Iraq war dead-ender Fouad Ajami pounces on Defense Secretary Panetta’s comments about Al Qaeda and Iraq in order to repeat his "one Arab is as good as another" justification for the Iraq invasion:

Those were Arabs, not Afghans, who struck America on that day, and it had been the proper thing to strike at an Arab “return address,” because the American strike against the Taliban did not suffice. Panetta, in an unguarded moment, gave voice to a fundamental truth about the U.S. expedition into Iraq. [...]

Our country made its way to Iraq some 18 months after 9/11 because the menace against America in that time of peril had come from Arab lands. It was Arab financiers who made it possible for the plotters and the death pilots to do their grim work. It was Arab religious preachers, with the prestige of the Arabic language, the language of the Islamic revelation, who were sowing the winds of anti-Americanism and “weaponizing” the faith itself. And it was sly Arab governments winking at the forces of terror and enabling it while posing as America’s clients and allies. We had to get the attention of the Arabs, strike against Arab targets, take on the pathologies of that world.

So, because the people who attacked us on 9/11 were Arabs, the U.S. needed to kill some Arabs in response. No matter how many times Ajami writes this, it never gets less racist. (It’s worth noting the similarity here to Osama bin Laden’s support for killing Americans, any old Americans, for the alleged sins of the American government. In both cases, what’s important is to send a message.)

Ajami goes on to once again scold critics of the war for failing to recognize its benefits, such as they are. For my part, I’ve noted repeatedly the importance of Iraq being the first Arab state where Islamists have been given an opportunity to govern, and the possible lessons that might be drawn from this in regard to Islamists’ political participation in other countries in the region.

At the same time, like so many of the war’s most vigorous cheerleaders, Ajami himself has never shown any real interest in grappling with the war’s costs, which far outweigh its benefits. Should he ever decide to do so, he can start with our May 2010 report.



Subscribe to Middle East Progress Alerts

Support Middle East Progress

In-Depth Coverage

Original Commentaries

Setting the Record Straight

Determined to Reach a Common Objective

“We knew at the outset that the task would be difficult. We acknowledged that publicly and privately. We knew this would be a road with many bumps— and there have been many bumps—and that continues to this day. But we are not deterred. We are, to the contrary, determined more than ever to proceed to realize the common objective, which we all share, of a Middle East that is at peace with security and prosperity for the people of Israel, for Palestinians, and for all the people in the region. We will continue our efforts in that regard, undeterred and undaunted by the difficulties, the complexities or the bumps in the road.”—George Mitchell, special envoy for Middle East peace, remarks with Prime Minister Netanyahu, September 29, 2010

Middle East Analysis

Upcoming Events

The U.S. Agency for International Development and Conflict: Hard Lessons from the Field

May 17, 2011, 12:00pm – 1:15pm

From Afghanistan and Iraq to Pakistan, Somalia, and South Sudan, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, is engaged daily in trying to help some of the most troubled nations on the planet make a lasting transition to stability, open markets, and democracy. Few areas of the agency’s work are more challenging or more controversial.

Join us for remarks by, and a roundtable with, the deputy administrator of USAID, Ambassador

more