The birth of the Iraq war was in the sin of deception and the sin of arrogance. This was a breech birth, in which the head emerges last; at the White House it has not emerged to this day; nor has it here, at the Prime Minister's Bureau.
This week marks the fourth anniversary of the war. Iraq is destroyed, its people are broken, its infrastructures are shattered and are not being rehabilitated, and it is about to fragment into constituent parts in an uncivil war. A day without 50 people killed is a good day for Baghdad, and a day without at least five American soldiers killed is a good day for Washington. Approximately 100,000 people have been killed so far, about 500,000 have been wounded and about 4 million have been expelled from their homes and become refugees. This is the blood harvest of 2003-2007.
The war that was intended to deter the baddies has only strengthened them. The hand that holds the explosives is now uppermost, and it is also gaining ground in Afghanistan. Instead of a "double containment" of its enemies, the free world has received a double war. The Taliban has recouped strength, is back on its feet and has regained control of most of the territory in its country, as well as extensive parts of neighboring Pakistan. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces there are desperate for help, for reinforcements, and the countries that sent them are not answering. Osama bin Laden is alive and kicking, and has already rehabilitated his world-embracing networks of slaughter.
The axis of evil is having a pretty good stretch. North Korea has achieved its desire that was not granted to it previously, before a nuclear test; Syria is emerging from its isolation and is being forgiven the sins of Lebanon; and Iran is continuing to fill its neighbors with dread, and not only them: It is thumbing its nose in broad daylight, and they are whistling in the dark from fear.
In the meantime a new, alternative family of evil has been coming together, in which Israel stars and is taking pride of place. A survey conducted this month in 27 countries by the BBC has found that Israel is currently the most rejected country in the world, number 1 on the list of the countries that endanger world peace, no longer a small, threatened country but rather a bullying and threatening country - this is how the world sees us. In Germany there is a high-level symposium going on about Israel's right to exist - who would have believed it? President George W. Bush's United States appears as number 2 on the list and this pair, Israel and its friend, are ahead of Iraq and North Korea.
The news of this distressing survey has not won attention here, even though it should be appearing as a front-page headline in huge letters, as an alarm: After all, our Israel is in real existential danger, with the world relating to it like a leper state, although "our situation has never been better," needless to say, but Prime Minister Ehud Omert is saying it anyway.
And as though the 40-year occupation and the theft of the lands of Palestine were not enough as a flourishing root of hatred for Israel, and as though the attack on Lebanon in the summer did not suffice, Olmert is now adding twigs to the fire of hostility. What impelled him last week to support Bush and the continuation of his war? The vast majority of Americans and their elected representatives want to bring their boys home, but stupid Olmert wants to leave them there to bleed. He still does not understand that although an immediate withdrawal from Iraq is worrying, the quagmire and the despair are far more dangerous. The great power deterrent ability is eroding, and what will remain of it in a year or two when America, having no alternative, will draw and leave behind a scorched region? Sooner or later America will return to its borders, whereas we will be staying here, because we have nowhere to go. Israel, which also pushed four years ago for a war that isn't its own is the one that is now pushing for its continuation, refusing to realize that Israel itself is the main victim of the unfinished adventure. Olmert, who is not wanted by the Israelis - "I am an unpopular prime minister" - decided, apparently, to expand the circle of disgust with him, when in his video speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention he stuck a crude foot in the door of Congress and public opinion and pushed his way into the fiery debate that is burning America.
The settling of accounts has already begun and Israel is already paying the bill for the defeat out of its own pocket. Indeed, that very same America that is forbidding us to talk to Syria is itself sitting down at the same table with Syria and even Iran, in order to discuss the future of Iraq. It has no alternative, poor dear. And when the West is trying to build a Sunni wall in the region, and its eyes are turned toward Mecca, which has become the center of the universe, even a Palestinian government headed by the despised Hamas will soon become a cornerstone.
Bush, in his weakness and isolation, is incapable of helping and propping up the falling Ehud pavilion, and the Saudi initiative is supposed to pick up the pieces. Only five years ago it was shunned and despised, and now all of a sudden it is a straw grasped at by the drowning.
