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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.


“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.


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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.

  11. John Ryan

    Well maybe we and the US will learn not to interfere in cobbled together by the Brits,learn what you are getting into before you go blundering into quicksand.
    The Gang of 4 war criminals deserve what they get,but Howard,Blair,Bush & last but not least $20 oil Murdoch & his papers own it,Saddam may have been a murderous bastard but he was controllable,well done to the gang of 4

  12. Iskandar

    Mark Duffett and John Hamer:

    Yes! Let the Sunni/Shia/Kurds finally sort out their own tribal borders and relationships. “Iraq” was never a real country anyways. It was a confection of three provinces of the Ottoman Empire that the British put together after WW1 without regard for tribal distributions, but enclosing geology recognised even then as favourable for oil deposits. The artificial confection was to be governed by a compliant installed king, Feisal, whom the Brits had previously betrayed in the Hejaz, and gave him “Iraq” by way of compensation. But the objective was always, and still remains, western control of the regions’ oil.

    I no longer believe anything in the corporate media so have no idea what “ISIS” is or if it even exists. But I do believe that the region has a right to sort out its own history, create its Kurdistan/Shiastan/Sunnistan or whatever divisions, and then do business with them in peace.

  13. seriously?

    Mark Duffett and Dan B – why don’t you enlist and go shoot some so called gihadists if you care so much? While you are there have another look for the WMD’s.

  14. Dan B

    Seriously – seriously?
    Thank you for your valued dialogue, you imp.
    Your educated rhetoric screams troll. But while you raise the WMD subject, allow me to walk you through some easy-to-follow steps.
    It is no secret that the US gave Iraq chemical weapons during the 10 year Iran/Iraq war.
    Since Syria “allegedly” (used as a stress point) used chemical weapons against its own citizens, the west et al claim chemical weapons are WMD.
    Therefore, Iraq had WMD, didn’t they? Or are you so caught up with your own image in the mirror that you are unable to hear how ridiculous you sound?
    Seriously, grow up.

  15. Malcolm Street

    Dan B – where were the chemical weapons when the West invaded?

    Mark Duffet – extended deployment of Western troops has created the current debacle. Why would restarting the Iraq occupation turn out better this time? And frankly, if the Iraq army won’t fight ISIS, why should we?

  16. seriously?

    Dan B – thanks for the character assessment. The onus is on you and like-minded hawks to explain what place Australia has in sending troops to Iraq with the inevitable loss of life – if Iraqi security forces aren’t prepared to defend themselves why should we? I’m serious asking whether you would go join the fight – is Iraq so important that you would lay down your life for it or that of your children? I sure as hell wouldn’t and I feel nothing but sorrow for those Australian’s who have lost their children in the wasteful military excursions into Afghanistan and Iraq. What place do we have in deciding who / what should control Iraq? What is it “we will never learn”? I’m afraid it’s people with your view of the world don’t seem to learn.

  17. Jelly Belly

    i believe they call this “blowback”, and you would think they’d learn by now but no, apparently not. if cia hadn’t trained all these “freedom fighters” in syria then maybe this campaign wouldn’t be as successful. or if US allies in the m.e. would stop supporting al qaeda then they wouldn’t have money for recruits and weapons. or if US/NATO neocon policy didn’t destroy stable countries then there wouldn’t be the impetus for angry young men to pick up a gun. or if….or if…..but no, always with this facade R2P doctrine which just keeps creating havoc.

    ironic though that the very same “rebels” turkey was assisting in Syria are now kidnapping their own ambassadors.

  18. Dan B

    @ Malcolm; I would assess those same chemical weapons in Syria currently being eradicated by the UN are the same given to the Iraqi’s by the US. I would further assess that a percentage of those weapons have made their way back to Iraq.

    Although directed to Mr. Duffet, in response to your question as to why the ISF refuse to fight the ISIS, there are a number of reasons. The ISIS is a Sunni dominated islamist group. They were successful making agreements with the Sunni tribes of Anbar who were fed up with the Shia dominated, and US installed Maliki Government. Those agreements allowed the ISIS safe havens inside Anbar effectively enabling them to build sufficient forces to conduct the operation(s) we are seeing today. The areas recently taken by the ISIS have had majority Sunni soldiers and police forces, whom refuse to engage ISIS in retaliation to the al Maliki Government. But that attitude has been compounded by the fact the areas in which they have been charged to defend has been, for the most part, the most violent areas in Iraq for a long time. They are fed up, undermanned, ill-equipped and have no further appetite to fight for the central Government. Because the ISIS were pushed back and out of the city of Kirkuk and other northern areas by the Kurdish Peshmerger should provide substance to this assessment.

