Alum discusses Bush’s Middle East policy

Brian Scalise

An alum returned to campus on March 21 to deliver a lecture titled “President Bush’s Middle East Policy: A Critical Assessment.” Director at the Center for American Progress, a self-described nonpartisan research institute, Brian Katulis began by recounting his experiences since graduating from Villanova with a history degree in 1994.

He went on to earn a graduate degree from Princeton University and worked for the Department of State under the Clinton administration.

In his presentation, Katulis derided the notion of oil acquisition as the predominant objective for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “The price of oil has doubled in the last five years,” he said. In fact, the oil pipe lines in Iraq have proven easy to destroy; every time the U.S. rebuilds them, Iraqis destroy them.

Katulis also noted that the “rhetoric of democracy” can hardly be cited as the definitive rationale for the war against Iraq, although such a generality has been used to justify “military intervention since the time of Woodrow Wilson.”

Instead, in his interviews with Iraqis, Katulis came to believe that the intent of the war was fundamentally destabilization: an objective in accordance with the marriage between right-wing conservatism in the United States and Israel.

While he was in Iraq, civilians told Katulis that, in their view, the mayhem that has ensued since the invasion is a product of the war’s ultimate plan, and not its failure. For Iraqis, this is demonstrated by the enduring loss of order and the failure to restore utilities.

Katulis remarked upon Iraq’s present constitution, contending it “represents a step backwards” for both females and minorities.

As a secular socialist leader, Saddam Hussein afforded women greater rights, with access to higher education and employment in government and industry. This is in contrast to Saudi Arabia, for instance, where Katulis indicates that women have yet to be permitted the right to drive.

As to positive gains in the Middle East under Bush’s tenure, Katulis noted a “radical transformation of the media landscape,” specifically in Egypt. He also praised the proliferation of the Internet and the global availability of information. With regard to the media, while some 125 independent news outlets are said to have emerged in Iraq, the Los Angeles Times has reported that such media publishes “articles written by U.S. military ‘information operation’ troops … translated into Arabic.”

Katulis said media images of Iraqis with purple index fingers, signifying that they had voted, amounted to “photo opportunities.”

“We shouldn’t be duped by this,” he continued.

“Iraqis are well-educated,” Katulis concluded. “They know more about us [Americans] than we know about them.”