Monday, December 19, 2005


Iraq: Road to Anti-Americanism

Can America be Seen as an Enemy of Iraq?

Many – too many – Americans cannot understand how other people in other countries have such a poor opinion of their country. Many cannot comprehend how their good, benevolent country can be seen as an evil enemy by anybody.

They cannot see how their country with its open democracy and free press, where people can voice their opinions freely, where anyone can move freely from place to place, select the job and the lifestyle of their choosing, have complete freedom in their beliefs, religious or otherwise, can raise their children the way they like, can rise to success on their own merit and capabilities, unhindered by social or racial stigmas, can self-correct any irregularities in society such as racial or sex discrimination through peaceful means… can be seen as evil by any sane human being.

The conclusion most frequently reached within America is that there must be something fundamentally wrong with those people - even if those people are the majority of the human race. Many begin to believe that those people hate them for what they are; they hate their freedom and what their country stands for. This is true to the extent that such foolish sentiments can be uttered by senior public figures, including the President… and yet they are met with very little ridicule.

Too many Americans seem to be happy with this explanation of why terrorists target America.


I would like to warn readers that this account is more perspective than analysis.

I will not address “internal” American system shortcomings and defects. I will not talk about the mainstream media or the various political, economic, military-industrial forces involved. They are part of the American fabric and their actions are manifested through the democratic process governing American public life. I will even try not to mention the neocons. I will only look at the bulk of America as a country, from the outside.

Furthermore, I will restrict my account to Iraq. I will not address the many grievances people have against America in Latin America, in Asia, in Africa, in the Middle East or in other parts of the globe. That would be a daunting task.

I will express the view from a relatively mild, secular, generally pro-western point of view in the hope that some Americans may see some of the reasons for the birth of a new wave of “Anti-Americanism” in the making.


I say America because this includes the three American components that I see responsible for the devastation of my country:

1. The successive American administrations, in charge of the American government.

2. The American army that has been the tool through which the American administrations have implemented their policies in Iraq.

3. The American public who, through ignorance, indifference, acquiescence or active support, was ultimately responsible for it all.

The American Administration

I will simply use the term “American Administration” to refer to the administration in control of American federal governance at the time of the item listed. They cover administrations from both sides of the bipolar divide of political America. The object is to demonstrate a consistent attitude of animosity or indifference leading to innocent people suffering. Consequently the term includes all official federal government agencies. The US administration of the time is supposed to be in control of those agencies.

It was an American administration that helped Saddam in his war effort against Iran and was totally indifferent to his oppressive system of government, to his record of atrocities against the Iraqi people and to his pursuit of acquisition or use of weapons of mass destruction. It is now publicly know that it was a policy of “dual containment” to let Iraq and Iran fight each other to grind those two countries to the ground. The American administration actually helped both sides at different times. Lives lost run into millions.

It was an American administration that gave Saddam what he thought was the green light to invade Kuwait. Saddam was no fool. He knew that he couldn’t take Kuwait without America’s consent. This is documented, but was later attributed to the individual action of the American ambassador to Iraq at the time.

It was an American administration that gave the orders that devastated our country during the military operations conducted to liberate Kuwait. They bombed schools, bridges, cement factories, powder-milk factories, an assortment of other factories, grain silos, civilian air-raid shelters, water treatment and pumping plants, power plants… and hundreds of other targets, unrelated to the war machine, that were hundreds of miles away from the “theatre of operations” for more than 40 days in order to expel Saddam from Kuwait.

At the end of that campaign, many Iraqis revolted against Saddam. The administration gave Saddam permission to fly helicopters and stood by while he mercilessly crushed that uprising, killing numerous people in the process. The American army was still in combat-ready status in close proximity.

The American administration then spearheaded the imposition of sanctions against Iraq and then spearheaded the enforcement of those sanctions. Those sanctions caused so much hardship, suffering and death among innocent Iraqis. They hurt the people far more than they hurt Saddam and his regime. It was not a far-right religious fundamentalist Secretary of State, but a Democrat, who was so dismissive about the murder of half a million children as a result. The lady now regrets that!

It was a Democrat administration that bombed Baghdad in 1998... to put Saddam in his place!

It was an American administration that misleadingly linked Iraq to the terrorist act of 9/11 and then intentionally fabricated lies about the threat of Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion in total disregard to world opinion and to the UN.

It was an American administration that employed the services of known thugs and convicted embezzlers to act as advocates for a war that was meant to liberate the Iraqi people. Some of these thugs are now ‘senior politicians’.

It was the American administration that disregarded early warnings about the historic significance of the Iraqi Museum as a world treasure and the vulnerability of that museum from reputable American institutions and allowed it to be looted. A single tank could have protected that sacred place. But the administration had more important things to protect: the Oil Ministry. An advisor to President Bush later resigned in protest over what happened to that museum.

It was the American administration that approved the post-invasion plan which led to total chaos in the country, the dissolution of the army, police, border guards and civil service.

It was the American administration planning and policies that led directly or indirectly to the birth of the fierce insurgency, several months after the invasion.

It was another American administration that had created, helped and nurtured what later became known as al Qaeda. This is a fact and people who dispute it are advised to seek information, if they want to be honest with themselves.

It was the American administration that lured international terrorist groups into the country and now has no moral qualms - and even brags - about fighting them in Iraq so as not to have to fight them in American cities. Iraqis had no quarrel with those people until the invasion came. Since the invasion, and in their battle with America, these people kill hundreds of innocent Iraqis for every American they kill. For every terrorist Americans kill, they kill hundreds of innocent Iraqis. In that process, life for millions of others is turned into living hell.

It was the American administration that oversaw the design and the implementation of the new political system in Iraq. This political system will lead to the disintegration of the country and the encouragement of sectarian and ethnic strife.

For the past 80 years, Iraq had a variety of systems of government ranging from a democratic constitutional monarchy, to military juntas… to totalitarian one-party creed. But throughout that period, not once did religious fundamentalists have power over Iraqi society. It was only after the American invasion that, suddenly, all the major political and armed forces have become religious fundamentalists whether Shiite of Sunni. The Iraqi people’s traditional respect for the religious clergy was translated, under the pretext of democracy, into a theocracy. The story is long and intricate but this was the end result.

It is the American administration that intends to transfer power to the new US-trained Iraqi armed forces that are infiltrated by a variety of sectarian and criminal elements that are openly committing atrocities against the people. A Plan for Victory indeed!

The list is naturally much longer. These were the main points. Each and every point can be the subject of endless justification and spin, but the fact remains that The American Administration is seen as the force behind the acts of aggression against the Iraqi people that span at least two decades.

Iraqis are forced to view the administration’s proclaimed “War on Terror” and their chosen methods of conducting that war as a “War of Terror” directed at them and their country. So far, the number of innocent Iraqis killed through this war is more than 30 times the number of American lives lost to terror. It is only natural for Iraqis to view any party pursuing that war, namely the American Administration, as an enemy.

The American Army

The American army was and still is the tool that is used to implement the administrations’ murdering policies in Iraq.

The American army is a huge machine of people, installations and networks. Yet, in essence, it is one body. It is seen as one body by the people feeling the effect of their might and destructive fire power.

It was the American army that conducted those ‘sorties’ targeting all those civilian installations of Iraq during the war to liberate Kuwait.

It was the American army that shot and killed anything that was in sight; men, women, children, taxis, civilian cars miles away from any fight, even street-lighting poles... during its “Shock and Awe” campaign of “liberation”.

It was the American army that opened government establishment doors, government stores of huge stockpiles ranging from electric cables, wood to food... for the benefit of looters.

It was the American army that insulted, humiliated and imprisoned people at random, frisking women and putting boots on the necks of harmless old men in front of their children and grandchildren.

It was the American army that fired at other vehicles on the road at the slightest suspicion, sometimes totally unprovoked, many times killing entire families.

It was the American army that fired at protestors in Fallujah marching against the seizure by the American army of their children’s school. They fired at a crowd killing 13 to 17 people. The claim was that they were fired at. Not a single soldier was even injured. The same army, following the horrible ‘hanging on the bridge’ of four mercenaries by a bunch of thugs… bombed the town of Fallujah for three week, killing hundreds of innocents, including many women and children.

It was the American army that sent 2000 pound bombs that had a destructive distance of 400 meters into inhabited areas to destroy a single house where “suspected” terrorists resided.

The same army, to free Fallujah of terrorists, devastated the whole town again, killing hundreds and using white phosphorous on civilians… and then arguing that it was not a chemical weapon.

It was the American army that tortured and abused detainees at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere many of whom were held without charges. Men, women and even little children were raped, beaten humiliated and tortured, the proceedings meticulously photographed. The humiliation felt by many Iraqis at the degenerate methods used by that army will take long to forget.

It was the US army that shot and killed innocent Iraqis at the whim of trigger-happy cowboys or by frightened kids seeing shadows in the midday sun, spraying people standing by or going about their own business… and got away with it. Yet, the same army sentenced to death soldiers who shot and killed their comrades or superiors.

It was the American army that shelled the most sacred shrines in the city of Najaf to combat the Mahdi army in order to bring their leader, Moqtada, to justice. There was a warrant for his arrest for a suspected murder. Following political machinations, Moqtada’s people held 21 seats in the National Assembly.

It was the American army that bombed and shelled entire towns to clean out the insurgents and the so-called terrorists… killing even more innocent people than the terrorists did. They are still vigorously doing it now.

It was the American army and it still is the American army that is terrorizing people in their own country in the name of liberating them.

God knows if there was a single Iraqi taking part in 9/11 what the American media, administration and public would have made out of it. I very much doubt that the bad-apple argument would have met with much favor with the American public. Yet thousands of American boys have been doing criminally insane acts… and many Americans want to believe, and they want Iraqis to believe, that they were only a few bad apples. Well, I’m sorry; all those several thousand bad apples wear the same uniform… the US army uniform. Iraqis are supposed to see them as good guys and ‘understand’ that they were either acting under stress, out of caution, or were simply a few bad apples acting on their own.

There are numerous American people who want to wipe out the entire Arab nation and the entire Muslim nation because of international terrorists; it is Islam (or simply being an Arab) that gives rise to this violent culture. But at the same time it cannot be the American culture that gives rise to these inhuman monsters.

The American army, I am afraid, can justifiably be seen as an enemy by impartial Iraqis.

The American Public

Hundreds of millions of people cannot be all bad! This is the most difficult component of America to label as an enemy of Iraq… but please bear with me a little. I am fully aware of the existence of many millions of decent people in America.

The American public’s mind-set covers a wide range of political, economic and social views and inclinations. It is extremely hard to categorize all that diversity. But in the final analysis, and from a purely Iraqi perspective, under constant threat of death, and in the constant presence of death, most people cannot afford the luxury of much contemplation that others elsewhere might have.

As far as Iraq is concerned, some of the people can identify two groups; one that opposes the war and the criminal policies of the administration pursued so far and one that acquiesces. Those sitting on the fence watching the massacres and the devastation unmoved can only be put into the second category. The second group is definitely the larger of the two. This is basically using the administration’s own metric: “You are either with us or against us”. This primitive Binary attitude seems to have found favor with large segments of America. However, America does not have a monopoly on such an outlook!

Many Americans feel that being under a vague threat justifies such a drastic view. It is a matter of survival, they think. By the same token, it should be even more justifiable for an Iraqi facing a more immediate and an eminent threat everyday to resort to a similar attitude.

Therefore, it can be understandable for the average Iraqi ignorant of internal American politics, forces and political machinations to view America as one bulk. [This can be reconciled with a more detailed, nevertheless crude, categorization of the American public I attempted some time ago. This “bulk” can be seen to refer to American groups 2, 3, 4 and 5.]

So, let us see what the ‘bulk of America’ is:

America is a democracy. The administration is elected by the people. The American people are directly responsible for the above-mentioned lists of acts of aggression committed against the Iraqi people. They are the highest and the ultimate authority in America. Ignorance and indifference are not acceptable excuses. All the information is there. I have restricted those lists to only publicly known events. If the people accept to be ‘fed’ or ‘misled’ by the mainstream media or by their administration, that is their responsibility and their problem.

My final view of the ‘bulk’ of America stems from their reaction to major events affecting my country:

January 1991. It was after 3 am Baghdad local time when the fireworks began. Wave after wave of cruse missiles and stealth bombers came and poured and ‘surgically’ guided their bombs and brought death and destruction to thousands. It was likened to a huge Christmas tree. The whole world watched it on their TV screens - the whole world except the Iraqis; they had a better view and better sound effects. They watched it from the inside. How many Americans gave a thought to the idea that there were people inside that Christmas tree being mutilated, burned and blown into oblivion? How many Americans were outraged? How many Americans thought and said out loud that all that death and suffering may not be related to the liberation of Kuwait? [Or was it that all those people were responsible for the actions of their tyrannical government, while the good Americans now are not responsible for the actions of their democratically elected one?]

All those atrocities of Fallujah, Najaf, Abu Ghraib, white phosphorus… are now widely known. What was the reaction of the ‘bulk’ of America? A few points on the approval charts, a few words of indignation here and there… but no mass demonstrations, no floods of letters to Congress and no widespread expression of disgust and sustained anger.

Some people wondered: “Where was the outage?” I personally saw a lot of outrage at the time, but now I wonder: where is the outrage?

Each and every one of those gross activities, when publicized, caused a small stir of interest, some indignation, some hypocritical mumblings… and then people went back to their normal lives, trusting their government to deal with it. The administration continues to do so.

What does the bulk of America think about the fact that in their reaction to 9/11, to fight terrorism, they harmed so many innocent people? For every innocent American killed more than 30 equally innocent Iraqis perished directly or indirectly as a result of American actions in Iraq? Not a single one of those people had anything to do with anything that did harm to America. Where is the indignation?

Where is the uproar and indignation at President Bush’s endless reiteration that America is fighting terrorists “over there” so as not to have to fight them in American cities? Leaving aside the fact that the gentleman is wrong and that America will be in graver danger… how many Americans felt a sting of conscience about making another country (my country) a battlefield where innocent people are killed.

