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America's Secret Stake in the Yukos Affair


 
November 5, 2003
 
Who is Mikhail Khodorkovsky?
 
Russia's richest man, principal owner of Russia's biggest oil company, Yukos, currently under arrest by Putin for some obscure financial hanky panky.
 
Who cares?
 
At first I didn't.  I thought of Khodorkovsky merely as a distant figure rich in oil, consonants, and syllables.
 
I was wrong.
 
A lot of people in America care deeply about Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and I should, too.
 
The State Department cares.  On October 30, in the State Department briefing, a spokesman expressed concern that this was a case of "selective prosecution" targeting Khodorkovsky, who has bankrolled some of Putin's opponents.
 
One would think that the State Department, given the Padilla case, the perpetual detentions in Guantanamo, and the string of US concentration camps across Iraq packed with people with bags over their heads denied due process, access to lawyers, and even basic human needs, should not be pitching rocks out of its glass house at a friendly sovereign state and ally in the war on terror conducting a criminal investigation of one of its own citizens.
 
It is of course possible that the Bush administration is bound by a sacred oath to come to the aid of any member of the international petroleum brotherhood in need.
 
I can imagine the scene in the Oval Office.  Condi Rice rushes in and gasps: "Mr. President.  An oil executive is in peril!".  Our George rises resolutely from his desk, smacks his fist decisively into his palm, and declares, "Something must be done!  Get me the State Department!".
 
But other people care, too.
 
Readers of the International Herald Tribune's op-ed page were treated to an impassioned stemwinder depicting the Yukos case as a titanic confrontation between Soviet-era dinosaurs and the gallant entrepeneurial crusaders for capitalism in New Russia.  (see Russia's future and the fate of an oligarch, Leon Aron, IHT 11/1-2/03).
 
The article does contain some interesting nuggets like the factoid that Yukos gave $45 million to charity in 2002.
 
Faith in the disinterested generosity of oil executives with their stockholders' money being what it is, it is not surprising that the shenanigans of another energy giant--Enron--come to mind.  Ken Lay's binge of influence buying included a multitude of charitable contributions--not just to charities, but to deserving politicians as well.
 
Sure enough, the game is given away in the last paragraphs, where the author tries to wish away Khodorkovsky's legal problems with a plea for "...establishment of a statute of limitations on charges arising from the privatizations of the 1990's" and "New laws on lobbying, campaign finance and charitable contributions [that] will permit Russian business to advance openly its interests in Russian politics".
 
Translation:  Yukos' path to wealth and power was apparently paved with dirty rubles.  The corporation is now caught inextricably in the net of Russian laws, and Putin has Khodorkovsky by the balls.
 
The author of this piece, Leon Aron, is the director of Russian studies at neocon ground zero, the American Enterprise Institute.
 
So we know that the neocons care, and not just in a generic "no billionaire left behind" way about Khodorkovsky's fate.  They care enough to try and lobby for the right wing and the US government to inject themselves in a murky criminal case in a foreign country.
 
Richard Perle cares.  He weighed in with one of his hair-tearing tirades, declaring, "If the G-8 [the private club for the world's richest and most powerful countries] has any standards at all, Russia would no longer qualify"(Russian Events Leave White House Wary Maura Reynolds, LA Times, Nov. 1, 2003).
 
Although the comparison probably doesn't do the two men justice, the neocons probably saw Khodorkovsky as a Russian Berlusconi: a pro-American, right wing fixer who would throw his immense financial weight into politics to cripple and confound America's enemies in the Russian Republic.
 
But there was probably a darker, more dangerous game at work.  One that provoked Putin, the most astute and decisive leaders in world politics, to send security forces storming onto Khodorkovsky's private jet.
 
Khodorkovsky is not just an oil magnate.  He is an oil magnate in Russia, the only great power in the world not dependent on imported oil. 
 
In fact, Russia is awash in surplus oil and will soon decide whether to export 25 million tons per year of it to Japan--or to China.
 
Control of oil is the linchpin of the neocon geopolitical strategy.  We are in Iraq to control its oil, and to be able to deny China and any other competing power dependent on that region access to that oil.
 
