Thursday, September 4, 2003

Do you remember the ridicule neocons heaped on critics who predicted a quagmire in Iraq? Now neocons William Kristol and Robert Kagen are calling for more troops and more money — two more Army divisions and an additional $60 billion, to be exact. “Next spring, if disaster looms,” they write, “it may be too late.”

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona — who experienced, but has forgotten, the Vietnam quagmire — has taken the bait and is urging President Bush to send more troops. But there are no troops to send. The Pentagon doesn’t know where it is going to get the troops to carry on the occupation of Iraq at the present level of troop strength. The Associated Press reports that our combat troops are going to be saddled with back-to-back assignments to overseas hot spots.

Army officials are concerned that they are going to begin losing many sergeants and junior officers. Officers in infantry divisions are scrambling to find other military jobs that are not subject to overseas deployment.

Meanwhile, the handful of neocons who got our country into this growing mess are still talking about the United States invading other Middle Eastern countries as part of their program to deracinate Islam. On top of it all, neocons want to take on North Korea, whose army outnumbers ours 2 to 1.

Mr. Bush is trying to get other countries to send their soldiers to occupy Iraq. So far, success has eluded him. Other countries don’t like to tell us “no” repeatedly. They say they have to have the cover of the United Nations, which the neocons intended to keep out. The United Nations would likely get in the way of the neocons’ plan to use Iraq as a staging ground for invading Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Bush, however, is getting desperate. As our soldiers are pushed off the streets of Iraq and congregate behind hopefully impenetrable barricades, Mr. Bush might have to let the United Nations rescue him on its own terms.

The United Nations should not do so, however, without a firm understanding that it is not freeing up U.S. troops for an attack on another Middle Eastern country.

If you think about it, you will realize that the neocons’ war plans are taking us back to the draft. There’s no way around it. Lacking sufficient military forces to occupy Iraq with its small population of 25 million, what would we do once neocons get us mired down in Iran or Egypt, with their large populations?

Somebody needs to call a halt to this. It will not be the neocon press or Fox News that does it. These folks hide behind superpatriotism, but their real motive is to make the Middle East safe for Israel. The alliance of neocons with white Southern evangelicals is not enough to control U.S. foreign policy. Sooner or later, even the brain-dead are going to realize that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, was not a threat to us (until neocons got us mired down there) and had nothing to do with the events of September 11.

We spent a fortune attacking a country that had done us no harm, killing tens of thousands of its people and giving the United States a black eye as an aggressor that starts wars on the basis of lies and disinformation. In the process, we also wrecked the political standing of our best ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Two-thirds of the British people now believe that Mr. Blair intentionally made a false case for invading Iraq.

When the public tires of flag waving and war propaganda, how will the Bush administration carry on with its pretense that we have made the world safe from terrorists by overthrowing Saddam Hussein? Voters will begin to wonder why Mr. Bush doesn’t sack the neocons who have brought him such deep embarrassment. The longer Mr. Bush waits before sacking the neocons, the more voters will wonder why they voted for him.

Our situation in Iraq is already bad. It will become untenable if the Shi’ite majority decides to join in the effort to drive us out. It doesn’t appear we will be able to buy off our adversaries with our money. Will we as a proud nation respond to Iraqi resistance by conscripting our sons and grandsons as targets for terrorists and guerillas? While we are bogged down, what happens if something hits the fan in another part of the world? Will we be forced to resort to nuclear weapons?

Many people much smarter than neocons gave these warnings in response to the neocons’ promise of a cakewalk. It is time Mr. Bush replaced his delusional neocon advisers with wise people of integrity.

Paul Craig Roberts is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.

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