Menu lock

United States

Jun 13, 2014

Iraq insurgency revives shuffling zombie neocon army

The chaos in Iraq is another chance for neoconservatives to push for Western intervention -- a course that will again make us less safe from terrorism.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

“To the American people, I know you’re war-weary, I know you’re tired of dealing with the Mid-East. But the people that are moving into Iraq and holding ground in Syria have as part of their agenda not only to drive us out of the Mid-East, but to hit our homeland.”

Republican Senator Lindsey O. Graham was thus the first neocon to be fully reanimated by the looming partition of Iraq. Graham, who until recently has had to make do with trying to connect Benghazi and the Ukraine, will be just the first of the hawks being vomited forth from their graves to demand intervention. John McCain might have been beaten to the punch, but he was a close second, with the novel twist of using events in Iraq to demand a delay in the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The government of Iraq — the sort of description that seems to merit several sets of air quotes — is a paralysed United States client controlled by Nouri al-Maliki, whose human rights abuses run to rape, torture and execution (“let freedom reign”) and whose army appears to have maintained the Saddam-era tendency to flee at the first taste of opposition. Unless it is able to reassert control against ISIS and, for that matter, the Kurds (traditionally framed as much-betrayed honorary Westerners who have a special claim to our support, who have taken advantage of the chaos to seize the long-coveted Kirkut), a shambling army of zombie neocons will be on the march. They’ll look decidedly the worse for wear a decade on but they’ll insist, as per Graham, that you can fight them in Iraq or fight them in the streets of the your own town, but you have to fight them one way or another, so which would you prefer?

“The Iraq War thus was a multitrillion-dollar exercise in making Western citizens materially less safe from terrorism …”

Let’s do a quick recap of where that logic has left us.

The United States is estimated to have spent $1.7 trillion on the Iraq War so far, with much more to come via healthcare and veterans’ costs — the real corporate winners from the war aren’t so much defence companies or even services companies, but US healthcare companies. The final total may be around $4 trillion, decades hence. The cost to the United Kingdom of its participation was US$14 billion in 2010; the cost to Australian taxpayers of our role had, by 2011, reached $2.4 billion. The war led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis — estimates vary between 100,000 and 600,000. So many Iraqis died during the allied occupation and ensuing civil war that according to the World Bank, life expectancy fell by two years between 2002 and 2007 and had still not recovered to pre-war levels in 2010.  Nearly 4500 US troops died, along with 179 UK servicemen and women, with many thousands more injured and crippled.

As we all know, the justification for the war, Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, didn’t exist. But the broader strategic goal of making the West safer from terrorism was never achieved. In fact, quite the opposite: while the Blair and Howard governments rejected any link between Iraq and the increasing risk of terrorism, in 2006, a US intelligence report concluded that “the Iraq War has made the overall terrorism problem worse”. That conclusion was echoed by a UK government report that year into the 2005 London bombings and confirmed by the head of British intelligence service MI5 in 2010 in evidence to the Chilcott Inquiry. The then-head of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Keelty, also reached that conclusion in 2004.

The Iraq War thus was a multitrillion-dollar exercise in making Western citizens materially less safe from terrorism, at least in the view of the intelligence agencies paid to make such assessments, but then again they said Saddam had WMDs.

Australia’s contribution to a renewed effort in Iraq, as the comparative costs above illustrate, would be trivial — something US President Barack Obama noted in 2007 when he replied to John Howard’s lunatic remark that terrorists would be hoping for an Obama victory. “[W]e have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1400, so if he is … to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.”

Neocons insist — as McCain and other GOP figures like John Boehner already have — that the apparent collapse of Iraq is the fault of Obama and their opponents; it was the West’s failure to stay the course in Iraq, to treat it as a Cold War-style generational struggle. It’s not neoconservatism that failed, they insist, but our failure to be neoconservative enough. In fact, it is another example of the self-perpetuating nature of the War on Terror, which endlessly replicates the very conditions that produce radicalisation, thereby ensuring the war, with its associated government expenditure and restrictions on liberties, need never end.

Another Western intervention in Iraq, like the previous one, will again make Western citizens less safe. Our intelligence agencies might take a break from mass surveillance — which didn’t prevent the West from being surprised at the fall of Mosul — to pass that advice on to their political masters.

We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola

34 comments

Leave a comment

34 thoughts on “Iraq insurgency revives shuffling zombie neocon army

  1. Mark Duffett

    So spell it out, Crikey and Keane: your position is that Islamists more extreme than Al Qaeda should be left to take over Iraq entirely unencumbered by any Western action, yes?

  2. klewso

    Or “Do the job right – with a plan – rather than a wish and some PR” this time?

  3. Dan B

    The same thing will follow the total withdrawal in Afghanistan. We left Iraq because of politics, not based on conditions on the ground. Nor by assessments from our Generals.
    Although Obama has extended the US’ presence in Afghanistan by another 3 years, the inevitable withdrawal will create the same vacuum and conditions for a resurgent al Qaeda funded insurgency to cause chaos in its wake. We will never learn.

  4. pragmatic

    Remember Vietnam ……..

  5. Djbekka

    Here is the issue stated in a different way. Do we produce democracy with the barrels of foreign guns? Can we even produce safe places to have a multicultural society with guns? I would say that the answer is no even though that seems to be the way US led coalitions seems to operate – have an election, get a reasonable outcome – take the army away and leave the elected government to do the job of elected governments in the West. I just can’t see the US military or any military, conducting actions which bring local combatants together, get them talking, provide jobs for disaffected youths, protect mosques of different sects, see that girls get to school safely and the economy operates at as a peace economy.

    On the other hand, my cynical side can see it is a tempting way for the current government in Australia to regain some authority. The question asked by Mark Duffett rolls over all other considerations and reduces the issue to the West and the ‘extremists’. I agree that ISIS is extreme. I don’t agree that Western military intervention is the immediate answer. I don’t agree that the way to support the millions of refugees is to spend our money on things that blow up rather than on houses, food and assistance in organising self sustaining safe camp communities.

    This is a case in which Islamists are attacking Muslims in their homes and cities. How will millions of western dollars in military intervention really help Iraqis who want to worship in their mosques, work in their businesses and live in their homes?

    There has to be another, and much more complex, way to move away from civil war.

  6. AR

    Sen. Graham was the genius who said, in defeating yet another piss-weak gun control following a massacre,”..large capacity magazines (for assault rifles) are necessary to that a mother doesn’t run out of bullets defending herself..“.
    Can it be that the US exports terror because it has so much of it in the dementented amerikan scream?
    It can’t be simple, stupid greed as the original Republican reptile, PJO’Rourke, opined, “it cost us more to steal Iraq’s oil than to buy it”.

  7. graybul

    Passing on advice to ideologically driven ultra Conservative Politicians ie Abbott/Morrison/Brandis etc; whether those wishing to inform be Intelligence Oganizations, serving or ex General(s), or distraught General Public et al . . tends to be painful, thankless and ultimately a bloody great waste of time!!

  8. Stuart Coyle

    Perhaps it’s time that Tony Abbot read his predecessor’s book, “Dangerous Allies” by Malcolm Frazer. I’m sure Mal is saying ‘I told you so’ right now.

  9. Venise Alstergren

    And to think our gallant Tony Abbott has already volunteered Australian troops, to Mr Obama, to fight another useless, and counter-productive, atrocity to the Middle East and Asia.

  10. John Hamer

    well put Mark Duffett. Agree entirely with your sentiments.

Leave a comment