How can we counter Russia's strategic superiority in oil resources?  How do we prevent the geopolitical balance in Europe and Asia from tipping toward Russia and its precious crude?
 
The answer to the Russian threat is to take the oil industry out of the hands of the government--just as we are preparing to do in Iraq.
 
Take away the oil.  Privatize it, internationalize it, and neutralize it. 
 
And what better way to do that than back the fortunes of a oil billionaire eager to protect and promote his wealth, power, and interests through a challenge to the political supremacy of Putin?
 
In September of this year, Khodorkovsky was about to conclude a merger that would sell 25% of Yukos to ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco for $22 billion.  As the Guardian reported, "...a deal with a US company would give Mr Khodorkovsky US political leverage as well as access to more western cash."  (Yukos looks overseas, Guardian Sept. 29, 2003).
 
We need explore or ponder no further.
 
Think of it.  An independent oil empire in Siberia, financed with US cash, controlling Russia's oil surplus and exports, hostile to the Russian state, aggressive in domestic politics to the point of subversion, and backed by the Bush administration.
 
Khodorkovsky was our Trojan horse.
 
So Putin has taken Khodorkovsky down.  It is another big loss for the neocons and their vision of sustained, unilateral US dominance.
 
It is also a huge defeat for Bush, as is shown by the disproportionate dismay voiced at this criminal case in faraway Russia.
 
Not only because Putin has sent our overworked and underqualified NSA drudge Condi Rice back to her Soviet polysci textbooks to try to come up with a strategy to deal with a resurgent, self-sufficient new Russian empire.
 
Because Putin decided that Bush was now a sufficiently marginalized international factor that the consequences of US dismay and displeasure could be comfortably and confidently ignored.
 
So chalk up that Yukos affair, together with the UN debacle, the failure of the Madrid donor's conference, and our long, lonely walk with Iraq into bloody oblivion as another victim of Bush's mismanagement of our nation's affairs and interests.
 
Who cares about Mikhail Khodorkovsky?
 
I guess we all should.
 
copyright 2003 Peter Lee
 
 

Candyman
October 24, 2003


The true source of Bush’s problems in Iraq can now be revealed.

Candy.

A forthcoming book reveals that George W. Bush foreswore the consumption of candy while our troops were at risk in Iraq.*

Unfortunately for the nation, I believe our dry-drunk Caesar set himself a challenge he was unable to meet.

The result:

The disastrously premature appearance on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

This milestone has turned into a millstone around Bush’s neck.  Combat fatalities are routinely reported as “x since the president announced…”

His preening strut across the flight deck is a constant reminder that Iraq, instead of soaring into post “Shock and Awe” nirvana, has descended into unplanned chaos.

How could such a miscalculation occur?

I think the soul was willing but the sweet tooth was weak.

One can imagine the solipsistic Bush, declaring to himself “I’ve suffered enough”, decides it is time to descend from his chocolate crucifix.

The order is given, the Abraham Lincoln is commandeered, the photo-op impatiently executed…and then Bush rushes below decks to the privacy of his cabin, fingers fumbling feverishly at the zips on his flight suit…then he flings himself at a coquettishly arrayed bowl of sweets.

He gobbles his sugary sacraments, swooning in guilty ecstasy that his calvary of self-denial has ended…

…just as the agony of our troops is beginning.

It would certainly be a relief if our problems could be traced to a Snickers-based foreign policy of binge and purge.  

Unfortunately, ratcheting down our Commander-in-Chief’s continuing addiction to nasty carbs (first booze, now candy!) with a glass of milk and handfuls of trail mix won’t eliminate the religious posturing crippling our government.

The most disturbing remark attributed to Jerry “My Almighty can lick your Almighty” Boykin is:

“George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States…He was appointed by God”.  (William Arkin, The Pentagon Unleashes a Holy Warrior, LA Times, Oct. 23, 2003)

Not just because Lt. Gen. Nutbar is now a Deputy Secretary of Defense with his finger on the trigger with the weapons and the intel in the “War on Satan” excuse me, Terror.

