September 14, 2007
There was the latest issue of Avenue magazine on the desk in my Palm Beach hotel room last November. I have a soft spot for Avenue, ever since it published a short story of mine, back in 1983, entitled “Night of the Mariachis”, inspired by some all-night hijinks in Mexico City with a prep school pal who grew up there. I believe it was the next to last short story Avenue ever did. After that, it was all lifestyle stuff, promotions, and the occasional current event article.
Between the luxury real estate ads and the colorful party photos, I noticed an interview—“a conversation”—with the Lebanese-American scholar, Dr. Fouad Ajami, a professor at Johns Hopkins and the director of its Middle Eastern Studies. He can be seen on American television from time to time, especially on the Charlie Rose show. The good professor is one of those folks who brought you “Operation Iraqi Freedom”.
Ajami was born a Shiite in south Lebanon; his family is originally from Iran. The most comprehensive, interesting article about Ajami can be found in the April 28th, 2003 issue of The Nation, written by Adam Shatz. It is a fascinating story. If you have the time, read it here. Shatz tries to explain how this soft-spoken intellectual could start out in the 1970’s as a champion for the Palestinians and end up today a “neocon” and “native informant”. The transmogrification remains a mystery. Ajami refused to be interviewed by Shatz.
In the Avenue interview, which focuses upon the debacle in Iraq, Ajami boasts that “On the eve of the Iraq war, 77 percent of the American public supported the war.” Nowadays, the support is somewhere in the 20 or 30 percent range, and most people with any brains want to get the hell out of there, pronto. What did professor Ajami say to explain the change in sentiment? “People are having buyers’ remorse…. It’s too easy to flee, to switch sides. Once you sign up for a war, you stick it out.” Come again? Buyers’ remorse, is it?! Ajami’s explanation I find to be not just laughable and patronizing, but also invidious.
Ajami conveniently forgets to mention that the American people were deceived, tricked and lied into war, as part of a sophisticated campaign of lies and deception orchestrated by the White House and its stooges in the media and in Congress. If a buyer has been deliberately misled, as in this instance, he is entitled to have a bad case of “buyers’ remorse” and to be outraged. If he is not outraged, he is brain-dead or a fool. He has been tricked into buying a false picture. It is the mountebanks who are at fault; they should be called to account. So far they haven’t been. In many cases, they have been rewarded.
In this regard, allow me to quote from one of the most fascinating documents of our time, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, a long essay by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, which first appeared in The London Review of Books on March 23, 2006. Last week Farrar, Straus and Giroux published the book, which is an expanded and updated version. Here’s a quote from the original essay:
“As important as the neoconservatives were for making the Iraq war happen, they needed help to achieve their aim…. That help arrived with 9/11. Specifically, the events of that fateful day led Bush and Cheney to reverse course and become strong proponents of a preventive war to topple Saddam. Neoconservatives in the Lobby—most notably Scooter Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, and Princeton historian Bernard Lewis—played especially critical roles in persuading the President and Vice-President to favor war.
“For the neoconservatives, 9/11 was a golden opportunity to make the case for war with Iraq. At a key meeting with Bush at Camp David on September 15,  Wolfowitz advocated attacking Iraq before Afghanistan, even though there was no evidence that Saddam was involved in the attacks on the United States and bin Laden was known to be in Afghanistan. Bush rejected this advice and chose to go after Afghanistan instead, but war with Iraq was now regarded as a serious possibility and the President tasked U.S. military planners on November 21, 2001 with developing concrete plans for an invasion.
“Meanwhile, other neoconservatives were at work within the corridors of power. We do not have the full story yet, but scholars like Lewis and Fouad Ajami of John Hopkins University reportedly played key roles in convincing Vice President Cheney to favor the war.”
We still do not have the full story. But we know enough to know that we have been had. Ajami urges us to keep cheering for a war which he had a significant part in orchestrating. We are expected to do this even though the war has been revealed in a number of books and many articles to have been a fraud from the start, and even though it is now leading the country to ruination. Why should we continue to cheer?
Further on in the Avenue interview, professor Ajami is asked a Charlie Rose type question: “How do we win in Iraq?” Would you like to hear the brilliant answer? “By training the Iraqis. By shifting the burden to them. We have to hammer the message home to them that it is their country.” As if they don’t know that. Ajami wants us to “stay the course” no matter what. This approach is still with us today, in different words and catch phrases. It is a prescription for endless war. It is what Bush’s speech last night, citing General Petraeus, amounted to.
