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Letting the Neocons Lead

By       Message Robert Parry     Permalink
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Reprinted from Consortium News

In a rational political system, the American neocons would be the most discredited group in modern U.S. history. If not in the dock for complicity in war crimes -- from Central America in the 1980s to Iraq last decade -- they would surely not be well-regarded scholars at prominent think tanks and welcomed as op-ed columnists at major publications.

But the United States doesn't currently have a rational political system. Instead of being prosecuted or ostracized, the neocons continue to dominate Official Washington's foreign policy thinking. They and their "liberal interventionist" sidekicks continue to demonize disfavored "enemy" leaders -- just as they did in Central America and Iraq -- and bait doubters for "weakness" if they don't climb onboard.

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And, the mainstream U.S. news media, led by the likes of the New York Times and the Washington Post, falls into line or is actually led by neocons. Then, politicians, even those who should know better like President Barack Obama, don't dare alienate the opinion leaders and thus end up reinforcing the neocon themes by sounding "tough."

It may be highly naive at this point to think that President Obama will ever demonstrate true leadership by repudiating the neocon "group think" regarding a whole variety of issues including today's hotspots, such as Iran, Syria, Iraq, Russia and Ukraine.

But just pause for a minute and contemplate what would have happened if President Obama had followed neocon advice last year and launched massive air strikes to take out Syria's military over dubious allegations that it was responsible for a Sarin gas attack.

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Though Official Washington's "group think" is that somehow, magically, the virtually non-existent "moderate" Syrian opposition would have taken over and everything would have worked out just wonderfully, the much more likely result would have been that radical Islamists, either the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda's Nusra Front, would have seized power. The black jihadist flag might very well have been flying over Damascus.

And then what? Could the West tolerate a Syria, in the heart of the Middle East, controlled by Al-Qaeda or the even more extremist Islamic State? Plus, with the relatively secular government of Bashar al-Assad gone, one could bet that there would be horrendous accounts of massacres against Christians, Shiites, Alawites and other minorities that have supported Assad's regime.

Would the United States and Europe stand by and watch? There would be more demands for Obama to "do something." And, at that point, the only "something" would be a massive U.S. military intervention, meaning hundreds of thousands of troops and hundreds of billions of dollars without any realistic possibility of ultimate success.

How We Got Here

One should also remember how we got here. There was no Al-Qaeda presence in Iraq or Syria before President George W. Bush embraced the crazy neocon scheme of invading and occupying Iraq in 2003. The brutal Islamic State arose in Iraq in resistance to the U.S. military occupation as "Al-Qaeda in Iraq."

Under the leadership of Jordanian extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" developed an ultra-violent strategy of relying on extreme brutality, including the slaughter of Shiites and Westerners, to drive these supposedly heretical forces out of Muslim land.

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Though Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in 2006, his strategy lived on, inspiring the unapologetic cruelty of the Islamic State, which even Al-Qaeda has renounced in favor of its preferred Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front.

So, if the neocons hadn't prevailed a decade ago in their insistence on invading and occupying Iraq -- with the enthusiastic support of the mainstream U.S. media's "liberal" careerists -- there might not be the current crisis in Iraq and Syria. Yet, Official Washington continues to submit to a neocon-driven consensus about what must be done in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Granted, the situation is now such a mess that it is hard to decide what the best course of action is. But rational policymaking would surely rule out the advice of the people who created the mess in the first place.

Instead of being sent to sit in the corner in dunce caps, the neocons have been allowed to expand the range of their operations, now spreading their influence to the conflict over Ukraine and the decision to make Russia and its President Vladimir Putin the latest bogeymen to justify a new Cold War.

The neocons charted this geopolitical strategy by stirring up trouble in Ukraine, knowing its sensitivity to Russia's security. In September 2013, as Putin was helping Obama avert the neocon-desired, U.S. bombing campaign against the Syrian government, neocons decided to take aim at Ukraine and Putin.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at

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