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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


April 24, 2006

WASHINGTON - In 53 BC , Consul Marcus Licinius Crassus, Rome’s co-ruler with Pompey and Caesar, sought military glory and political primacy by launching an invasion of the Parthian Empire. His only previous military experience was crushing the great slave revolt led by Spartacus.

Ignoring cautionary advice from his generals and warnings from Armenia’s king, Crassus crossed the Euphrates and led his army deep into the wastes of what is today western Iraq. A local Nabatean chieftain, secretly working for Parthia, assured Crassus Parhtians would greeted him as a liberator, and the Parthian army would flee at the sight of the first Roman legion.

At Carrhae - which is close to where US Marines were fighting in Iraq’s Anbar province last week - Crassus’ plodding army was outmaneuvered and annihilated by Parthian mailed knights, known as `cataphracts’ and horse archers, whose deadly arrow fire gave posterity the wonderful term for a parting zinger, `Parthian shaft.’ The Byzantines later adopted the Parthian cataphracts as their principal heavy cavalry. This, in turn, led to the evolution of Frankish armored knights an medieval chivalry.

Carrhae, one of Rome’s worst defeats, bears many resemblances to America’s modern debacle in Iraq. The Bush Administration showed the same arrogance and ignorance as Crassus, and the same lust for what appeared easy military glory and rich plunder, ignoring expert advice while heeding disinformation from those with hidden agendas.

Recently, six retired American generals stunned the nation by publicly accused Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld of `arrogance and mismanagement’ in the Iraq war. The White House and Pentagon unleashed a massive public relations counter-attack to defend him, but the damage to the administration was enormous.

The most devastating criticism came from Marine Lt. General Gregory Newbold: `…commitment of our forces to this fight was done with the casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions -- or bury the results." Meaning superhawks George Bush and Dick Cheney. Semper Fi! General. Semper Fi.

Retired Marine general Anthony Zinni, former Centcom commander, blasted Rumsfeld and the conduct of the war which he repeatedly warned would produce an Iraq far more dangerous than one under Saddam. The courageous, outspoken Zinni became a special target of neoconservative hate-mongering.

Former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Washington finest thinker on foreign affairs, joined the fray, saying the trumped-up aggression against Iraq has led to `delegitimization’ of America across the world.

Having served in the US Army during the Vietnam era, I recall vividly how another arrogant secretary of defense with poor understanding military science, Robert McNamara, led America to a crushing, humiliating defeat in Indochina for which the US military was blamed. Back then, the generals should have gone public and taken on McNamara, but remained mute.

Today, no Washington official will yet admit it, but the US has suffered a major strategic defeat in Iraq by failing to achieve its political objective of turning Iraq into an obedient colony and plundering its oil.

The general’s revolt reflects this unspoken fact and is clearly intended to lay blame for the Iraq fiasco where it belongs - the White House. These patriots are not going to suffer another Robert McNamara in silence.

Once the `who lost Iraq’ cry goes up, the White House will try to blame the military - just as it sought to lay blame on CIA for so-called `intelligence failures’ over Iraq’s non-existent wmd’s. America’s soldiers are not going to be framed for a war many opposed, and which some believed was engineered by neocon ideologues for whom America’s interests were secondary.

Secretary Rumsfeld has become a lightening rod for military opponents and the fast growing numbers of Americans fed up with Mr Bush’s war. Republicans and military men who cannot bring themselves to openly criticize President Bush and VP Dick Cheney’s policies in Iraq find Don Rumsfeld a handy whipping boy.

So they rebuke Rumsfeld for failing to provide enough US troops to pacify Iraq, and lack of post-invasion plans. He is guilty, on both counts. But these are lesser failings.

As a long-time admirer of Rumsfeld, I was deeply dismayed he did not stand up to Dick Cheney and his cabal of neoconservative warmongers and refuse to send American soldiers into an illegal and calamitous colonial war.

To preserve what honor he retains, Rumsfeld should admit the war was wrong and resign.


  • The latest Osama bin Laden audio is interesting. In it, he warns that westerners will now become targets of revenge attack because they failed to stop their government’s attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan. He repeated claims the west is waging a `Zionist-Crusader’ war against Islam, and tried to shame Muslim nations into helping Hamas in Palestine, which is being squeezed to death by US sanctions. Ominously, he added that the UN is a puppet of the US. Any UN troops sent to Darfur should be opposed by `mujahidin,’ proclaimed bin Laden. The western powers, he added, wanted to divide Sudan and grab its oil - a claim that is not without some basis in fact.

  • Correction: Iran’s president, Muhammed Ahmadinejad , did not call for Israel to be `wiped off the face of the map,’ as I and everyone else reported before being able to read the full translation of his speech. In it, the Iranian president quoted the late Imam Khomeini, who used the phrase. We must always be cautious of self-appointed translators in Washington who skew much of the news we get from the Mideast.

  • The arrest and prosecution for terrorism by the FBI of two American citizens of Muslim background from the state of Georgia, aged 21 and 19, sounds fishy. They were supposed to have met with suspicious Muslims in Toronto to discuss attacking power plants and communication nodes in the USA. But like so many other Muslims arrested in the US and Canada, their case may amount to little. They were unlikely agents of bin Laden. More likely, just two post-adolescents running their mouths.

  • It was a national disgrace that President George Bush did not give a state dinner for visiting President Hu of China. A lunch was the consolation prize. This was a major slap in the face to the formality-loving Chinese, who were deeply embarrassed by this rude slight. Bush was pandering to his Evangelical Christian backers while jeopardizing the most important foreign affairs relationship in America’s future: US-Chinese relations. The White House’s behavior was stupid, offish and counter-productive. Chinese will not forget this affront.

  • We hope Nepal’s odious king will be overthrown in the next week or so. How long will it be before his soldiers and police refuse to keep beating and killing Nepalese and turn on the king? Let India send a plane to fly him into exile.

  • One of the things that continues to amaze and dismay me is the failure so far of many Americans to realize they were lied to and deceived into an unjust war by White House propaganda. Or that a cabal of neoconservatives engineered a war to serve another nation. Where is the outrage? Why are more Americans not demanding Congress charge administration officials with malfeasance, lying to Congress, and creating an illegal war?

    Anyone who watched this weekend’s program, `60 Minutes,’ saw the former CIA chief in Europe affirm that the White House was warned that the story about Iraq’s purchase of uranium from Niger, which Bush used to justify invading Iraq, was faked. Why, one wonders, is there not a storm of public outrage? Too many Americans remain in denial that they launched an illegal, unwarranted war for the basest of reasons. And where was the outrage when it was revealed that Bush proposed sending US aircraft over Iraq painted with UN markings in hope Iraqi AA would fire at them and this provide a casus belli? This was worthy of Dr Goebbels.

  • Spanish authorities confirmed last week that there was no link between the bombers of Madrid’s train station and al-Qaida. British authorities came to the same conclusion over last year’s bombing of the London Underground. Both attacks were `home-grown’ – ie done by angry young men opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Copyright: Eric S. Margolis

Published at since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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