Because George W. Bush assuredly also believes that he is God’s anointed.

Consider what he told a sympathetic pastor in 2000:

“I feel like God wants me to run for President.  I can’t explain it…but God wants me to do it.” (Stephen Mansfield, The Faith of George W. Bush, forthcoming)

What was taken by many as a sick joke—God must have put him in the White House; the American people sure didn’t—is, dare we say it, an article of faith to our St. George.

What is more dangerous than a stupid man who believes that divine inspiration permits him to disregard not only the popular will, appeals to logic, moderation, and decency, but even the evidence of his own eyes and ears that his policies have been disastrous?

Absent any overt expression of divine displeasure (I don’t even know if born again evangelical Methodists consider it possible that their holy license to judge right and wrong might ever be rescinded; I yield to the theologians on this question), Bush is free to dismiss any objections or impediments to his policies either as evidence of the insufficient virtue of his enemies or as further glorious trials vouchsafed to him by a adoring Providence.

Forced by overwhelming secular repudiation to fight Satan with the evil one’s own weapons, Bush has hit the trifecta of deception, dishonor, and treason in recent weeks: knowingly misrepresenting his motives and evidence for war with Iraq; clumsily blaming the media for “filtering out” the torrent of good news flooding out of our occupation; and a nasty piece of business called Plame-gate.

What’s truly scary is not Bush’s attempts to defend and obfuscate in order to protect his political standing; it his defiant and unrepentant insistence on repeating the same crimes by hook or by crook even as we try and bring him to book for the first ones.

Exhibit A:  the cynical attempt to propel the limping “Clean Break” strategy of Middle Eastern transformation through military intervention across the finish line by colluding with our Israeli proxy in an attack on Syria.

Exhibit B:  Bush Jr.’s floundering tour through Asia.

Fleeing to the brown and yellow quarters of the globe in an attempt to evade accountability and responsibility for the Iraq debacle, Bush benefits from the Western press’s usual free pass granted to vacationing poobahs in the realms of exotic scenery, spicy food, and ridiculous outfits.

Of course, the usual Bush howlers are reported--such as offering our experience in the Philippines as a template for the American presence in Iraq.  

For those of you (including our happy occupees in Iraq and, undoubtedly, our history-challenged prez) whose grasp of Philippine history begins and ends with “You may fire when ready, Gridley,” the struggle for the hearts and minds of “our little brown brothers” included five years of brutal counterinsurgency, forty years of colonial occupation, and another 27 years of the republic serving as our combination bar stool and whorehouse before the Philippine people deposed the murdering, corrupt bastard we were keeping in power and kicked us out of Clark AFB and Subic Bay.

Now, that’s a future only a Chalabi could love!

But the attempt to enlist the region in the unilateralist, war-based Bush crusade goes relatively unreported.

For instance, it is absolutely ludicrous to believe that George W. Bush is going to negotiate in good faith with North Korea, as the news outlets are reporting.

Remember, North Korea is a charter member of the Axis of Evil.  Its mighty missile (I’m not sure they have more than one) is the dagger aimed at our homeland that justifies the multi-billion dollar Star Wars boondoggle.  Its malignant dwarf princeling ruler is personally detested and abhorred by our own high, wide, and handsome, raised up by his own bootstraps Commander in Chief.

The offer to give North Korea a “we will not invade” letter is not a concession; it’s a handjob.

It is simply a cynical quid pro quo for the South Korean regime's reluctant agreement to insert its troops into the Iraq morass. As reported in the LA Times well before the trip, the United States promised that Korea policy would not be left in the hands of the neocon psychopaths itching to start World War IV on the Korean Peninsula—if the ROK gave us some desperately needed military cover in Iraq (see Seoul May Send 10,000 Troops to Iraq, LA Times, Sept. 17, 2003).
.

Call it negotiation.  Call it hardball.  You could also call it blackmail.

Bush, in his usual mendacious and hypocritical fashion, is not willing to subject this assurance to a negotiated, verifiable, and enforceable treaty.  He will give the North Koreans a letter, backed by the sincerity, restraint, objective approach to intel, and overall trustworthiness of Team Bush.