By the way, if Iraq is their country—meaning the Iraqis’—then what business, dear professor, did Washington have to invade Iraq in the first place? The correct answer is, no business at all. The invasion was unprovoked and unwarranted. There was no legitimate casus belli. Saddam had destroyed Iraq’s WMD long before; naturally, Saddam expected a return to some kind of normalcy, to wit, the termination of the economic embargo which was devastating the civilian population and destroying Iraq. His Arab neighbors wanted that, too. Status quo ante bellum, minus any and all WMD. Sounds reasonable to me.
But there was one big, insurmountable problem. For Tel Aviv and it flacks and front men in America, the prospect of peace and normalcy was intolerable. I regard this circumstance as the “bottom line” which explains why Iraq was invaded. Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina said as much at the time, just before retiring. Hollings concluded that Bush invaded Iraq, “to take the Jewish vote from the Democrats.” More recently, U.S. Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia states (scroll to the very bottom of the article) in the current issue of Tikkun magazine, “AIPAC is the most powerful lobby and has pushed this war from the beginning. They are so well organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful”most of them are quite wealthy”they have been able to exert power…they have the Congresss pretty…well [pause] “controlled” may be too strong a word, but their influence is dominant….”
The logic of economic sanctions on Iraq meant that at some point, the sanctions would be lifted, once Iraq had complied with the terms of the peace arrangement put in place after Gulf War I. Having fulfilled certain requirements, Baghdad had a right to expect the economic embargo to be over. But that would have left Saddam Hussein and his Baath party still in power. Saddam’s Iraq was never a threat to America, of course, but it was viewed by the Likud and the “neocons” as a potential threat to Tel Aviv’s plans for “Greater Israel” and to Israel’s paramountcy in the region. In addition, Saddam was speaking up for the Palestinians, the ultimate transgression, at a time when most, if not all, Arab rulers had learned to keep their mouths shut. Since then, Arab leaders have been joined by European leaders in this respect.
For Ariel Sharon and his extended associates, drawing attention to the plight of the Palestinians amounted to interfering in Israel’s internal affairs and with their ongoing plans. To stop the effrontery once and for all, Tel Aviv’s proxy—to wit, the Washington establishment, in the persons of Bush, Cheney and the Democratic Party leadership on Capital Hill—organized and carried out the invasion of Iraq, using the concocted story of WMD to con the confused American public. Naturally, members of both parties in Congress jumped on this bandwagon because there were votes and contributions to be had in the 2002 and 2004 elections. Much patriotic flag waving was required to provide cover for the operation. Ajami played his supporting role in the charade, as did many others who knew what was good for them. The present quagmire and a war without end are the results. The destruction of Iraq has eliminated any conceivable “threat” to a nuclear-armed Tel Aviv, one may assume. Mission accomplished. The same scenario is in store for Iran, and for the same reason.
Ajami continues to explain himself with respect to Iraq: “The question is, have we fed the forces of jihad by being in Iraq? My answer is, Bin Laden and the global forces of extremism existed long before we arrived.” Thank you, professor. The forces of extremism were out there, all right, but did these lunatics need to be vindicated and galvanized by Washington’s gratuitous invasion and heavy-handed military occupation of Iraq? Is it a good idea to stick both hands and feet into a hornet’s nest to see what will happen? Is Ajami suggesting that the American invasion has not created more terrorism, instability and hatred for America in the Middle East? Or that the average Iraqi is actually better off today than prior to the invasion? Of course Washington has fed, and is feeding, the forces of jihad. Do we need this?
In sum, Professor Fouad Ajami is yet another exasperating example of a promoter for the Iraq war who continues to stonewall. He appears not to recognize the disastrous result of his misjudgments and incorrect analysis, and he implicitly refuses to take responsibility. The perpetrators, including all those inside the White House, are in deep denial, or pretend to be. So whose fault is it, then? Well, it must be your fault, my friends, for not being patient, and for exhibiting “buyers’ remorse”, and for not swallowing the “neocon”-inspired bunkum anymore. Shame on you.