Monday, December 04, 2006

Restoring Credibility, America!

Dr. Khaled Batarfi

My American host was genuinely puzzled. Why was it wrong to liberate Iraq from an oppressive regime, introduce democracy to a cave-age region and rid it of weapons of mass destruction? He also wants to know where America went wrong, and how to rectify that, make friends with the Muslim world and get out safely from Iraq.
I was on a two-month training program, The Emerging Leaders Fellowship, sponsored by the US State Department in the Northwestern University Media Management Center and the Seattle Times.
Questions on these lines were asked in many media and academic circles by people concerned about their country’s dire standing in the world, and the Iraq quagmire.
I start by asking them to read the Harvard research paper, “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Part of the study explains how the Iraq invasion was drummed up by Likud allies in the US government, Congress, media and think tanks against basic American interests. Christian Zionist senators and congressmen, like majority leader Tom Delay and Dick Armey who proclaimed that protection of Israel is their highest priority and God meant for Israel to exist and expand, went out of their way to push the White House into this war.
Not even oil, arms and construction business were higher in their agenda.
If getting rid of dictatorships in the world was the real motivation, the closer-to-home Castro regime should have been first. Communist Cuba has been a constant pain and challenge to the US for half a century. Two generations of victims are now American citizens and residents.
Then, there is North Korea — an absolute Stalinist state that never hid its nuclear ambitions. To achieve such aspirations, hundred of thousands of citizens died of malnutrition. It is a present and clear danger to its neighbors who are US allies and a challenge to Washington’s strategic interests.
Instead, America took on the more difficult, less urgent task of overthrowing the Iraqi government. Why?
The “Clean Break” plan to invade Iraq was actually drawn by neoconservatives in 1996 and presented to the then Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a Likud hard-liner, who thought it was too extreme. The same plan was later presented to President Clinton, then to his successor Bush and his deputy, Cheney. All turned it down. After 9/11, the campaign was renewed and intensified by pro-Israel groups. This time the plan was endorsed. To sell it to the American public and the world, pretexts and evidences, like Iraq’s link to Al-Qaeda and its weapons of mass destruction, were manufactured.
Knowing why America really went to war, which was obvious to all, except the American people, explains why recently America and Israel were globally voted the most dangerous nations threatening world peace and stability, ahead of North Korea and Iran.
The Israeli link also explains the unprecedented animosity the US built up in the Arab and Muslim world. Understanding this background will help find a lasting, comprehensive and peaceful solution for the region and a safe and easy way out for America.
Getting into a mess is easier than getting out. America went to the war with an attitude. Its leadership felt they know all they needed to know, depending on Israel’s intelligence with its American supporters and Iraqi agents. No one else, including Arab allies and internal opposition in CIA and State Department, were given a fair hearing. All plans were focused on winning the war, not the peace. They counted every bullet and bomb up to the day of victory, but not much attention to details for the day after.
Ignorance combined with arrogance is an explosive mix. Leaders who didn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shiite, and have never fought a war, assumed they knew better than seasoned political and military experts. Even when it was obvious the drive was slipping in the wrong direction, they “stayed the course” rather than admit mistakes.
To change this perception of being an Israeli hunting dog, America needs to declare its independence from Israel. It is easier to talk business with those who care only about their own interests, and exclusively represent their own country. Double loyalty is confusing.
Second, you need fresh leaders who can credibly say: I had nothing to do with this! Recycling the same discredited faces makes it much harder for people to believe their sincerity.
Finally, you need to humbly and sincerely apologize to your victims, ignored allies and people whom you turned enemies.
Then you should invite all, foes and friends, to the table; sell your plans; ask for help and support; and make sure they believe you. People recognize their interests when they see them.
Governments, groups and individuals will cooperate if your offerings solve their problems, allay their fears, relieve their pain and/or give them better options. It is basic human nature. And humanity is what has been missing in this game.

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