Are Americans so simple as to think that Iraqis are so retarded that they will willingly give up their lives and the lives of their loved ones and the livelihood and their country in gratitude to America to fight its own enemies because America rid them of a brutal dictator?

How many thought that that battlefield was not a piece of desolate desert but a country rich in people and rich in history? How many raised that question?

They re-elected Bush after Abu Ghraib, Fallujah I and Najaf were public knowledge.

I would like to imagine the reaction of the bulk of America if the administration decided to raise taxes by 20%.

Much of the disapproval in America over this adventure in Iraq has to do with indignation over the killing of their boys and girls or the squandering of their financial resources.

How much of the indignation is on moral grounds?

Corporate Media? Powerful lobbies? Neocons? Oil and arms industry? No choice? Bush or Kerry? Republican or Democrat? These are no excuses really. It is their political system. It is up to them to change it. Since they, as a bulk, have indicated no such desire, they cannot complain. It is their calling and it is their country. I wouldn’t have bothered had they not decided to make my country the playground for their firepower, an arena for their battles and my people the fodder.

An impartial person cannot be blamed for concluding that the American public is an enemy to Iraq. They cannot complain. Well, decent individuals can; but only as individuals… or as small groups at most.


So, in effect, the American Administrations, the American Army and the Bulk of the American Public are enemies of Iraq and Iraqis as long as they persist in their present course.

This is why we can safely say that America is, and has been for a while, an enemy of Iraq and Iraqis. There is no longer much doubt about that.

Again, I hope that some Americans may see reasons for the birth of a new wave of “Anti-Americanism”… in Iraq… and across the world.

Americans are invited to reflect honestly on the idea that if a mild outlook can lead to such a dim view of America, then what conclusions would a fierce nationalist, a deeply religious Muslim or a person with violent inclinations may reach?


Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Ayatollah Sistani

Since the American invasion, he has had more influence over Iraqi politics than any other figure in Iraq. For a man who rarely left his own house, or said a single word to the mass media, this is quite phenomenal!

1. Sistani’s Seat - The Holy City of Najaf

River water is so important to life in central and southern Iraq that most cities are built immediately on one of two large rivers, or one of their branches. Najaf (like Kerbala) is not. The whole town was built around a tomb of Imam Ali.

For more than a thousand years, there have been two main activities in that city: religion and commerce. Commerce in the city derives mainly from its religious activities! Visitor hordes are there for the numerous pilgrims from other parts of Iraq and other countries, most notably Iran, doing ziaras (or holy visits)… or to bury their dead. So may people bury their loved ones in the holy soil of Najaf that the city ended with what is probably the largest cemetery in the world.

These activities naturally reflected on the nature of the city’s inhabitants. Najafis, as a result, have earned the reputation in Iraq of being good salesmen and formidable debaters.

The effect of religious institutions on the life of the city ran deep. Centuries of study, research and dialogue resulted in a rich literary tradition. Najaf took pride in producing numerous non-religious literary figures, poets and historians… as well as political activists and leaders. The city played a central role in the revolution against British occupation in 1920. The current leader of the communist part comes from Najaf.

The religious institutions and the literary tradition are so central in the life of that city that it is not unusual for a family to acquire its name from the title of a highly regarded book published by one of its members. Perhaps the best know example in the outside world is “Bahr il Uloom”. Mohammed was a member of the now defunct IGC. His son, Ibrahim, is currently the Oil Minister in the Ja’afari government. “Bahr il Uloom” literally means “Sea of the Sciences” and is in fact part of the title of a book authored by one of their ancestors!

The nature of the city was summarized so concisely by a famous Najafi poet, Ahmed al Safi who said:
My town’s imports are coffins…
… My town’s exports are turbans.

‘Turbans’ refer to the religious clergy. In that city, you see them everywhere. They are a sign of distinction. A scholar who is a Sayyed (A Sayyed is a descendant of Imam Ali) dons a black turban. One who isn’t has a white one. Usually, the higher up in the hierarchy the person is the larger his turban! Non-scholars do not wear turbans; however, a Sayyed who is not a scholar usually has something green (or, much less frequently, black) in his headgear.

The University called Hawza

They call it The Hawza. The word derives from the three-letter verb ‘haz’ - to acquire. The acquisition here refers to knowledge – religious knowledge in particular. It is basically a university, complete with students and competing professors.

At any given time, there are usually a handful of scholars at the top of that hierarchy, known as Mujtahideen – people who can ‘interpret’ and give an opinion on religious issues. Those opinions are known as “Fatwas”. Lesser scholars, known as Muqallideen, or ‘imitators’, follow the teachings of the first group. They choose whom to emulate, and consequently determine the master’s scholarly status.

At the moment there are 5 such senior figures. Ali Sistani, is the supreme head of that ‘university’. They (or sometimes only the most senior figure) are frequently referred to as The Marje’ia, “The Reference” or, ultimate authority in a chain of command. And in Shiite religious, and sometimes not-so-religious, matters… they were.

All students are financially supported by the Hawza throughout their learning career.
Money comes from donations made by devout Shiites. Many such people willingly give 20% of their yearly income (known as Khumss - “The One Fifth”). That usually means a lot of money! They choose which ‘scholar’ they pay the money to, and hence have an indirect effect on the ‘popularity’ of that particular professor. Senior figures can have control over enormous funds.

People, and sometimes heads of state, constantly make donations to the shrine. These can be sizeable: great works of art, precious rugs, gold artifacts, etc. The shrine also holds many valuable treasures accumulated over a thousand years. The government put its hand on those funds for the past several decades. That significant financial resource was an undeclared issue in much of the conflict over the control of the shrine in Najaf after the invasion. Many Najafis believed that Moqtada was really after that control during the conflict; hence all that fuss about the keys to the shrine and Sistani’s refusal to receive them until the shrine was evacuated of Moqtada’s supporters.

Those clergy are quite influential, not just in Najaf and not just in Iraq. In Iraq, all Shiite mosque and Husseineyya preachers and local religious leaders look up to them for guidance. Most devout Shiites follow their directives. Local leaders and tribal chiefs have to show sufficient respect.

For most of the past 1000 years, the Hawza was situated in Najaf. It had to move out several times, but usually came back again. That long tradition, in addition to the fact that the whole city was built around Imam Ali’s tomb, has given Najaf considerable edge over other contenders.

Kadhimeyyah, in Baghdad, has always had a Shiite scholarly tradition, but never came near achieving the status of Najaf. Qom in Iran had supreme status (in Iran, and has acquired considerable influence in Iraq) following Khomeini’s reign and the Iran-Iraq war, as I have mentioned in an earlier essay. But, in Iraq, the Hawza in Najaf remains the Reference for most devout Iraqi Shiites.

A unique feature of the Hawza is that for more than a thousand years, it never enjoyed earthly power (like the Catholic Church for example). Most of the time, it was in a weak position of opposition. Yet it wielded enormous power on millions of people… purely through their faith… voluntarily. Much of that comes out of respect and social pressure. At the same time, the Hawza managed to keep its hierarchy relatively free from the interference of those holding earthly power, assisted no doubt by its financial independence.

Even now, after the invasion, power over people, particularly in the south, is held by bodies like SCIRI, Da’wa and Moqtada’s Mehdi army who follow their own individual political agenda… yet they all show subservience to the Marje’iya.

Since the invasion, some people tried to tamper with the structure of the Hawza. For example, M. Baqir Hakeem, the former head of SCIRI who was later assassinated, at one time suggested something he called “Scientific” Hawza, where seniors would ‘specialize’… probably to create a seat for himself at the top. Moqtada has indirectly voiced his dissatisfaction with the present Marje’iya, followed someone called Ha’iri, stationed in Iran, talked about the “Speaking” Hawza… but these efforts have largely failed and rolled over by the institution’s massive heritage and inertia.

Sistani still reigns supreme.

2. A Glimpse of Sistani

No other person in my memory was held in so much regard by so many ordinary Iraqis or had so much non-coercive influence on them since the late President Nassir of Egypt. What is amazing is that, while Nassir had a way with words that inflamed the nationalistic feelings of people, this soft-spoken old man has said so little in public….

Who is Sistani?

His full name is Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini Sistani.

Grand Ayatollah is his religious title, the highest in the Shiite clergy hierarchy; Ayatollah roughly means: “A Sign of God”. Ali is his personal birth name. Husseini indicates that he is a Sayyed whose lineage goes back to Hussein, one of Imam Ali’s two sons [The other branch of Sayyeds are called Hassanis, in reference to the other son, Hassan. Husseinis feel slightly superior to Hassanis.]. Sistani derives from the town in Iran, Sistan, where his family comes from. But he has lived in Najaf for more than 50 years.

I did not pay much attention to Ayatollah Ali Sistani during the Saddam years but I knew was that he had good standing among devout Shiite laymen and clerics. He certainly kept a low profile and rarely left his home/office. I'm told he never left his house for more than 8 years!

When Saddam started targeting the senior Shiite clergy, most notably the defiant and outspoken Sadr (Moqtada’s father) he spared Sistani. The rumor in vogue at the time was that the government was eliminating troublesome competition to the moderate Sistani, whom they probably felt that they could do business with. However, Sistani himself was reported to have been ‘detained’ for a while later.

During the early hazy months following the invasion, almost suddenly, everybody started talking about Sistani. In those early days, he made a very good impression of being a moderate. I must say that many of his declared positions after the invasion of Iraq were admirable: an unequivocal stand against looting and chaos, a clear stand against Sunni-Shiite sectarianism strife and a firm stand for democracy. What surprised me was that he managed to say very little, but what he said made sense.

Unlike the late Khomeini of Iran, Sistani almost never communicates with people in public and does most of his business through small meetings, through ‘representatives’ making announcements on his behalf or through ‘Fatwas’. [A fatwa is a ‘considered’, usually written, religious opinion.]

Some people sometimes wonder why Sistani did not make any of his announcements himself. The reason is obvious. The reaction to his heavy Iranian accent would be negative in both ‘Sunni’ and most ‘Shiite’ quarters alike.

Report of a visit to Ayatollah Ali Sistani

This is the most authentic first hand account of an audience with the Ayatollah that I know of. It gives a good glimpse of Sistani [From a private communication, in 2004]:


It was a small delegation representing [… a few ‘Sunni’ Arab and Kurdish tribes]. A few other “Shiite” friends came along for the honour of seeing His Holiness.

We were an hour and a half late for the appointment (the traffic jams were something I have never seen the like of). Nevertheless, his staff, his son (and later, he himself) went out of their way to make us feel welcome.

We sat on the floor of a sparsely furnished room (very much like the reception room of a not-very-poor peasant), were served tea, had a pleasant chat with his son, a very bright (and obviously very ambitious), courteous young man of around 30.

He came in a few minutes later, didn’t shake hands and squatted in that way only clergymen know how. We were introduced one by one, his eyes were alive and alert and very much like an earthly man, examining each closely!

Nazar K. spoke first saying that his eminence was talking for all Iraqis when he wanted elections. As sunnis we were fully with him on that. Then he responded.

He had a heavy (and I mean really heavy) Persian accent which he didn’t (and couldn’t) hide. He used classical Arabic, but the structure of his sentences was not perfect.

He talked a lot…a lot! His response for 30 seconds of courteous pleasantries was a 10 minute monologue! That was when I was shocked!

The man was a secular! I have never heard a clergyman saying the things that we lot take to represent our secularism!

In response to Nazar’s statement, he went on and on about sunni’s and shia saying that these were doctrines differing on how to interpret Islam and they were all decent and good-intentioned. They were definitely no reason for bloody strife. He talked about the ancient pillars of the sunni doctrine and praised them all in detail and said how he respected them as men of faith and as scholars. The difference between the shia and sunna, he believed, was far less significant than the danger facing the Iraqi nation at present.

Well, personally that put him on my right side!

Then Omar S. sounded his fear that through democracy the shia would dominate Iraq, and consequently the Kurds.

He said that he didn’t believe there was much danger of that happening. The shia were not a single political entity. Some are atheists, some are secular; even religious shia did not all follow the same leader.

He said that he firmly believed that the clergy should not interfere with the running of people’s lives, with government or with administration (Now how on earth could you be more secular!). He had forbidden his followers from putting their noses into the state’s affairs. He said that clearly and categorically (several times to stress the point!)

It was my turn and I said something like “As an Iraqi I am grateful for Your Eminence’s honourable stand on democracy and I think that the country is fortunate to have you in this position in this particular instant of history.” (Yes I did!! And I meant it!!!!!!!)

I then asked him why he had requested the UN to examine the possibility of conducting elections. (I was partly moved by some fear I still have that the panel of UN experts may “conclude” that it is too soon or too unstable to have elections at present. Then we really would have a major problem in our hands!)

He denied that flatly and said that he never did and that my information was probably based on media reports (which was true!). He said he did not feel obliged to accept the UN ruling on elections. He thought the Americans wanted the UN involved because they were having difficulties! He was set on calling for elections as the only possible way for Iraq to regain its sovereignty.

Some of the other things he said (This is a rather loose translation!):

“The most important thing at this time is unity. Division of the people is treason! Even silence, in these turbulent times, is evil!

“Give my regards to your tribes and to the sunna clergy and tell them that Sistani “kisses their hands” and begs them to unite with all Iraqis, Shia, Kurds, Christian, Turkmen. You just unite, and count on me to stand up to the Americans! The worst that could happen is that I die! That doesn’t worry me!”

He mentioned the late de Milo of the UN and said he was “a good man”

He mentioned “the one who was killed in Najaf” and said that he had “talked to him”, meaning “advised him”. I took that to refer to Al-Hakeem. This was the only disguised statement he made in more than an hour of talking.

He mentioned the “Arab Nation” so many times! He evidently viewed himself as an Arab. Being born Persian did not affect the fact that he was a Sayyed. He made that perfectly clear.

He does not believe in “Wilayat al Faqeeh” as the clergy in Iran do (as you know, this is the cornerstone of Khomeini’s doctrine). He repeatedly stressed that religion has to be separated from government!

