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’

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 book coverThe Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War
By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
Edinburgh University Press
£19.99

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’”

Seven Years in Iraq and Counting

by Ahmed Habib

On March 20, 2003, at approximately 5:30 in the early hours of the morning, just at that time where the sun settles into its daytime position over the skies of Baghdad, American jet fighters unleashed indiscriminate firepower over the beautiful city.

Amidst a house filled with resilient spirits, Laila cowered for cover with her neighbours and family. As a twenty year old university student, the Baghdad native had already been through two wars, and a genocidal sanctions regime that limited her childhood to an existence of deprivation and fear.

“This time, it was different, the explosions were so big, we all thought we were going to die,” Laila, a pseudonym used out of fear for her safety, says over a tired phone connection seven years later.

Tens of thousands of kilometres away, activists huddled around a television set, with their heads in their hands, and watched a glorified play by play of death narrated by indifferent talking heads.

“Those are people dying under those bombs, and we couldn’t do anything to stop them,” said Firas from a Toronto apartment, to the backdrop of free flowing tears.

In the lead up to that day, millions of people took to the streets to oppose the impending war, to no avail. Since then, over a million Iraqis have lost their lives, more than five million have been displaced, and countless lives have been destroyed.

Continue reading “Seven Years in Iraq and Counting”