- The Afghanistan debacle - in concert with the Iraq debacle before it - should, finally, put an end to unaccountable, self-styled 'experts' influencing this country's foreign policy and leading us into wars.
- No more than a mere handful of people - the most important of whom are discussed here - were responsible for this country's disastrous invasion of Iraq, and embarking on the hopeless task of building a western-style democracy in, of all places, Afghanistan.
- This article will briefly review some very basic facts about Iraqi and Middle East history, the knowledge of which made everything that happened in the immediate aftermath of the invasion completely unsurprising.
- Some of the more laughable conclusions of Kenneth Pollack, the Yale and MIT educated CIA expert on Iraq will be reviewed to demonstrate the ineptitude of the Ivy League technocrats who command so much power and influence in this country, their numerous blunders notwithstanding.
- The ignominious end of the mission in Afghanistan should end the influence of these technocrats.
Regrettably, an unaccountable financial elite - which is the focus of this website - is hardly the only unaccountable elite in the United States. As the Afghanistan debacle now demonstrates, there is an unaccountable foreign policy elite as well. This foreign policy elite shares many similarities with the financial elite, with the most striking similarity being the Ivy League pedigrees which dominate both groups.
Figure 1 shows the nine people, arguably, most responsible for the invasion of Iraq and the nation building exercise in Afghanistan; an exercise which collapsed this week. Among these nine people there are thirteen Ivy League degrees including six from Yale and five from Harvard. While they might have spent a lot of time in New Haven and Cambridge, not one of them spent a single second on active duty in the US military. It hardly a pejorative to call these 'men' - so eager to send others into harm's way while demonstrating a complete unwillingness to do so themselves - cowards.
FIGURE 1: They don't teach humility and admitting mistakes at Harvard and Yale
A brief synopsis of the history these Ivy League graduates are obviously ignorant of;
- The country of Iraq is a historical fiction. When the Ottoman Empire dominated the area, modern day Iraq was divided into three administrative areas, or wilayah to the Ottomans. These were centered around the cities of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, not coincidentally the three leading cities of the three largest ethnic groups - Kurds, Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims respectively.
- Approximately one-year before American entry into World War I - purportedly the war to make the world safe for democracy - America's future wartime 'allies,' France and England were dividing up the spoils of the Ottoman Empire. As part of the secret protocols of May 1916's Sykes-Picot Treaty, England would dominate the areas around Basra, including what would become Kuwait, and Baghdad, while France was given the area around Mosul. France was also given the land that would become Syria and Lebanon. (2)
- The Long-Berenger Agreement of April 1919 gave France what had been Deutsche Bank's 25% interest in the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPC). This was part of the confiscation of all German overseas investments following World War I. (The US drug company Merck is another high profile confiscated overseas investment which goes back to World War I.) The French position would be organized into the 'Compagnie Francaise de Petroles,' or CFP. CFP is perhaps better known by its modern day moniker, the $110-billion Total SA. As a result of gaining a position in the TPC, France relinquished its claim to the area around Mosul to the British.
- In April 1920, at the San Remo Conference, the new nation of Iraq was assigned to England as a League of Nations 'mandate.' The mandate system is best summarized as the 'crudity of conquest draped in the veil of morality.'
- The formation of Iraq, which was the amalgamation of three former separate groups of people into a common state administered by the British is the British Empire in microcosm. As part of her Empire, England regularly combined groups of rival people into a single nation state. England would then place the weakest group into power. With a country then riven by so many internal rivalries, the various groups of people can't be expected to organize and unite to overthrow the British position. Moreover, by closely allying themselves with the weakest group, the weakest group then becomes beholden to British interests. After all, if they were to turn against the British, their position would be undermined as well.(The Sunni minority was assigned this role in Iraq.) While organizing their Empire in this fashion minimized the overseas presence England needed to maintain the Empire, it has been the source of unending conflict throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia since the Empire collapsed in the 1960s.
- The Cairo Conference of April 1921 established a Hashemite monarchy for Iraq in the form of King Faisal I. Faisal - who is featured prominently in "Lawrence of Arabia" - was originally King of Syria. As King of Syria, Faisal led his countrymen in an unsuccessful war of independence against the French. (France was assigned Syria as a League of Nations mandate; so we have France to thank for the font of stability that Syria - and Lebanon for that matter - continue to be in the Middle East.)
- Britain's Hashemite monarchy had very little legitimacy within Iraq and was doomed to be short-lived. In fact, it wouldn't last forty years. As part of the July 14 Revolution of 1958, King Faisal II, King Faisal I's grandson, along with several members of his family were lined up against a wall and machine gunned.
- Some insight into the deep resentment harbored by many Iraqi citizens against western powers can be gleaned by the example of Nuri al-Said, the pro-western prime minister of Iraq at the time of the 1958 uprising. He tried to escape Baghdad dressed as a woman. However, he made the fatal mistake of wearing men's shoes and was discovered. He was then summarily executed on the spot and buried. An angry mob then dug his body up, dragged it through the streets of Baghdad, burned it, then repeatedly ran over it with a city bus. Just the sort of place to plant Jeffersonian democracy!