He was extremely humble in his talk, his attire and his mannerisms.

He was much younger than I had thought; looked like early seventies but quite agile and healthy-looking.

He talked so softly, almost in whispers, that I had to really stress myself to hear what he was saying. (Being the insolent person that I am, at one time during the meeting I said I wasn’t hearing him well !!!!! There were only three people between us! There was some space on either side of him which people left out of respect…and he invited me to sit next to him which I did!)

He didn’t use any of the rhetoric clergymen usually wrap everything they say with. He was quite plain and direct. I found that really odd for a person in his position!

We were late for our appointment. We stayed there for about an hour and a half. Apparently someone else was waiting to see him. So, his son (who was apparently managing the old man’s schedule) was obviously beginning to sweat, but was too polite to say anything. We finally took the hint!

There you are! I felt that I should share this experience with you and I have tried to reflect as much as I could of it in its true spirit…wil Abbas (non-Iraqis, this is a shiite oath)!

I now believe that the American Administration could not have wished for a better person at the head of the shia clergy hierarchy. Let’s wait and see how they handle him!

Those words were written nearly two years ago. Since then, he has had so much influence on the political process in Iraq. Personally, I did have more than a change of mind concerning him… based on his major political positions. The gentleman bewilders me! I hope to discuss some of these issues in my other blog “Iraqi Letters”.

3. Sistani Politics

Sistani’s Post-invasion Positions

Sistani’s positions on the most important issues facing this troubled country have been slightly more than ambiguous.

His first major political stand was a firm insistence on a democratic form of government. His resolute position and the impressive effect of those demonstrations that he incited, are now history.

His second major political stand was about the Bremer’s Transitional Administrative Law (TAL). At the time the UN Security Council was drafting Resolution 1546 in June 2004 to lay the legal framework for the indigenous Iraq transition government, he wrote a firm letter to the UN Secretary General demanding TAL’s exclusion from that resolution. The reaction of the leaders of the two major Kurdish parties was to threaten President Bush: “If the TAL is abrogated, the Kurdistan Regional Government will have no choice but to refrain from participating in the central government and its institutions, not to take part in the national elections, and to bar representatives of the central Government from Kurdistan.” He was accommodated at the expense of infuriating the Kurds who were absolutely furious that the UN did not mention the TAL. It was hailed as a big victory for Sistani (by those always in a hurry to pass judgment).

But his greatest coup to my mind was his extremely successful mediation on the Sadr thing. Very quietly, he managed to quickly engineer what seemed to be a reasonable compromise. This was no small feat considering all the bad blood and the bombing of Najaf… everything was pointing to a bloody confrontation in which everybody stood to lose.

However, all these ‘strong’ points turned out later not to be so ‘puritan’ as they appeared to be at the time:

The Elections

Although TAL was not mentioned in that UN Resolution, in practice, Sistani was ignored. TAL remained effectively Iraq’s temporary constitution. The man not only did nothing, but actually endorsed the elections based entirely on TAL!

The Sectarian Slate

My personal disappointment with his Holiness was complete and when he endorsed the ‘Shiite’ slate during the elections of January 2005! That slate did not represent just the ‘Islamist’ religious parties and groups. It included a few ‘secular’ players, most notably the infamous Ahmed Chalabi, the neocon’s man in Iraq and a convicted felon.

There was no common program, no economic orientation, no clear vision of the country people were asked to vote for. There was even no common stance regarding the most volatile issues facing the country.

The slate was presented to the people as a ‘Shiite’ front, pure and simple! At a time when the country was facing so much sectarian stresses, that was wrong! It was part of the foul game of polarizing the elections, and therefore the country, along sectarian and ethnic lines. I believed then, and I still believe now, that that was a wicked scheme. Sistani endorsed it.

Not only that, but he allowed some of his senior associates to be included in that slate, contrary to his repeatedly declared position on this issue. Some of his ‘representatives’ became members of the National Assembly.

He has now changed his position again and decided not to allow them to take part in the coming elections, scheduled for the end of 2005. He has also declared, through a representative, not to give his blessing to any slate. However, this is too late. Those people have already entrenched and secured a powerful base.


For more than a year and a half after the invasion, Moqtada was more associated with the mostly ‘Sunni’ rejectionists of the invasion than with other religious Shiite groups. He made numerous contacts with ‘nationalist’ groups and forged alliances with some of them. He took a firm supportive stand with Fallujah during the April 2004 massacre.

His position culminated in his stand-off with the American army in Sadr City and Najaf. His newspaper was closed and a warrant for his arrest was issued. An armed conflict soon followed in the fall of 2004.

After Sistani’s intervention, the Najaf conflict was resolved. But what was surprising was that Moqtada literally turned ‘docile’ after that deal. He did not oppose the elections, as was expected of him. He grumbled about illegitimate elections being run under occupation… but he allowed his followers to participate in those elections. He was given a share of 21 seats (out of 275) in the National assembly.

Moqtada’s ambiguous stand regarding the referendum was also perplexing.

There was no more any mention of those criminal proceedings against him.

He has now formally joined the “religious Shiite” slate (now given the number 555). In effect, although undeclared yet, his new position is to be part of the political process.

What is more troubling for me is that, his Mehdi army
has changed position on the ground regarding the sectarian issue. While in the early days, they were a force to combat sectarianism, they have become a ‘sectarian militia’.
This is an important development in the Sectarian Assault on Iraq. In several recent incidents in mixed areas east and south of Baghdad, the Mehdi Army has been a part in sectarian confrontations, on the side of the Badr Brigade. This is rather bewildering considering that only a few months ago there were bloody confrontations between the two.

To me all these changes indicate one thing: Sistani’s intervention in the Sadr affair was to forge a unity of the ‘Shiite’ front. Come to think of it, that shouldn’t be surprising. The man is the leader of the Shiite faith.

The Referendum on the Constitution

Friday, October 14, 2005, a day before the referendum: it was now official. During the Friday sermon, Sistani’s representative in Kerbala clearly and categorically stated the leading cleric’s position: he encourages all Iraqis to take part in the referendum. He advises them to say “yes” to the draft.

We had been hearing reports of his position for the past several days, but that somehow did not diminish my resentment: He knew that the country was deeply divided on that draft. He should not have taken that position. He could have encouraged people to vote, but should not have stated such a strong position in support of that draft, not if he wanted unity in the country.

I am afraid that, after this position, his break with large segments of the community… was final! That cannot be good for the country.

Sistani and the Political Arena

Most of Sistani’s power naturally comes from his seat, as I have outlined in other posts. Part of his ‘extra’ power stems from his declared position not to seek earthly power. He maintained categorically that the clergy should not have a say in how the government is run. He had also given his clergy followers strict orders not to meddle in government affairs. He completely rejects Khomeini's doctrine of “Wilayet al Faqeeh” – Rule of the Supreme Clergy.

This, to me at least, explains much! Many people (particularly local leaders in towns and in the countryside in the south and people who regard themselves as "secular Shiites") do not feel that their power (or prospect of power) is threatened by him. He has no militia to ‘help’ them run their lives, he does not infringe on their territory or power zone. Other religious Shiite movements such as SCIRI, Da’wa (who actually want a religious state) or Sadr's (who are seen to be simply after political and economic power) are regarded as a threat by many of these people.

I must say that those religious Shiite parties played that Sistani game rather well. They paid every possible respect to Sistani, they never crossed with him; they frequently consulted with him on some issues; and they got him to endorse every major political move they made. While safe from the American administration, having declared their total acceptance of the political process, they were able to keep their militias and they went on to control life on the ground. With money to spend, they could pay followers. In two years, those forces had almost total control of much of the south of Iraq. Seculars were left out dazed in the dust of their trail!

He remains a most important, even if slightly mysterious, player on the Iraqi political and religious arena. However, I can at the moment hear murmurs of discontent (and sometimes outright criticism) from ‘Shiite’ (including some religious) quarters; Moqtada’s people, the Mehdi army, being the most outspoken. His status in the eyes of many has been impaired. And this… is significant!

His latest positions may be seen as an effort to rectify that damage.

4. Mehdi Army Poem

The following poem is the most outspoken criticism of Sistani that I have come across so far. Some time ago I listened to a recording of the poem being read by the poet himself, someone called Na’il al Muthaffar. What I noticed most, was the enthusiastic applause this poet received from a large audience when reciting that poem!

The poem is in slang, in southern Iraqi dialect, but in the style of classical Arabic poetry (with every line in two parts having the same meter and rhythm, all lines ending with the same sound). The sweet rhythm in its words could only come from the South. They have a special and quite a distinctive sense of music… and a sarcasm to go with it!

All poetry is difficult to translate. I have not even tried to preserve the ‘poetry’ and the ‘music’ in it. I simply couldn’t even if I tried. Instead, I only tried to maintain the structure and the message intact… without the original flavor. An excerpt:


Naked were your God’s worshippers on news channels…
… The virgins got pregnant and gave birth in prisons

But your conscience didn’t sting; what is your religion?...
… The Jew who saw our misfortune was outraged!

Sunnis rushed to Najaf to help… and you didn’t feel a thing…
… Don’t say you are a Shiite; you have nothing to do with Ali. (1)

I have totally lost all faith in you, absolutely…
… I washed my hands of you with 12 tankers. (2)

We were in a graveyard, being sprayed by fire…
… While some were dying… and others maimed, (3)

You, without conscience, were spreading rumors: …
…“Half of Mehdi’s Army are druggists and alcoholics”; (4)

What did you expect from us, an army of saints?...
…People cannot be guaranteed, how can an army be?

Put yourself in my place; where can I bring people from?...
…Even Prophet Mohammad’s army had people who drank!

If others are not good enough, you be the good one…
…And step into their place… and let them stand aside…

How can the drug-user stand up for his religion…
…While, you the faithful, remain asleep and snoring?

We sold our own clothes to purchase our weapons…
…Some money is left; shall we buy you a mattress?

(1) Imam Ali, the pillar of the Shiite faith.
(2) … 12 tankers of water obviously. A reference to the water shortage, an exaggerated description of the degree of loss of faith… and a rather mischievous reference to the 12 Imams of the Shiite faith!
(3) A reference to their confrontation with the US army in the fall of 2004 where they used the huge cemetery as a base.
(4) In those days, many Iraqis started jocularly referring to Jaish al Mehdi (The Mehdi Army) as Jaish al Wardi (The Pink Army) in allusion to some drug capsules that were pink in color.


Sunday, October 23, 2005


Iran and Iraq

History, Influence and Mistrust

Historical Background

The story is as old as recorded history. There have been raids and counter-raids across the Iraqi-Iranian borders since the earliest city-states around 3000 BC. Conflict also naturally brought cultural interaction.

It was Cyrus of Persia who delivered the final blow to Babylon. The Persians were defeated by the Greeks but they came back to Iraq after Christ, following the Roman conquest. The Persians occupied the central region of Iraq and dominated the Arab tribes residing there for several centuries. Their capital at one time, Ctesiphon, an ancient marvel of glory and grandiose, was on the River Tigris just south of Baghdad.

That episode was terminated by the Islamic conquest in the 7th Century. The Persian occupation of Iraq was swiftly swept away… and Persia itself rapidly crumbled to occupation of those faith-motivated, lightly-armed, fast-traveling Bedouins who came from Arabia. Persia and the surrounding areas soon all became predominantly Muslim.

Cultural influence soon followed the religion, to the extent that the Persian language adopted the Arabic script (as well as numerous Arabic words) which they use to this date.

During the Abbasid Caliphate, the Iranians had several spells of considerable political influence in Baghdad, the center of the sprawling empire of the time. Persian philosophers and scientists made significant contributions to the new civilization. They also helped ‘import’ Indian numerals to Iraq, whence they spread throughout Arabia. [So, it ironically ended up with most of the world using Arabic numerals and most of the Arab world using Indian numerals!]

The Abbasids, driven by political considerations and power struggle, relentlessly persecuted Imam Ali’s progeny, leaders and symbols of the Shiite faith. Many fled to neighboring Persia. That was to have special significance later on, and up to the present date. But Iran was predominantly Sunni throughout that period.

After the disintegration of the Abbasid Empire, Iran went its own way down the path of history and was, like Iraq, influenced much by the Mongols and others who came from central Asia.

Iran was strong enough again to stand up to the Turkish Ottoman Empire when the latter was beginning to weaken under its own weight and illnesses. Their main battleground was (where else?) in Iraq!

The rulers of Iran during and after the 16th century, and the builders of a new dynasty, the Safavids, were strong advocates of the Shiite sect. Most of Iran became Shiite by the 18th century. Parts of south-eastern Iraq soon followed.

It was that conflict between the (Sunni) Ottomans and the (Shiite) Persians that colored the Sunni-Shiite divide in Iraq! That conflict was so acute that when one of the Persian monarchs, Nadir Shah, decided to bring the sects together and managed to set up a major convention in holy Najaf for the leading clergy of the two sects… he was assassinated by his own bodyguards.


A great deal of the influence in recent history was religious in nature.

Although they never admit it, Iraqis are generally and characteristically rather ‘casual’ about their religion and their adherence to it. This should not be taken at face value. They generally hold it in great esteem and will not tolerate any attack on it; they just don’t adhere to what they regard as ‘inconvenient’ aspects of it.

Iranians, on the other hand, are for some reason traditionally more attached to their religion - probably to the extent of being zealot about it! Iraq is almost universally seen as a holy land by many religious Iranians: It is the land where Imam Ali, Imam Hussein and so many other divine Imams are buried… and the land where the 12th Absent Imam, the Mehdi, disappeared. It was also the seat of the Shiite supreme clergy – the Hawza. People sometimes tend to underestimate the influence of that establishment. Early in the last century, the Shah decided to give tobacco rights to some foreign concern. The clergy disapproved. The most senior ayatollah at the time issued a ‘fatwa’ (a religious verdict or opinion) that banned smoking for a while. The people abided. The Shah’s project failed and he had to back down!

