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Baghdad and Beyond
By Tom Barry
(Editor’s Note: Excerpted from the second in a series of investigative reports on the influence of a web of right-wing organizations and individuals–chiefly associated with the Project for the New American Century–in setting radical new directions in U.S. foreign and military policy. For the complete Right Web Analysis, see: /analysis/2004/0403anniv.php.)
In defiance of world opinion and the UN Security Council–but with the support of the U.S. Congress–the Bush administration invaded Iraq in March 2003. A year later it’s still too soon to evaluate the success of the mission.
A few quick judgments, though, certainly can be made. The “liberation” was not the cakewalk that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz had predicted, and the promised liberation has turned into a woeful occupation. Moreover, regime change and preventive war in Iraq cannot be chalked up as victories in the administration’s much-vaunted war on terrorism. Before the invasion there existed no ties between the Hussein government and the al Qaeda terrorist network, but a year of U.S. occupation has sparked a wave of anti-American Islamic militancy in Iraq. Osama bin Laden and his terrorist band were never favored or sheltered by the secular Ba’athist regime in Iraq, and bin Laden remains at large. Meanwhile, the Taliban and their ilk are resurgent in occupied Afghanistan.
What’s less clear is to what degree the regime change in Iraq has furthered the Bush administration’s larger mission of restructuring the Middle East in ways that further U.S. and Israeli national interests, as defined by the hard-liners and ideologues in both nations. An overly narrow focus on the missteps and misadventures in the political quicksand of Iraq misses what administration officials and neoconservative polemicists call “the big picture.”
In speeches at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 2003, President Bush sketched out an interventionist foreign and military policy in the Middle East. This new policy, according to the president, is a “forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East,” which he describes as “the calling of our time, the calling of our country.” The president’s “axis of evil” and “global democratic revolution” formulations of the complexities of international affairs closely reflect the views of neocon ideologues and their institutions. But the details of this ambitious regional agenda together with its ideological and political backdrop come into sharp relief in the operations of such neocon-driven front groups as the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon, the Coalition for Democracy in Iran, and, of course, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).
While neocon institutes such as PNAC and AEI were laying out the overall agenda, the specific targets of the neocon transformative strategy have been developed by region- and country-focused front groups created and led by neoconservatives. One of the most successful neocon groups was the U.S. Committee on NATO, directed by Bruce Jackson. Other board members included Randy Scheunemann, Julie Finley, and Gary Schmitt, who like Jackson have been tangled with three other organizations: the Project on Transitional Democracies, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, and the Project for the New American Century. Both the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and the Project on Transitional Democracies were PNAC spin-offs. The U.S. Committee on NATO’s office also became the headquarters for the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and the Project on Transitional Democracies.
Jackson’s success at the U.S. Committee on NATO in corralling bipartisan support to usher Central and East European nations into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Bush administration tapped Jackson to help build bipartisan support for the Iraq invasion.
(Tom Barry is Policy Director of the Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC), online at: www.irc-online.org.)
Tom Barry, Neocon Philosophy of Intelligence Led to Iraq War,