    As for extended military deployments being responsible for the current debacle, I would agree only because of how those deployments were conducted. But if they were conducted differently, the outcome, obviously, would be different. This is where I see politics playing too big a part, too early in military operations. The military is usually called in after diplomacy has failed. Therefore, politicians need to stay out of military operations until our military commanders make the assessment that diplomatic efforts can again be attempted. Since we continuously demonstrate that collectively, we do not learn from lessons past, I do not think redeploying mass military forces will turn out any better. Unfortunately, Iraq and its neighbours need to sort this one out on their own.

    @ seriously?; I am no hawk. But I do not appreciate illogical dialogue. Australia has a military, world renowned as a professional military. And Australia also has alliances with other countries that require that military to support them sometimes. A soldier has no say in whether he or she goes to war if called upon. They make that agreement with the Australian Government when they enlist. Soldiers do not join the Army not to go on operations. They constantly train for the day they are called upon to fight, and they do so knowing that people, possibly them, are going to get hurt or worse. As a civilian it is your right to not wish to join them. Losing a son, a brother, father, sister, mother or daughter is tragic. But so is war. The conundrum is that the ADF refuses to engage in military operations where 1000’s of people are killed by failed social order and are condemned for not doing enough. They engage and assist and are condemned for doing so. I mean, the whole thing is laughable. Should we have a say in who controls a country after we have assisted them to get back on their feet? No. But we have an obligation to insure whomever takes over said country is not as bad as the previous person/people. Unfortunately, and as I pointed out above, this did not happen in Iraq because the politicians thought they knew better, even though the military had intelligence to suggest otherwise. Our soldiers learn all the time. Because if they don’t it means their mates might get killed for it. Politicians never learn, simply because, they don’t have to. They just send in the military anyway…

  19. seriously?

    So Dan B, you are quite certain that Australia definitively has a role to play in this?https://theconversation.com/how-has-iraq-lost-a-third-of-its-territory-to-isis-in-three-days-27933

    And our troops, who as you point out are expendable, really are worth sacrificing in this mess? And once we re establish a military presence with the Americans, can you advise how long and how much money should we spend there (noting that we are in a budget emergency)? Is the ultimate objective to establish a Sunni or Shiite led Iraq? You may think comments are just laced with sarcasm but frankly I’m sick of hearing the good v evil / goodies and baddies view of the world and hope Australia doesn’t volunteer yet again to fight some futile war.

  20. Gavin Moodie

    I agree with Iskandar.

    The West established the conditions which led to the current tragic mess in Iraq and so has a responsibility to deal with the consequences. But more military intervention by the West will not improve the situation. Unfortunately the best that the West can do is provide refuge for those who want to escape the mess that the West created.

  21. Dan B

    No, I don’t believe we have a military role to play in current Iraqi affairs, for many of the reasons you state following the link. But I never said our troops are expendable, they are your words.

    OIF was a failure because Iraq is worse off today than when we left. But perhaps some good will come out of current events. Baghdad is going to be forced into repairing ties with the Kurdish Regional Government, something the al Maliki Government has been loathe to do. And instead of deploying its proxy forces to create instability in Iraq, Iran will be energised to deploy its IRGC and possibly Hezbollah to combat the ISIS. A move that would assist the Maliki Government while aligning itself with Washington, and likely to keep the US out of this one.

    Whether you like it or not, the world is full of good and evil. And whether you choose to ignore it is up to you. Australia will embark in other conflicts, and to many people in those future conflicts whom require assistance, it will not be a futile effort.

  22. AR

    Is DanBS a new astroturfing neocon or has it always infested these comments. Gotta be paid & prepped to ladle out such vast volumes of verbiage @17 – always a sound indicator.
    Hey Duffer,@1 perhaps you could go and sell them nukes – that’d learn ’em,

  23. klewso

    “”We” buggered it – we bought it!” – the legacy of “The Coalition of the Shilling” – Bush, Blair, Howard and Murdoch – “The Four Whoresmen of the Apocalypse”.