- The leaders of the July 14 Revolution wouldn't last five years in power. February 1963's 'Ramadan Revolution' swept the Ba'ath Party into power. While Faisal II was beheaded and his body desecrated, Abd al-Karim Quasim, Iraq's ruler when the Ba'athists swept into power, got off easy. He was shot in the head after a show trial, and the television program which documented it all ended with people spitting on his corpse. The Ba'ath Pary would then rule Iraq for the next forty years - most of the time under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.
We will reconcile these facts - which are easily obtained and only require a cursory understanding of Middle East history and the baleful influence of the French and British empires - with some of the more outrageous conclusions reached by Kenneth Pollack. Pollack served in the CIA as one of their 'experts' on Iraq - this in spite of the fact that he doesn't speak or read Arabic. Pollack, then as a member of Council on Foreign Relations, would write the most well-known justification for invasion of Iraq, The Threatening Storm. (3) Among the more laughable conclusions Pollack reaches are;
- "The advantages of the Reconstruction Approach, (the invasion and occupation of Iraq to build a new society) are that if offers the best (in fact, really the only) prospect to solve the problems of Iraq over the long term. It would allow for the reconciliation of Iraq's ethnic and religious groups.." (p. 393) This conclusion completely ignores Iraq's post World War I history, the disastrous influence of the British and French in particular, and implicitly accepts that a western power, history notwithstanding, can remake Iraqi society.
- "The United States probably would have to provide $5 billion to $10 billion over the first three years to help get Iraq's oil industry back on its feet... However, the need for direct US aid should decline steeply thereafter." (pp.397-398)
- "....This suggests that within five years foreign forces in Iraq could be cut to 100,000 troops or less...Of course, maintaining U.S. troops in Iraq will also add to the cost of rebuilding the country - possibly by as much as $5-billion to $15-billion per year at first, but declining quickly as US forces are drawn down. (p. 398) As of 2020, most estimates had the total cost of the war in Iraq, including the occupation, in excess of $2-trillion.
- "Finally, I reject the notion that Iraq is incapable of establishing a democratic form of government." (p. 400) The notion that Iraq will spontaneously form a 'democracy' following a US invasion when the country was conjured out of thin air by two other western countries - France and England - in a way designed to undermine the formation of a national identity is transparently absurd. Moreover, the strategic rationale for the US to invade Iraq for the purpose of setting up a 'democracy' - as opposed to a republican form of government - which guarantees a dominant position for the Shiite plurality in Iraq is equally absurd. Indeed, as anyone could tell from the start, the biggest strategic beneficiary of a US invasion of Iraq - at least in the Middle East - would be Iran; the spiritual homeland for Iraq's Shiite majority.
- "American and allied forces would also have to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people..., which would only take a few weeks, given past experiences." (p. 404) This conclusion accepts that there will be no insurgency and aid organizations will freely be able to travel around Iraq without any security concerns. This conclusion also ignored the fact that Iraq's physical infrastructure - especially power production and water treatment - were practically non-existent after years of sanctions. Not only did this lack of infrastructure make it impossible for Iraq to project force abroad, the lack of these basic services would greatly undermine the occupation. People broiling in desert heat, without even a fan to keep them cool, while raw sewage flows along city streets tend to be very upset with the people in authority.
- "Only the willingness to build a new Iraq... would ensure that we do not simply trade one threat for another....Where the stability and security of the Persian Gulf are concerned, we cannot afford to pinch pennies." (p. 410) Pinching pennies is one thing - spending 200-trillion pennies is something altogether different.
All the advocates of our recent Middle East wars regularly advanced the argument that fighting the war with Iraq now was preferable to fighting another war later. Of 'preventative' war of this type, Otto von Bismark, the Prussian chancellor who united Germany, quipped, "preventive war is like committing suicide out of a fear of death" and described preventive war as "breaking eggs out of which very dangerous chickens might hatch." The insights of one of history's most successful statesmen counted little against a lifetime spent on Ivy League campuses and Washington DC think tanks. Moreover, if plans fall apart and these overseas adventures collapse into debacles, then blame can always be passed to someone else, with the military regularly being the easiest target. After all, how could I be wrong? I have two degrees from Yale! Hey! Speaking of passing, would you be so kind to pass the hors d'oeuvres and the ammo?
Sugar Land, TX
August 22, 2021
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1. The phrase "Pass the ammo and pass the hors d'oeuvres" comes from Christopher Buckley's novel, They Eat Puppies Don't They?
2. The Russians were aware of this agreement and enjoyed some minor spoils as well. However, the Imperial Russian government would not survive the war, and when Lenin became aware of the secret protocols of the treaty in November 1917, he had them published in Pravda (Truth) and Izvestia (News).
3. Kenneth Pollack, The Threatening Storm, Random House, New York, 2002