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.

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34 thoughts on “Iraq insurgency revives shuffling zombie neocon army

  1. 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.

  2. 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,

  3. 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”.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. Graeski

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

    Albert Einstein

  7. 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?

  8. Malcolm Street

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

    The US has bankrupted itself in this sh!t…

  9. 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??

  10. 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.

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