Arabs, like many other people, generally take their names and lineage from their fathers only, in defiance of the laws of heredity! With so many of Imam Ali’s descendents living in Iran, many kept their claim to be Sayyeds (of Imam Ali’s blood). This is why Khomeni was a Sayyed… and this is why Ayatollah Sistani can claim to be an Arab, although of Persian birth and tongue.

I remember visiting Iran for the first time in the 1960’s when I was a young man. I took a taxi to go somewhere. Through the barrier of language, I tried to communicate with the taxi driver. He managed to find out that I came from Iraq. The man started crying and repeating words like “Hussein” and “Kerbala”. I was quite shocked by his reaction. It made a deep and lasting impression on me!

I find it sad that a country that had so much influence on another one (to the extent of being held in so much reverence by ordinary people) to waste it so recklessly. But that was exactly what the policies of Saddam did. [This is also reminiscent of the effect of the present US administration’s policies on many countries around the world]. He helped weaken the traditionally moderate center of Shiite religious reference which moved from Najaf to Qum, Khomeini’s domain. Khomeini, who himself spent some 14 years learning in Najaf, was only too happy to oblige.

That simple sentiment of reverence for Iraq and its holy places was to be turned around and used again and again in the Iraq-Iran war to motivate simple people to be fodder for that war. I heard numerous accounts from Iraqi soldiers about simple Iranian soldiers being led to believe that holy Kerbala or Najaf was just beyond that hill or enemy encampment. In truth those places were usually across the two rivers… many, many miles away! In effect, they were frequently sent into certain death.

Mistrust of a Foreign Power

The vast majority of indigenous Iraqi politicians, historians and much of the public believe that Iran sees itself as a regional superpower and has always had dreams of dominating the region. The Gulf, which they insist on calling ‘The Persian Gulf’, is a cornerstone in their foreign policy. The late Shah Mohammed Reza made no secret of his imperial aspirations and worked energetically to consolidate Iran’s influence in the Gulf. He raided and took 3 small islands belonging to Emirates in the ’70. Iran still holds to them.

That view of Iran’s ambitions was hammered into the population consciousness using the media during the war with Iran (much like the way some of the American media was used to convince ordinary Americans of the threat posed by Iraq to America) until a whole generation accepted it as a fact. The mistrust still exists.

Foreigners are called “Ajam” in Arabic. In Iraq, the word is almost used exclusively to refer to Iran. An Iranian is called Ajmi in a tone that is akin to the Japanese use of a similar term, “gaijin”. Because of the association with Iran through the Shiite faith, some misguided Sunnis sometimes insinuate that Shiites are more inclined to Iran. Being called ‘ajmi’ is one of gravest insults that can be directed to an Arab Iraqi Shiite for it implies a denial of lineage and heritage! This however is mainly a ‘city’ affair. I have never heard it in the countryside. For tribal people, lineage is not a suitable subject for insinuations!

Reversal of Influence

In the lead-up to that war, Saddam figured that people of Persian extraction were a weakness in the home front. He quite mercilessly dumped hundreds of thousands of such people on the border with Iran. There were many stories of hardship; many grievances; many homes and businesses abandoned by rightful owners and taken over by the government and given to cronies; many personal tragedies of families separated; many people dumped in a foreign country penniless with no knowledge of language or any relations there! There were many people who were not even of Iranian origin displaced in this manner. However, all were Shiite. It was one of the many horrible tragedies many Iraqis had to live with during the past decades. Many of those who had some money or education went on to other countries, but those deprived of both had to remain in Iran. The deep resentment understandably felt by many of them, sometimes verging on the irrational, can be seen at play today.

Those people were augmented by political and religious refugees who fled Saddam’s heavy hand during and after the war with Iran. And all those people were joined by another group, of mostly activists, who fled Iraq following the failed uprising of 1991 that followed the first Gulf war and which Saddam crushed ruthlessly under the nose of the American army. Those groups were the breeding ground that produced some of the most influential movements and politicians now shaping the political arena in Iraq as well as its future. The soil was Persian.

Foremost among these forces is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and its now-notorious Badr Brigade. The whole movement was conceived in Iran. It was nurtured, armed, financed and given very substantial support by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their chief, al Hakeem, now leads the largest coalition in the Iraqi Assembly. One of their prominent members is now Minister of the Interior, in charge of all police forces outside of Kurdistan.

From the above account, it may be evident that the ‘direction’ of influence, particularly religious influence, between the two countries, has been quite abruptly reversed since Khomeini’s Islamic revolution in Iran.

Loyalties and Allegiance

The question remains: how do ordinary Iraqis feel about Iran today and under the present conditions?

Kurds invariably mistrust Iran regardless of the regime in power. Most feel that their Kurdish brethren are oppressed in Iran. The only ‘country’ they had in their long history, the Republic of Mahabad, was declared in Iran in the first half of last century… and was promptly, summarily and mercilessly crushed. Many believe that Iran has repeatedly and consistently betrayed them throughout their troubled history. Several times in the last century, their insurgencies in Iraq were supported by Iran. But they were always sold away when the power of the time made a deal that brought some benefit to Iran!

The dominance of ethnic considerations over religious or economic concerns in Kurdish regions has been amply demonstrated in the last elections beyond any shadow of a doubt. Apart from a very small faction of religious fundamentalists, all Kurdish religious and political groups went along with the “Kurdish” card. Their current leaders however seem to be pragmatic enough… but there is little doubt that they will do the US administration’s bidding. That is where they have cast their vote and made their commitment. So far, these people seem to hold the Kurdish population in short reigns.

Arabs, on the other hand, have varied feelings. The situation is far more complex and there are numerous potent forces at play. There are also numerous parameters that influence a person’s position, some of them quite contradictory… and some of these are held by the same person.

As an illustration of the magnitude of the complexity, consider the following issues:

• I have met people who mistrust Iran’s intentions. Yet, at the same time, they are full of admiration for the Lebanese Shiite Hizbullah (widely regarded as a terrorist organization in America) for what they see as their heroic achievement in expelling Israel and ending its occupation of Lebanon. They therefore acknowledge and appreciate Iran’s significant support of that party. This sentiment is found most with Moqtada’s Mehdi Army.

• Another example: The defense minister in Allawi’s interim government Hazim Sha’alan, a Shiite himself (and who is now facing charges of corruption, to the tune of one billion dollars) repeatedly and vehemently attacked Iran for her interference in Iraq. At the time it seemed that he was playing American administration cards. But it was rather surprising how his stance found much favor with many Iraqis, including many Shiites, particularly in the countryside.

• The majority of the Arab world is Sunni; Turkey is predominantly Sunni. Sunnis in Iraq were for some time associated with the Ottoman Turks. However, during the British invasion of Iraq in 1914, most of the Shiite clergy sided with the Turks, because they were Muslims, and against the ‘infidel’ English.

• On the other hand, Shiites in Iraq are associated with Iran in popular folklore in some corners. This is strongly resented and usually brings out a violent reaction from most people. Again, it seems to me to demonstrate an ascendancy of ethnicity over religious sectarianism.

• Another major force that has emerged since the invasion is one that can be clearly seen at work in the mass media. Its main agenda is to hammer the idea that most Arabs are Sunnis and it would be in the interest of the Shiites of Iraq to side with Iran. Arab nationalism is attacked as racist and damaging to the country. This is at present a powerful lobby that boasts many influential members including, intentionally or not, the US administration.

• Another factor is the Sunni-Shiite polarization that has been taking place quietly over the past decades and more dramatically during the past two years. This has been a major issue in Iraqi politics and power-seeking. The stakes are too high for many countries and powers involved in Iraq to refrain from using the sectarian ticket as fuel.

• There is indeed some Sunni Shiite divide in all this. But at the same time, there is a great deal of spread of feelings and considerable city-rural differences.

So, where does the allegiance of the Iraqi Shiites lie?

This question keeps coming up again and again. A simple answer would be that the question is the same as asking whether all Catholics in Holland, or Italians in America, would side with Italy in a potential conflict.

The first time I personally thought about this issue was immediately before the 1980 war with Iran started. Many people began to quietly question where Iraqi Shiites’ hearts would lie in that conflict.

Within a week of the beginning of that war, a wise old man told me that on the question of nationality and sectarianism, nationalism and patriotism would come first. He was proven correct on numerous occasions.

In one particular incident, that came out astonishingly clearly. During 1982, the tides of that war began to turn and the Iranian army invaded parts of southern Iraq. Iran was close to taking one particular village called Baidha on the edge of the Iraqi Marshes. Residents were predominantly devout, simple Shiite peasants. The Iranians expected to be welcomed as liberators by the local population. To their surprise, even housewives, wielding kitchen utensils, went out to fight them! They were repelled.

To my mind, there is no doubt about it. When the worst comes to the worst, the overwhelming majority of ‘ordinary’ Iraqi Shiites will side with Iraq… but there are numerous potent forces at play.

Iran and Iraq: War and Politics

Some Background - The 20th Century

When Iraq was ‘liberated’ from the Ottomans by the British during WWI and became a ‘free country’… and Iran was also a ‘free country’ under considerable influence from Britain, there were numerous outstanding issues of conflict regarding their common borders. There was also the problem of Arabistan (Ahwaz or Ahvaz) - the region in Persia next to southern Iraq inhabited by Arabs who saw themselves as part of Iraq to the extent that the notorious Shaikh Khaszal of Mohammra (Khoramshahar) was one of the major contenders to the Iraqi throne in 1920. That region was on the other bank of the oil-rich Gulf.

Those border issues, particularly at Shat al Arab, the combined flow of Iraq’s two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, later became a major ‘official’ excuse of the Iran-Iraq war that started in 1980 and lasted for 8 years.

Most people still find Saddam’s attack on Iran almost immediately after Khomeini’s Islamic revolution rather perplexing. Many Iraqis find sufficient explanation in conspiracy theories. The vast majority of people I know in Iraq firmly believe that Saddam was doing America’s bidding. However, I believe that there were some tangible ‘incentives’ for him to jump into that unfortunate venture.

Saddam had made a number of territorial concessions to the Shah of Iran in 1975 to encourage the Shah to stop his support for the Kurdish insurgency. There was much resentment, even within his party. Someone close to him wrote a book later in exile about that time and he stated that he cried when he knew of the details of Saddam’s deal with the Shah. When the Khomeini revolution came, Iran was in chaos and in turmoil. The clergy purged many of the senior officers and pilots. The mostly inexperienced ‘Islamic Revolutionary guards’ were incompetently running the war machine. Iran was rather weak. Saddam probably saw an opportunity in attacking her. I can find a number of ‘advantages’ from his point of view for that adventure. President Reagan’s America of course did not discourage him. It is now open knowledge that the late King Hussein of Jordan played a significant role as a go-between.

There is a great deal of mistrust towards Iran in the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia. Most of these rich countries overtly or covertly assisted Iraq during the last war with Iran (1980 – 1988), most notably Kuwait. In addition to what were seen as Iranian imperial aspirations in the region, there is no doubt that the sizeable Shiite communities in the oil-rich eastern bank of the Gulf were, and still are, on most of those people’s minds. Militant Islamist Shi'ism, inspired by Iran, was not welcome. [The recent harsh words coming from the Saudi Foreign Minister regarding American policies empowering Iran in Iraq are a case in point.]

The issue of Arabistan was one of anomalous features of that war. When Saddam’s army occupied it during the first two years of that war, there was an extremely conspicuous lack of sympathy with the nationalistic aspirations of the Arabs living there. They were not encouraged. They were in fact actively discouraged! To me, that is still a mystery! It only shows that during the most vicious of wars, some red lines can be drawn and respected… and some unspoken deals can be made!

Iran and Post-invasion Iraq

During the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, the present administration of President George W. Bush made no secret of the fact that their next station was Iran, one of the components of the ‘Axis of Evil’.

Iran’s response to the American invasion of Iraq has been a two-component policy: political and military.

The Military component is quite understandable and straightforward:

The general assumption was, and still is, that the USA would turn to face Iran as soon as things were settled in Iraq. Pro-administration war hawks were jubilant at the beginning of the invasion (before discovering that they were in a quagmire or being aware of the nature of that quagmire!) that Iran’s regime’s days were numbered. In Iranian eyes, this threat is still quite real.

The main obstacle preventing that threat from materializing is America’s entanglement in Iraq. It only makes sense for the Iranians to help bog down the Americans in the Iraqi quagmire. I am certain that Iranian policy-makers believe that they are doing it in self-defense. They are probably correct!

Iran had been actively doing that through supplying several factions of the insurgency. Secretary Rumsfeld recently announced something about Iranian explosives being used against the American army, explosives that the insurgents didn’t have before. This claim has been echoed by the British in Basra.

The other activity was more vicious. There are numerous pieces of evidence (including CIA reports) to suggest that Iran has its own violent covert operations in Iraq. One such report suggested the presence of 17 separate covert combat units operating in Iraq. The idea seems to be to produce maximum chaos and instability in Iraq, making the American occupation as difficult as possible. Some of the senseless acts of violence as well as some acts of violence of sectarian nature have been attributed to Iran.

The political approach had the aim of gaining as much influence as possible on the political arena in Iraq.

They had considerable influence on several of the ‘Shiite’ forces opposing Saddam’s regime. They had supported them considerably during their struggle against that regime. There were two major such parties: The Da’wa party and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

The Da’wa party (currently represented by Prime Minister Ja’afari) was friendly but not totally ‘owned’. The reason is that the movement was born inside Iraq and fought its battles on the inside most of the time. Its members were severely punished for that and paid a hefty price for it, including the death penalty to their founder and philosopher… another Sadr, usually known as the ‘First’ Sadr (to distinguish him from his cousin, Moqtada’s father) The attack started during the Iraq-Iran war and was rather vicious and persistent.

SCIRI, on the other hand, was born and nurtured in Iran, again mainly during that war. A militia, now known as the “Badr Brigade’ was wholly constructed in Iran, mainly from Iraqi defectors or PoW’s during that war. It was totally financed by the Iranian regime. Some of its elements actually took part in battles against the Iraqi army during that war; something that would have been unthinkable to many of the Da’wa people.

