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There is an eerie similarity between Leo Tolstoy?fs novel, War and Piece, which
describes with considerable accuracy Napoleon?fs 1812 invasion of Russia and George
Bush?fs 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Napoleon, after quick victories throughout Europe, decided to take on his former
ally, Russia. Napoleon had the most powerful army in Europe. He liked to use small,
fast units for surprise and speed. When he entered the borders of Russia, he
expected a ferocious the battle for Moscow in which he would destroy, once and for
all, the Russian military machine. But to his surprise, his invasion of Moscow was a
cakewalk. There was no big battle with the Russian military machine. Napoleon?fs
troops quickly entered Moscow and dug in.
George Bush, commander-in-chief of the most powerful military machine in history,
had a Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who preferred to use small, fast units
for surprise and speed. He had at his command high technology, an Air Force and
tanks unmatched in the world. After Bush had enjoyed a quick victory over the
Taliban in Afghanistan, he decided to invade the former ally of the United States,
Saddam Hussein?fs Iraq.
The troops of Bush the Younger, like Napoleon entering Moscow, had a cakewalk into
Iraq. There were token shots here and there, but no big earth works to slow vehicles
in ambushes. No tank traps to paralyze the fearsome Abrams tanks. No massive mine
fields to make every American move a dance of death that would delay the advancing
troops. Most surprising was no Republican Guard, Hussein?fs most effective army. The
quick-moving U.S. special forces quickly enveloped Baghdad where they waited for the
big battle. But there was no huge battle. There was no visible Republican Guard. And
there was no Saddam Hussein. . Like Napoleon waiting to polish off the Czarist army,
Bush also waited to finish off the Republican Guard. But no Republican Guard was in
sight. Saddam Hussein was nowhere to be found.
President Bush assumed it was all over. It was time to put the formidable White
House public relations into high gear. In the now famous photo op, the President
dressed in fighter-pilot uniform made a landing on the aircraft carrier, Abraham
Lincoln. Nearby, the city of San Diego was clearly visible — but not to the
American public because the TV cameras on the carrier were placed by White House
operatives to point only toward the other side of the ship in the direction of the
As millions of American watched on television, President Bush, now re-uniformed in a
Presidential black suit and, by precise pre-arrangement, made his famous victory
swagger across the open deck toward the carefully focussed TV cameras. Pre-arranged
was a huge sign on the carrier?fs superstructure: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. At a
microphone, Bush told the American people the invasion was complete and combat
Napoleon and Bush both were surprised by a speedy, un-opposed easy victory. The
massed Czarist troops of General Mikhail Kutuzov seemed to have evaporated. Saddam
Hussein?fs Republican Guard also seemed to have evaporated.
In the War of 1812, Kutuzov?fs army had not, of course, evaporated. They had simply
moved beyond Moscow, out of sight, and waited for the penalty of time and a vicious
winter to decimate Napoleon?fs Grand Army.
At this writing, there is no definitive word on what happened to Hussein?fs
Republican Guard. But after the invasion there were unexpected huge explosions,
expert booby traps for the Abrams tanks, and a steady toll of American soldiers
killed and wounded by hidden sharpshooters. Shoulder-fired missiles destroyed U.S.
army helicopters and their occupants, and a series of ambushes killed more United
States soldiers. It all had the earmarks of planned and skilled guerrilla warfare.
It is possible that Hussein?fs elite Republican Guard had shed their uniforms and
were behind the mounting American casualties. Once the small, beleaguered U.S.
troops were shown to be vulnerable, it loosed the anger of Iraqi civilians who,
without water, electricity, or food, demanded that the American occupiers who ruined
the country by precision bombing do something about it.
There was no American plan to do “something about it.” The invasion and reduction of
cities and infrastructure to rubble has been precisely planned. But no plan for what
came afterward. How could this have happened? In the elaborate war games that
precedes every invasion, didn?ft anyone ask, “OK, after the bombing and our troops
control Iraq, what do we do next?”Apparently, no one in charge asked “what do we do
It seems inexplicable. But perhaps it is explainable.
Among neo-conservatives, there has been a basic long-term plan for the United States
and for the rest of the world. In the United States the plan is open and even given
a name: “Starve the Beast.” The “Beast” is the United States government. The
starvation is to have the government so loaded with debt or other limiting
obligations that it makes it easier to cancel a wide range of government programs,
or so cripple them they will not work. These are programs like Social Security,
Medicare, Medicaid and other fixtures that mainly benefit the middle-class
Americans, environmental protections, anti-pollution laws, and the entire range of
programs the neo-conservatives wish to privatize or cancel. The 2003 Republican
White House and Congress already are engaged in the plan.
But this is not limited to the United States. It is a plan that the neo-con group
foresees implanting in all the newly developing countries and in as much of the rest
of the world as possible. This includes Iraq.
