The panel included such well-known radicals and communist sympathizers as:
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Gen. Tony McPeak (member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the first President Bush), Michael Scheuer (former CIA agent in charge of the Osama bin Laden unit), Paul Pillar (28 year veteran CIA intelligence analyst and the CIA's former lead Counterterrorist analyst), Richard Clarke (advisor to Presidents Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II, and the National Security Council's anti-terrorism "czar" from 1992 until 2003), Juan Cole (Professor of History at the University of Michigan, a world-renowned middle-eastern scholar, and the creator of the influential blog Informed Consent), Chas Freeman (US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War and the president of the Middle East Policy Council), and Nir Rosen (fellow of the New America Foundation), and Bob Graham (former Governor of Florida, 1978-1987, Former US Senator, 1987-2005, former Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence).
The Rolling Stone article is essential reading, if sobering -- even frightening. I excerpt a few of the panel's thoughts:
The Best-Case Scenario:
Richard Clarke: All the things they say will happen are already happening. Iraq is already a base for terrorists; there is already a civil war. We've got 150,000 troops there now and we can't stop it.The Most Likely Outcome:
McPeak: You have to hope that Iraq devolves into a federal state with three strong regional governments. But that has its downsides: The Turks would go berserk. They would see Kurdistan as a base for the Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey, which has bedeviled them like the IRA in Ireland or the Basques in Spain...
Scheuer: The neoconservatives and their war in Iraq have made Israeli security worse than at any time since 1967. You'll see more and more people trying to launch attacks in Israel who are not Palestinian or Lebanese. None of it bodes well for a Middle East peace settlement.
McPeak: We're going to see a full-scale intercommunal war that may not burn out until one side is all dead, all gone. The Kurds would like to sit on the sidelines, but I don't see how they stay out, especially up in the Kirkuk area, where they sit on a lot of oil. This is going to be ethnic cleansing like we had in Kosovo or Bosnia -- but written big, in capital letters. And we can't stop it.The Worst-Case Scenario:
Chas Freeman: The most efficient way to avoid mass killings is to help the Shiites win fast, consolidate their damn dictatorship and get the hell out. The level of anarchy and hatred and emotional disturbance is such that it's very hard to imagine anything except a Saddam-style reign of terror succeeding in pacifying the place.
Rosen: Our Sunni allies in the region, the so-called moderate states -- dictatorships like Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- are pushing the U.S. to switch sides and support the Sunnis. We've been working up to that, obviously. The whole buildup to a new war against Iran, which sounds so much like the buildup in 2002, is part of that. You no longer hear about Al Qaeda in Iraq. More and more we're hearing about Iran and Shias.
Graham: This administration seems to be getting ready to make -- at a much more significant, escalated level -- the same mistake we made in Iran that we made in Iraq. If Iraq has been a disaster, this would be multiple times Iraq. The extent to which this could be the horror of the twenty-first century is hard to exaggerate.
Brzezinski: If the war continues without any American willingness to accommodate regionally and to pull out, the Iraq War will be extended to Iran. And if we get involved in a war with Iran, that raises the prospect of a twenty-year-long involvement in protracted violence in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and probably Pakistan. I'm not a prophet, but if the president doesn't change course, then the more grim prognosis is a likely one.
Rosen: Iraq will be the battleground where the Sunni-Shia conflict will be fought, but it won't be limited to Iraq. It will spread. Pandora's box is open. We didn't just open it, we opened it and threw fuel into it and threw matches into it. You'll soon see Sunni militias destabilizing countries like Jordan and Syria -- where the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood is very strong...McPeak ends with an "attaboy" for those who weren't paying attention to reality and voted for George W. Bush in 2004:
Scheuer: I can't help but think we've signed Jordan's death warrant. The country is already on a simmering boil because of the king's oppression of Islamists. It could turn into a police state like Egypt, or an incoherent, revolving-door-type government like Lebanon is becoming now.
McPeak: The worst case? Iraq's Sunnis begin to be backed into a corner, then the Sunni governments -- Jordan, Saudi Arabia -- jump in. Israel sees that it's threatened by these developments. Once the Israelis get involved, then everybody piles on. And you've got nuclear events going off in the Middle East. That would be about as bad as it could get.
Cole: During the war between Iraq and Iran, Saddam and Khomeini didn't destroy each other's oil-producing capabilities, because they knew it would make each of them a Fourth World country. But if you get a big multicountry guerrilla war, guerrillas could do what they've been doing in northern Iraq: Hit the oil pipelines. Guerrillas aren't calculating it the way states are as far as mutually assured destruction. If you got pipeline sabotage in Iran and Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq, you could take twelve percent of the world's petroleum production off the market. That looks like the second Great Depression.
McPeak: This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country's international standing has been frittered away by people who don't have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn't make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.How in the world did we let this happen?