That distinction is most important. It explains a lot of the differences between the positions of the two parties after the invasion of Iraq.

After the invasion, both parties accepted the political game as defined by the American administration and played it with zeal and enthusiasm. But, to my surprise, there was a great deal of difference between the attitudes (and methods) of the two parties. Da’wa turned out to be the more ‘political and philosophical’ of the two! Much of their agenda were ‘Iraqi’ in essence and spirit. SCIRI was something else.

During the elections, both parties entered into a coalition and joined the same slate (under the tacit blessing of Sistani). After those elections, the Da’wa was given the ineffective post of Prime Minister (because he had little control over his ministers!) and SCIRI took the Ministry of Interior, primarily in charge of the police.

And all this under the eyes of the American administration! It really is almost unbelievable!

On the political side, as soon as Hakeem, the head of SCIRI, was chairman of the Iraq Governing Council, one of the first things he did was to announce that Iraq should compensate Iran for the war. There was uproar from all quarters, including most Shiite ‘activists’. About a year later, I watched him on TV claiming that he never said that.

There were simply too many pro-Iranian stands and inclinations in the SCIRI political positions. The coordination was almost vulgarly obvious during the Iranian present stand off regarding their nuclear program and the efforts to draft Iraq’s new constitution.

In the simplest possible terms, I cannot understand the following: Iran is a declared enemy of America. America invades Iraq. America consistently strengthens the hand of pro-Iranian political parties and their influence on the future shape of Iraq!

The latest source of amusement is that both the US administration and the regime in Iran are enthusiastic supporters of the new draft constitution.

There are too many murmurs coming from the Iraqi politicians taking part in the political process that Iraq is being governed by the Iranians… to ignore!

An Illustration: The plight of fighter pilots

Perhaps no single issue illustrates the extent of the (suspected) Iranian machinations in Iraq at present more than the plight of retired Iraqi army officers and fighter pilots.

Over the past two years, some unknown force literally went on a killing and an assassination spree that included former senior army officers and, almost inexplicably, former fighter pilots who took part in the Iraq-Iran war. Some of those people were old and retired.

Their plight was discussed in the National Assembly: A lady member of the National Assembly once raised the plight of those people during a parliamentary session last August and said that, up that moment, more than 30 of those people had been killed and asked for an investigation. Another member coldly replied that it was ‘dangerous’ for the lady to address such issues and make those insinuations! Nothing was done.

Then they took their case to the President: In mid-October, those unfortunate people, about 1000 retired army officers, went to see their president. They complained that they were being targeted and killed systematically, particularly the pilots who took part in the Iraq Iran war.

The President invited those unfortunate people to go to Iraqi Kurdistan and live in Arbil or Suleimaniya where they would be safer!!!


Thursday, June 30, 2005


Why Did America Invade Iraq?

[Collected essays from ]

It is relatively simple to demonstrate that the US administration invaded Iraq on flimsy evidence and had more or less an unconvincing case. The ‘declared motives’ were rather weak to say the least.

Numerous reasons for the true aims of the invasion of Iraq have been proposed. None has been, nor likely ever to be, publicly admitted! It is likely that the actual reasons are more than one; hence a number of forces within the US establishment could be seen to act in collaboration or in competition.

Since we are operating in murky waters here, the logical approach would be to consider all possible options (which we may not know all of) and apply our known observation of what happened actually on the ground to those theses to find out which ones are likely to fit! One problem is that there is a possibility of the existence of more than one objective and more than one force operating.


I never addressed the motives for the US invasion of Iraq during my early writings. I only addressed the aftermath, the mistakes and the horrible consequences. In fact, I only started writing after Abu Ghraib and Fallujah I (of April, 2004) and after it was quite evident that the management of this adventure was leading to disaster.

Now I repeatedly think of those motives.

There seems to be so much confusion regarding the motives of this war in the minds of most people. Looking back, a wide variety of motives and arguments for justifying the Iraq war have been presented by both pro-war and anti-war camps over the past two years. The spread of ‘declared’ and ‘assumed’ motives is certainly interesting. There also seems to be some shift in the relative ‘importance’ of these motives over time. That shift sometimes indicates an honesty that leaves something to be desired. Let us look at the full spectrum.

There were of course the publicly declared and trumpeted motives:

1. Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction
2. Saddam’s regime was a threat to the USA and to world peace
3. Saddam’s regime had links with international terror groups
4. The war on Iraq was part of the war on international terrorism
5. Spreading Democracy in the Middle East
6. Helping the Iraqi people get rid of an oppressive regime.

And there were ‘other’ assumed or unspoken motives, usually contested by the opposing camp:

7. Securing control over a major oil resource
8. Creating a country to neocon design and to “Project for the New American Century” requirements
9. Avenging 9/11
10. Creating a haven for American investment in a rich country.

Ordinary people were, and many still are, confused regarding this. One natural question is of course: are these objectives shared by the public, the administration and the special-interest groups within the USA? Has everybody been honest with the American public regarding these objectives? Has the American public, as a body, been honest with itself regarding these objectives?

After so much turmoil and loss of life, isn’t it time yet for some reassessment? Shouldn’t we all aim to be honest about an event that may have an enormous effect on international relations and on the world that we all live in, for a long time to come?

Perhaps one could start to address this question through some nagging and unanswered questions concerning the lead-up to the invasion:

1. Why was such an unconvincing case presented to the American public?
2. Why did so many Americans accept that unconvincing case so readily and enthusiastically?
3. Why would huge, professional intelligence establishments and powerful governments rely on questionable reports based on things like: a student’s thesis written 10 years earlier, a vague report by Czech intelligence that one of the perpetrators of 9/11 probably met someone who was probably with the Iraqi intelligence or German intelligence obtained from a drunkard or dubious credentials, code-named curveball, regarding Iraq’s WMD capabilities… to lead their countries to war?
4. Why were the many challenges to those ‘intelligence’ assessments dismissed so lightly, and even attacked so vehemently?
5. Why did so many Americans believe that Iraq was linked to international terrorism… with so little evidence?
6. Why did so many Americans believe that they were avenging 9/11 by attacking Iraq?
7. Why were clear statements by Al Qaeda senior leadership that Saddam was an ‘infidel’ and a declared enemy so readily dismissed?
8. Why was a person like Colin Powell prepared to compromise himself in front of the whole world to present evidence that was ‘unconvincing’ to say the least?
9. Why didn’t America try hard enough to form an international coalition?
10. Why didn’t America care much about what the rest of the world thought about the invasion?
11. Why was there such frenzy in condemning the position of those countries that opposed the invasion, particularly old allies like France and Germany?
12. Why was there such an outrage about Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against his own people and against a neighboring country… more than 12 years after those events? Why was there no similar outrage at the time those atrocities were committed?
13. Why was there such an outrage about Saddam’s brutal oppression of the popular uprising in 1991 after 12 years… while the American, and other, armies were in the vicinity at the time and while those armies were already at war with Iraq? On the contrary, at that time Saddam was given explicit permission to use warplanes to quell that uprising?
14. Why was America in such a hurry… to the extent of jumping into war without proper planning? What was the eminent danger?

Invasion of Iraq: Declared Motives

During the past two years, there has been much speculation regarding the US administration’s real motives in invading Iraq. In my previous post I categorized possible motives into ‘declared’ and ‘undeclared’ intentions. In this post, I will try and briefly review the more important ‘declared’ motives presented to the American and world public.

Original Declared Motives

The US administration’s official case for the invasion of Iraq rested on three main issues: Iraq’s weapon’s of mass destruction, links to international terror and the threat of Saddam’s regime.

What the US and British governments really thought of these claims has been recently revealed by an official document: On May 1st, 2005 The Times of London published a top-level British Government secret memo the authenticity of which is so far undisputed by the British government (and 89 Democratic members of the Congress took this memo seriously enough to write to President Bush asking for an explanation of the damning things it says).

The memo is available at Also worth reading is an article by Palast and an op-ed column by Krugman in the NY Times.

The memo summarizes a meeting attended by the British Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers and security advisers eight months before the invasion of Iraq, following a visit by the British MI-6 intelligence chief to Washington. The memo states:

“… Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

“… It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action… But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”

That was in July 2002, eight months before the war. This is the most damning evidence that has emerged from the British government itself so far.

With this background, it is truly bewildering how the official resolute conviction was presented to the American public. In March 2003, only a few days before the invasion, President Bush went so far as to say:

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

These words portray so much confidence in that ‘intelligence’: “no doubt” (not even “little doubt”) … “some of the most lethal weapons ever devised”?? We now know most of that not-very-intelligent ‘intelligence’. We also know the facts.

The troubling question is: was the gentleman aware of all that effort to ‘fix the intelligence and the facts’? Was he himself misled or was he misleading people? Either way, the answer is not in his favor.

Present Declared Motives
Helping the Iraqi people, Freedom and Democracy definitely seem to be the current trumpeted objective of the Iraq war. We are repeatedly and persistently being told that this is the major objective of this campaign. The latest remarks I am aware of are Condoleezza Rice’s when she made a visit to Iraq last week:
"We are so grateful that there are Americans willing to sacrifice so the Middle East will be whole, and free and democratic and at peace".

Very noble! But was this what the Americans were told in the lead up to the war? The most reliable sources on official policy would be top figures of the administration: So many people now pretend that it was all for Freedom and Democracy of the Iraqi people. However, senior administration policy makers are on record stating otherwise.

Take for example Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of Defense and the man who was in charge of post-invasion planning:
"Would anybody be thinking about using military power in Iraq in order to do a political experiment in Iraq in the hope that it would have positive political spillover effects throughout the region? The answer is no. That's not the kind of thing that leads a country like the United States to commit the kind of military forces that we're committing to this effort....There's no way. What we would be using military power for...would be the goals the President has talked about, particularly the elimination of the chemical and biological weapons, and preventing Iraq from getting nuclear weapons."

Or Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of Defense and one of the strongest advocates for the war on Iraq.

“There have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people....The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk.”

1. The questions of WMD, Terror links and the eminent threat of Saddam’s regime… were only excuses. Furthermore, they were known to be excuses by those who presented them to the people as legitimate and compelling reasons to go to war.
2. People were frequently puzzled how that flimsy evidence was ‘believed’ by those prestigious intelligence agencies. Now we know that it wasn’t! It was intentionally “fixed”.
3. The American public and the world were deliberately misled (on these issues at least).
4. Freedom and Democracy were not primary objectives worth risking American kids’ lives for… but welcome ‘by-products’.
The last point still has a little problem associated with it: Democracy is indeed a noble objective. However, it seems that to some people in the USA the word ‘democracy’ is confused with ‘friendly’ (which is not a bad thing in itself… but quite a different concept). But this is another thing for another day.

Undeclared Motives – Introduction

I hope that we have by now established through the previous discussion that the present US administration invaded Iraq on flimsy evidence and had more or less an unconvincing case. The ‘declared motives’ were rather weak to say the least.

We are therefore left really in the dark. One has to find the most logical explanation in terms of events on the ground. These are murky waters. There is considerable danger of slipping into unsubstantiated, conspiracy-oriented explanations.

Numerous reasons for the true aims of the invasion of Iraq have been proposed. None has been, nor likely ever to be, publicly admitted! Some of these are evident (as will be seen from the discussion) but one cannot be certain which the most prominent reason is.

It is likely that the actual reasons are more than one; hence a number of forces within the US establishment could be seen to act in collaboration or in competition. For example there have been: Reports of conflict between the Pentagon and the State and CIA; Reports of conflict between the professional military people and the civilian (neocons) leadership of the Pentagon; Reports of conflict between the oil industry and the neocon approach; And there is of course always the ever present, yet almost invisible shadow of Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” as well as many other semi-phantom powers and special-interest entities.

All these should not confuse us. But they do seem to indicate that there was no overwhelming consensus within the US government establishment on the post-invasion plans. Some of these forces were not the ones initiating the policy. They probably fought over details or control of the implementation or to realize their own visions with the broadly defined objective.


Since we are operating in murky waters here, the logical approach would be to consider all possible options (which we may not know all of) and apply our known observation of what happened actually on the ground to those theses to find out which ones are likely to fit!

One problem is that there is a possibility of the existence of more than one objective and more than one force operating.

And there have been mistakes and errors which confuse the issue. In this case, it is always useful to go back to the beginning when mistakes and input from other parties have not yet confused the issues.

On top of that, there may have been not only tactical changes of US policy but possibly strategic changes due to discovered facts, changes on the ground and / or later discovered limitations to the original objectives. These may not be known in the short term due to the secrecy that usually shrouds the administration’s deliberations (especially those related to policy, foreign policy and particularly those related to national security).

This is truly a difficult task.

Past experience with the entities being considered may help… or it may be a hindrance! For examples, observers of US foreign policy usually form an opinion of their undeclared intentions from past experience. But we cannot do that if we want to convince an unbiased observer.

A possible criticism that may be expected is that it is not ethical to base an argument around speculation and guessing in the absence of concrete proof. Based on my previous arguments, particularly regarding the ‘evidence’ used to go to war I ask: is it acceptable to go to war on the basis of guessing and hints but not to attack war on the same bases?

The proposed tentative arguments have some quite strong points on their side that should encourage this pursuit: People are dead and dying everyday! Ordinary Iraqis whose country is being devastated and whose lives have been shattered, Americans who are losing sons and daughters everyday and the rest of the world, whose future is probably being shaped to some extent in Iraq today… all have a right to know. At least they have the right to inquire further!

There are also strong indications that the process of death and devastation will go on for a number of undetermined years. I cannot yet see any light indicating the end of this tunnel. Even the usual chorus of active rosy picture painters has been rather quiet lately.

In any case, we know that this route has led to disaster… or has it?! Some people may not even agree to this conclusion!

Basic assumption: No nation would go to war and risk the lives of its boys and girls and spend enormous amounts of money without (what are believed to be) good reasons.