Hah!

A lot of people, including the North Koreans, remember how the Bush administration evaded the UN resolution and inspection process and substituted its own assertions and deceptions for a legitimate casus belli in order to initiate a unilateral attack on Iraq.

Certainly Bush is not going to let any international understanding get in the way if he decides it’s time to take Kim Jung Il out.

We’ll see how far this goes.  In an opening gambit, North Korea dismissed Bush’s offer as “ridiculous”.
 
On a more long term level Bush is attempting to promote his self serving doctrine that the “War on Terror” (under the command of the United States of course) should be adopted as the organizing principle of security and foreign policy for the Asian states.

This doctrine has few enthusiastic believers or even backers in Europe or the Middle East today.  Now that Ariel Sharon is reduced to attacking Syria on his own kick, even Israel probably doesn’t have a lot of faith in Bush’s ability to effortlessly project invincible American power wherever he wants to.

Bush has hopes for Asia, perhaps on the theory that weaker, more gullible regimes can still be beguiled and seduced by last year's outdated fashions in fascism.

Bush and his agents are fanning out through Asia, beguiling politically and economically shaky republics—think the Philippines and Indonesia--with the promise that, if they escalate and “terrorize” their ethnic and religious conflicts and militarize their security policy, they too can get arms and political backing from the United States—and of course the privilege of having American troops camped in their countries ready to do God knows what to who knows who.  

It is obscene to watch our little league Lucifer is trying to seduce ethnically and economically fragile and divided states who less than anything else need to piss away their unity and finances fulfilling Bush's fantasy of creating an army of terror-hunting archangels.

Bush has surprisingly little to offer in return.

Bush has surrendered the position, prestige, and power of “Leader of the Free World” through his misguided policies that have incurred the deep and deserved enmity of France, Germany, China, Russia, most Muslim states, and the United Nations, to name a few.  

Instead of directing the flow of international aid and support to its allies, the US has turned into the international community’s biggest beggar on behalf of Iraq.

Thanks to the growing wariness of the American people and Congress, he is hard pressed to deliver US financial commitments, even to Iraq.

Indeed, Bush is the temporary boss of an unstable autarky that is fiscally and militarily overstretched, and dependent on imported oil, manufactured goods, and capital.  

Bush’s only trump card is America’s unanswerable and intimidating military might.

Just like the infomercial shills who claim their appliances can grill any meat or dice any vegetable, Bush rushes through Asia, touting his failed formula of escalating violence as a panacea.  That’s pretty much all he has in his trick bag: arms, troops, and the threat that the United States can punish insufficiently supportive or warlike states by fomenting a military crisis anywhere it wants in the region.

Aside from his abortive attempts to will military aid into existence for Indonesia, Bush is on a neverending quest to circumvent the Philippine constitution to get our troops back in.  

On top of everything else, our envoy to Taiwan publicly chastised the plucky island republic for not escalating their arms purchases from the United States to counter the threat from our “strategic partner”, China.  

Taiwan’s reluctance to stick its finger into mainland China’s eye is a source of continual frustration to conservative thinkers in the Bush administration. Once touted as our unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Pacific, Taiwan has instead turned into a springboard for increased Chinese influence in the Pacific Rim.

Obviously, the endgame of Bush’s Asian escapade is containing China—already ringed by US troops in compliant stans on the mainland side, its oil supplies threatened by our campaign of regime change in the Middle East, but faced by balky, nervous front line states on the Pacific Rim.

Too bad for Bush he hasn’t been able to find his Ariel Sharon in Asia—the desperate commander of a polarizing, destabilizing Fort Apache enclave anxiously scanning the horizon for the American cavalry to ride to the rescue before he vanishes beneath a wave of furious, indigenous hostiles.

John Howard of Australia—our local sheriff in Bush’s disastrous formulation—would have his hands full with Papua New Guinea, let alone China.  The Japanese, seemingly ready to throw their weight around in Asia again, are virtually guaranteed a Chinese pre-emptive attack if they get serious about reviving the military glories of the Japanese Co-Prosperity Sphere.

