to the Grandkids: How Did We Get to War With Iraq?
March 1, 2003
By Bernard Weiner, The
Within a few weeks, the world is going to change drastically.
A terrible war is about to be unleashed, and -- even though
the events will happen far, far away from America -- it will
affect your parents and Gran and me, indeed all of us in this
country and around the globe. And, even though you probably
won't realize it at first, the unfolding events will affect
you as well.
Some years from now, you're going to be old enough to start
wondering how America ever got itself into such domestic and
foreign messes in 2003. So I thought I'd provide part of the
answer for you while the situation is still fresh in my mind.
And you will decide what to do about the situation as you
find it then, as we American citizens are deciding now.
So here goes; I'll try to make this as simple-to-read as
To understand why the Bush Administration began destroying
the key elements of our Constitution, and invading and bombing
other countries that hadn't attacked us, you have to go back
in our history, to see the long-term trends, and to more recent
history, to see the specific things that led to the events
First you have to know that there's always been a feeling
on the part of a great many Americans that we operate with
special blessings of God. Since many Americans, including
many of our leaders, believe themselves to be doing God's
will (as is the case with the Bush Administration today),
it follows that they believe that their actions are divinely
sanctioned and thus cannot be questioned -- and that the other
human beings and countries we encounter do not have the same
special relationship with God as we do.
This belief system undergirds a good part of American policy,
even though our Founding Fathers made sure to separate religion
from government, since so many of them had come from countries
where the government decided and enforced what you were supposed
to believe spiritually and how you were supposed to practice
your religion -- and your politics. Our intelligent Founders
never wanted one person or faction to gain that much power
Given this strong feeling about the "special relationship"
America supposedly had with God, it followed that European
settlers believed they had a "manifest destiny" to spread
out and conquer the entirety of the American continent. It
was the common belief in the country that Americans were doing
God's work through such conquest, spreading the glories of
civilization from sea to shining sea. If there were native
folks that lived in the areas the settlers were moving into,
they would have to be converted (for their own good, of course)
or moved out of the way, or slaughtered.
It wasn't always pleasant, but the march across, and settlement
of, the American continent was regarded as necessary and divinely
approved. (There was much less unanimity when it came to the
morality or immorality of slavery. The country fought a civil
war on that issue. To this day, we're still dealing with that
conflict's racist residue.)
Isolationism & Its Demise
For most of our history, America was separated by the Pacific
and Atlantic oceans from all the wars and madness taking place
in continents far away. George Washington had urged that we
keep ourselves away from "foreign entanglements," and most
Americans, secure behind our giant oceanic moats, were quite
happy with our isolated status, since so much was happening
in terms of exciting growth and stability within our own country.
Oh, we got involved in a few foreign disputes and made some
bad colonialist-type mistakes occasionally, but, by and large,
we were regarded around the world as pretty decent people
who tried to do the right thing in most instances.
Americans at first didn't want to fight in World War II.
(Obviously, I'm skipping over a whole lot of history here,
in the service of hitting the highlights.) We still thought
of those conflicts as Over There, not affecting us. But when
we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. whole-heartedly
joined the Allies in combatting Japan and Germany.
We even fought on the same side as the Soviet Union, our
great economic and ideological foe, because the immediate
and most dangerous enemy at that time was fascist Germany,
led by Adolf Hitler, an insecure leader who invaded a good
many countries out of power-and-greed motives, desiring to
establish a Roman-like imperial rule-by-force.
After World War II ended, America tried to return to its
pleasant isolationist mode, but things had changed. Probably
because the U.S. had not been bombed or invaded during the
war, America remained one of the few military and economic
powers in the world and thus, whether we wanted to or not,
found ourselves more involved in foreign issues.
A few years later, the glue holding together the U.S./Soviet
alliance weakened, and the rivalry re-asserted itself. Now
there were two great Superpowers, vying for influence and
control of much of the world. Both had terrible thermonuclear
weapons, but they never used them on each other. A kind of
balance of madness ensued, madness meaning crazyness but also
standing for M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction). And so
the two great Superpowers carried on this dangerous dance,
always suspicious, always trying to hurt the other Superpower,
but never getting carried away into true military insanity.
The U.S., still a relative novice in foreign affairs, didn't
catch on until too late that after World War II, colonialism
was a dying, offensive way of moving in international relations.
They didn't quite see, or didn't want to see, that nationalism
was the operating philosophy motivating so much of the Third
World, those poorer countries fought over by the Communist
and Capitalist systems. The sad truth came when the U.S. moved
into Vietnam, assuming the role of the old French colonialists.
The U.S. leaders saw only a monolithic "worldwide communism"
rearing its ugly head; they didn't understand that there could
be something called "nationalist communism." The Vietnamese,
battling for their country, were determined and ferocious
guerrilla fighters; the United States could not win, despite
its technological superiority, and finally departed, its soldiers
just as mystified as when they had arrived as to what all
that was about.
