Friday, June 03, 2005

This War [Invasion & Occupation of Iraq] Came from a Think Tank

It's DEJA VU all over again, a little over a century thereafter.

We were taught by historical textbooks that official American foreign policy pronouncements then were : The Philippines - a group of islands inhabited by savages, gooks, niggers; and thus occupied by Americans supposedly to be christianized, civilized and educated/prepared for self-government under a providential and benevolent "manifest destiny".

Now, it is Iraq, invaded and occupied supposedly to destroy a haven for "world terrorism" and a source of terrorist threat, with "weapons of mass destruction", and to free its people from former US-backed dictator, "our son of a bitch" Saddam Hussein and to impose a regime change towards democracy.

The Road to Perdition is indeed paved with "good" intentions.

"The chief business of America is business" - President Calvin Coolidge, 1925
"The glory of the United States is business" - Wendell L. Willkie,1936


This War Came from a Think Tank
By Jochen Boelsche
*, Der Spiegel

It was in no way a conspiracy. As far back as 1998, ultra right US think tanks had developed and published plans for an era of US world domination, sidelining the UN and attacking Iraq. These people were not taken seriously. But now they are calling the tune.

German commentators and correspondents have been confused. Washington has tossed around so many types of reasons for war on Baghdad "that it could make the rest of the world dizzy", said the South German Times.

And the Nuremburg News reported on public statements last week by Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer to an inner circle in the US that war can only be avoided if Saddam not only disarms, but also leaves office. Regime change is a condition that is in none of the barely remembered 18 UN resolutions. The Nuremburg News asked in astonishment whether Fleischer had made the biggest Freudian slip of his career or whether he spoke with the President's authority.

It's not about Saddam's weapons
So it goes. Across the world critics of President Bush are convinced that a second Gulf War is actually about replacing Saddam, whether the dictator is involved with WMD or not. "It's not about his WMD," writes the German born Israeli peace campaigner, Uri Avnery, "its purely a war about world domination, in business, politics, defence and culture".

There are real models for this. They were already under development by far right think tanks in the 1990s, organisations in which cold-war warriors from the inner circle of the secret services, from evangelical churches, from weapons corporations and oil companies forged shocking plans for a new world order. In the plans of these hawks a doctrine of "might is right" would operate, and the mightiest of course would be the last superpower, America.

Visions of world power on the Web
To this end the USA would need to use all means - diplomatic, economic and military, even wars of aggression - to have long term control of the resources of the planet and the ability to keep any possible rival weak. These 1990's schemes of the think tanks - from sidelining the UN to a series of wars to establish dominance - were in no way secret. Nearly all these scenarios have been published; some are accessible on the Web.

For a long time these schemes were shrugged off as fantasy produced by intellectual mavericks - arch-conservative relics of the Reagan era, the coldest of cold-war warriors, hibernating in backwaters of academia and lobby groups. At the White House an internationalist spirit was in the air. There was talk of partnerships for universal human rights, of multi-lateralism in relations with allies. Treaties on climate-change, weapons control, on landmines and international justice were on the agenda.

Saddam's fall was planned in 1998
In this liberal climate there came, nearly unnoticed, a 1997 proposal of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) that forcefully mapped out "America's global leadership". On 28 Jan 1998 the PNAC project team wrote to President Clinton demanding a radical change in dealings with the UN and the end of Saddam. While it was not clear whether Saddam was developing WMD, he was, they said, a threat to the US, Israel, the Arab States and "a meaningful part of the world's oil reserves".

They put their case as follows: "In the short term this means being ready to lead military action, without regard for diplomacy. In the long term it means disarming Saddam and his regime. We believe that the US has the right under existing Security Council resolutions to take the necessary steps, including war, to secure our vital interests in the Gulf. In no circumstances should America's politics be crippled by the misguided insistence of the Security Council on unanimity."

Blueprint for an offensive
This letter might have remained yellowing in the White House archives if it did not read like a blue-print for a long-desired war, and still might have been forgotten if ten PNAC members had not signed it. These signatories are today all part of the Bush Administration. They are Dick Cheney - Vice President, Lewis Libby - Cheney's Chief of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld - Defence Minister, Paul Wolfowitz - Rumsfeld's deputy, Peter Rodman - in charge of 'Matters of Global Security', John Bolton - State Secretary for Arms Control, Richard Armitage - Deputy Foreign Minister, Richard Perle - former Deputy Defence Minister under Reagan, now head of the Defense Policy Board, William Kristol - head of the PNAC and adviser to Bush, known as the brains of the President, Zalmay Khalilzad - fresh from being special ambassador and kingmaker in Afghanistan, now Bush's special ambassador to the Iraqi opposition.

