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World's cop

April 19, 2002 | Pages 8 and 9

ANYONE WHO still believes that George W. Bush's "war against terrorism" has anything to do with seeking justice for the victims of the September 11 attacks should listen to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Bush's foreign policy advisers are asking how "you capitalize on these opportunities" from September 11, Rice told New Yorker magazine's Nicholas Lemann. According to Rice, the September 11 attacks "started shifting the tectonic plates in international politics. And it's important to try to seize on that and position American interests and institutions and all of that before they harden again."

Behind this political science jargon lurks a dangerous plan for U.S. domination of countries around the globe. Bush and his advisers speak openly of "redrawing regional maps, especially in the Middle East" and "replacing governments by force," Lemann writes.

They've declared their intention to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons, for use against countries without nukes. And they're prepared for the U.S. to act alone to impose its will. Their attitude seems to be, "Who's going to stop us?"

LANCE SELFA explains the real policy lurking behind Bush's "war on terrorism."

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THE PENTAGON'S code name for the attack on Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, gave a high-sounding purpose to a war of military conquest. But Enduring Freedom was really about defending one kind of freedom--the "freedom" of the U.S. government to intervene around the world and force countries to bend to its will.

Bush and friends believe that their "war on terrorism" will become the 21st-century equivalent of the Cold War, with "terrorism" standing in for "communism" as the all-purpose rationale for U.S. imperial designs.

The trial run was in Afghanistan, and the U.S. is now trying to stabilize the resulting "regime change"--Bush-gang-speak for installing a puppet government.

All the lofty-sounding talk of "combating evil," "defending freedom" and eliminating "weapons of mass destruction" is a smokescreen to cover up the underlying geopolitical aims that the U.S. government is pursuing.

Projecting power in Asia

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has put a priority on preventing the rise of a "peer competitor" whose military and economic strength could potentially challenge U.S. hegemony in the landmass that stretches from Europe to Asia.

The U.S. defense establishment believes that the most likely "challenger" in the next two decades will be China. Plus, U.S. officials know that Asia will pose the greatest economic challenge to U.S. dominance--and the competition for energy resources that goes along with it.

That's why the war on terrorism has provided such an important opportunity for the U.S.--from troop deployments in the former USSR republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the Pentagon's negotiations to return to a naval base in the Philippines.

Look at a map of the region, and you'll see how the U.S. has ringed Asia with troops, ships and military hardware--with China in particular put in a vise, flanked by U.S. military might in Japan, Korea and the Strait of Taiwan on the east and in Central Asia to the west.

The Caspian Sea oil rush

Afghanistan sits at the crossroads of an area with some of the largest deposits of oil and natural gas in the world. Because the riches of the Caspian Sea basin are located hundreds of miles from international waterways, they have to be piped to market.

The route of these pipelines will determine the real winners and losers from the Caspian oil rush. The shortest and most economically viable pipeline route is through Iran to the Persian Gulf. But the U.S. has campaigned for an 1,100-mile pipeline from Azerbaijan, through Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. This route keeps Caspian Sea oil and gas away from Iran--and away from the USSR-era routes that run through Russia.

For this very reason, the U.S. has been trying for years to drive wedges between the former USSR republics and Russia. Operation Enduring Freedom gave the U.S. another excuse to move ahead with this plan.

On October 7, the U.S. completed an agreement with Uzbekistan, pledging to defend the republic from outside intervention--"all but [removing] any impression that the U.S. military presence in the region will be short-lived," the Wall Street Journal reported.

Reasserting hegemony in the Middle East

In 1979, Jimmy Carter stated openly what all U.S. presidents since the 1940s have believed: "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and any such assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."

To enforce the "Carter Doctrine," the U.S. created U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). CENTCOM oversaw U.S. efforts to "pre-position" tons of U.S. military hardware and thousands of troops in friendly states around the Persian Gulf. Operation Desert Storm, the U.S.-led war on Iraq in 1991, was the culmination of the Carter Doctrine and CENTCOM's mission.

Since the Gulf War, the U.S. has maintained as many as 80,000 troops in the region, with as many as 155,000 on alert for rapid deployment. Despite this overwhelming presence, however, U.S. policy began to unravel in the late 1990s.

The inability to solve the Palestinian question remains the single biggest threat to the U.S. position in the region. And its massive military intervention has made the Gulf monarchies even more unpopular and unstable.

The "war on terrorism" offers the U.S. a chance to stop this erosion of its authority in the Persian Gulf--with the largest buildup of U.S. forces in the region since the Gulf War.

A new American century?

The U.S. begins the 21st century in a position of world strength that rivals the great empires of the past--from ancient Rome to Victorian Britain. Yet every empire that thought it could reorder the world in its image has ultimately fallen.

Imperialism has always generated resistance--either from rival imperialist powers or from peoples and nations that it tries to subjugate. U.S. blustering will provoke opposition from within its own empire.

Its power depends on alliances with some of the most corrupt and repressive regimes in the world. Inevitably, the victims of these regimes will fight back--threatening not only the thugs in charge locally, but U.S. power as well.

And U.S. rulers will find opposition at home, and not just from a self-identified antiwar movement. Bush's "war on terrorism" is unfolding as unemployment hits a 10-year high and the slowdown in industrial production is the worst since the Second World War.

As Bush ramps up for a permanent state of war, millions of U.S. workers will pay the price with layoffs and cuts in social spending, even as the military contractors line their pockets. As the war drags on, more people will come to the realization that they have no interest in Bush's war drive.

Then Bush and his buddies will be exposed for what they did--cynically manipulating ordinary people's anger at the September 11 attacks to push through their own right-wing agenda. That's the kind of opposition that Bush fears the most.

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