withdrawal did result in a surge in violence in some SE Asian countries, violence in that region would have been much greater had the US stayed there. As it turns out the region is now comparatively stable and the promised bloodbath in Vietnam never transpired. Now tens of thousands go to Hanoi for their holidays! The domino effect didn’t bring communism to Australia from SE Asia and the new domino effect of so-called Shiite/Sunni violence is not likely to arrive in Australia via SE Asia either as Howard believes. It’s the same old fear furphy’s; it was communism last time, now its Islam.

The violence between Shiite and Sunni in Iraq, contrary to popular opinion is not based on religious differences but on localised political differences that are in the main contained within Iraq as a result of the various power struggles for political positioning both within the existing US-dominated political system and later for when the US and allies do eventually leave. While Saddam’s reign has left deep scars among the Iraqi people, there is no reason to believe that revenge is in any way the major motivation of the current violence much of which is as much between rival political and criminal groups of Shiites as it is between Shiites and Sunnis.

The right-wing pro-war mob rhetoric that would have us believe that the entire region would descend in to chaos if they left now is a furphy. The only people that are really trying to stir up trouble in the Middle East are the US (in Iraq and Iran) and Israel who have recently been sitting back watching with glee the in-fighting that has been going on between Hamas and Fatah, fighting which was prompted by the US and Israel’s failure to recognise the democratically elected Hamas government and the consequent withdrawal of financial support which ended up being at the core of the Palestinian internal strife.

The longer the US and their allies stay in Iraq the bigger the numbers on the casualty lists are going to get as the dead continue to mount up. On the other hand, the quicker the US leave the quicker the Iraqi people can find their own way to self-determination.

Damian,
The harsh reality of Iraq is the ongoing slide into Hobbesian anarchy. One interpretation

The lawlessness that has overcome Iraq and its fledgling government has its source not in the insurgency – which is limited to the Sunni Triangle – and not in the Shi'ite militias (which do keep a kind of order, albeit a bloodstained, sectarian one) – but in the Americans, who run the country as if it were a conquered province. Too bad for them it doesn't want to stay conquered…

Too true Gary, and the slide in to that hell that is the Hobbesian model is made all the more frightening not just by the nature of the weapons available to all of the protagonists but because the major protagonist, the US with the biggest weapons of all, seem hell-bent on seeing it through to Hobbes’ inevitable nightmarish conclusion. Only cooler heads within the US, the American people themselves, are able to arrest the surge to self-destruction - and that with the support of the peoples of the world.

Damien,
It does appear as if the current United States government--or more accurately the Bush Administration---is hell-bent on a wider war in the Middle East.

But it eludes me why this administration is intent on starting yet another war in the Middle East. Is it due to the neo-con desire for empire--- a unipolar world with aspirations to world supremacy?

Gary, the think-tank neocons and Bush and the neocons and their supporters in his administration don’t see it as starting another war; they see it merely as a continuation of their ‘war against terrorism’.

The neocon worldview has two goals. One of them is not so much about World Empire per se but it certainly is about a unipolar world where ‘American’ (neocon) values and ideals reign supreme.

The other is to create an Israeli empire, ‘Greater Israel’, that reigns supreme in their part of the world and that is surrounded by subdued Arab nations that are dominated not by Islamic theocratic governments but by secular American-style ‘democratic’ governments that are Israeli and Western friendly.

Of course, the bottom line, as always, is money and the power required to maintain the procreation of wealth. Much of the ‘fuel’ (literally) that drives the creation of wealth is in the Middle East.

Therein lays ‘American’ values. It’s not really American values, however, because most Americans don’t ever get to share in this wealth but they are encouraged to hanker for it. In doing so the illusional perception of ‘American values’ as some kind of all-encompassing concept that all Americans share is created and propagandised as something the entire world can aspire to.

In many ways Hurricane Katrina brought the illusion crashing down as its aftermath exposed the soft underbelly of the reality of everyday life for the vast majority of ordinary Americans. The illusion of ‘American Exceptionalism’ was exposed to the world.

Most of the peoples of the world do not wish to be part of a World Empire that has to live like most Americans do.

Increasingly, nor do most Americans!

Damian,
I do agree with about the regional strategy of the US in the Middle East: it is to ensure Israeli hegemony. Hence Iran must be defined as the enemy because it resists and contests this strategy.

So we have the following double speak strategy, as described by Zvi Bar'el in Haaretz

Washington seeks democracy but can also dismiss its results; it is opposed to settlements, not to speak of outposts, but has already accepted them as a fait accompli; it is in favor of a final accord, but before this is achieved, it has defined its prior conditions.

I see that President Bush is taking the Israeli-Palestinian political process out of the deep freeze, where it has languished since Hamas won the election a year ago.

The Washington neocons (and the local branch in Australia) say they are committed to bringing democracy to the Middle East. Though we have the longed-for Palestinian democracy that brought Hamas to power, the US and Israel proceed to destroy that democracy in the name of peace and security.They have little concern to facilitate Palestinian society to carry out nation-building under the difficult conditions in which it finds itself.