Do we have to assume that those who decided to invade Iraq are rational? My personal position is: Yes!

In the following sections, I will address the main theories that have been put forward to explain the possible undeclared motives behind the invasion of Iraq:

1. Securing control over a major oil resource
2. Creating a country to neocon design and to “Project for the New American Century” requirements
3. Avenging 9/11
4. Creating a haven for foreign investment in a rich country
5. Eliminating Saddam’s long-term threat
6. Intentional Devastation of Iraq
7. Leading the world into conflict intentionally

1. Control of Iraqi Oil

Possible Undeclared Motives for the Invasion of Iraq
It may be difficult to over-emphasize the strategic importance of oil in the present and near future world economy and balance of power.

Security of the world’s major sources of oil and the prevention of their domination or control by other powers had certainly been a central, a constant and an openly stated foreign US policy for over 50 years. There is every reason to believe that it still is.

As to the significance of the ‘oil component’ in the invasion of Iraq, much has been written about this subject, especially outside the USA. There certainly is a strong case for the USA to gain some control over the sources of finite and indispensable world oil. This is different from simply trying to steal Iraq’s oil money as some people have been suggesting. It is noteworthy that the word ‘steal’ is used more frequently by pro-administration war advocates in an obvious attempt to trivialize the issues involved.

Millions of people around the world seem to believe that oil is the prime reason for the invasion of Iraq. “No Blood for Oil” has been their motto.

This thesis is substantiated by the US army securing only the Iraqi Ministry of Oil immediately after the fall of Baghdad and leaving all other public departments and ministries to the mob and to looters.

It is also supported by many of the decrees and regulations of Ambassador Paul Bremer during the first year of the invasion.

On the other hand, it is not compatible with the policies that ‘encouraged’ and provided fuel to chaos and to the insurgency (unless of course we assume total, gross and criminal incompetence): disbanding the army and the police, leaving the borders open, alienating and antagonizing the Iraqi people, etc. The insurgency and the associated chaos are not conductive to restoring and running the oil business quietly and smoothly; not in the short term anyway.

It can therefore be concluded that this factor must have been present in the minds of strategic US planners (and there is every reason to believe that it was) mainly as a longer term objective. But the relative importance of this particular motive (i.e. whether it was a prime motive or a useful by-product) is unknown at this stage.

Hence, long term control of the Iraqi oil fields was one of the undeclared motives of the invasion of Iraq.

In that case, it would not be incompatible with ‘short term’ instability and lack of security.

2. Creating a Country to Neocon Design

To my mind, the attempt to create a country to neocon design is the most likely explanation for many of the events that took place during the first year of the invasion. It explains many of the decisions made, many of the ‘mistakes’ and the atrocities committed.

First, we know that neocons openly advocated a war on Iraq as far back as 1996 (in collaboration with Likud’s Netanyahu) and again in a letter to President Clinton in 1998. We also know that those same people (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Armitage, Bolton, Perle, Khalilzad and James Woolsey) held, and most still hold, extremely important senior executive positions in the present Bush administration before and after the invasion of Iraq.

If one studies the abundant and freely available neocon literature and the PNAC analyses one can find so much compatibility between those decisions and ‘mistakes’ and basic neocon doctrine. However, one has to look beyond the smokescreen of Freedom and Democracy!

Most of the basic elements of the neocon doctrine have been clearly demonstrated during that first year of the Iraq campaign. In addition to the usual economic ‘reforms’ and general political attitude, an observer who is not handicapped by crippling bias will find the darker side of that doctrine operating in full force:

Creative Destruction: "Creative destruction is our middle name. We do it automatically ... it is time once again to export the democratic revolution”;

Total War: “Total war not only destroys the enemy's military forces, but also brings the enemy society to an extremely personal point of decision, so that they are willing to accept a reversal of the cultural trends”;

Violent Change: "Change -- above all violent change -- is the essence of human history";

Civilian Lives: "The sparing of civilian lives cannot be the total war's first priority ... The purpose of total war is to permanently force your will onto another people."

etc. etc. etc…

Naomi Klein has so expressively described this as: “Ground Zero - Pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia.”

I still think that it is possible to explain the invasion itself and the first year of the occupation in terms of this theory.


This line of reasoning leads immediately to the conclusion that this route ultimately led to failure due to the very premises that the doctrine was based on. The major failure being that people (at least most Iraqis) failed to react as predicted by the neocon theory.

This view is supported by what seemed like a definite shift in US policy in May of last year, manifested by:

• Hurriedly discarding Bremer’s regime.
• Discarding the Iraq Governing Council and shifting to the Interim Government concept.
• Discarding the neocon’s man in Iraq Mr. Chalabi who was replaced by Mr. Allawi, the CIA and State Department man.
• Going to the UN and making a few concessions to obtain some international legitimacy through resolution 1546

We definitely also know that the neocon economic recipe for ‘reform’ has been completely abandoned.

Was the neocon policy a total failure and was therefore discarded?

But this contention does not explain the fate of the major architects of that neocon plan. There was no indication whatsoever that President Bush was cross with those neocons responsible for those errors of judgment that led to criminal failures. Rumsfeld stayed on, Wolfowitz is moving to the better paid and more prestigious World Bank job, Bolton has been nominated to a similarly prestigious UN job in the face (perhaps in disregard or defiance) of World and some American outrage. Only Feith seems to be destined to move out quietly.

If their theory had failed in practice and led to so many adverse results, surely someone would have been blamed, if not publicly, then at least some of those advocates of the neocon approach would have been demoted, at least quietly at the end of that year. If political and election consideration had prevented that in June 2004, then surely that would have been possible after President Bush’s re-election. Nobody was reprimanded and nobody was even officially blamed!

Is it possible that the neocon theory is not seen as a failure yet and is still on course under a different skin? We know that, ‘democracy and elections’ notwithstanding, ‘creative destruction’ is still going at full speed in Iraq. The main difference is that a multitude of ‘Iraqi’ and imported forces are now taking part in the pillage.

Or were those policy-shift decisions only hurriedly drawn up plans to rectify the damage that was done by following the neocon recipe? Were the CIA and the State Department given more say to run the occupation of Iraq under more conventional recipes with the cooperation of the neocons who are still influential in the present US administration?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, may I remind you that the object of this essay is to seek possible motives for the invasion of Iraq.

In this respect, it seems that neocon doctrine and PNAC vision were not only possible, but highly likely motives for the invasion of Iraq. The neocons also had a free hand in the running of the occupation of Iraq during the first year.


It frequently seems to me possible to explain those policy shifts and the position of US neocons in terms of the fortunes of one Mr. Ahmed Chalabi.

We know that this particular gentleman was the neocon choice for Iraq. He was, and still is, on extremely good terms with the major neocon players: Cheney, Perle, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith… and of course Michael Ledeen.

He was presented to Congress and to the American people as the right man to lead the new Iraq… to the extent that Michael Ledeen advocated the establishment of a “democratic government in exile”, naturally headed by Chalabi (I frankly don’t understand to this minute how a democracy can be established in exile).

During that ‘coup’ in May-June of 2004, Mr. Chalabi was summarily discarded and was evidently out of favor in Washington and in Baghdad: his house and offices were searched in a humiliating manner, a warrant for his arrest was issued (by an Iraqi judge) and then he was accused of spying for Iran.

Shortly after that, the arrest warrant was quietly resolved and the spying charges suddenly went quiet. Chalabi was even given an important role (far bigger than his political base) to play in the new ‘democracy’. Since then he has been active politically (mainly in engineering sectarian polarization) but only as one of the major players, certainly not the main man!

To me, this seems to suggest a power struggle in Washington. The CIA – State Department team were given a free hand but only for a short while. After that, a compromise was reached where some cooperation replaced the earlier antagonism between those two warring adversaries in the establishment.

Another conspiracy theory? More like an attempt at an explanation of some baffling events. I would welcome another elucidation from a different perspective.

3. Invading Iraq to Avenge 9/11

We now know that such sentiment existed and still exists in the US.

As already discussed, the main thrust of the drive following 9/11 was the war on world terrorism and, to some extent, Islamic fundamentalism. Despite all claims and half-baked affirmations, neither was present in significant force in Iraq either after 9/11 or immediately before the invasion.

We know now that the tragic events of 9/11 were effectively employed to manipulate American public opinion to support the invasion of Iraq. 9/11 is an important parameter only within this context. It created a mood that made large segments of the US public susceptible to that manipulation!

Americans who held or still hold this sentiment of Iraq being somehow linked to 9/11 have therefore been wickedly manipulated by people or powers with the sole purpose of promoting their agenda. The basis for that manipulation was bigotry and ignorance as well as primitive raw revenge instincts of simple people: The perpetrators of 9/11 were Arab and Muslim; Iraq was mostly Arab and Muslim. That was the simple venomous argument insinuated (not officially I should add)! This is why I have described those manipulators as wicked.

[On the other hand, soon after the invasion, Iraq was declared by President Bush himself to have become a front in the war against terrorism… and indeed it was. It is now, and likely to remain so for a long time to come. This is indeed an epitome of wickedness. As an Iraqi I find it outrageous for terrorists to be lured (and they were literally lured) into my country so that the American army can fight it out with those people in our cities with thousands of innocent Iraqis killed in the process. Those innocent people are being killed by the dozen every day NOW… but that is another story. Another casualty of this ploy was the nationalistic resistance – people fighting to resist what they genuinely believe to be the American occupation of their country. There was no serious attempt to bring those people into the fold of the political process. They were all lumped by US officialdom, most of the mass media and the propaganda machines together with those terrorists. They no longer exist in most people’s minds!]

In any case, the motive for the invasion as a component in the fight against world terrorism was already discussed with the other ‘declared motives’ and was found almost groundless. More significantly, those promoting it knew that it was a “thin case” as manifested by the “Downing Street Memo” discussed earlier.

Even then, why was Iraq chosen for this purpose even before the rise of international terrorism? But back to the undeclared motives for the invasion of Iraq; the facts are straightforward:

Crude vengeance cannot be an objective for governments or part of a strategic vision. Therefore it seems obvious to me that revenge for 9/11 could not have been a major factor in the invasion itself (not for strategic planners) but it was intentionally employed to secure public support for that invasion and for its undeclared agenda.

4. Creating a Haven for Investment

There was certainly no shortage of legislation introduced almost immediately after the invasion to create a haven for foreign (primarily American) investment in Iraq. Almost unrestricted free trade was encouraged by regulations and a negligible amount of rules to regulate investment, to the extent that they were described by The Economist as "the wish list of foreign investors."

Privatization to an unprecedented extent was initiated (but failed). Anyone who was familiar with the extent of state ownership of enterprises in Iraq would have realized the magnitude of ‘economic shock’ that those measures constituted.

[Even to generally ‘right’-leaning people in Iraq, privatizing the ‘ownership’ of the country’s oil is almost unthinkable. Traditionally, oil and (for the past 6000 years) other underground minerals are universally believed to be public property. It makes sense to most people for the government to have revenue from oil for public spending instead of taxing people. This may explain why so many people in Iraq found Bremer’s decrees and the talk to ‘privatize’ oil so offensive… and reacted so violently to them.]

The creation of that haven for foreign investment can be viewed by many well-meaning people as a legitimate means of efficiently rebuilding a ravaged country. Indeed quite a number of sovereign countries go out of their way to lure foreign investment. Russia comes to mind. Dubai is a country being built along these lines.

But this essay is not about the rights or wrongs of such a policy; there is a wide range of well-debated opinions regarding those issues. It is about undeclared motives for the invasion of Iraq.


No doubt having priority access to a new market in a rich country in need of almost total renovation (oil drilling, refining infrastructure, power generation, roads, hospitals, schools, houses, etc… … ) and a long-deprived consumer sector with an enormous appetite for almost everything (from cars to consumables, computers, children’s toys etc… …) would certainly be quite appealing to numerous American corporations. A potential market size of some 50 billion dollars annually is quite a significant trophy even for the larger American multinationals.

It would be a strong incentive for most US corporations to support such a venture… but to assume that this was a main motive for the invasion is a different thing. It would depend on the influence these groups have on US foreign policy. People of differing political / economic convictions have sharply contrasting views on this.

But, yet again, instability and chaos are definitely not very encouraging for foreign investment. So, if this was a major motive, it is not compatible with the decisions made at the beginning of the occupation that led to chaos and violence… and cannot be seen by any stretch of the imagination to justify so much disruption and antagonism in the region, in the Muslim world and in the world at large, not to mention heightened feelings of mistrust and hatred towards America… unless, again, total incompetence is assumed!

Therefore, this can only be seen either as a failed objective… or as a long-term desirability. In either case it must have been taken into account as yet another beneficial by-product of the intended campaign. How crucial it was as a factor, remains an open question. The question also remains of how influential those various business and industry corporations are on US foreign policy.

In conclusion: Even if the economic benefits (of creating a new market and a safe haven for investment by American corporations) resulting from the invasion of Iraq were not the prime motive for the invasion… they must have been an important factor in favor of the invasion and ensured the support of most large and small US corporations for that invasion.

5. Eliminating Saddam’s Long-term Threat

The best case for this possible motive for the invasion was brought to my attention by a regular reader: “That [Saddam’s] threat was long term, not short term, and it rested nearly completely on Saddam's long held nuclear ambitions. The case is set forth at great length in the linked review of Kenneth Pollack’s, "The Threatening Storm." ”
The general idea was that sanctions would not work in the long term. Saddam could play a cat-and-mouse game with the USA indefinitely. Given his past record, he would be likely to acquire a stockpile of WMD, particularly nuclear weapons that could threaten other countries in the region…as well as the USA. Pollack (and no doubt many others) could not see “another viable alternative” to invasion.
Fair enough. This is certainly a reasonable argument. But there is a problem with this hypothesis: if this was indeed the motive – a long term threat – then what was the hurry? Saddam was in no position in March 2003 to threaten any regional country or the United States. Could the administration have given itself a little bit more time to plan the campaign?
There is almost universal agreement now that the post-invasion phase was poorly planned. The reason most people accept for that poor planning was that haste! But why was there so much haste? Lack of proper preparation, lack of proper planning, disasters that led to the loss of countless lives, Iraqi and America; chaos, lawlessness, poor decisions that led to America being viewed as an enemy by ordinary people…

What would have happened if the invasion was delayed for some six months, or even a year to prepare better? Wouldn’t this have led to some life saving? If all those criminal mistakes were not made, couldn’t that have possibly led to the success in this campaign instead of resulting in a humiliating failure?