It is important to remember that the invasion of Iraq came out of the blue, suddenly
depicted as a country with imminent danger to the United States with weapons of mass
destruction and nuclear capacity. It was, as we now know, a false alarm that should
have been known by the neo-con planners like Rumsfeld to be a false alarm. If the
group did not know it was a false alarm, it is even more alarming. If they believed
it was not a false alarm, it would mean that the planners have become so obsessed
with their own goals, that they are capable of profound self-deception.
After the Taliban had been bombed in Afghanistan, Iraq seemed a convenient country
with which to extend the neo-con program. The word “convenient” is not mine. It was
used by one of the inner group who planned the whole thing, Paul Wolfowitz, in an
article in Vanity. In that article, Wolfowitz said a number of countries were
considered as targets but Iraq was decided as the most “convenient.” One assumes
that it was “convenient” because politically Hussein is properly despised as a
monster who does monstrous things to his own dissenters (though he was our monster
That the war hawks had no plans for what to do after bombing Iraq into rubble and
putting our troops in occupation seems like idiocy. But the war hawks do not have
the usual characteristics of ignoramuses. They are well-educated and have
considerable intellectual skills.
Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, had been Dean and Professor of the Nitze
School of Advanced International Relations at Johns Hopkins University. Condoleeza
Rice, President Bush?fs National Security Advisor, had been Provost and a Dean at
Stanford University, professor of political science, and author of three books on
European and Soviet History. Richard Perle (known by his opponents as the Prince of
Darkness), was chair of the Defense Policy Board, has a BA and Masters from
Princeton. Rumsfeld is a Princeton man.
How does one explain the blindness of these defense intellectuals, even with the
dream of their own kind of world., knowing something was wrong about the celebrated
United States initial cakewalk into Iraq with only token resistance. They knew that
Hussein?fs most effective army was his Republican Guard, yet the Guard were never in
evidence to resist the invasion. In all their education at prestigious universities,
were they never acquainted with Leo Tolstoy?fs great novel, War and Peace about the
War of 1812?
It is a huge tome with more than 3 million-plus words, but it is also on any list of
the world?fs great literature. And any course in European history will have dealt
with Napoleon and the War of 1812. More important, it provides a striking warning of
precisely what seems to have happened in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq.
Tolstoy describes — with historical accuracy– how Napoleon?fs terrifying
500,000-man Grand Army, approached Moscow ready for a great battle with the Czarist
troops under command of the aging, sleepy-eyed General Mikhail Kutuzov. Napoleon had
his cakewalk into the city of Moscow with no hindrance from Kutuzov?fs big army.
Kutuzov had merely withdrawn his army well east of Moscow and let Napoleon take over
Moscow and then waited patiently for time and winter to destabilize Napoleon?fs
control of Russia.
Bush accepted the Iraq war plan and quickly savored the glory of a quick and
successful invasion. It is possible that Bush, not known as an insatiable reader of
books, might not remember much about Napoleon, Moscow and Kutuzov. But Bush?fs
generals did because one thing the Pentagon does well is to make sure every person
who reaches the rank of a senior General has been to graduate school and studied in
detail every important war from classical times to the present.
The War of 1812 is certainly in the curriculum. Perhaps that is why so many of
Bush?fs generals insisted the American invasion army was too small and not
sufficiently prepared. And why senior people in the CIA expressed doubt about the
intelligence about Iraq.
The problem, of course, is that Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Perle, were known to feel
they understood military matters better than his generals and the intelligence they
collected was distinct from the CIA They selected whatever information they could
that supported their plans and dismissed the rest as bureaucratic incompetence. The
Iraqi mess that followed the invasion has become a monument of those who have
impenetrable self-confidence in their own superiority.
The President hung up a “Keep Out” sign for the United Nations, made derogatory
remarks about the country?fs most powerful allies — Germany and France — and
boasted of his support from some lesser Eastern European countries like Slovakia and
Slovenia who were delighted with sudden recognition as “military allies” of the
Rumsfeld and company must have felt that they could simply order the Air Force to
reduce Iraq to rubble, move in the small American special forces and then let lesser
people worry about petty details — details like what happens after the troops are
in and there is no water, electricity, or food, and a population hat will become
desperate and hostile. There were far more casualties after “Mission Accomplished”
than occurred during the invasion itself.
It may demonstrate something related not to the military but to the human race.
Every one of Bush?fs war hawks undoubtedly has a I.Q. But a high I.Q. has never been
a reliable defense against arrogance or lack of wisdom. Most of all, a high I.Q. is
vulnerable to hubris, which the dictionary defines as “overbearing pride or
presumption; arrogance.” The penalties of hubris in high places, as readers of the
classics and careful observers of human experience realize, are too chilling as a
fate for the innocent citizens and soldiers of the United States and for the rest of