In the chaotic situation that has developed, it is no wonder that serious assessment sources from time to time can be heard expressing mute longings for Saddam Hussein; if only it were possible to take the villain down from the scaffold. In less than two years Bush will no longer be the president - and even now he is as good as dead in terms of his importance - and Olmert will no longer be the prime minister. And no one will miss them, not even secretly.
2. It's about oil
Conspiracy theories lost their charm long ago and have gone out of fashion. At one time it was believed that it is the huge armaments industries that pull the strings and the statesmen are mere marionettes; the corporations monger war for the sake of their profits and the statesmen give them their justification. The conspiracy theories did have their day. And the vice president of the United States, who was the chief spurrer of the war in Iraq and is one of its last supporters, is offered in evidence. Before he was elected vice president, Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, which last week announced that it is moving its corporate headquarters from Texas to the Emirate of Dubai. It is following the oil, getting closer to the scene of the crime. Thus far Halliburton has enjoyed war contracts amounting to $16 billion. These huge contracts have aroused heavy suspicions about the corporation concerning inflated prices and wanton use of American taxpayers' money. Investigations have been launched and are still underway. Could it be that Cheney pounced on this war only because it is a bonanza for his former company? Could it be that Cheney is opposed to the development of green alternatives only because of his addiction to the smell of oil, and quite by chance it smells of money?
The war, as everyone remembers, had noble motives: to save the world from weapons of mass destruction, to redeem the Iraqi people from the captivity of tyranny and to instill in it a love for democracy. Now the cat is squirming out of the bag and the pipe is rising high out of the drilling rig. Under heavy pressure from the American administration, there is now a proposal for a law on the table of the parliament in Baghdad that is slated to come up for discussion and approval this month. The proposal removes the oil reserves from the possession of the state and hands them over to companies that have the world leaping into their laps.
Three-quarters of the oil in the world is currently owned by governments. This was not the case only 35 years ago, when petroleum was still controlled by five or six large companies until the states decided that they wanted the profits for themselves, for their citizens, and that they did not want to share it with the moguls of the global village. Occupied Iraq possesses some of the richest oil reserves in the world. And why should wealth like this be reserved only for its owners? Why shouldn't Bush and Cheney have their share? Could it be that the administration in Washington mongered this war because of greedy eyes, which supposedly saw a smoking gun and in reality saw well after well, rig after rig, billions after billions? This is how a conspiracy theory is restored to its former glory. Even a failed war is apparently a good business. The more you lose, the more you profit, because it isn't worth shutting down the silver mines.
I wish I were sure, at least, that Olmert is invited to share in their war profits. He has had to share only in the losses, and all of us here together with him.
3. What I wrote then
I have an urge to say some things here, which were written before the war. And perhaps it isn't just the urge, but also the moral of the story. I didn't feel comfortable publishing these things at the time. Who volunteers to pour cold water on the general ardor, and who wants to spoil the day for the chorus line and its singing?
"Against the war in Iraq" was the heading of the article, and among other things it said: "This war can't be won even if it is won. The military part of this adventure is in fact the easy part, and even a brilliant technical-military victory will not ensure a better future Iraq and the entire world. The United States will lose prestige and its status will be eroded and will crumble. From now on every rogue will be able to thumb its nose at America. A weak Washington is bad for Israel, because it is Israel's mainstay. The Iraqis are not idiots and they will lure the Americans into the hearts of their big, crowded cities in order to intensify the slaughter of civilians and soldiers. America will need a miracle in order to obtain control of quarrelsome and fragmented Iraq and to create a 'new order' there. I am convinced that American public opinion will not withstand this decree of a prolonged and bloody stay on Iraqi soil."
What can be learned now from what was written then, on the eve of the war? It is worth learning that predicting the future is not an impossible task, and no one is excused from it; that the voice of the masses is not the voice of the Lord. How many times will we have to learn that folly is not reserved only for the leaders of small countries; that it is not an imperative to dive and die for every tantalizing war as though it were tantamount to finding great treasure; that, contrary to the philosophy purveyed by so many cowboy movies, if you want to shoot, don't shoot - it is better to talk first, impose sanctions first; and that in oval offices it is worth also reading articles by village idiots.
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