Commentary

Neocons crawling out from the woodwork

June 19, 2014 

Any mention of the current mess in Iraq ought to be accompanied by one of those familiar sponsorship announcements: “Brought to you by the same wizards who got us into that tragic war to begin with.”

For some reason the neocons who concocted the fake rationale for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 view the current sectarian slaughter as an opportunity to blame President Barack Obama and vindicate themselves in the process. One might think that this would never work, but we can’t underestimate the myopia of those who want to blame Obama for anything and everything or the short memories of those who provide them a forum.

Suddenly we are hearing from figures such as Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. diplomat sent to Iraq by President George W. Bush shortly after the invasion to oversee the aftermath. Bremer, who knew almost nothing about Iraq and its people, engineered the so-called de-Baathification of the country, purging any military officers or government officials associated with Saddam Hussein’s government from positions of leadership.

That essentially created a rudderless Iraq and helped lay the groundwork for the ethnic bloodbath that followed. We also should remember that the Abu Ghraib prison scandal occurred on Bremer’s watch.

Yet here’s Bremer now, trotted out to comment on Obama’s role in “losing Iraq.”

We’re also hearing from “policy experts” such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, who confidently trumpeted the rush to war, and pundits such as Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, who helped sell the case for war. As we now know with utter certainty, they were all dreadfully wrong.

Worst – as always – is former Vice President Dick Cheney. In a commentary in the Wall Street Journal, co-authored by his daughter Liz, Cheney states: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”

We might hope that an enlightened Cheney is talking about his former boss. But, no ...

Cheney has the audacity to state: “Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he (President Obama) goes golfing. He seems blithely unaware, or indifferent to the fact, that a resurgent al Qaeda presents a clear and present danger to the United States of America.”

This is seriously wrong on two counts. One, it completely fails to acknowledge Cheney’s role in setting in motion the destruction of the social structure of Iraq that had allowed a relatively peaceful coexistence among Shia, Sunni and Kurds. He seems blithely unaware of what happened after the United States of America invaded Iraq – where previously there were no al Qaeda terrorists.

Two, it suggests that Obama is guilty of not doing something about this situation. What exactly does Cheney have in mind? Another U.S. invasion?

In fact, not doing anything rash has been precisely the right policy. The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – or ISIS – in Iraq is largely the result of the sectarian civil war occurring next door in Syria.

ISIS, a genuinely evil and brutal band of fanatics, has recruited fellow Sunni militants to fight in Syria and has taken advantage of the growing sectarian division in Iraq to, essentially, murder Shiites there. And if there is a need to place blame on any one person, that would be Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The U.S. handed al-Maliki, a Shiite, a relatively calm and unified Iraq, and he proceeded to do whatever possible to make life miserable for Iraq’s Sunnis. He has undone everything U.S. troops fought to piece together. Blame him, not Obama.

Sending thousands of U.S. troops back into that maelstrom, picking one side or another in this sectarian shooting gallery, would be insane.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got it just right when he laid into the neocon critics: “To the architects of the Iraq war who are now so eager to offer their expert analysis, I say ...’Thanks but not thanks.’ Unfortunately, we have already tried it your way and it was the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the country.”

And he had this for Cheney: “If there is one thing that this country does not need, it’s that we should be taking advice from Dick Cheney on wars. Being on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is to be on the right side of history.”

Let Cheney be your guide. Fix your eyes on his star – and steer in the opposite direction.

James Werrell, Herald opinion page editor, can be reached at 329-4081 or, by email, at jwerrell@heraldonline.com.

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