  24. Ian

    The whole idea of Australia yet again following America into another military adventure is preposterous. It’s a lose-lose proposition (just like the latest budget) and I really pity those poor Iraqis caught up in this Western inspired quagmire.

    And where, apart from capturing weaponry left over from the the US occupation,is ISIS getting its arms from? Perhaps those weapons and the money behind ISIS come from the West’s great ally, Saudi Arabia or maybe it Qatar. I don’t know but they don’t appear out of thin air do they?

    If we really are interested in stopping the spread of this particular brand of terrorism then we should be addressing the sources of money and arms.

  25. Iskandar

    Project for a New Islamic Caliphate vs Project for a New American Century. PNIC vs PNAC. King Kong vs Godzilla. Who needs movies when we’ve got the “Real World”. Note rAbott was beating the war drums yet again in Washington, fawning over dead soldiers at Arlington, planning a cemetery for dead Australian soldiers, presumably in wars to come. He is due back soon. Hopefully the message will be delivered to him foribly: NO MORE!

  26. Graeski

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Albert Einstein

  27. Venise Alstergren

    The trouble with many of these comments is they seldom come to terms with the cost of fighting foreign wars to Australia. Already Tony Abbott has rushed to pledge our troops- when President Obama whistles-to fight in yet another American war. A war-and, going on all American form since WWII, which will be yet another loss.Does no one ask the question; what business do we have fighting a war in Iraq? We share no common religion, custom, culture with either Iraq or America.

    America doesn’t wish to lose the output of all those oil fields in southern Iraq….So why do we have to fight for this privilege? It comes down to WWII and a Battle called Coral Sea. It came about because of a our Country’s then Prime Minister was convinced it was solely due to America that War in the Pacific was won.

    First it was Britain that Australia couldn’t move without (prior to WWII) Then it became America. Because America won the Battle of the Coral Sea our troops have been sent to die, presumably in gratitude, for this event. And we do it over and over again. And out gutless and witless prime ministers question nothing and the great Australian proletariat know nothing and couldn’t care less. I fail to see why our young men and women have to die, time after time, after time. We should die of shame.

    BTW don’t we have to survive a dreadful budget in order to prune back our spending. Going on yet another futile war is a way to save money?

  28. Malcolm Street

    Britain bankrupted itself leading the fight for democracy in two world wars.

    The US has bankrupted itself in this sh!t…

  29. graybul

    Abbott may, or may not, take us into another war. What is more certain, is that he WILL further militarize/Americanize Northern Territory!! That has always been the American Pacific strategy . . they, and our compliant Politicians just needed an “event” to excuse the action. Any bets on a new base at the old Radio Australia site across harbour??

  30. Mark Duffett

    Many seem to be under the impression that I support military intervention; not necessarily so. It’s pretty hard to form an opinion when what one’s read is not merely one-sided, but only presents half of that case. Mine was a genuine question, albeit making the point that in hundreds of words about the possible/probable/past negative consequences of Western militaries revisiting Iraq, surely it’s incumbent on the authors to put a positive case for the alternatives, if not explore the possible negatives from doing nothing?

    Thanks to the commenters who have attempted to do so; it’s not obvious to me that you’re wrong.

  31. leon knight

    The greatest fear for the entire world at this point is a Republican win at the next US election – then we can expect all hell to break loose in the middle east.
    It is only a matter of time before retribution for our role strikes here on our own turf, so roll on IPA/LNP propaganda.

  32. Dogs breakfast

    A great success for western democracy. Hhhmmm maybe not.

    “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?”

    What we need is more binary reductions for infinitely complex questions.

    Yeah, that’ll fix it.

  33. Ian


    “The greatest fear for the entire world at this point is a Republican win at the next US election…” and the second greatest fear is that the Democrats win.

  34. Mark Duffett

    FFS, Dogs breakfast, all we have from the current Keane/Crikey analysis is unary! Whether its binary, ternary, quaternary, infinite iteration of permutations, I don’t care; but anything would be a useful addition. We all get that there are negative consequences to military intervention, but the logical possibility remains that the results of any other course of action will be even worse. Is it really so unreasonable to expect even the most cursory examination of the latter?

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