But even before that - over ten years ago - two hardliners from this group had developed a defence proposal that created a global scandal when it was leaked to the US press. The suggestion that was revealed in 1992 in The New York Times was developed by two men who today are Cabinet members - Wolfowitz and Libby. It essentially argued that the doctrine of deterrence used in the Cold War should be replaced by a new global strategy. Its goal was the enduring preservation of the superpower status of the US - over Europe, Russia and China. Various means were proposed to deter potential rivals from questioning America's leadership or playing a larger regional or global role. The paper caused major concerns in the capitals of Europe and Asia.

But the critical thing, according to the Wolfowitz-Libby paper, was complete American dominance of Eurasia. Any nation there that threatened the USA by acquiring WMD should face pre-emptive attack, they said. Traditional alliances should be replaced by ad-hoc coalitions. This 1992 masterplan then formed the basis of a PNAC paper that was concluded in September 2000, just months before the start of the Bush Administration. That September 2000 paper (Rebuilding America's Defences) was developed by Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Libby, and is devoted to matters of "maintaining US pre-eminence, thwarting rival powers and shaping the global security system according to US interests".

The cavalry on the new frontier
Amongst other things, this paper said, the USA must re-arm and build a missile shield in order to put itself in a position to fight numerous wars simultaneously and chart its own course. Whatever happened, the Gulf would have to be in US control: "The US has sought for years to play an ongoing role in the security architecture of the Gulf. The unresolved conflict with Iraq provides a clear basis for our presence, but quite independent of the issue of the Iraqi regime, a substantial US presence in the Gulf is needed."

The paper describes these US forces stationed overseas in the raw language of the Wild West, calling them "the Cavalry on the New American Frontier". Even peace efforts, the paper continues, should have the stamp of the USA rather than the UN.

Gun-at-the-head diplomacy
Scarcely had President Bush (Jr) won his controversial election victory and replaced Clinton than he brought the hardliners from the PNAC into his administration. The old campaigner Richard Perle (who once told the Hamburg Times about 'gun-at-the-head diplomacy') found himself in the key role at the Defense Policy Board. This board operates in close cooperation with Pentagon boss Rumsfeld.

At a breath-taking pace the new power-bloc began implementing the PNAC strategy. Bush ditched international treaty after international treaty, shunned the UN and began treating allies as inferiors. After the attacks of 11 September, as fear ruled the US and anthrax letters circulated, the Bush cabinet clearly took the view that the time was ripe to dust off the PNAC plans for Iraq. Just six days after 11 September, Bush signed an order to prepare for war against the terror network and the Taliban. Another order went to the military, that was secret initially, instructing them to develop scenarios for a war in Iraq.

A son of a bitch, but our son of a bitch
Of course the claims of Iraqi control of the 11 September hijackers never were proven, just like the assumption that Saddam was involved with the anthrax letters (they proved to be from sources in the US Military). But regardless, Richard Perle claimed in a TV interview that "there can be no victory in the war on terror if Saddam remains in power".

The dictator, demanded Perle, must be deposed by the US as a matter of priority "because he symbolises contempt for all Western values". But Saddam had always been that way, even when he gained power in Iraq with US backing. At that time a Secret Service officer from the US embassy in Baghdad reported to CIA Headquarters: "I know Saddam is a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch". And after the US had supported the dictator in his war with Iran, the retired CIA Director Robert Gates says he had no illusions about Saddam. The dictator, says Gates "was never a reformer, never a democrat, just a common criminal". But the PNAC paper does not make clear why Washington now wants to declare war, even without UN support, on its erstwhile partner.

