Thursday, December 08, 2005

Deja Vu all over again: these people do not learn!

In 2002, some people thought I was alarmist because I said that the Bush administration had set its sights on invading Iraq. They did, of course. Vindication apart, like most people on the globe, I wish it had not happened.

Apart from the Bush rhetoric, I based my prophecy of doon on the steady attrition of leaks and briefings from the NeoCon edge of the administration. At least they could come up with a credible motive – taking out Iraq would be good for Israel. Apart from George W. Bush’s aside that Saddam Hussein had tried to assassinate his father, no one else has really come up with an excuse for the war that would hold water, let alone all the oil and blood that has been spilt.

So when in aftermath of the invasion in 2003 I began to see signs of a similar move on Syria, I warned about the impending invasion. My evidence was that there were demands for it from Israel, and ever an administration has proved to be a tail-waggable canine, then this is it. There were also the leaks and briefings: the missing weapons of mass destruction had been seen heading across the border into Syria; the insurgent Jihadists had been seen heading across the border from Syria; Damascus supported Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.

At one point, famously George W. Bush even discovered that, shock, horror, there were Baathists in Damascus. That the founder of the Baath party was a Christian, and that the secular (albeit fascistic) programs of the party made it a very unlikely supporter of Al Qaida were mere technical details, quibbles from realists with no standing in faith based circles.

The Syrians did support Hizbollah, whose successful long term war of attrition against Israel had cleared the occupation from Lebanon, which led to long standing grudges against the regime in Damascus, compounded by Syrian ineptitude in keeping the Shaba Farms issue hot. Of course their ambivalent attitude to Lebanon did not help either.

However, my Cassandra-like prophesy of an attack on Syria did not come to pass – yet. The casualty rate in Iraq sapped any domestic US enthusiasm for it.

But like the end of the world, it is only postponed, not cancelled. Looking at the intensive activity over Lebanon at the United Nations, it is highly likely that the road to Damascus now goes through Beirut.

The pattern is the same as it was over Iraq, equally aided by the ineptitude of its rulers. Now the US has the support of the French, who for their own reasons are interested in restoring Francophiles to power in Beirut, but who seem insouciantly unaware that they may be getting taken for a ride – to Damascus.

Of course it is possible that Washington is just concerned about Lebanese independence, and sovereignty in the face of Syrian occupation. The test for such altruistic support for national boundaries would of course be strong US resolutions against the Occupiers of the West Bank, Golan and Western Sahara, or even pressure on Ethiopia to honor its commitments to the settlement of the border dispute wit Eritrea.

In absence of any such signs of concern from Washington, we can safely assume that regime change in Syria is indeed back on the agenda. Somewhere between Foggy Bottom and Capitol Hill, I am confident that there are planning groups working on the hypothesis that it would take hardly any troops at all to roll over Syria, and that the key to stemming the insurgency in Iraq is to do just that. All the previous excuses still apply. And of course, well timed unequivocal victory in Syria, a pushover they would say, may play well next year with the mid term elections.

Between the gullibility of other UN members and the stupidity of the Syrians, it may even have some degree of UN approval!

Equally worrying, but meeting more resistance, are the signs that Iran is getting the same treatment. And the new government there seems equally cooperative in providing plausible excuses. But we should remember what it looks like to the reality based world. John Bolton, the US Ambassador, who is on the record with profound skepticism about both the United Nations and international law, wants the UN Security Council to take action against Iran for alleged violations of the Non-Proliferation treaty whose strengthening he opposed the year before. It may be worth mentioning that Iran is not in violation of the treaty – but that the US and UK are, while Israel, which is pushing for action against Iran has not even signed the treaty.

No matter, it may not be a full-scale invasion of Iran since even the looniest NeoCon may baulk at that. But they do think that some sort of regime change is effectible and that as in Iraq (and Syria) the masses are just waiting for their oppressive regimes to be gone to declare their undying love for George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon. In Iran, of course, the masses have just ditched the reformers, who were anyway scorned and isolated by the US for hardliner they now have to deal with. He may not be nice, but neither is George Bush. And both were elected by their faithbased constituencies.

I really do not see why need to waste money on NASA when we have a government that is so clearly mentally in orbit, and certainly looking at another planet when they make their plans

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