Column No. 131 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH  -  December 14, 2006

Note to the reader: This column is based in part on a column on this subject that was published on TPJ just about a year ago, on December 10, 2005.  Except that many more Americans and many, many more Iraqis are dead, Iraq is much more of a physical and socio-economic wreck than it was then, and the US position there is even more tenuous and provocative of violence, things haven’t changed much.  Except that some major and powerful forces on the right wing of the American power elite now want the US out of Iraq.  However, that branch of the same side that is headed by Dick Cheney doesn’t.  And so to the substance of this column.

Since the time of 9/11, starting with comments made by Attorney General Ashcroft very early on, the Georgite line of attack on critics of their foreign policy in general and their Iraq policy in particular has been that such people are traitors. Dick Cheney has been a prime promulgator of the “traitor” line.  Over the past year, especially during the mid-term elections campaign, Cheney’s attacks, along with those of his clones among Republican candidates, the Privatized Ministry of Propaganda and Bush when he was off his minders’ leash, with possibly even more venom than previously, were focused on those critics of the War who are and have been for quite some time calling the Georgites liars. And the chosen epithets changed from “traitors and cowards,” to “corrupt,” “shameless,” and “reprehensible.” “Totally reprehensible,” Cheney said, in charging the Georgite critics with lying about the Georgite lying.

At the end of 2005, when the original version of this column was written, I was convinced that Bush was preparing for a 2006 withdrawal. While Bush then as now was saying that a pullout was a “recipe for disaster,” it did seem to me and others (Agence France Presse, “White House Has Withdrawal Plan,” Nov. 28, 2005) that the Georgites were suddenly focusing on a pull-out of US forces by the 2006 elections.  It obviously didn’t happen then.  As were those who have been predicting a bombing attack on Iran since the spring of 2005, I was wrong.  But now comes the Report of the Iraq Study Group.  There is a new game in town.  The question is will Bush, or more particularly Cheney, play, or rather one should say, be forced to play.

I have been characterizing the conflict within and among the Administration and its close advisors as between the “Baker Wing” and a “Cheney Wing.”  I have said, here and elsewhere, that the Bakerites felt the time had come to pull out because the two original objectives of the invasion, oil and bases, had been achieved.  I have also said that the objective of the Cheney wing is no pullout, ever, because they need Orwellian permanent war if they are ever to achieve their goal of overthrowing US Constitutional Democracy and establishing what they call the “Unitary Executive” and what everyone else calls “fascism.”

Now it would appear a) that I was wrong to a certain extent and b) that the Baker wing has broader concerns.  If they can characterize the situation as “grave and deteriorating” and recommend eventual solutions that guarantee neither oil nor permanent bases, there are obvious other factors in play for the wing of the power elite that they represent.  And it has now become very clear that that wing is a very broad one.  For example, it should be noted that among the members of the ISG are former Senator Alan Simpson, one of the most conservative Republican Senators ever, before the Santorum-Inhofe crowd arrived, and a mentor for Cheney when Simpson was a Senator from Wyoming and Cheney was the Representative.  Also a member is Ed Meese, one-time President of the National Council for Policy (he may still be; they are very secretive), the organization for all of the major right and far right-wing organizations in the US.  The conclusions of the Report, particularly those concerning the utter failure of the Administration’s policies and programs for Iraq, are particularly striking because, as Sen. Russ Feingold pointed out on Keith Olbermann’s program on the day of the issuance of the Report, not one member opposed the war from the beginning (as Sen. Feingold did) and not one member nor any of the “experts” interviewed by it were either originally opposed to the war or are for as quick an exit as possible.

Nevertheless, even with growing opposition within his own party, the principal supporter, for policy reasons, of a US presence forever (or at least as long as possible) is “Permanent War” Cheney.  Bush himself obviously wants to stay here until “victory is achieved,” however one might define victory and Bush surely hasn’t let on, on exactly what he has in mind (see “The BushGuide to Defining Victory in Iraq, II,” http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/jonas/034).  The bully and the totally inadequate person inside him  wants to stay because he’s “The Decider” and what he says goes, in his mind (or what’s left of it).  But in this equation, he doesn’t really count.  He will follow the directions of whoever has his ear.  Cheney obviously has it now, but Baker and his people are surely moving to get it.  One important move for them was to replace Cheney’s Rumsfeld with their man Gates (although the Baker folks had no way of knowing that Rumsfeld was about to abandon the Cheney ship resulting in his firing by Cheney before Baker could arrange it.)  Other moves on both sides will surely follow.  But in following those moves as an observer, it will help very much to understand who is doing what for what real reasons and why.