Even the plans put forward by the numerous committees set up by the State Department were hurriedly and unceremoniously discarded! Why?

This theory does not explain the great urgency with which the campaign was conducted or the great incompetence in its implementation. If long term dangers were the main motive, then surely the long term effects of chaos in Iraq and the already-volatile region would also be equally threatening to the USA and to world peace… and would have warranted some consideration?
Surely, to any semi-competent long-term planner, “long term” adverse effects that such an invasion would have on the Arab world, the Muslim world and the rest of the world… would also lead to even more significant long-term threat? Surely those possible, perhaps even potentially more potent, long-term threats should have warranted better planning of the campaign if it were not to produce more grave dangers that it aimed to solve? Or couldn’t the administration handle the concept of more than one threat simultaneously? That would be an absurd proposition.
[Another interesting (probably even amusing) observation that has to be made in this context is that so many people advocating action (including going to war) based on Saddam’s (or other regimes’) record or history, violently reject other people drawing conclusions based on US administrations’ past record and actions!]

This theory may only become reasonable with the aid of one of two assumptions to explain the shortcomings in implementation:

1. The timing was dictated by “short-term” domestic US political considerations, for re-election purposes, which did not leave sufficient time to plan for the campaign properly… and to exploit public sentiment that allowed that ‘thin’ evidence to be sufficient justification for the war;

2. A level of (political and administrative) incompetence that no amount of planning could improve.

The implications, in either case, for the integrity of the administration or its capability to run the affairs of America… are self evidently disastrous!

In summary, there may have been a case for Saddam being regarded as a long-term threat to the USA for that factor to be considered a motive for the invasion. But if that is accepted, then the conclusions of either criminal incompetence or recklessness and lack of sufficient consideration for loss of American (or other) lives or for creating more long-term grave dangers on the part of the administration… must be accepted by advocates of this theory.

6. Intentional Devastation of Iraq

More Iraqis than people in the West may imagine subscribe to this belief. They range from illiterate peasants to university professors. This is by far the most ‘popular’ theory in Iraq (outside Kurdistan) and has been so for more than a year. It borders on conspiracy theory but please bear with me a little to see things the way most Iraqis have been seeing them for the past two years!

To many people ‘intentional devastation’ offers the only plausible explanation to what has been happening in Iraq over the past two years. A sample of the criticisms felt by many Iraqis:

1. No sane Iraqi would accept the story about Saddam posing a threat to the United States. A good portion of them believe that he was for a long time an American stooge. (There’s a conspiracy theory for those seeking one!)

2. None would accept the excuses offered for securing only the Oil Ministry and letting all those looters on the loose rampaging all their institutions. No one can accept the excuse that the Ministry of Oil was protected by coincidence or because the Americans believed that it held records of the country’s wealth. People’s civic records, hospitals, municipalities, service departments, the country’s irrigation network are also important! Report after report came in that the US boys were actually encouraging the looters and forcing doors open for them. I personally witnessed one such incident.

3. The looting, criminal gangs on the loose, rapes, kidnappings and lawlessness! Any third-rate third-world general knows that for a change of regime to cause minimum disruption and chaos, a curfew for a few days needs to be imposed. In Iraq itself, that was done several times in the past century. Was it that difficult for the American administration to plan for? People had already made provisions at home for the invasion itself. We all remember Rumsfeld’s dismissive remarks on the issue: How do you think Iraqis felt when, in the days of the looting of Baghdad, they heard the U.S. Defense Secretary saying that looting “isn't something that someone allows or doesn't allow. It's something that happens.”… Or that “freedom is messy”?

4. Few people realize the amount of damage that was incurred on Iraq’s (the world’s, really) cultural treasures during that mass and afterwards: It has been estimated that one million books, 10 million documents, and 14,000 archaeological artifacts have been lost… the biggest cultural disaster since the descendants of Genghis Khan destroyed Baghdad in 1258. Parts of Babylon's ancient ruins were destroyed (by the army!) Some of those books and documents lost or destroyed were immensely valuable human heritage. … and all this despite clear warnings (before the invasion) from UNESCO, the UN, the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute and the former head of the U.S. president's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property, Martin Sullivan. In the words of Venezuelan writer Fernando Baez: “It is a paradox: the inventors of the electronic book returned to Mesopotamia, where books, history and civilization were born, to destroy it.”

5. No one in his right mind would accept the reasons given to disband the army on the grounds that it was Baathist. There were so many defectors over the previous years that the US administration must have had a fair idea of the amount of discontent with the regime in the army. Indeed, they used some of those defectors to build and promote their case for the invasion! All military cadets were forced to become Baathists. Yet, many were only Baathists in name. Most saw themselves as patriots first. They felt angry, like almost everybody else, at what the regime was doing to their country. Was it so inconceivable for the Americans to send them home with a promise of monthly pay while waiting to re-organize the army? Most military units knew who the nasty characters were. Those would not show up anyway. Besides, the America neocons were yelling that the Iraqis will welcome them with roses. Therefore they must have anticipated the amount of discontent with the previous regime that existed in the country. Cost? $100 per month on average for 400, 000 people = $40 million/ month which is so small in terms of the war budget… and it could have been paid from Iraqi oil money! This of course would not have prevented those terrorists from pouring across the wide open borders. It would not have prevented the die-hard Saddam supporters from doing some damage… but I believe the bulk of the nationalistic resistance (widely ignored by the mass media but its effect no doubt felt by the US army) came from regular army personnel. The vast majority of those people were only Baathist in name, believe me! They outnumber Saddam’s people at least 20 to 1. Remember that many of these were seasoned warriors (some of them with long war experience) and most saw themselves as patriots. Many of their officers knew where the ammunition depots were. They included staff planners. So the US administration almost willfully created a deadly enemy… that operated in a supportive environment.

6. Why was the police force disbanded? Iraq had several uniformed police services. The traffic police had nothing to do with politics or oppression. Most of those on the street now are the same ones of the previous regime, re-employed. So why were they disbanded? There was also the anti-Crime police who knew many of the criminals and could have been useful in combating them. (Some people even took it upon themselves to take their records home to preserve them.) There was the non-political Border Guard Corps, etc. etc.

7. There was the insensitive behavior of American soldiers. They certainly acted like a conquering army which made the case for winning the hearts and minds of people or having the welfare of Iraqis at the heart of the campaign… extremely unconvincing to the average Iraqi. Even today, two years after the invasion, the American patrols are avoided by ordinary people like the plague! They are seen as dangerous as those forces of darkness killing people at random.

8. The laughable efforts made to restore services (minimum basic services like electricity water and refuse collection) and the unbelievable excuses made to explain the failure in doing so (to this date) are simply seen as pathetic. As far as I know, no insurgent or terrorist organization has taken it upon itself to attack refuse, yet nobody seems willing to collect it. There was plenty of money spent pretending to do that though!

9. The ongoing “liquidation” of Iraqi academics and professionals. University professors from almost all disciplines (from Accounting to Zoology) belonging to all denominations (Arab, Kurd, Muslim, Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Atheist) and all political orientations (Baathists, Communists, Islamists, Secularists…) have been intentionally targeted and killed systematically over the past two years. There has been no sectarian or political pattern whatsoever. In most cases no ransom was involved, as these people are mostly not well off. Specialist doctors have also been targeted, sometimes for money and sometimes without apparent reason. Many have been explicitly instructed to leave the country. This has created so much public ill-feeling towards the American management of Iraq. The absence of any clear group to blame for these systematic killings only adds fuel to conspiracy theories. The only reason people find is the intentional devastation of the country.

10. There was also the reliance of the administration on totally corrupt so-called ‘imported’ politicians. Some of those were already convicted on criminal charges. The US administration surely knew about them! In fact, they ‘promoted’ the most corrupt among them. These people led to a new wave of corruption to an unprecedented level. Those people were also entrusted with designing the political process and guide the country to a new age of Democracy! We can all see the results of that.

11. Most ‘indigenous’ Iraqis have come to believe that the democratic process was designed to enhance sectarianism and ethnicity. The result was that people were made to vote for lists that were Kurdish, Shiite or Sunni. This was seen as a wicked effort to divide the country and encourage civil war. In the darkest of Saddam’s years there was not so much sectarian polarization of the country. The sectarian militias of various groups have been allowed to maintain their identities and paramilitary structure… outside the new Iraqi armed forces!

[A few days ago, I saw a news clip from the guesthouse of a tribal leader in the so-called Shiite heartland in the south. The man had gathered quite a large assembly of southern tribal chiefs and was saying: “What is all this Sunni Shiite talk? We know what has been happening… but we are just being patient. I’m warning those people playing on the sectarian tune!” The significance is that that gentleman is the grandson of the man who first ignited the 1920 revolution against British occupation of Iraq.

“…the first spark took place when the authorities arrested a local tribal chief, Shalaan Abul Choan. While he was being taken away by the British soldiers, Shalaan yelled at one of his companions: "These people may deport me to Baghdad. Send me 10 good gold coins tonight". That night, ten warriors of his tribe attacked the jail he was held in and freed him. That was the spark the southern areas needed!”]

The sectarian polarization is seen by most ordinary people as yet another assault that aims to devastate the country as a first step towards disintegration, media reports notwithstanding!

12. The administration’s repeated assertions that the US army will stay until security is restored and their adamant refusal even to consider discussing a timetable for withdrawal are only seen as an excuse since their presence was the main cause of insecurity.

The list could go on… and the items and grievances would not be exhausted. Personally, this essay has been one of the most difficult for me to write objectively and concisely!

Talk of poor planning and incompetence is simply dismissed. No reasonable person would believe that the American planners could be so stupid. Few people believe that the US army, the most powerful in the world, would be so incompetent.

There have been numerous counter-arguments and excuses put forward over the past two years to these items. These arguments and excuses may or may not have been convincing to the American public… but please remember that in this essay, I am looking at things from a purely Iraqi perspective. All those arguments have not been convincing to Iraqis in the slightest. And, from what I read, the rest of the world doesn’t seem to think much of them either. It simply doesn’t do!

It did not make sense for a country that prided itself for planning for everything in great detail and had the resources and the awe inspiring technology and expertise to repair a spacecraft way out in the solar system to be so short sighted and incompetent!

It did not make sense to most Iraqis then. It does not make sense now!

In many Iraqis’ minds, there is no doubt (not little doubt) that the devastation of their country has been intentional. No amount of propaganda can alter that. Results perhaps could. But so far, there are very few of those! Everything that has been taking place, including the so-called democracy, freedom, etc. only confirms this conviction. Yet, even now, senior US administration people keep assuring us that they did and are still doing the right things!

The question is: why? Why would America, the superpower of the world, go to such lengths and incur so much loss of blood and money to damage Iraq, a comparatively small country that was never a threat and was never likely to be one. It is almost unbelievable! This is where conspiracy theorists have a field day!

The most frequent answer you would hear is that Iraq is devastated as a first step to dominate the Arab (and the Muslim) world and to gain total control over the oil, etc.

The other most frequent reason given for that intentional devastation gives is: Israel. This was all done to ensure the security of ‘Likudite’ Israel, Iraq being the only remaining Arab country in the region that may pose a real threat to Israel in the future.

People holding that belief got their ‘proof’ in the new design of the national flag that was proposed by the Bremer-installed Iraq Governing Council, soon after its own inception. Of all the colors of all the flags in the world, they only chose a design and colors that resembled those of Israel!! In fact, the Israeli fingerprints were detected, rightly or wrongly, in quite a number of measures, including the ‘process’ along which elections were conducted. Persistent reports about talks of an oil pipeline to Haifa did not help! Neither did reports of the presence of Israeli personnel during the Abu Ghraib atrocities.

The intentional-devastation theory based on the interests of Israel is hard to accept. It is hard to accept (no matter how influential the pro-Likud lobby in America is or how much control it has over American politicians) that the US administration would spill so much American blood and money just to protect Israel.

Those Israeli fingerprints? Well, there is a simple explanation: We know that there are exceptionally strong ties between this administration and Sharon’s. The neocon links are particularly profound. Israel has a great deal more experience with countries of the region. It is therefore extremely likely that this administration relied heavily on Israel’s advice. Israel’s agenda is public knowledge. Conclusions are obvious!

Some people agree to this but they add that advice was deliberately engineered to cause these catastrophic results not only to devastate Iraq but also to create a wedge of trust between Iraqis and Americans that is hard to bridge. Any form of lasting friendship between Iraq and America is seen as detrimental to hard-line Israel. I don’t know! But it is certain that as things are at the moment, it would be a long time before Iraqis can trust America again

There are a number of other weaknesses in the ‘intentional’ devastation theory: The US administration has asked for, and Congress approved, the allocation of large sums of its own tax payers’ money for the reconstruction of Iraq; the administration has also quite evidently put its weight and influence to pressure a number of countries to reduce or totally forego much of Iraq’s foreign debts. Furthermore, it is hard to see how creating a failed state could serve any purpose for this administration. A state of chaos usually leads to unpredictable results. There is also the considerable damage done to the US image (and prestige) around the world. The oppressed people of any country that the US would think of ‘liberating’ through an invasion would be the first to resist its efforts!

It doesn’t make sense! Total criminal incompetence again?

Conclusion: I can believe that, like other by-products of the campaign, the domination of the Middle East and the removal of a potential threat to Likudite Israel… can be seen as useful, but it is hard to see the intentional devastation of Iraq as the prime motive for the invasion. Yet, this devastation is exactly what has been taking place on the ground in Iraq. No amount of propaganda can change that.

