When I first heard that people who lived through the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, and the crisis in Libya were pushing to invade Syria, I believed they were merely joking. After all, how is it possible to cause so much disaster without taking a shred of accountability? While it now seems clear that the Neo-Cons are not joking – they are a joke.
When Neo-Cons pushing to confront Syria are reminded of the failures of the Iraq War, they are quick to dig up their old talking points defending the $2.4 trillion mistake. As has been pushed by those with very little understanding of Iraqi politics, former prime minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki has been ubiquitously suggested to be the culprit behind Iraq’s descent into the underworld.
As James Denselow, an Iraq Analyst at London’s King’s College, wrote back in 2007, “Maliki’s job is fairly untenable. Iraq is like Lebanon on crack.” Maliki, who has been simultaneously labeled a power-hungry tyrant while being authentically apprehensive of even running for office, was tasked with bringing three divergent groups of people together under one government.
When the Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish factions had not yet delivered on benchmarks set out by Congress, President Bush was quick to put more pressure on Maliki to satisfy his domestic audience. Maliki was quickly labeled as a sectarian in western journalism – and blamed for Kurds and Sunnis refusing to be part of the newly created Iraq. The Neo-Con had found their talking point – an excuse to justify failed nation-building.
Therefore, by Neo-Con logic ( If we can call it that), America killing millions in Iraq and installing a new government was not the problem. Maliki failing to unite three historically feuding groups with three different goals was the issue.
The first problem with the Neo-Conservative excuse is that there were no Shiite alternatives to Maliki that were less sectarian or less connected to Iran.
Even Reidar Visser, a notoriously anti-Maliki Iraq analyst from Norway, admits that “the resuscitation of the de-Baathification issue in early 2010 was clearly driven by Maliki’s Shiite enemies [like Adel Abdel Mehdi] who, with considerable Iranian assistance, had tried in vain to enlist him for their sectarian alliance during the previous summer.” Indeed, Visser notes, Maliki had to fight off de-Baathification committee attempts to disqualify some of his own political allies.”
In fact, while many of the candidates for Iraqi P.M., including Maliki, had extensive connections with Iran, the former Dawa party member was the only one who spent the majority of his Iraqi exile in Syria rather that the vilified Persian state.
The frustration of the Neo-Cons with Maliki is based on the assumption that a political reconciliation among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds was achievable within weeks or months. This level of wishful thinking is reminiscent of the adage regarding a definition of craziness: repeating the same actions and expecting different results.
In 2007, when Sunni politicians gave Maliki a week to meet a broad list of 11 demands, including guarantees that the country would not split into three portions, they withdrew from the government when the demands weren’t reached – as they had done in 2005.
When Sunni groups refused to take part in Iraq’s first parliamentary election, they quickly resorted to violence in the aftermath of the US invasion. According to Sunni deputy prime minister, Osama al Najafi, “ The Sunnis see political leadership and governance to be their birthright and resent the Shia interlopers.” With stances such as that, one must ask if any Shiite leadership would be able to manage Sunni/ Shiite turmoil.
In regards to the Kurds of Iraq distancing themselves from Maliki’s Baghdad government, one important topic always comes up: the failure to establish a national oil sharing system amongst all Iraqis. As an investigation by the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee shows, the American State Department and other administration officials encouraged an exploration deal between Texas-based Hunt Oil Co. and Iraq’s Kurdish government. The direct contact and negotiations between the U.S and Kurdistan were in direct violation of Iraqi law. Such violations became the norm. When Rex Tillerson’s Exxon and major oil power Royal Dutch Shell invested millions into Kurdistan, essentially cutting out Sunni and Shiite groups from any possible revenue, the dream of Kurdish independence from Iraq became a distinct possibility.
“Part of the process of building our region has to do, of course, with dealing with oil, signing contracts, negotiations with various countries,” Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to Kurdistan’s president, told Reuters. The Exxon deal validated smaller oil deals Kurdistan had already signed and was “a big victory for us.”
While Maliki is accused of not being able to control his people, it would appear America has the same inability to control its war profiteering industry. To bash the democratically-elected Maliki because he pursued policies that did not always conform to the American game plan perfectly demonstrates the ignorance and naivety of the classic Neo-Con.
While the hypocritical war mongers squeal at the opportunity to excuse their own guilt by criticizing the “sectarian” government Maliki ran, they often forget to mention Saudi or Turkish support for Salafi and Deobandi terrorists throughout Syria and Iraq. As Afghanistan, Libya and Nigeria can attest to, domestic governments are virtually helpless against Saudi-funded militias. As we now know, ISIS was funded for years by wealthy donors in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
While Maliki had faults, turning the blind eye to Saudi support and ignoring the Kurd’s very direct, overly ambitious intention of seeking independence is distasteful and a form of slogan shouting no better than what passes as news on Comedy Central. The image of a bully kicking a hornet’s nest and blaming the hornets for stinging people comes to mind when disgraced pariahs such as John Bolton return with the unique brand of revisionist history.
You see, fellow Americans, the issue wasn’t that $2.4 trillion was spent to gain power – it was that $3 trillion wasn’t spent. If $3 trillion were the cost, the issue would be that $3.5 wasn’t sent. For people who claim a rational high ground, their lack of falsifiable arguments is certainly suspect.