For the US and Israel it is Hamas that wears all the blame for the lack of progress--stalling-- re peace etc ; the US and Israel bear no responsibility for the ever-escalating cycle of violence, victims and despair./ or for the members of the various Palestinian militias in Gaza killing each other.

Do you think that the Mecca Accord between Fatah and Hamas, which was brokered by Saudi Arabia, change much of the regional dynamics? Will it help the Palestinians come out from under Israeli occupation to create the infrastructure that will give their political entity some sort stability?

Gary,

First off, thanks for the links you provided which gave the neocon view of the ME.

I don’t think the so-called Mecca Accord is going to make one iota of difference to the Israeli-US stance on Palestine. The bottom line for the right-wing Israelis is a Gaza and West Bank that is part of a Greater Israel. The US (Condi) has already hinted that in all likelihood the US will still not support any Palestinian government – ‘unity’ or otherwise – that does not entirely recognise Israel’s existence (which is interestingly going to be at odds with Russia, that other partner in the ‘Quartet’ who have said they would recognise a unity government) and Hamas has made it quite clear that it will not recognise Israel while any Israeli is on one inch of pre-1967 Palestinian soil.

I don’t think it will change the regional dynamics drastically but hopefully it may put an end to the very unfortunate inter-factional fighting. What it does demonstrate, however, is the extremely complex relationships that various factional groups have with each other throughout the Middle East.

What Bush and the neocons would really like to have us believe is that, if they pulled out of Iraq, the entire Middle East is going to disintegrate into some kind of Sunni/Shiite regional bloodbath that will pull in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and then the entire Islamic world all the way down to Indonesia (and thence Australia if we were to believe one word Howard says in justifying our continued presence in Iraq).

This, of course, is complete nonsense. The violence between Sunni and Shiites in Iraq is nowhere near as intense or as widespread as the mainstream media would like us to believe. (Very bloody, yes; but not widespread.) What there is seems to be more about positioning for power in the current US dominated-Iraqi government than actual religious or ethnic rivalries. There is also an element of payback from the Saddam era but you’ll find that much of the violence is actually between rival Shiite gangs and militias, many of them criminal rather than political. The same among many of the Sunni groupings. All of them, however, have one thing in common – nobody wants the Americans there.

The neocons paint a picture of Sunnis being at Shiite throats, not just in Iraq but throughout the entire Middle East. This is simply not so. Hamas (Sunni) and Hizbollah (Shiite) support each other and get on very well with each other, indeed, it is this fact that is of a hindrance to the Israelis and the reason why America and Israel are trying to wedge the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq and why America and Israel are highlighting the potential of a regional Sunni/Shiite bloodbath. Not going to happen. Sure, there are a few differences that they are going to need to sort out but it will be in the interests of all the other nation –state players in the ME to contain it within Iraq. Only Israel gains by such spill-over regional conflict.

Damian,
yes I agree. An interesting article by Roger Cohen in the
International Herald Tribune.

I acknowledge that the Mecca Agreement will not result in the lifting of American-Israeli siege. I assume that the Israeli's are running the joint ticket in the region, and that for them Israeli (and American?) security is all that really matters.

I presume that it was hoped (by Saudi Arabia?) that the formation of a unity government in Palestine would lift the international political and economic embargo on the Palestinians.

If this Mecca Agreement, brokered by Saudi Arabia, tries to patch over Palestinian differences and stem violence between Fatah and Hamas, then the United States government doesn't want a compromise. It is seeking a decisive confrontation between the two sides by funding a corrupt Fatah to take control.

The US is pushing the confrontation to the point of ensuring a Palestinian civil war, which would create more bloodshed for Palestinians and, presumably, Israelis.So why encourage such an armed showdown when it helps to destablize the region?

Is the strategy that is directed Hamas also directed at Iran and Syria because Hams is the proxy for Iran? Is this the regional conflict scenario that Jordan's King Abdullah warned about:-- the rise of the Shi'ite crescent that must be blocked?

Something needs to be developed to balance the American Israeli dominance in the region---a balance of power in the old fashioned sense.


Gary,
At least the Mecca Accord has put a dampener on the Palestinian factional violence – for now anyway. The Saudis are also getting the ball rolling by putting up several millions of dollars to relieve some of the debt the Palestinian Authority has run up in salaries etc., which the West and Israel has refused to cough up or have held back on in their efforts to choke Hamas out of business. It’s a start.

A unity government is not in Israel’s interests but, of course, they can’t be seen to be outrightly rejecting it. The sticking point is basically the issue of the pre-1967 Israeli border; the Israelis don’t want to discuss it and Hamas won’t discuss anything until the Israelis accept they must move back to the 1967 line.

The problem I believe can only be solved by the international community overwhelmingly demanding that Israel does what is required of them via various outstanding UN resolutions and move back to their pre-1967 borders. That international pressure must be overwhelming – even in the face of the current US support of the Israeli right-wing Zionists – and part of that pressure must come from the Israelis themselves and, importantly, must be supported by the worldwide Jewish Diaspora, particularly those in America. The emergence of such a movement is already beginning to happen. It is I think the only hope for both the Palestinian and Israeli people.