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US Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Iraq hearings « Previous | |Next »
February 6, 2007

Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski recently appeared before the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee on February 1st in its hearings on Iraq in a Strategic Context or Iraq in the broader context of American foreign policy and strategy in the region.In his opening remarks on the 1st day Senator Joseph R. Biden talked in terms of a “disengage and contain” strategy because Bush's present strategy will not work.

Brzezinski was paired with Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Former National Security Advisor, and he opened his statement with this:

'It is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities:

1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America's global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.

2. Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying regional tensions.

You don't hear that language in the Australian Parliament these days. They tend to avoid the Iraq issue even though its the elephant in the room. The ALP has no courage on the Middle east regional issue at all.

Brzezinski went on to say:

If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan

Brzezinski added:
A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD's in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the "decisive ideological struggle" of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America's involvement in World War II.

He is right. Americans and Australians were sold a false WMD story to help build political support for a White House pre-committed to an Iraq War. The political benefits of fear-mongering flowed their way. The same game is being played around Iran and its nuclear programme, with the likely scenario being that the administration plans to bomb Iran and plans to do it whether Congress likes it or not.

This simplistic and demagogic "decisive ideological struggle" narrative is what is recycled by some members of the Australian Government. No wonder few listen.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:07 AM | | Comments (4)


Unfortunately, the White House is not coming to grips with those two realities described above.

Lately Howard when confronted with questions on Iraq has dropped the simplistic demagogic narrative in favour of a more realist message; Australia as a key member of the American imperium needs to continue to the support the US as it struggles to maintain hegemony over the middle-east. With Washington and London in crisis, now is not the time to withdraw support even though the invasion and occupation of Iraq has clearly been a monumental failure resulting in the widespread loss of human life.

The war has weakened US hegemony in the region and not expanded and strengthened it as the neocons had expected. In the history of imperial-colonial wars the invasion of Iraq will go down as one of the biggest blunders of all time. Historians are already equating it with likes of Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Spain.

In any case, Howard is attempting to link Iraq to Australia’s underlining security. A unilateral withdrawal would damage US relations and jeopardise the ANZUS treaty. He may use the Whitlam Govt’s withdrawal from Vietnam in 1972 as an analogy. I don’t think this argument holds up as the US has too many economic interests in Australia to ever allow another power to infringe on those interests. Besides, due to the Iraq fiasco, particularly the heavy loss of life that has ensued, the US is somewhat isolated in the world today. No one should underestimate the severe loss of standing and prestige in the world that the US and Britain (to a lesser extent Australia) have experienced as a result of this war.

Political Critic,
Then, as Brzezinski says, It is also time for the Congress to assert itself. It is a Democrat Congress, now and it needs to assert itself to avoid this kind of situation as argued by Chalmers Johnson in this book. I noticed that Senator Richard Luger was more conventional in his opening remarks. He said:

Quite apart from the military-diplomatic “surge” in Iraq that has been the focus of so much attention, we are now seeing the outlines of the new, U.S. regional approach: a more assertive stance by our military toward Iranian interference in Iraq, a renewed diplomatic effort on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, substantial U.S. security assistance to Palestinian President Abbas, and a U.S.-led effort to bolster the Lebanese government against Hizballah.

He went on to say that the President’s current Iraq plan should not be seen as an endgame, but rather as one element in a larger Middle East struggle that is in its early stages. Luger was quite optimistic:
The President’s Baghdad strategy is still aimed at an optimal outcome – the creation of a democratic, pluralist society that will cooperate with us in achieving regional stability. At this stage, that is a goal worth pursuing. But our strategy in Iraq must be flexible enough to allow for changing circumstances.

It would seem that it is not just the White House White House is not coming to grips with those two realities described by Zbigniew Brzezinski .

I was thinking of the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. You are right about Howard, as his justifications have changed in the way you describe. To leave now is to rat on the Americans.

But it's not really 'the Americans' is it? Given what is being said in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Howard's use of 'American's' should be changed to the Bush Republican administration. Many Americans oppose the war in Iraq.

The ALP should be bringing Howard and Downer to account. But they give them a free ride instead of arguing along the lines you suggest. Gee, even Japan is asserting its independence and asserting a new, more robust yet healthy nationalism based on Japanese interests rather than American designs. Its Australia that remains the lapdog of US interests. Arguing in terms of an insurance policy doesn't disguise being a lapdog. What it does do is try to run a 'stab-in-the-back narrative ' against the ALP.