Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

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That tiptoeing mild-mannered shadow of a newspaper centered in New York City appears to have morphed hulklike, if only for a moment, into something big and green and loud and angry.

The Times front-page report is a bombshell. Just before the preemptive 2003 march by the world’s only superpower into the desert of a fourth rate but superbly geo-strategically located Arab country, Iraq apparently offered the Bush Administration everything it wanted and more, no strings attached. The unelected neoconservative cabal’s lead chickenhawk, in between visits to his chateau in the south of France, conjuring up a fine soufflé for his dearest friends, and privately profiteering with his public enemies, was the conduit for this offer to prevent war.

Richard Perle must have been wondering what to do with this information. All those years of planning the Clean Break, Pax Americana in the Middle East, paving the road to Damascus and Teheran through Baghdad. Why, it could all be lost in an instant, the dream destroyed by a single powerful ray of reason and rationality! The horror!

Here was the deal. Iraq would work with the U.S. to fight terrorism, go along wholeheartedly with any US peace plan for Israel and Palestine, give us all the oil contracts and mining concessions we wanted, work with us to promote our "strategic" interests (this means basing and overflight rights), and allow American soldiers and law enforcement to swarm the country — boots on the ground — searching for WMD. Incidentally, the Iraqis claimed (and David Kay continues to prove) they don’t have any.

Now, you may feel that Perle, by this now publicized [in]action, has finally proven he is an idiot beyond compare. His sponsorship of the amazingly inept Doug Feith as Under Secretary of Policy should have been evidence enough of his limited cognitive ability. But failing to avert the deaths of thousands of people when he had the chance seals the diagnosis. But I think it is important to try and see it from the neoconservative perspective.

Imagine for a moment what this Iraqi offer must have looked like to the warbent cabal of neo-Jacobins. As you know, Cheney, Perle, Feith and Wolfowitz, not to mention Dubya and Condi, pray every night for democracy in Iraq. They pray hard. Like hairshirt-wearing monks, they devote themselves in our stead to see democracy flourish in Iraq, and spread to the rest of the Middle East like a California wildfire.

What a grand disappointment for them to see that of the five major concessions offered by the Iraqi messenger — the jewel in the crown was missing. Oh beautiful Democracy, where art thou? The horror, the self-flagellation that must have followed this sad news at the cavernous inner sanctums of the neoconservative chapel.

Many of us, unfamiliar with the inner sanctum of neoconservative thought, might still not understand why such a war-preventing offer would have been rejected out of hand. But while the Iraqi offer may have sounded good on the surface, think about it. They were just trying to appease us! Appeasement is bad! Remember Chamberlain? Come on, people!

Democracy, democracy and more democracy is what Washington demanded for Iraq. Those of you who would criticize the administration, never forget this! And as H.L. Mencken said "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." While the Plato-esque aspect of neoconservative thought might discount the idea that common people can be trusted, the Nietzschean totalitarian aspect of the philosophy likes to put it out good and hard just the same.

If Perle had pursued the Iraqi offer, we could have achieved everything we have today in Iraq, without the expense of lives, soldiers, American tax revenues, and international contempt. Granted, Halliburton, Bechtel and Worldcom would probably have had to compete for the contracts, against European and Russian companies that do the same thing. There would be no new replenishment orders for replacement and new development weapons to the big American defense contractors. Now, if you are a big-state—loving, national capitalism kind of neoconservative, like Perle and the rest, where’s the profit in that?

Instead, we are today 130,000 troops knee deep in Bush’s Iraq quagmire with no way out. In two short years, the United States has been transformed from a shining city on a hill that had been a victim of a terrible inhuman crime, to a shining permanent target. And we just found out this transformation was preventable.

The messenger of the Iraqi offer for peace and prosperity was a Lebanese American businessman named Imad Hage. He "wonders what might have happened if the Americans had pursued the back channel to Baghdad."

It is a good question. But like the big green cartoon hulk, things will be back to normal soon enough. Sure, we have the litter of over 375 dead American soldiers and marines so far, plus the thousands of wounded in our military hospitals to remind us that something happened.

This story, like the White House felony leak of a CIA agent’s name we know as the Ambassador Joe Wilson case, will fade away. Let me be the first to say, on behalf of the entire Bush Administration, never you mind.

Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.

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