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WHAT WE THINK
Bush's first-strike doctrine
The empire's new clothes

September 27, 2002 | Page 3

IT'S OFFICIAL. The U.S. claims the right to attack any country without provocation, keep its armed forces immune from war crimes prosecution, use its military might to prevent the emergence of any competitor--and defy any international law, treaty or organization that gets in the way. That's the essence of the White House's new 12,000-word "national security strategy," which drops Washington's decades of pretensions of upholding "international law."

Instead, the so-called "Bush Doctrine" lays down the law--not only to countries like Iraq, Iran and North Korea, but also to China, Russia and even Germany and other Western European countries. While it claims to deal with the threat of weapons of mass destruction, the document is in fact a call to rewrite the rules of international politics.

During the Cold War, the U.S. urged "containment" of and "coexistence" with the USSR and its allies. Now, Washington will shoot first and ask questions later, anytime and anywhere on the planet--using September 11 as an unlimited hunting license. "To forestall or prevent…hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act pre-emptively," the document states.

The report makes it clear that the Bush gang views the United Nations as simply window dressing for Washington's war aims in Iraq. In fact, the U.S. claims the moral and political authority to remake the world in its image--by free markets and force alike. "The militant visions of class, nation, and race which promised utopia and delivered misery have been defeated and discredited," the strategy document states. "U.S. national security strategy will be based on a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests."

Washington's plan for running the world includes not just military-imposed "regime changes," but free-trade deals, International Monetary Fund (IMF) structural adjustment programs and "lower marginal tax rates."

Even the New York Times had trouble swallowing Bush's arrogance. "At…points, the paper sounds more like a pronouncement that the Roman Empire or Napoleon might have produced," it wrote. Columnist Richard Reeves disagreed--saying it was "more like the warning cry of crazed missionaries than the reasoned or tolerant arguments of a free and democratic people."

Others worried that Washington's first-strike policy will be adopted by other countries--India against Pakistan, Russia against Georgia, Israel against the Palestinians and virtually any Arab country.

But if Bush's establishment critics are concerned about bad public relations, they agree on the underlying aim of asserting U.S. power. And they agree on making Iraq first on the hit list. "Unlike the Bush administration, Democrats can frame the case against Saddam in terms of the common values and interests that unite the United States, Europe and civilized nations everywhere, and our mutual responsibility to defend human rights and democracy," declared the Democratic Leadership Council's online magazine.

That's a far cry from 1992, when the Democrats denounced an obscure Pentagon bureaucrat named Paul Wolfowitz for writing a document advocating a first-strike strategy. Today, Wolfowitz is the number two person at the Pentagon--and the Bush administration has enshrined his warmongering views into the strategy document.

But what no one in Washington is saying is that most of the "Bush doctrine" could have been written by the Clinton administration. These "new Democrats" used U.S. power to push free-trade deals, turned the IMF into a tool of Washington policy and carried out "humanitarian" military interventions from Haiti to Bosnia to Kosovo. It was Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who proclaimed that America's overwhelming power made it the "indispensable nation."

So if there's controversy over the packaging, there's agreement over the content--a far more aggressive U.S. foreign policy, with economic, political and military dimensions.

Whether we're mobilizing against the Pentagon's war machine or organizing for global justice against the IMF and World Bank, the "Bush doctrine" has made it clearer than ever what we're fighting against--U.S. imperialism.

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