Rashid Khalidi

Resurrecting empire

The 2003 war on Iraq was indeed a momentous departure from what most Americans fancied had always been the posture of their country in the twentieth century with respect to military conflict: that the nation would go to war only after being attacked. Notwithstanding invasions of Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Grenada, and numerous other smaller countries beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, and even given the different valences and meanings attached to what happened (and irrespective of what actually happened) to the Lusitania in 1915, and the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, Americans deeply cherished the notion that they went to war only when forced to do so. 2

Beyond this, commentators on the right and left noted that neither muscular nationalists like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, nor the neoconservative members of the War Party who had surrounded them and held key posts throughout the bureaucracy in right-wing Washington think tanks, and in the media, had ever been noted as advocates of democratization of the Arab world. This is not surprising, since real democracy in the region would mean the free expression of the popular will, including, in all likelihood, calls for the removal of US bases in the Middle East, support of the Palestinians, and opposition to the Israeli occupation and settlement of Palestinian lands, all of which are abhorrent to the neocons. 8