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You might think that by now I would be so used to infuriating neocon drivel that, to preserve my own sanity, I would avoid looking at the Washington Post or at least its editorial pages.
I have tried. But it seems that after almost a half century in Washington, and particularly after the recent rash of "wars of choice," it is simply not possible. One has to keep an eye on what bloody mischief the neocons are devising.
The Post's lead editorial on Sunday is ostensibly about Iraq and blaming President Barack Obama if things get worse after U.S. troops leave in December. But these days Iran is the main concern of the neocons who infect that editorial page.
In the wake of Obama's withdrawal announcement on Friday, the Post's neocon editors are worried that:
"Mr. Obama's decision to carry out a complete withdrawal [of troops from Iraq] sharply increases the risk that ... Iran will be handed a crucial strategic advantage in its regional cold war with the United States; and that a potentially invaluable U.S. alliance with an emerging Iraqi democracy will wither."
The bugaboo of Iran is raised no less than six times in the five-paragraph editorial. One is prompted to ask an innocent question: Which country did the neocons think would profit if Saddam Hussein, Iran's archrival, were removed and his army destroyed?
America's neocons apparently hoped that Israel would be the beneficiary, with a U.S.-occupied Iraq serving as a land-based aircraft carrier for applying military pressure on neighboring Iran and Syria. But you don't start a war on hope.
That Iran would almost surely benefit the most from the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a no-brainer. And that is precisely why, before the attack on Iraq, Israeli leaders were insisting "we do Iran first."
But the U.S. neocons thought they knew better and that sequencing Iraq before Iran would be an easier sell with the American people. After all, they had already been trained to hate Iraq's Saddam Hussein because of the first Persian Gulf War in 1990-91. In the early part of the last decade, Iran's leaders were a much more amorphous target.
The neocons also thought the conquest of Iraq would be easy with American military might crushing not only the Iraqi military but the country's will to fight. "Shock and awe" would pave the way to a "cakewalk."
In 2003, the joke circulating in neocon-dominated Washington was whether the next U.S. target should be Iran or Syria with the punch-line: "Real men go to Tehran."
Also, the neocons' top allies in the Bush administration -- Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- understood Bush's personal animus toward Hussein. Bush once called Hussein "the guy that tried to kill my dad." Cheney and Rumsfeld knew an open door when they saw one. Bush, an impressionable fundamentalist Christian-Zionist, was bereft of strategic understanding.
However, eight-plus years later -- with nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers dead and about $1 trillion spent, with Iraq torn by sectarian and political violence and with the Iraqi government essentially ushering the U.S. forces out by refusing to extend immunity from Iraqi laws for any U.S. troops who would remain -- the neocons must finally face the hard truth: their grandiose scheme was a flop.
It is not only American soldiers who will be coming home from an immoral, illegal and ill-thought-out war. The chickens, too, are coming home to roost. And, without admitting they were really dumb, the neocon chicken hawks are inadvertently admitting soto voce, that they didn't have a strategic clue.
And they still don't. It is a safe bet that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud associates are admonishing the neocons who still hold great sway in Official Washington: "See? We told you we should have done Iran first. But it's not too late.