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A backward glance at the Iraq war - Israel/Palestine first

03/25/2004

I began this piece as many thousands participated in international protests for the first year anniversary of the Iraq war. I remember feeling some disdain, if not revulsion, at the massive anti-war demonstrations of last year, before hostilities commenced. Didn't they understand, I reasoned, that these enormous expressions of opposition to United States and other efforts to rein in Saddam Hussein were acts of support for his totalitarian tyranny? One of the things that upset me most, is that in marching against the war before the United Nations Security Council vote, the anti-war protestors opposed any international effort to forcibly end a heinous regime in the name of "peace."

While I still feel the demonstrators misguided, my perspective on the war is more subdued today. I believe it to have been justified on humanitarian grounds in ending an especially brutal regime, but I also view it as a strategic error, morally compromised by the issue of those elusive WMDs. Once the UN Security Council rejected military action, and the US bulldozed ahead with so little international support, it became a political headache of the first order, not to mention an enormous drain on our national budget.

But to me, the most telling argument against the war is that it was a diversion from, rather than integral to, the war on terror. Our conflict with Saddam Hussein had everything to do with unfinished business from the 1991 Gulf War. Efforts to associate his regime with 9/11 were bogus; the war has actually undermined our efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to finish off Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as troops and resources were reserved for Iraq. Given the peculiarly ideological nature of the war on terror, something that the Bush administration apparently does not understand, it has provided an additional motive for further terrorism by a growing movement that has metastasized from the original cancers in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Israel/Palestine First?

While the United States has more firepower and advanced technology than any other state or coalition of states has ever possessed, both Al Qaeda and the Iraqi resistance have proven that the US cannot bestride the world as a colossus with impunity in the way that Rome at its height dominated the Mediterranean, or the Mongols terrorized most of the Eurasian land mass. The US does not have a large enough military for this, nor is its electorate eager to embrace the burdens of empire that this would entail.

Still, the killing of Sheikh Yassin is a reminder of one place where the United States should have invested more political and possibly even military capital. It's not that Israel is the main cause of Arab and Islamic jihadism; Bin Laden's original quarrel was with the Saudi ruling family, and the roots of unrest among Islamic countries in general are their own internal failings. But it's no accident, in this new age of pan-Arab television networks and the Internet, that the running sore of Palestinian suffering has been embraced as an Islamic cause and is a major factor in the recruitment of jihadists.

I shed no tears for this loathsome Hamas "spiritual" leader, who habitually advocated the mass murder of Israeli civilians, but his death is emblematic of an ethnic conflict that increasingly knows no bounds; Israel is much too small and vulnerable to be assured of victory in such an all-out battle. What if instead of 150,000 to 200,000 US and British troops invading Iraq, ten to 20 percent of that number had been sent to Gaza and the West Bank to safeguard civilians on both sides, to replace Israel's military occupation, and to oversee a reconstruction of destroyed Palestinian physical and social infrastructure? If successful, this could have served as an antidote to international terror by taking away the propaganda value of the Palestine issue; and it would have concretely aided both Israelis and Palestinians hopelessly mired in their bloody struggle. Such a mission would surely have been difficult and risky, but possibly less of a challenge than the massive nation-building project we've embarked upon in Iraq.

Ralph Seliger

Ralph Seliger is executive editor of Israel Horizons, the publication of Meretz USA.

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000234.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by RSeliger @ 01:40 PM CST [Link]

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Replies: 8 comments

What would happen if the US sent troops in to the Palestinian territories?

That's an easy one:

1. American troops would be murdered by terrorists and Israel would be blamed for it, with the Left explaining that the violence will only stop when the Palestinians get their rights.*

2. Israel would continue to suffer from terrorist attacks and the Palestinian officials would issue standard statements that they "condemn attacks against all civilians", with the Left explaining that the Palestinian leadership cannot be expected to stop the terrorists until the Palestinians get their rights.

3. American troops wouldn't actually keep up the pressure on the terrorists since effective operations mean collateral damage that is not PC - but the presence of the American force provide a human shield behind which the terrorists thrive.

4. Last but not least, the US troops operate in coordination with Palestinian forces, and to encourage cooperation they provide more weapons and training to the Palestinian forces and integrate them into their operations. Many of these very same armed Palestinians moonlight as terrorists, with the Left explaining that, realistically, this should be expected until the Palestinians get their rights.

[An added "bonus": If foreign forces are deployed in areas where there are also Jews, the Palestinians can manipulate the situation so that the foreign forces prevent the Jews from defending themselves.]

* "Palestinian Rights" is broad enough that no matter what the Palestinians may have at any given point in time it will be argued that it is insufficient.

If we were back ten years ago it might be argued that I am being cynical - but today I am simply realistic. Its time for the Left to start respecting the Arabs. The Arab world isn't paying lip service to the Hudaibiyah Model (temporary peace to gain strength to destroy the enemy later) when they explain their peace moves by putting them within its context. They do indeed say what they mean.

Dr. Aaron Lerner Director IMRA www.imra.org.il

Posted by Dr. Aaron Lerner Director IMRA @ 03/25/2004 03:39 PM CST

While I have to agree with the overall flavor of Dr. Lerner's scenarios, I remain disappointed at the utter lack of creativity on the part of the Bush-Cheney administration's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The ostensibly progressive left gravely suffers from blindspots with regard to genuine human rights principles. Meanwhile, after promising to "ride herd" on behalf of the Quartet roadmap the Bush-Cheney administration has betrayed the sole-superpower status of the US (and sqandered whatever credibility remained of its foreign policy intentions by overselling the Iraqi WMD threat), with its hands-off approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I don't foresee any improvement in the US approach to resolution of the conflict without some new ideas. Nor can I foresee improvement in the regional situation until a genuine peace and human rights movement developes which respects the national character of more than only Arab peoples in the Middle East.