Many in the United States continued to view Communism, especially
as practiced in the Soviet Union and China (which had gone
Communist in 1949), as a monolithic monster that needed to
be not just contained but destroyed or "rolled back." By and
large, these Communist-obsessed citizens called themselves
"conservatives." (Don't misunderstand me; Communist systems
were as bad, or worse, than other totalitarian societies.
We even have a word for one of the worst kind: Stalinism,
where the leader, a rough peasant-type who had not seen much
of the outside world, ruled with an iron fist. The Soviet
Union had a constitution, which promised all sorts of civil
liberties and civil rights, but it was inoperative during
Stalin's rule, as it often is when a ruler is insecure and
greedy for power.)
Eventually, the Communist system in the Soviet Union and
its Eastern European satellites collapsed -- it was based
on rotten foundations, lies, gross hypocrisies, arrogant and
brutal rule, and couldn't sustain itself in the re al world
for all that long. Also, their economies were in such bad
shape that they couldn't keep up the arms race with the wealthier
As the conservatives saw the melting away of the Communist
empire, some of them began theorizing about the opportunities
that awaited America as the only Superpower on the planet.
When they wrote about how easy it would be for the U.S. to
simply move into the power vacuum in the world and do what
it wanted, by threat of force or actual force if necessary,
most commentators thought of them as little more than kooks,
out on the extremist fringe of the conservative Republican
Hardly anyone took them very seriously because for centuries,
foreign affairs and diplomacy were handled with great sensitivity
and civility, and wars most often were choices of last resort.
Likewise in domestic politics, where sharp disagreements were
common but liberal and conservative politicians tended to
treat one another other civily and with mutual respect.
These more extreme elements in the Republican Party had been
on the outside looking in for so long, they were extremely
frustrated. (Their first candidate who ran for the Presidency,
Barry Goldwater, had gone down to a humiliating defeat.) Even
when Richard Nixon was President, a certain civility reigned
in the halls of Congress, and the HardRight's far-out ideas
weren't taken seriously; these writers were regarded as political
weirdos; the issues they cared about -- unfettered capitalism,
rolling back liberal social programs, dominating the globe,
setting the domestic political agenda, etc. -- hardly made
ripples in the media. Something would have to be done.
The HardRight Begins to Move
It dawned on many of those on the HardRight, as I like to
call them, that their programs and issues would go nowhere
as long as they remained in the political wilderness. The
first thing they would have to do was to control the way they
were perceived in the country; wealthy corporate supporters
began setting up institutes and think-tanks for HardRight
intellectuals, and bought scores of newspapers, TV stations,
broadcast networks, magazines and publishing houses, installing
their own HardRight editors and pundits.
In addition, their supporters in Congress made sure that
more conservative and HardRight judges were appointed to the
various federal courts -- young appointees whenever possible
-- so that appeals normally thrown out by more moderate, ideologically-balanced
courts would now get a different reception.
When conservative Ronald Reagan was elected President, all
that was missing was control of Congress for a total hold
on the reins of federal power. But that didn't happen for
awhile. President Bush#1 followed Reagan and promised a "new
world order," but nothing much changed.
The HardRightists were growing increasingly angry and anxious.
Reagan and Bush#1 were too nice, too namby pamby for them.
And then Bill Clinton, a bright young Democrat, was elected
President, which brought the HardRightists to a near-boil.
When this centrist President won re-election -- after the
House of Representatives was captured by the Republicans,
with HardRightist Newt Gingrich as Speaker -- they were nearly
raging with frustration. Their last chance to assume full
power, and thus to set the direction of the country, and the
world, for the immediate and even long-term future, was in
jeopardy. Something had to be done.
What this meant domestically in HardRight practice was that
the kid gloves of civility were taken off. The only object
was to win control, and how one won didn't much matter: lying,
dirty tricks, smears, all on a grand scale. So, political
battles and campaigns got nastier and nastier, and the Republicans,
who couldn't attack President Clinton and win on the issues,
began investigating him on a wide variety of phony "scandals"
and then, when his own personal weaknesses provided an opening,
impeached him on a morals charge, as it were: for lying about
The Senate -- taking a cue from the citizenry at large --
didn't want the President removed from office for such a highly
personal failing. The damage had been done. The sitting President's
program was in shambles, since so much time and energy had
to be spent on dealing with the sordid Lewinsky affair. And,
better yet for the Hardright, while the attention of the nation
was focused on the impeachment brouhaha, the wheels could
be set in motion, outside public scrutiny, for achieving domestic
and global control. The domestic HardRightists, and the global-control
intellectuals (formally the extremist kooks, remember) were
about to merge forces and programs.
Beating Around the Bush
The first item on the agenda was to find a candidate who
could beat Clinton's would-be successor, Al Gore. The forces
that matter on the HardRight -- the corporate angels, the
pundits, the power-hungry politicos, the social conservatives,
the religious fundamentalists, etc. -- fastened on a young,
inexperienced, not-too-bright son of the first Bush. George
W. was pretty embarrassing to watch at first, but he mouthed
the right catch-phrases provided by his mentor Karl Rove ("compassionate
conservatism," "a uniter, not a divider") and was given a
free, glowing ride by the HardRight-owned media. After using
dirty tricks to knock out a popular major contender for the
Republican nomination, Sen. John McCain, Bush became the GOP
Gore ran an amateurish campaign, the untruthful propaganda
aimed at him from the far right hit its mark, and he had to
battle the fact that many voters tended to associate him with
Clinton's problems. Still, Bush clearly was such an intellectual
lightweight and over his head in national politics that Gore
eked out a half-million-plus popular vote victory.
