virus: Hawks in the dovecote by Christopher Hitchens

Date: Mon Aug 26 2002 - 11:36:23 MDT

I post this article and the next one, noting that they support neither
Hermit's nor my position on the Iraq queestion, but are infused with
interesting analysis.

They are the only two articles on the issue i plan to post today. I of
course reserve the right to answer the posts of others here concerning
the Iraq question.

Hawks in the dovecote

Henry Kissinger opposes an Iraqi war. So do the Saudis.
And the Turks. With friends like these... Hitchens v
Kissinger: talk about it or email

Iraq: Observer special

Christopher Hitchens
Sunday August 25, 2002
The Observer

It's important to beware of arguments that depend upon the mantra 'the
enemy of my enemy', and it's likewise important to be immune to
charges of keeping bad company. In the days of Vorster and Botha I
didn't mind in the least working with Stalinists in the anti-apartheid
movement (anyway, it's better to have them where you can see them),
and when it came to helping imprisoned dissenters in Czechoslovakia I
couldn't care less that Roger Scruton thought it was a good cause as
well. If you pay too much attention to the shortcomings of your allies, or
if you worry about being lumped together with dubious or unpopular
types, you are in effect having your thinking done for you.
I must say, however, that Henry Kissinger has never let me down, as a
person to consult before making up my own mind. Stepping lightly over
his one-man rolling war-crime wave, extending from Bangladesh
through Indochina to Chile and East Timor, I pause to notice that he
was the man who persuaded President Ford not to invite Alexander
Solzhenitsyn to the White House. He was the chief defender in the
West of the right of the Chinese Communists to massacre their own
students in the centre of Beijing. He made himself conspicuous on the
American Right by being one of the few to argue that Slobodan
Milosevic should be left alone.
A week or so ago I wondered when he was going to pronounce on the
impending confrontation with Iraq. And I bet right. He is against it. So is
his former colleague, and partner in the dread firm of Kissinger
Associates, General Brent Scowcroft. The general is known to be a
ventriloquist, or rather dummy, for George Bush Senior, who is now
widely reported as being in the dove-camp, or dovecote. (This
incidentally demolishes one facile argument, or taunt, about George W.
picking a fight with Saddam Hussein as part of some Corsican
conception of family honour.)
Those who don't want a 'regime change' in Iraq now include the Saudi
royal family, the Turkish army, the more prominent conservative
spokesmen in Congress and the Kissinger hawks. General Sharon, at
least in his public pronouncements, appears to be against it as well.
And somebody with a good contact among the Joint Chiefs of Staff
seems to be leaking pessimistic or pacifistic material at a furious rate.
Those who like to think of themselves as anti-war or anti-imperialist
might wonder what there is left for them to say: all the war-loving
imperialist hyenas are barking for peace at the top of their leathery old
It would be knee-jerkish to conclude merely on this evidence that there
might be a respectable radical case for eliminating Saddam Hussein.
But it's certainly worth examining the motives of the anti-war
establishment. The Saudis do not want an Americanised Iraq because it
might favour the Shia Muslim majority, which in turn might favour Iran,
and they also know that with Iraqi oil back on stream their own near-
monopoly position - the profits of which have been used to finance bin
Ladenism worldwide - would be much diminished.
The Turks are hostile to the idea because it would almost inevitably
extend the area of Iraqi Kurdistan that is currently ruled by its own
inhabitants, who abut the restive Kurdish zone of Turkey. A sizeable
chunk of the American military and business elite is peacenik as well,
either because it fears damage to its polished and expensive arsenal or
because it fears the disruption of Opec and the corresponding loss of
business and revenue. Jordan's operetta monarchy thinks that it might
fall if Iraq is attacked and - even though this collapse might give an
opportunity for cleansing the West Bank in the confusion - the Israeli
hard-liners are sceptical also.
Shall we just say that the anti-war position is the respectable status quo
one? That's interesting in itself. Who would be the beneficiaries of an
intervention, always supposing it went well and Saddam's vaunted army
fought no better than it did the last time? Only the Iraqi and Kurdish
peoples. Well, from the Kissinger-Saudi-Turkish viewpoint, and from the
vantage of the Dallas boardroom, where is the fun in that? The
consequences might be - if we employ the revealing word of choice
among the conservatives - 'destabilising'.
I have spent a good deal of time over the past year in conversation with
the Iraqi opposition factions and the Kurdish forces, who have
misgivings of their own about the Bush strategy. They have been used
as cannon-fodder in the past, sometimes for operations that were called
off at the last minute. They are well aware that from the empire's point
of view, the ideal government in Iraq is a centralised Sunni Muslim
military regime, though one preferably not run by a homicidal
megalomaniac. They know that the United States is perfectly capable of
intervening in Iraq's internal affairs, as it did when it supported
Saddam's invasion of Iran, or when it provided him with weapons and
diplomatic cover during his genocide in Kurdistan in the 1980s. I have
been in Halabja, the town that was annihilated with Iraqi chemical
weapons, and I have read the Pentagon report that with a straight face
blamed the attack on the Iranians. (Those Washington interventions did
not arouse the moral ire of the usual anti-war forces.)
What the Iraqi and Kurdish democrats would like is American aid for
and endorsement of their own efforts to replace the regime. And what
they fear is what I also fear - a heavy-handed US attack which results in
an Iraqi puppet government that is designed to placate the Saudis and
the Turks. That, it seems to me, is where a principled critique of the
war-planning might begin. But it's depressing to see the status quo Left
preferring to parrot the arguments of pacifist realpolitik.

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