7. Leading America into Perpetual Conflict

Theory of Perpetual War

This theory is another possible explanation for the events in Iraq over the past two years. It is different from, and less ambitious than, the ‘world domination theory’. In this post, I will only give a very brief outline of this theory but will come back to it in future posts to examine it in greater detail and apply it to the US administrations’ performance in Iraq.

This discussion is no more than a proposal of a possible theory and should not be seen as an attempt at any absolute revelation of the truth. It is simply just another attempt to fit sense and logic into what is otherwise seen as irrational, senseless or inexplicable. I may well be wrong on the theory I am proposing in this article. I certainly hope that I am; otherwise we are in for a gloomy future.

The basic premise of the theory is not built around Iraq! It is basically an approach to the long term defense of the United States.

Brief Outline of Theory


With the end of the cold war and the crumbling of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war, there was no longer an immediate visible threat to America as seen by the lay public.

Due to the resulting public and Congressional mood, and because of the mounting national debts, military expenditure was reduced considerably (during the Clinton administration). Some of the consequences would be that the arms industry will suffer without much influx of capital, arms research will be weaker. The army will be reduced in size and in capability. America will become weaker.

While this is taking place, other nations (some of them strong candidates to be US competitors or adversaries) will be busy building their economic and military strength. This can already be seen taking place at a horrific rate in China. Some observers are already worried about recent trends in Russia. Other countries will soon follow.

Central to all these strategic considerations is oil… the present civilization’s most crucial raw material.

These possibilities cannot be taken lightly by truly concerned patriots. It would be quite irresponsible from a certain patriotic point of view not to be strongly concerned with these potential future dangers.

The long term cost of relaxing the nation’s readiness and military capability can be catastrophic.

Up to this point, the arguments are familiar and have been advocated frequently during most of the 90’s. It is the natural conclusion that follows from these arguments that is the basis of the ‘undeclared’ Perpetual War Theory.


In practical terms, there is one solution.

Due to the nature of the US democratic political system, the country cannot be made to increase the defense budgets and maintain the military strength at adequate levels without a visible threat. It cannot be made to fight without a conviction subscribed to by a majority of the population.

People need to feel threatened, and convinced of the immanent nature of that threat, to rally to the call. In this respect, a PNAC document entitled “Rebuilding America's Defenses” published in 2000 actually mentions the positive effect of “some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” [I am definitely not contending that they had anything to do with 9/11; I am only trying to portray an attitude that may lead to certain conclusions.]

Once that is achieved, the rest of the agenda will be relatively simple to implement: Elected politicians, for the very purpose of getting elected, generally reflect the mood of the people. The required legislation and budget allocations necessary to achieve the major objectives will pass through Congress almost unhindered.

The only possible way to achieve these strategic objectives is for the nation to be kept in a state of constant war or a constant threat of war.

But it would not be prudent or even beneficial to initiate strong confrontational positions with major potential adversaries such as China at present.

The best solution is to engage the nation in a series of continuous small wars (‘good’ wars fought on US terms) and not wait for the other sides to start it when they are ready.

Therefore, to achieve the objective of putting the nation in conflict and hence in a state of alert, a smaller enemy is necessary to start with for a good part of this century. Enemies are therefore needed (there certainly is no shortage of these, but the American public has to believe those enemies pose an eminent threat to the US). A war in which the US would quickly prevail due to its superior power is not good enough. This was clearly demonstrated by the relaxed public mood that followed the first Gulf War. The war (or series of wars) has to be a long-term one… preferably continuous.


Although the doctrines of ‘The Project for the New American Century’ (PNAC) and the related neo-conservative school of thought are important corner stones to understanding this theory, it is not limited to them!

Several political observers have wondered like Seymour Hersh how a small ‘cultist’ group of people could totally hijack the foreign policy of a thriving democracy in the world’s major superpower. The answer is simple: it is not a small cultist group. The ideals of these people can be seen as part of larger, ‘more subtle’ currents in the United States that began to take root immediately after the end of the cold war and reached similar conclusions regarding the need for America’s military readiness.

This is not seen as an evil scheme by its subscribers! Some (perhaps many) of the people who hold this vision believe that America’s political system is the most humane and its economic system the most efficient. It is built around individual rights and freedoms. Human dignity is almost sacred and is enshrined in the constitution. Democracy is central to government structure. Open government is a guaranteed by various checks and balances built wisely into the system. The American model, when applied to other countries such as Japan or Germany among others has led to thriving countries and just, non-aggressive societies. From a patriotic American viewpoint, such ‘dominance’ is good for the country and good for the world as a whole. It can be subscribed to by people with moderate views and mild dispositions!

From this brief outline, it may not be difficult to realize the extent of the influential forces in the States that may subscribe to this undeclared agenda. The neocons are only the publicly visible, ‘intellectual’, active, outspoken (and perhaps fanatic) advocates of the extreme version of this vision. They also happen to hold the reigns of power in America. And some of them, for example John Bolton, have been accredited of getting the religious fundamentalist movements of America on the bandwagon.


Elsewhere, I will go into this theory in some detail to include the need to defend the conventional American values of freedom, democracy and religious faith.

I will then hope to apply this theory to the war in Iraq to offer explanation of events that seem so far inexplicable unless one assume an unbelievable degree of poor planning and total incompetence. I also find this theory capable of explaining the ferocity of the antagonistic attitude towards ‘old Europe’ and the UN as well as the evident apathy to American and other casualties and expenditure.
A motive to invade Iraq? Iraq just happened to be the best, almost ideal, candidate!

According to this theory, what has been happening in Iraq is the plan! It would not have been sufficient for the US army to prevail, institute a solid democracy in a stable country… and leave soon afterwards. The motive in this case is the conflict itself that may result in log-term strategic gains, not short-term profits, to America… at a minimum level of losses.

8. Other Theories

In this section, I will list readers’ additions to undeclared motives (that I received during the discussion of tis subject on my other blog "Iraqi Letters") very briefly to complete the main line of this series to give readers a chance to debate them. I hope that I have managed to retain the intended message but I also added a link to the original reader’s post. They are listed in no particular order. I leave it to readers to assess the strengths and weaknesses of these different theories.

1. Military-Industrial Complex / Personal Gains
The role of the so-called “Military Industrial Complex” in America
Basically, the US military expenditure is enormous. Yet, as we have also seen, the troops on the ground lack basic equipment like body armour and other items. WHERE does all the money GO? Let me put forward the theory that some very powerful movers and shakers in the US Defence industry see it as a positive development for their personal bank balances (and those of their shareholders) for the US to be in constant conflict with other nations.

The reality is that most of the expenses lie in (a) research (b) development (c) maintenance. The condition of perpetual war suits the manufacturers of these weapons very well, and they do not hesitate to prescribe technological weapons solutions for tactical / strategic deficiencies in the field. It is in the manufacturer’s interests to sell the most expensive equipment possible to the US military, and to have a reason (ie wars) for continual re-supply of such equipment.

2. Eliminate Iraq as a strategic threat to Israel … by transforming Iraq into an Afghanistan-like American colony. And failing that… Destroy Iraq as a strategic threat to Israel by promoting a debilitating civil war.

It is really difficult outside of the United States to understand how intense the American identification with Israel is. For some Americans it is for racial reasons - helping European Jews such as Sharon exert their supremacy over dark Arab Palestinians such as Arafat. For other Americans it is for religious reasons - the belief that the bible demands that Christians help God bring his prophecy that Jews would control Israel. For most Americans it is a combination of the two - racism reinforcing religious bigotry while religious bigotry reinforces racism.

3. Domestic political goals
Re-electing Bush, re-taking control of the senate, expanding control of the house, and removing the fetters of public scrutiny from all federal government agencies.
I am not suggesting that this was THE reason, or even a sole and sufficient reason to invade Iraq. But, every other goal that was or could have been one or more of the motives for the invasion was subordinated to the domestic political agenda. From the timing and manner in which the invasion was ‘rolled out’ for the 2002 midterms, to the ‘Mission Accomplished’ Show, to the capture of Saddam, and on and on and on and on. To the extent that events could be controlled, they were coordinated with the election cycle. To the extent that events were random, they were exploited, by the government and its supporters in the corporate press/media, for purposes of the election.

4. PetroDollar economics
Preventing Saddam from selling substantial quantities of oil for euros instead of for dollars. Such a move by Saddam would have threatened U.S. dollar hegemony, which is currently allowing the U.S. to obtain goods from all around the world essentially for free. (The U.S. pays for everything in dollars, which are the only currency with which anyone can now buy large quantities of oil. To say that the loss of dollar hegemony in oil would be devastating to the U.S. is an understatement. There are other ways in which dollar hegemony could be attacked, but if a major oil-producing country switched to euros, it could be a significant foot in the door for breaking down the dollar system.)

Another factor that sometimes pops up is the fact that Saddam wanted to start trading oil in Euros and not dollars. Given that the US Dollar is essentially underwritten by oil, that decision by Iraq could have been the start of a domino effect affecting the value of the US currency. I'm not advancing this as a "main" reason, but certainly it could not have made the US very happy.

5. Establishing military bases in the heart of the Middle East:
Establishing permanent bases in the heart of the Middle East, thus allowing the U.S. to threaten or attack any country in the area on very short notice. Since the neocons apparently believe they can maintain U.S. power by threatening devastating military action against non-cooperating nations, establishing such bases is a crucial achievement for them.

6. Lesson to puppets:
Putting the U.S. “client states” (puppet regimes) on notice that they will be dealt with harshly in the event they do anything the U.S. doesn’t like.

7. Stengthening Najaf’s Clergy to Counter Iran’s Influence:
The American mistake had led to a great human Islamic educational crisis: That is the shrinkage of the Islamic moderate thinking on both Islamic sects. On the Sunni’s side, the great Alzhar moderate thinkers lost their leadership to the Wahabees…

On the Shia’s side, The Najaf moderate School’s leadership had weakened. That is because of the blessing by the west to Saddam to crash Shia in Iraq, due to the concerns of expanding the new Iranian revolutionary teachings into Iraqi Shia majority. That gave the idealistic schools of Iran a better opportunity to contain those hurt by Saddam.

Part of what is happening today, might be to correct that big mistake. The democratic Iraq would re establish the identity of the moderate Shia majority of Iraq with all the scholar power of Najaf school . The best place, today, on the planet to fight back the Salafee’s ideology. By: Basim Almustaar

8. The forever war as a replacement of the Cold War.
Much of the administration’s momentum and support is predicated on an indefinite war hysteria. Maintaining the hysteria requires maintaining the war, in terms of enhancing our profile as a target, keeping the disaffected and poor active as a threat to the population but not the state, and keeping the populace appropriately revved up on one hand and frightened on the other.
Part of the framing of the response to the 01 attacks as a “War on Terrorism” fed that end—a war on a military tactic is almost forever by definition—but Al Qaida was not, in my view, a sufficiently abiding threat to keep the pot boiling. Hence the pouring of Iraqi oil on the fire.

9. Constant US foreign policy
Controlling the flow of oil was central to the motivation to invade Iraq, but to understand it completely we have to consider it in the context of US policy in that part of the world since the end of WWII and perhaps before.

That policy, or set of policies, was the foundation for a set of options. Invading Iraq was one of those options. Is the question why the US invaded Iraq in 2003? Or is it why the US has been using its military to attempt to control the region over the last fifty years or so?

10. Placing a military force in a Middle Eastern country to unite and draw out terrorist and "insurgent" forces.

Why choose Iraq? Saddam, and the dictator system of government. These are totems which America holds as "evil." If someone says the word "dictator" in reference to a country, the American people instantly believe they are warmongering, power hungry, depraved men who torture others for their own amusement. While they might not all be such men, those are the ones which stand out in the public eye. I'm sure there've been many dictators who lived nice, peaceful lives, and never started a single war. They just don't make headlines.

11. The Bush Family vendetta:
George Bush Sr. was once director of the CIA. It is my belief that he had learned something about Saddam Hussein, or perhaps even had personal dealings with him, which created an enmity between them. Junior, following in daddy's footsteps, or perhaps even at his urging, becomes President. At the first possible opportunity, Junior goes after the man who once tried to kill his daddy.

The reason for America choosing Iraq could be no more than an old fashioned redneck family feud.

12. World domination:
America became the world superpower with World War II. Staying out of the war that long had nothing to do with it being none of our business. We're American. Everything is our business.

Europe was stabilized, governmental institutions were installed which make it impossible for enough people to get together with the same idea to actually get anything as straightforward as say, trying to take over a neighboring country done in any sort of timely fashion.

Asia's been stabilized. The Japanese ceased trying to take over through force of arms and turned to electronics instead. Some of the smaller countries get antsy from time to time, but with the threat of China looming over them waiting to swallow them whole given the slightest opportunity they're unlikely to make much of a fuss as long as America is occupied in the Middle East and isn't there to bully China.

Africa obviously has nothing to offer any part of the world, or situations like Rwanda would have been seen to much sooner, and DARFUR would be more than just a funny sounding word to the vast majority of the world's populace.

The Middle East is the last bastion of chaos which somehow manages to have resources and industry in the world. It is one of the few places left where major conflicts between neighboring countries still occur that would have an impact on the world economy.

By "Americanizing" the Middle East, America is able to remain the great superpower in the world, because our politicians have the most experience in befuddling their constituents while slowly stealing our freedoms. # An American Patriot

13. The “People” Theory
[I have added this “personal” aspect as I received it through a private communication. It is amusing as it combines several facets based on the ‘character’ of key players! It is more like a personal approach to history which belongs to a well established school of philosophical thought and which of course has its merits!]

“The search for invasion rationales is very perplexing… I sense the will of Israel in the actions of Wolfowitz. Put him in a room with: Cheney who thinks oil and contracts, Rove who thinks upcoming elections, Rumsfeld who wants to try out his ideas about warfare and GW who thinks that he knows the will of God, and pretty soon it probably made perfect sense.
Groupthink got us here in my opinion, not any one idea. You know what they say about opinions!!”


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