Washington hawks on the attack
April 18, 2003 | Page 6
THE NEW U.S. war on Iraq began on March 20. But for a hard core of "hawks" in the Bush administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the planning for it began years before.
For them, the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein was never about "liberation" or weapons of mass destruction--or even revenge for the September 11 attacks, since their crusade began well before the hijackings.
It's about U.S. power and profit--a crucial phase in a more aggressive drive to assert American economic, political and military domination around the globe, while at the same time preventing the emergence of any rivals, whether from Europe or elsewhere in the world.
The Bush administration today is infested with these "hawks"--like Rumsfeld's favored aides Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. During the Clinton years, when the Republicans were out of power, they bided their time at right-wing think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute--and later, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC).
Even then, they had their eyes on Iraq--and "finishing" the job that Bush Sr. started with the 1991 Gulf War. But as Wolfowitz wrote in a PNAC document that he co-authored in 2000, Iraq is only the beginning. "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein," the paper said.
In other words, a war against Iraq was merely one step in "maintaining global U.S. pre-eminence and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests."
Of course, even a maniac like Wolfowitz recognized that you couldn't just start wars around the world without any more justification than brute force. The project would depend on "some catastrophic and catalyzing event--like a new Pearl Harbor," he wrote.
The hawks got what they wanted on September 11, 2001. While most people were mourning the victims of the hijackings, the Bush administration, led by Cheney and Rumsfeld, began putting its plans for empire into action.
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, for example, convened a National Security Council meeting "to think about how do you capitalize on these opportunities to fundamentally change American doctrine, and the shape of the world, in the wake of September 11th," as author Chalmers Johnson described it.
The think-tank policy papers written for the PNAC were lifted wholesale and dropped into the Bush administration's National Security Strategy document delivered to Congress last fall. The document--which became known as the "Bush Doctrine"--spells out the real reasons for the U.S. "war on terrorism."
"Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the U.S.," the administration document declares.
This meant a more aggressive attitude toward so-called "rogue states" like Iraq. But the toppling of Saddam Hussein is seen as the first domino to fall toward rewriting the map of the Middle East. The next targets are Syria and Iran, and after that, Saudi Arabia.
But even Washington's allies, like Germany, Japan and Russia, are viewed as threats--strategic rivals that need to be prevented from expanding their power. This is why the Rumsfeld wing of the administration wanted to go to war on Iraq without the United Nations.
The project laid out in the Bush Doctrine is explicitly colonial--hinging on the naked assertion of U.S. power to dominate the lives of people around the globe. As Pepe Escobar, a commentator for Asia Times Online, pointed out in describing the political philosophy of the hawks: "Take the crucial expression 'regime change': there's nothing casual about it The 'regime'--or politeia--designates not only government, but also institutions, education, morals and 'the spirit of the law.' 'Regime change' in Iraq means to implant a Western Utopia in the heart of the Middle East."
No wonder the term "imperialism" has come back into common usage in describing U.S. war aims. And not necessarily as a term of abuse, either--America's hawks are proud of their drive to bolster the American Empire.
In a speech at the World Social Forum in Brazil earlier this year, Noam Chomsky argued that the Bush gang--"most of them recycled from the Reagan administration"--are "following a familiar script: drive the country into deficit so as to be able to undermine social programs, declare a 'war on terror' (as they did in 1981) and conjure up one devil after another to frighten the population into obedience. "In the 1980s, it was Libyan hit men prowling the streets of Washington to assassinate our leader. Then the Nicaraguan army was only two days' march from Texas."
Chomsky is right to point out that Rumsfeld and Co. are following an agenda that they have believed in for decades. But 20 years later, the Bush gang is more aggressive--especially in the use of U.S. military power.
The next step in the Iraq phase of the "war on terror" will be to establish a U.S. occupation that will both undercut the economic power of oil producers like Saudi Arabia by exploiting Iraq's oil wealth--and create a new puppet to help Washington dominate the region.
But the Bush gang is playing with a powder keg. "Winning a war is one thing," British journalist Robert Fisk concluded in a column written the day that Baghdad was "liberated." "Succeeding in the ideological and economic project that lies behind this whole war is quite another. The 'real' story for America's mastery over the Arab world starts now."