But the truth is that the center of Asian security and economic gravity is shifting toward China and away from the United States, hugely abetted by Bush’s confrontational, war-oriented approach to international relations.

While Bush scoots through Asia within a protective cone of anger, violence, roadblocks, and F-15 escorts, China’s Hu Jintao is breezing through the region buoyed by China’s successful space mission and a general appreciation for China’s central role in wealth creation and stability.

The clearest sign that Bush is flummoxed is a clumsy, racially condescending piece of spin laid on the Financial Times:

“White House staff say the president's investment of political capital in Mr Hu is deliberate. One senior administration official said Mr Bush saw Mr Hu as a young, emerging leader who would grow in stature with a few ‘feathers in his cap’".( Bush tries to embrace challenge of emerging superpower competitor By James Harding Financial Times October 22 2003).

There may be Asian supremos who yearn from a patronizing pat on the head from the war-mongering dingbat who has seized control of the American government, but Hu Jintao is not one of them.

George Bush no doubt hopes he will be re-elected and, if so, will regard his second term as a blissful eternity of plunder and rapine.

But to the Asian powers, who reckon their history in millenia and their political struggles in centuries, the reign of Bush will simply mark the initiation of a long, humiliating decline for America on the world stage.

That will be a bitter pill for Americans to swallow.

But for our self-deluding candyman, reassurance and relief is just a chocolate bar away.

*  Like justifications for the Iraq war, stated motives for the Bush candy embargo keep changing. In a fawning backgrounder handfed to USA Today in the opening days of the war (Judy Keen, Strain of War Showing on Bush, USA Today, Apr. 2, 2003), Bush’s cold turkey candy cutback was described as part of our ripped and focussed C-in-C’s effort to improve his jogging rate to a suitably heroic and presidential 7.5 minutes/mile as our forces raced to Baghdad.  Now that our army is suffering death by a thousand cuts in Iraq, a forthcoming book (The Faith of George W. Bush by Stephen Mansfield, cited in Sydney Schanberg’s article The Widening Crusade in the Oct. 21, 2003 Village Voice) characterizes Bush’s cold turkey candy cutoff as a religious “partial fast” in support of our troops.  Next, we will doubtlessly learn that Bush was compassionately stockpiling Snickers for the Iraqi children deprived of freedom’s sweet confectionery by Saddam Hussein’s brutal reign.

Eyeless in Gaza…and Damascus

October 7, 2003

Where would we be without Israel?

It’s not surprising that an administration whose definition of internationalism is "Let’s drive to Texarkana for pork barbecue" needs a guide to lead it through the bloody intricacies of the Middle East.

It’s also no surprise that our faux flyboy president would fall under the sway of a ruthless, wily warrior from Israel.

As Israel desperately ups the ante with a bombing raid deep into Syria, the once taboo question of America’s relationship with Israel, especially with Sharon and the Likud, is no longer esoteric or irrelevant.

It becomes one of central importance.

The neocon blueprint for the Middle East promised to avoid and short-circuit the loaded question of moderating Israeli behavior by switching the focus to Iraq, Syria, and Iran. "Draining the swamp" would cause the Palestinian problem to wither away as Arafat, deprived of the support of "outside agitators", would be overwhelmed by a combination of internal reformist pressure, Israeli subversion, and US-led diplomatic isolation.

The Palestinian problem would take care of itself as we became beloved masters of the Arabian sandbox.

Of course it didn’t happen that way.

America has found itself unable to contain nationalist aspirations and anti-American sentiments even inside Iraq, where our occupation is replacing the rule of a widely despised and execrated despot.

No surprise that our adventure in Iraq has had zero effect on Sharon’s futile attempt to crush an indigenous, popular Palestinian independence movement opposing Israeli occupation.

In fact, it would seem that the Palestinian problem is getting worse, not better.

Conventional logic would suggest that the neocon theory had failed its first real test and should be carefully and openly re-appraised.

