What’s one more war?

Instead of learning from their bloody mistakes, the neocons see Lebanon as a chance to repeat them.

Topics:

What's one more war?

Whatever the neoconservatives may lack in prudence they more than compensate for with persistence. Their policies are failing spectacularly in Iraq, where civil war and insurgency threaten to destroy the unstable unity government. Their policies are failing more quietly in Afghanistan, where resurgent Taliban rebels imperil the fledgling democracy. But rather than reckon with the damage and reconsider their actions, they have seized on the confrontation between Israel and Lebanon to renew their old ambitions.

William Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor who bears as much guilt for the Iraq debacle as anyone outside government, suggests military strikes against Iran and perhaps Syria. Newt Gingrich, the old chicken hawk, is eagerly anticipating World War III. Michael Ledeen demands “hot pursuit” across the borders of Iraq into Syria and Iran as the prelude to World War IV.

To appreciate the bloodthirsty irresponsibility, not to say insanity, of all this bellicose jabber, it is necessary to survey our position from the perspective of Baghdad and Kabul. The deteriorating situation has been driven from the front pages by the sudden conflagration sparked by Hezbollah, but things further east are getting worse, not better.

In June, the U.S. and Iraqi governments announced a new security initiative that would crack down on the insurgency in the capital region with additional checkpoints, curfews and raids on militant strongholds. Sending 50,000 Iraqi police and soldiers into the streets, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki promised to achieve progress against the sectarian bloodletting that is driving his country deeper into civil war. But the results have been less than inspiring so far.

Indeed, the violence has grown still worse, as Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a spokesman for the coalition forces, conceded yesterday — and in fact the number of daily attacks in and around Baghdad has grown by 40 percent. According to Caldwell, the past week has seen an average of 34 attacks every day against U.S. and Iraqi forces. The previous month saw an average of 24 attacks each day. The United Nations estimates that as many as 6,000 civilians were killed in May and June. More than 30,000 have been displaced by “ethnic cleansing” operations during the past month, according to the Iraqi government’s migration ministry.



“We have not witnessed the reduction in violence one would have hoped for in a perfect world,” said Caldwell, an officer with an obvious talent for understatement. Less tactful political figures in Baghdad have denounced the “crackdown” as a dismal fiasco.

Fearful of the increasing carnage, the Shia religious leader Ali al-Sistani has publicly urged an end to sectarian violence. But his plea, which is not the first he has issued, seems unlikely to have any significant effect. Dozens of innocents on both sides of the religious divide continue to be slaughtered indiscriminately by masked killers and suicide bombers, completely undeterred. The security apparatus that is supposed to take over from the coalition forces appears unable to respond, let alone to protect the Iraqi people. The U.S. military’s triumphant elimination of al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which was hailed as a turning point in the counter-insurgency campaign, seems to have had no impact at all.

In Afghanistan, as the fifth anniversary of the overthrow of the Taliban approaches, the fanatical allies of al-Qaida are back with a vengeance. Operating with impunity in much of the southern countryside and along the border of Pakistan, the fanatical Islamists overrun towns and defy the supposed sovereignty of the government led by President Karzai. The United States largely abandoned Afghanistan in order to invade Iraq, without ever finishing the task of cleaning out the Taliban and rebuilding the ruined nation. Only the presence of NATO forces has allowed the Karzai government to survive. Our European allies have provided those troops despite their disagreement with Bush administration policy and their concern over the belligerence of the neoconservatives.

The American public evidently doesn’t share the far right’s enthusiasm for endless war. While extremists like Gingrich and Kristol complain that the White House has turned soft and excessively diplomatic, Republican lawmakers seeking reelection this fall seem at long last to be coping with the grim truths of the war they made. Suddenly, members of Congress who had doggedly defended the administration and denounced critics as unpatriotic are apologizing for the “mistakes” that have cost so many American and Iraqi lives. They are afraid that they will be held accountable in November for the consequences, and it is surely to be hoped that they will be. Perhaps they will even stop listening to the radical loonies who got them into this mess.

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>