Thursday, 18 March 2004

The Meaning of Madrid

The road to World War IV

by Justin Raimondo


The neocons wanted a new world war – and now they have it. That is the meaning of the Madrid attacks, in which 201 people were killed and over a thousand wounded, for which Al Qaeda has taken responsibility.

In the run-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the neoconservative network – which had been agitating for war in the Middle East for over a decade – came up with a new brand name for their product. Writing in the Wall Street Journal as the Afghan War was lighting up the skies over Kabul, neocon academic Eliot Cohen, the Clausewitz of the War Party, disdained the platitudinous habits of politicians who refused to call things by their right names. Shall we call it the "Afghan War"? No, too limited, he averred:

"The '9/11 War,' perhaps? But the war began well before Sept. 11, and its casualties include, at the very least, the dead and wounded in our embassies in Africa, on the U.S.S Cole and, possibly, in Somalia and the Khobar Towers. 'Osama bin Laden's War'? There are precedents for this in history (King Philip's War, Pontiac's War, or even The War of Jenkins' Ear), but the war did not begin with bin Laden and will not end with his death, which may come sooner than anyone had anticipated – including, one hopes, the man himself. A less palatable but more accurate name is World War IV. The Cold War was World War III, which reminds us that not all global conflicts entail the movement of multimillion-man armies, or conventional front lines on a map."

The war did not begin with Bin Laden – that strangely counterintuitive concept is the key to understanding the mindset of the cabal that lied us into war. The neoconservatives have long argued that Islam itself, and not just the radical incarnation represented by Al Qaeda, is the implacable enemy that has displaced Communism as our principal adversary on the world stage. They didn't need 9/11 to confirm this, although they naturally jumped at the opportunity it provided, just as they are pouncing on the Madrid attacks as justifying their anti-Islamic jihad.

In mythologizing 9/11 – and, now, 3/11 – Cohen and his co-thinkers, including Norman Podhoretz and former CIA chieftain James Woolsey, have separated the act from its perpetrators. It doesn't matter that the millions of Muslims the world over who resent the United States for its intervention in the Middle East and its unconditional support to the Likud government in Tel Aviv had nothing to do with the destruction of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon, or the cowardly bombing of the trains in Spain. The whole lot of them are involved in the commission of a "hate crime," and therefore beyond the pale.

Before 9/11, there was very little support for this sort of fanaticism, except among the numerically tiny neoconservative sect and their Christian Right footsoldiers, whose singular focus on the interests of the Israeli state spring from opposite and yet ultimately congruent theologies. The neoconservative cadre who filled the second-and –third tier positions in the national security bureaucracy had been pushing "finishing the job" in Iraq for a decade, and, when they successfully flooded the newly-installed Bush II White House personnel office with their resumes, they brought their agenda with them.

In the wake of the biggest terrorist attack in American history – not counting state-sponsored terrorism – this exotic ideological blossom became the official ideology of Bush administration. The only difference being that the new dispensation was now out in the open.

The Spanish events have stimulated the War Party into new heights of hysterical righteousness. Amidst the loud gnashing of neocon teeth and the facile anti-European rhetoric of the new American nativists (the loudest of whom are, oddly, Canadians) the clear-eyed analysis of Middle East scholar Juan Cole stands out like a beacon of reason:

"I believe that the Spanish public just recognized the correctness of the 'opportunity cost' argument about the Iraq War and anti-terrorism efforts. Let's say you are in business. If you put your capital, which is limited, into expanding one part of your business ('X'), you may make money – say 7% percent on your investment. But you had another opportunity to put your money into expanding a different part of the business ('Y'), and that would have given you a 25% percent return (which you did not know at the time). Giving up the 25% return is an opportunity cost of doing X rather than Y.

"The Iraq War represents an enormous opportunity cost in the counter-insurgency struggle against al-Qaeda and its constituents," he continues. Instead of going after Bin Laden, in Afghanistan, the Bush administration went after Iraq, as Al Qaeda "struck at Mombasa, Bali, Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Madrid and elsewhere."

Pointing out that not even the attack on a Spanish cultural center in Morocco gave the Aznar government some reason to expect they were a target – they were too busy defending their decision to send Spanish troops to Iraq against the 91 percent of the voters who oppose it – Professor Cole poses a few pertinent questions:

"How much did Spain spend to go after the culprits in Casablanca? How much did Bush dedicate to that effort? How much did they instead invest in military efforts in Iraq?

"Instead of dealing with this growing and world-wide threat, the Bush administration cynically took advantage of the American public's anger and fear after September 11 and channeled it against the regime of Saddam Hussein, which had had nothing to do with September 11 and which never could be involved in such a terrorist operation on American soil because its high officers knew exactly the retribution that would be visited on them. Only an asymmetrical organization could think of a September 11, because it has no exact return address. Even for a state to give aid to such an operation against a super power would be suicide – how could you be sure the superpower would not find out about the aid?"

Given what we are learning about ingredients that went into the "cooked" intelligence the White House fed Congress and the American people, how could you be sure that they wouldn't just fake the evidence? After all, that's what they did to Iraq. The question now is: who's next?

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