No such luck.

The neocon solution is just more of the same, with a new twist.

The neocons, stymied in the United States by the Iraq debacle (and reportedly hamstrung by the Rove diktat "No war in 2004") must turn to a leader stronger, more determined, and more ruthless than Bush to keep their careening plans for Middle East transformation on track—Ariel Sharon.

Although the road to Israeli security and its presumed doppelganger, absolute American dominance in the Middle East, may lie through Damascus, it doesn’t look like U.S. boots will be hitting the highway anytime soon.

So Israel will have to make the trip alone (for the time being; maybe Paul Wolfowitz is promising that a few hitchhikers from the 82nd Airborne can be picked up somewhere further down the road).

The first step was a bombing raid on a purported terrorist training camp near Damascus, supposedly in retaliation for a suicide bombing by a Palestinian woman that left 19 dead in Haifa.

Bush, by now truly a captive of his own failure, stupidity, and neocon cupidity, is supporting Sharon in the only military escapade that could possibly be regionally and internationally less popular than the invasion of Iraq.

When Sharon applies to Syria a policy that has failed for Israel on the West Bank, and for the U.S. in Iraq, Bush eggs him on with a creepy, fascistic call to defend the Homeland by any means necessary.

Perhaps Bush is hoping against hope, logic, and history that somehow Sharon will blast a tunnel through Syria, and the Middle East will wade through the bloody darkness to emerge in a promised land of peace and pro-American capitalism that will vindicate Bush’s failed policy of nirvana through unilateral aggression.

And Sharon, who has saddled his own demons and is ready to ride them straight into hell, knows that he holds the key to Armageddon in his hands.

He has a green light not only for military operations in Gaza and the West Bank; not only for targeted killings of Palestinian leaders; not only for the expulsion or execution of Arafat…

…he also has a green light for aggression against Syria and anybody else he declares a threat.

The scariest part of this (if you’re not Syrian of course) is not the fact that Israel may pursue a policy of regime change in Syria similar to what we did in Iraq…

…which is to overthrow a hostile ruler and leave the country wallowing helplessly in chaos, poverty, and anarchy, unable either to threaten its neighbors or care for itself…

…but that Sharon, the region’s only possessor of true WMDs (or, as Bush might say, "genwin nookular weppins") is aggressively pursuing a policy of unilateral, escalating military confrontation without any explicit, let alone effective, check from the United States.

Unfortunately, this is not a time for Sharon to show restraint or exercise discretion.

Sharon has every reason to believe that, if Bush loses the 2004 election--as suddenly seems possible--a Democratic president would put the neocon war machine up on blocks pronto.

In fact, if Colin Powell uses Plame-gate to put the neocons in cold storage, a more even-handed U.S. stance on the Middle East might reappear in a matter of weeks.

Better create some facts on the ground i.e. escalate the confrontation with Syria to the point of no return so Bush will have no alternative but to back Israel—and the neocons.

Time for Ariel Sharon--and the neocons--to get very, very busy.

Time to drop the bombs, crank the crisis up a few notches, foreclose the diplomatic options, trumpet the dire threats from the usual right-wing pulpits--just as we did in Iraq.

When the focus of Bush’s Middle East policy switches to openly enabling third-party aggression against Syria, it puts the whole Israel/Sharon/Likud/neocon question on the table.

If we opposed the war on Iraq, how can’t we oppose the evolving war on Syria?

It’s the same bankrupt strategy, pursued by the same people using different means.

When Bush boldly took on his own shoulders the burden of plunging the Middle East into war, the issue of the convergence of Sharon’s strategic interests with U.S. policy could be overlooked or explained away.

After all, America had plenty of its own reasons for invading Iraq: the geopolitical advantages of controlling access to Iraq oil; the desire to assert the unilateral pre-emptive war doctrine against a helpless, despised opponent; the domestic political benefits of keeping American society on an anxious war footing; the pleasures of giving GOP-friendly defense and infrastructure contractors a profitable desert workout…

…so that the advantages to Israeli security doctrine of the Iraq invasion could be dismissed as an irrelevant langniappe.

