Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Juan Cole Throws Cold Water on the Wingnuts

I'm just going to take a sizable chunk of what Juan Cole has to say and repost it here--it's a brilliant piece of analysis. It debunks the wingnuts, it throws badly-needed cold water in the face of the neocons, and it encapsulates "why" we will never give up this fight:

...Monday's Pentagon-provoked story saying that Hizbullah of Lebanon is training Shiite radicals at camps in Iran.

I am suspicious of this story not because it is necessarily untrue (how would I know?) but because it shares with typical Bush administration propaganda the 'gotcha' technique in which questions of proportionality, significance and causality do not arise.

Thus, Dick Cheney repeatedly claimed that he had evidence that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who he simplistically linked with al-Qaeda, got hospital treatment in Baghdad. Cheney said that would have been impossible unless Saddam was actively hosting him. And if Saddam was giving hospital treatment to al-Zarqawi, then ipso facto the Baath regime was allied with and supporting al-Qaeda.

But Cheney's entire argument is false from beginning to end. First of all, the Iraqi secret police put out an APB on al-Zarqawi when they thought he had entered their country, and were clearly afraid of him. There is no evidence that the regime afforded al-Zarqawi hospital care. Even if he had gotten treated, it was not proof of Saddam's complicity with him or with al-Qaeda. These little tiny details were built up into a narrative that was intended to carry the audience along without their being able to ask any questions about it. How good was the proof for what Cheney alleged? Was al-Zarqawi really al-Qaeda back then? How important was he? How big an impact did his presence in Iraq have?

There were also repeated allegations from Cheney and others that Saddam was training al-Qaeda operatives at Salman Pak. Wrong.

Under torture, Ibn al-Sheikh Libi told the US that Saddam was training al-Qaeda operatives in the use of poison gas. It was a lie. That is the problem with putting people in so much pain that they will tell you anything. Cheney and Rice parroted this falsehood over and over again.

After the war and occupation began, Pentagon spokesmen actually alleged that 90% of the violence in Iraq was committed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his group. But what, was he an Arab version of the Flash, able to run from Mosul to Baghdad in a few minutes? And when he was killed, nothing changed, so he wasn't all that important.

Since Cheney and Rice wanted to go to war with Iraq so as to open its petroleum resources to exploitation by American firms, it really was immaterial to them if the things they were saying were true or not. They have never evinced any shame or regret. They are happy. They accomplished their goal.

We should not allow this sort of thing to happen again. The Pentagon story about Iran is fishy for these reasons:

The main pro-Iran militia in Iraq is the Badr Corps of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Iran is happy with Badr's vast influence. Badr has conflicts with the Mahdi Army. Why should Iran undermine its own client by favoring the latter? And note that the US never condemns Badr, which until recently was actually part of the Iranian military until recently.

The information on the supposed Hizbullah training in Iran seems to have come from two or three captured Lebanese Shiites. That is a very small number. The US has 24,000 accused insurgents in captivity. If it only has a handful of Lebanese Shiites, then they just aren't very important. The Principle of Proportionality holds.

Moreover, the allegations may have been produced by US torture of the captives and so may not be reliable.

Then even if it were true, how important is it? The Mahdi Army is tens of thousands of slum kids. Sadrism goes back to the 1990s in Iraq and is a mass movement. Iran had nothing to do with them historically. Moreover, how important is all this? Have, like, 4 Lebanese guys really trained all that many Mahdi Army militiamen? How many exactly? How much more effective would they be as a result? Wouldn't the political support of millions of Iraqi Shiites in the South really be the source of Muqtada al-Sadr's power and authority?

What is being alleged is too small to produce a really big, nation-wide effect in Iraq. The Mahdi Army fought the US military for two long hard months in spring of 2004, and for another month in August. Iran was not around.

This is why I can't help but continue to question what we're being told. I'm so sick of being lied to. I'm so sick of the lies and the manipulation. If we keep repeating these denunciations and keep supporting the people like Juan Cole, who debunk this nonsense, we'll keep spreading the word and we'll get stronger and stronger.

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