This essay first appeared in The Drouth (‘The Thirst’), a quarterly magazine published in Glasgow (Issue 50, Winter 2014/2015). I wrote it in December 2014.
The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War
By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
Edinburgh University Press
Reviewed by Danny Postel
I was reluctant to review this book. With all the dramatic developments in the Middle East today—the ISIS crisis, the siege of Kobanê, the deepening nightmare in Syria, the escalating repression in Egypt, the fate of Tunisia’s democratic transition, the sectarianization of regional conflicts driven by the Saudi-Iranian rivalry—delving back into the 2003 invasion of Iraq seemed rather less than urgent. It’s hard enough just to keep up with the events unfolding day-to-day in the region. Reading—let alone reviewing—a detailed study of the internal processes that led to the United States toppling Saddam Hussein over a decade ago seemed remote, if not indeed a distraction.
But I’m glad I set these reservations aside and took the assignment. This forcefully argued and meticulously researched (with no fewer than 1,152 footnotes, many of which are full-blown paragraphs) book turns out to be enormously relevant to the present moment, on at least three fronts:
- ISIS emerged from the ashes of al Qaeda in Iraq, which formed in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. Without the 2003 invasion, there would be no ISIS as we know it—and the region’s political landscape would look very different.
- The US Senate report on CIA torture has brought back into focus the rogues gallery of the Bush-Cheney administration—the same cast of characters who engineered the 2003 Iraq invasion. This book shines a heat lamp on that dark chapter and many of its protagonists.
- There is talk of a neoconservative comeback in Washington. This thoroughly discredited but zombie-like group are now angling for the ear of Hillary Clinton, who might be the next US president. Ahmad’s book provides a marvelously illuminating anatomy of the neocons, which has lessons that apply directly to this movement’s potentially ominous next chapter.
The central question Ahmad attempts to answer is: Why did the 2003 Iraq War happen? In one of the book’s most valuable sections, felicitously titled ‘Black Gold and Red Herrings’, he goes through several prevalent explanations/theories and takes them apart one by one: Continue reading “Israelpolitik, the Neocons and the Long Shadow of the Iraq War—A Review of Muhammad Idrees Ahmad’s book ‘The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War’”
Janine R. Wedel writes about power, influence, and governing through the unique lens of a social anthropologist. A professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University and senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, Wedel is the first anthropologist to win the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.
Her book Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market (Basic Books 2009) was named Book of the Month by The Huffington Post in January 2010.
Today, [Creative Community for Peace] say, there is not a single musical act, from Justin Timberlake to the Rolling Stones to Alicia Keys, that they have not approached and coached in advance of their performance in Israel. ~Times of Israel
It’s no surprise that the genocidal Times of Israel is so eager to push anti-BDS initiatives. It’s also no surprise that one of Israel’s most well connected, elite whitewashing team, Creative Community for Peace [CCfP], is doing exactly what it vowed to do- whitewash genocide. However one might wonder about some of the names on the below statement that CCfP has published:
Continue reading “Almost 200 Hollywood Celebrities Sign on to Israel’s Genocide of the Palestinian People”
The following is an excerpt from my latest article for Al Jazeera in which I discuss how the Israel lobby has taken over Republican front-runner Mitt Romney’s Middle East policy through its man with a shady past:
[Walid Phares] is a one-time member of the notorious Lebanese Forces – the sectarian Christian militia which played a leading role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre (though there is no evidence that he personally played a part). It is an experience he now wisely leaves out of his resume. Nor does he include his association with Etienne Saqr, the head of the Guardians of the Cedars, an outfit the Congressional Research Service described as “[a]n extremist Maronite militia and terrorist organisation”. Saqr played a prominent role in Phares’ World Lebanese Organisation long after he was exiled to Israeli-occupied south Lebanon for his crimes against the Lebanese and Palestinian people.
But it is not this association with the Lebanese Forces and Etienne Saqr that grants Phares his expert’s cache. He is an Arab with bona fide academic credentials who validates proponents of military intervention in the Middle East the same way that Ahmed Chalabi once did. Indeed, both once shared the same publicist, Benador Associates, a neoconservative favourite. Phares can make the aspirations of the Arabs and Iranians sound remarkably consonant with the interests of Tel Aviv. For someone who wrote papers for Israeli think tanks urging continued occupation of Southern Lebanon (“the only place in the world where Christian and Jewish blood is shed together for the defence of two Judeo-Christian nations”) this might not be too big an imaginative leap. But his capacity to divine the real yearnings of the Middle East’s Muslims is perhaps less certain.
Continue reading “Romney’s Radical”
During the Cold War extremists like James Burnham, who declared themselves reformed Communists, pushed extremely hawkish policies which historians agree merely prolonged the Cold War by at least two decades. In a similar vein, a gaggle of self-styled ‘ex-extremists’ is today shaping security policy in both domestic and international spheres through alliances with the neoconservative right. In an excellent piece of reportage, Anderson Cooper, Kathleen Johnson and Drew Griffin of CNN recently exposed Walid Shoebat, one stalwart of this industry. Richard Silverstein who runs the excellent Tikun Olam began exposing Shoebat in 2007. Meanwhile in the UK, ex-extremist Maajid Nawaz of the controversial Quilliam Foundation, is being feted by forums like TED! A disgrace, indeed.
Continue reading “Walid Shoebat and the ‘ex-extremist’ Industry”
The BBC recently gave Douglas Murray of the neoconservative Center for Social Cohesion a platform to spew his xenophobic bile, but to its dismay, Murray’s lies were quickly demolished by News Statesmen editor Mehdi Hasan in the subsequent debate.