OK.  Let’s say that Cheney loses the battle, for now at least, and Bush reverses course (as he has done so many times in his Presidency) and starts to move towards withdrawal (before the 2008 elections, surely a concern of Baker and the other Republicans on the ISG, one might add).  One might say, isn’t that a good idea?  On paper, yes –- but the way the Georgites will be doing it, possibly not so good.  Totally ironic is the fact that the Georgite version of withdrawal will be a variation on “cut and run,” in time for Nov., 2008.  It will be accompanied by tall tales of how successful the “Coalition” has been in training the Iraqis “to do the job.”  However, just because they will be withdrawing (while all the time saying that they are not except that they are) doesn’t mean that they will have given up attaining their principal objectives for going in the first place.

As I pointed out a year ago, those objectives (none of which were clearly stated as objectives for the invasion beforehand) have been or in the case of certain ones where cannot know for sure (as in the matter of the bases) may (or may not) have been achieved.  But the Baker wing says that it is time to go anyway. Why?  They have gotten rid of Saddam (not stated as an objective independent of the “WMD” and the “al Qaeda link,” but it was a major one, enunciated by the Project for the New American Century in the mid-90s).  And oh yes, the oil.  They will likely “acquiesce” (encourage behind the scenes) in the establishment of a semi-independent Kurdistan, which will become a full US protectorate, along with, it just so happens, those potentially gigantic oil reserves.  According to Joshua Holland, (AlterNet. Posted October 16, 2006. http://www.alternet.org/story/43045) there are even larger potential oil reserves in that Western Desert where the original plan called for the installation of those permanent bases.  But apparently they won’t be needed.  As Holland said: “Both independent analysts and officials within Iraq's Oil Ministry anticipate that when all is said and done, the big winners in Iraq will be the Big Four -- the American firms Exxon-Mobile and Chevron, the British BP-Amoco and Royal Dutch-Shell -- that dominate the world oil market.  Bush's (sic) petro-cartel almost has Iraq's oil.”

So, for these and for domestic political reasons for the Republicans and the Democratic original supporters of the war, it is time to go.  Of course, none of the band-aids, “training, reconstruction,” embedding, out-bedding, will change the reality on the ground.  In sum, the Georgite withdrawal will leave nothing in place that might bring some kind of stability to Iraq, might lead to the massive reconstruction program that Iraq so badly needs, might fend off the establishment of a totally undemocratic fundamentalist Shiite theocracy (built along the lines of what the Georgite Christian Right proposes for the US, ironically enough).  Only the Iraqis can do that, and they might.  So as not to go on forever here, I will be dealing (or will already have dealt) with that subject on BuzzFlash.

When the possible disaster on a variety of fronts (unless the Iraqis arrange to prevent it) gradually overtakes Iraq, the Georgite Privatized Ministry of Propaganda will be out in force of course (as they already are, in slamming the Iraq “Surrender” Group).   Blaming it all on the ‘traitorous peace-niks” and worse, who “stabbed the military and the noble Bush Administration in the back.”  Believe me, if the US is out of Iraq before the 2008 elections, even with Baker and his right-wing buddies as prime movers, the Republican/Roveite take-no-prisoners political machine will be going oh-so-strong with:  “We could have won if it weren’t for those traitorous Democrats (and you know what the penalty for treason is, don’t you.)”

Let me conclude with another of my wild scenarios (and regular readers of mine know how I love them).  Supposing the US withdraws and a coalition of Iraqi leaders makes sure that the country doesn’t collapse.  But part of the settlement is indeed a semi-independent secular Kurdish republic, under behind-the-scenes US protection as it was during the Clinton years, standing astride all of that oil, between Iran and Turkey.  Then supposing the Isamicists fully take over the Turkish government and, turning their eyes eastward, give up the idea of getting into the European Union.  Islamicist Turkey and Islamicist Iran launch an all-out war on secular Kurdistan. For its part, Turkey, which has no oil, gets a share of what lies under Kurdistan.  A federation of those two theocracies is established, along with the Shiite portion of present-day Iraq.  The Saudi Monarchy is overthrown in a Wahabbist revolt.  The new, massive federation, soon to be armed with nuclear weapons acquired one way or another, turns its eyes on their suffering co-religionists in Palestine.  And the US military, massively weakened by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld triumvirate, can do nothing about it, unless they choose to go nuclear.  And then Cheney has his Permanent War after all.

Speculative?  Indeed.  Possible?  Unfortunately.