I’m going to tell you what the real Bush administration policy is. I have no take-it-to-court proof. No one does, because the administration doesn’t tell the truth and is very secretive.
But from conversations I’ve had with people from the Middle East and from extensive reading, I infer that the Bush administration’s policy encompasses three goals:
One of the goals is to replace the present Syrian government with one the administration hopes will be more pliable in its policy toward Israel. Another is to construct four permanent bases in Iraq, and that means the administration has no intention of ever withdrawing all U.S. forces. The third goal is to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities from the air. The propaganda campaign to justify this attack is already under way.
The U.S. government has lied a lot about Syria. It has implied that Syria was helping jihadists slip into Iraq. Some of the neoconservatives have claimed that Iraq hid its infamous nonexistent weapons of mass destruction in Syria. Now they have joined in accusing the Syrian government of assassinating a Lebanese politician. They’ve even picked out a successor to the current president of Syria. More recently, they accused Syria of inciting mobs to burn a foreign embassy in Damascus during a riot related to the prophet cartoons.
In fact, Syria’s government is Baathist — that is to say, it is secular, socialist and nationalistic. It highly disapproves of religious extremists, whether Shiites or Sunni. There is no evidence whatsoever that Syria incited the mobs to burn the foreign embassy in Damascus. Professor Juan Cole searched the databases of Arab newspapers and radio broadcasts, which are monitored and translated by the U.S. government and the BBC. Not a peep from the Syrian government in the way of incitement.
The Syrian ambassador to the U.S. told me of another instance of U.S. lying. Our government asked the Syrian government to help it catch an Iraqi who was hiding in a tribal area that extended across the border, partly in Iraq and partly in Syria. The Syrian government agreed and indeed captured the man and 32 of his followers, all of whom were handed over to the U.S. Syria asked the U.S. for only one thing in return: just tell the world we cooperated with you.
Did the U.S. do that? No, it lied and said that the Syrians had harbored the fugitive. As for Saddam Hussein hiding his weapons in Syria, it so happens that the Syrian Baath Party and the Iraqi Baath Party have famously been at odds for years. People spreading that nonsense seem to have forgotten that Syrian troops fought alongside Americans in Gulf War I against Iraq. You can be sure Saddam did not forget that. He would have no more turned over his nonexistent weapons to Syria than he would have to Israel.
The large American military bases in Iraq already exist and are being improved. These are billion-dollar-plus facilities, and you can bet nobody in the Bush administration intends to hand them over to the Iraqis. Watch carefully the language used when the Bush people, in or out of uniform, talk about "withdrawal." It is always surrounded by conditions. They don’t intend to leave Iraq. Now, that doesn’t mean that the new Iraqi government might not force them to leave. That remains to be seen.
As for bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, we have that capability. There’s not much the Iranians could do to stop us. And, yes, it would be a stupid and foolish thing to do, since at present there is no evidence that Iran intends to build a bomb. As we know from the Iraq invasion, this administration is capable of doing stupid and foolish things.
Just because Iran can’t stop us from bombing it doesn’t mean the Iranians can’t retaliate. They very likely have the capability of setting the entire Middle East on fire with a general war that could disrupt the world’s oil supply and wreck much of the world’s economy. Unfortunately, history shows that those who bet on wise political leadership avoiding war end up losing their shirts and often their lives and their fortunes.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2006 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.