A shining example of freedom
There is a lot of evidence that Washington wants to remove the Iraqi regime in order to bring the whole Middle East more fully under its economic sphere of influence
. Bush puts it somewhat differently - after a liberation that is necessitated by breaches of international law, Iraq "will serve as a dramatic and shining exampled of freedom to other nations of the region". Experts like Udo Steinbach, Director of the German-Orient Institute in Hamburg, have doubts about Bush's bona fides. Steinbach describes the President's announcement last week of a drive to democratise Iraq as "a calculated distortion aimed at justifying war". There is nothing currently to indicate that Bush truly is pursuing democratisation in the region. "Particularly in Iraq," says Steinbach, "I cannot convince myself that after the fall of Saddam something democratic could take shape."

Control the flow of oil, control your rivals
This so called pre-emptive war that the PNAC ideologues have longed for against Iraq also serves, in the judgement of Uri Avnery, to take the battle to Europe and Japan. It brings US dominance of Eurasia closer. Avnery notes: "American occupation of Iraq would secure US control not only of the extensive oil reserves of Iraq, but also the oil of the Caspian Sea and the Gulf States. With control of the supply of oil the US can stall the economies of Germany, France and Japan at will, just by manipulating the oil price. A lower price would damage Russia, a higher one would shaft Germany and Japan. That's why preventing this war is essential to Europe's interests, apart from Europeans' deep desire for peace."

"Washington has never been shy about its desire to tame Europe," argues Avnery. In order to implement his plans for world dominance, says Avnery, "Bush is prepared to spill immense quantities of blood, so long as it's not American blood".

The world will toe the American line
The arrogance of the hawks in the US administration, and their plan to have the world toe their line while they decide on war or peace, shocks experts like the international law expert Hartmut Schiedermair from Cologne. The American "crusading zeal" that can make such statements he says is "highly disturbing". Similarly Harald Mueller - a leading peace researcher - has long criticised the German Government for "assiduously overlooking and tacitly endorsing" the dramatic shift in US foreign policy of 2001. He says the agenda of the Bush administration is unmistakable:
"America will do as it pleases. It will obey international law if it suits, and break that law or ignore it if necessary ... The USA wants total freedom for itself, to be the aristocrat of world politics."

Infatuated with war
Even senior politicians in countries backing a second Gulf War are appalled by the radicals in the White House. Beginning last year, responding to the PNAC study, long-serving Labour MP Tam Dalyell raged against it in the House of Commons: "This is rubbish from right wing think tanks where bird-brained war-mongers huddle together - people who have never experienced the horror of war, but are infatuated with the idea of it." Even his own leader got a broad-side: "I am appalled that a Labour PM would hop into bed with such a troop of moral pygmies."

Across the Atlantic in mid February, Democrat Senator Robert Byrd (at 86 years of age the so-called "Father of the Senate") spoke out. The longest serving member of that Chamber warned the pre-emptive war that the Right were advocating was a "distortion of long-standing concepts of the right of self-defence" and "a blow against international law". Bush's politics, he said "could well be a turning point in world history" and "lay the foundation for anti-Americanism" across much of the world. (Byrd's speech is a lonely voice in a US Senate silent on war.)

Holding the rest of the world in contempt
One person who is absolutely unequivocal about the problem of anti-Americanism is former President Jimmy Carter. He judges the PNAC agenda in the same way. At first, argues Carter, Bush responded to the challenge of September 11 in an effective and intelligent way, "but in the meantime a group of conservatives worked to get approval for their long held ambitions under the mantle of 'the war on terror'".

The restrictions on civil rights in the US and at Guantanamo, cancellation of international accords, "contempt for the rest of the world", and finally an attack on Iraq "although there is no threat to the US from Baghdad" - all these things will have devastating consequences, according to Carter. "This entire unilateralism", warns the ex-President, "will increasingly isolate the US from those nations that we need in order to do battle with terrorism".

*Translated by Alun Breward. Der Spiegel, March 4, 2003

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

"Democracy is not about trust; it is about distrust. It is about accountability, exposure, open debate, critical challenge, and popular input and feedback from the citizenry. It is about responsible government. We have to get our fellow citizens to trust their leaders less and themselves more, trust their own questions and suspicions, and their own desire to know what is going on." - Michael Parenti

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State." - Joseph Goebbels, German Minister of Propaganda, 1933-1945

"Free and responsible government by popular consent just can't exist without an informed public." - Bill Moyers at first ever National Conference on Media Reform in Madison, Wisconsin. November 2003

No comments :