Posted by Zionista @ 03/25/2004 04:42 PM CST

I demonstrated against the war before the security council vote. The fact of the vote was irrelevant as I it seemed to me the US was going to go to war regardless of the vote. I did not believe either in the existence of WMD or links of Iraq with Al Qaeda since neither had been established. I believed Saddam Hussein was a tyrant but not the worst in the Middle East. Women had a chance for education and greater freedom in Iraq than they had in states like Saudi Arabia. There were Christians and even a few Jews still living in Iraq compared to their complete ban in Saudi Arabia. I am a citizen of both the US and Australia and in favor of the war on terror. It seemed to me that Bush was pursuing an agenda against Iraq which had little to do with a war against terror. In my opinion it was for oil, for alternate bases in case Saudi Arabia blows up, payback for Bush's father and a staging ground for possible attacks against Iran and Syria. I am against a Palestinian state as I feel it will merely be a staging ground for another attack against Israel as long the powers there encourage antisemitism. It will also be another corrupt government where the Palestinians may suffer more than they do under Israeli occupation. I think the Israeli occupation is bad but believe a US occupation of PA areas would be no better, and a UN occupation would possibly not prevent the suicide bombers. I have little faith in the UN, the US and the Palestine authority.

David Fisher

Posted by David Fisher @ 03/25/2004 09:50 PM CST

i think that iraq should be grateful that we are helping them.but they have gone againstus and started fighting back at us

Posted by jenna @ 04/16/2004 04:45 AM CST

I am an Ameican living in the state of Ohio. I am non Jewish and increasingly uncomfortable with the tpower the Jewish political faction has over my government. No elected offical has the right to openly discuss the burden Israel has become for this nation of non-Jews.Any citizen daring to complain is immediately smeared as an anti semite or worse...as a traitor to the UAS. This is particularly offensive since I have been closer to Jews in my life than to non Jews. The emotional conflict comes when I am asked to support a separate nationalism of Israel for my Jewish friends. When asked why this suport for Israel is so necessary ..they answer they need a place to protect them when we non Jews turn on them. A double whammy! I did not know we were planning to turn on the Jews in America. Naturally this twisted paranoia of my friends drives me to ponder...it drives me to look at the suffering of the Palestinians and to the force behind the support of Israel.
It is my belief that this war agaist Saddam was because of his support for the Palestinians, and that we non Jews have been dragged into a terrible conflict for the security of Isarel...a country that has no importance to us other than an ego trip for our fellow Jewish countrymen. My solution is that all the money being spent on war should go moving the Jews of Israel..all five million

Posted by Marvis Fairchild @ 04/17/2004 03:22 PM CST

I am an Ameican living in the state of Ohio. I am non Jewish and increasingly uncomfortable with the tpower the Jewish political faction has over my government. No elected offical has the right to openly discuss the burden Israel has become for this nation of non-Jews.Any citizen daring to complain is immediately smeared as an anti semite or worse...as a traitor to the UAS. This is particularly offensive since I have been closer to Jews in my life than to non Jews. The emotional conflict comes when I am asked to support a separate nationalism of Israel for my Jewish friends. When asked why this suport for Israel is so necessary ..they answer they need a place to protect them when we non Jews turn on them. A double whammy! I did not know we were planning to turn on the Jews in America. Naturally this twisted paranoia of my friends drives me to ponder...it drives me to look at the suffering of the Palestinians and to the force behind the support of Israel.
It is my belief that this war agaist Saddam was because of his support for the Palestinians, and that we non Jews have been dragged into a terrible conflict for the security of Isarel...a country that has no importance to us other than an ego trip for our fellow Jewish countrymen. My solution is that all the money being spent on war should go moving the Jews of Israel..all five million of them, to a safer territory. This war is so draining on the USA that we could actually give every Jew or ever Palestinian millions of dollars to leave their waring zone and resettle elsewhere...
This is more than generous. We Americans are not responsible for Jewish history. We did not cause the holocaust. We have never persecuted Jews. We have been their friends..but something is happening that friendship...like we're being asked to pay for it.

Posted by Marvis Fairchild @ 04/17/2004 03:24 PM CST

Would any of you wise owls out there suggest an explanation why it is deemed essential to overthrow a tyrant in Iraq and set up a democracy there by force of external arms (surely a contradiction in terms anyway?) when that does not seem to be necessary in any of the following countries; Kuwait (surely a glorious opportunity missed there a decade ago - I remember phrases about returning Kuwait to its 'rightful rulers'!!), Pakistan, Burma, Uzbekistan, Saudia Arabia, Oman, Quatar, UAE, Iran, Zimbabwe, Yemen, even China! I await any comments with interest.

Posted by Con Hayes @ 04/17/2004 08:08 PM CST

My problem with the Iraq war is the deception the Bush administration threw on the US population. They claimed that Iraq contained "weapons of mass destruction" and were an international threat and we were doing everything well. If we went in there to get Saddam, why didn't we tell the world that when we wanted support going in?

Posted by Bystander @ 04/23/2004 09:50 AM CST


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