As to the close cooperation between the US and Israel—in all accuracy, the real Churchill to Bush’s FDR was not the puppyish Tony Blair, but the hefty and implacable Ariel Sharon—America certainly needed somebody’s help in the Middle East.

We don’t do very well at pacification or occupation far from home, and we had no useful experience in dealing with ancient, agrarian-based, urbanized, educated Arab Muslim societies.

Again, it was not unreasonable to call on Israel. Sharon’s ruthless, tunnel-vision approach to security certainly appealed to our simple-minded Caesar’s weakness for deceptively easy military solutions.

Israel offered Bush the hope, if not the evidence, that Arab anger and aspirations could be managed through the exercise of overwhelming, unrelenting force. An ostentatiously pro-Israel tilt would also permit Bush to present himself to American Jewish voters as Israel’s champion.

So, on June 24, 2002, the date that marks the true first step to war with Iraq, Bush abandoned any pretense of reprising the tired and frustrating role of honest broker in the Israel-Palestine conflict. He exchanged the peace process for a war process under the misleading and all-purpose rubric of the "War on Terror".

In the service of the Iraq war, Sharon offered Bush intelligence support (including, apparently, politically useful pseudo-intelligence from a group of operatives similar to Cheney’s Cabal—I wonder if they worked under a Gentile name like "The Posse" to avoid that "Jewish conspiracy" canard—laboring to assemble a case for the Iraq war out of materials the Mossad wouldn’t touch); practical advice on how to fight door to door, pacify, occupy, detain, and interrogate; and the useful promise to go apeshit wild if Saddam dared launch an attack against Israel.

But here we are in October 2004.

We got Iraq, but every U.S.-based security justification for the war has been proven wrong. We didn’t get any WMDs, and we didn’t get a cost-free, pain-free cakewalk.

We got our own, personal deep-dish quagmire.

Faced with the undeniable evidence of simultaneous debacles of American intelligence, neocon doctrine, DOD execution, and White House diplomacy, the question is no longer, What is the US going to do in the Middle East?

We’ll be up to our ass in Iraq, that’s what we’ll be doing for the next few years.

The real question is, Now that Israel has taken on the job of unilateral pre-emptive war in the Middle East, What is the US going to do about Israel?

Shrug our shoulders helplessly as Israel shreds one or two more Middle Eastern countries while our politically and intellectually hamstrung president holds Sharon’s coat?

Or recognize that neocon elements of the Bush administration are quite possibly colluding with Sharon to foment a regional crisis that will compel US support for a politically discredited and ideologically bankrupt agenda?

Tactics like this are not beyond the neocon fanatics like Perle, who has reportedly sought to orchestrate Israeli diplomatic and political activities to further his goals (see "Anger at peace talks ‘meddling’; political scandal in US as Bush advisers tell Israelis to be ready to walk out of Camp David negotiations", Julian Borger, Guardian, July 13, 2000 for a description of Perle’s efforts to sabotage the Clinton –led peace talks).

Of course, the neocons believe that they can trump any suspicion, accusation, or evidence with the howl of "anti-Semitism".

It’s not a question of anti-Semitism.

It’s truth vs. deception, peace vs. war, and success vs. failure.

The best prospect for Israel’s future is to get George Bush out of office and kick the financial, military, diplomatic, and political props out from under Sharon so that new leaders can bring Israel new ideas and new hope.

The best hope for America is to recognize that, as a result of our faith-based "War on Terror" policy, we are eyeless in Gaza…and Tel Aviv and Baghdad and Damascus and Teheran and Riyadh.

Like Samson, we strain blindly for clues and understanding as to what’s going on around us, as we live in mortal peril of the deceiving neocon whisper that will make us pull the temple—and the whole world—down upon our own heads.

The real question is not, where would we be without Israel?

The real question is, where would we be if we opened our own eyes and saw the truth of what was happening around us, instead of closing our eyes and listening to the phantom fears and hopes besetting our minds?

Where would we be then?

Not in Iraq…or Syria.

Copyright 2003 Peter Lee