But the Electoral College vote was neck-and-neck. It came
down to Florida, where the candidates were essentially tied;
a recount was ordered. Bush's younger brother Jeb was governor
of Florida -- where up to 40,000 African-American voters had
been dropped from the voting rolls by the Florida Secretary
of State (who just happend to be the campaign manager for
Bush in Florida). The Florida Supreme Court ordered that all
votes continue to be re-counted, but the Bush forces appealed
to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the HardRight majority --
which heretofore had been all for states' rights over federal
authority -- reversed itself in midair, stopped the vote-counting
and, in effect, installed George W. Bush into the White House.
In 2002, after the midterm elections, finally the Senate
joined the House in the Republican camp. The day finally had
come. After 40 years in the wildnerness, the Far Right was
in total control of all the major levers of national power:
the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, the Judicial
Branch, the Press. It was time to go for it, all of it, before
the bubble burst and they found themselves on the outside
once again looking in. There was money to be made, lots of
it, and power to be grabbed.
Civility was thrown out the window. Polite diplomacy went
with it. An arrogant, bullying attitude was employed to frighten
opponents. It was get out of our way, we're taking over. We
want the world and we want it...NOW!
The Shredding of the Constitution
Thanks to about 20 foreign governments, Bush and his closest
advisers knew months in advance -- and certainly by August
6th of 2001 -- that al Qaida was going to arrive by plane,
aiming at high-profile American-icon targets, but the Administration
chose to do nothing. When the terrorist attacks of 9/11 did
their mass-murder damage, the HardRightists felt as if they'd
been presented with a precious gift: the opportunity, with
a frightened population looking to them for leadership, to
do whatever they wanted, as long as they used the magic words
"national security" or "anti-terrorism" to justify their deeds.
A huge, previously-prepared law, the USA Patriot Act, was
rushed through the Congress just days after 9/11. It contained
various shreddings of the Bill of Rights that had been rejected
by previous Congresses as violative of Constitutional due-process
protections. (Under the Patriot Act, attorney-client confidentiality
was made inoperative; the government could tap your phones
and enter your computer and search your files and emails,
without you ever being informed or aware; black-bag jobs were
permitted in your homes without court warrants; etc. etc.)
Hardly any members of Congress read the final, revised version
of bill, which was handed down from the White House at the
last minute. In short, the rush job did its job: the foundations
for a police-state were now in place, and John Ashcroft was
chortling at how smoothly it all went, with so little criticism
from frightened legislators and the terrorized public. Those
who opposed Bush Administration policy were labeled as unpatriotic
or, according to Ashcroft, aiding the terrorists. Professors
in opposition were denounced by HardRight outfits and a kind
of teaching blacklist began to emerge. Self-censorship was
The Homeland Security Act came next, further expanding the
federal government's police powers. And as your Gramps writes
this, Ashcroft is preparing Patriot Act #2, which even further
eviscerates Constitutional protections as it enlarges the
central government's extraordinary martial powers. (Even some
true Conservatives are appalled at how the HardRightists have
transformed a party that stood in opposition to Big Government
into one that has created a huge Big Brother federal police
The Global Move to Empire
Many HardRightists might have had dreams of imperial rule
prior to the demise of Communism, but not much could be done
about it. But when Communism dissolved, the door finally was
open for open U.S. conquest (as opposed to the more subtle
form practiced by Presidents, Democrat and Republican, up
until that time). The HardRight think-tanks were churning
out position papers about how the U.S. could move unimpeded
in the world, and get what it wanted in terms of power, hegemony,
As I said earlier, most American thinkers regarded these
writings as loony fantasies concocted by extremists who, thank
God, would never get into power, because their plans would
bring ruin and disgrace upon the United States of America.
But as the HardRightists got ready to attack President Clinton
big time and prepare to win the next election -- by hook or
by crook -- their writings began to be more and more overt.
We should have been paying more attention to what they had
in mind. Examples:
In 1992, the Department of Defense drafted a report
-- written for Defense Secretary Dick Cheney by Paul Wolfowitz,
then undersecretary of defense for policy (now Deputy Secretary
of Defense) -- that envisioned the U.S. as the world's Superpower,
doing what it wanted to do economically and militarily around
the globe. Somehow, the draft leaked to the press, and President
Bush#1 quickly withdrew it.
Neo-conservative intellectuals Bill Kristol and Robert
Kagan declared in “Towards a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy"
(Foreign Affairs, July-August 1996) that the goal of U.S.
activity in the world must be nothing less than “benevolent
global hegemony.” In other words, domination of nations around
the world ("for their own good," naturally) -- and, of course,
leaving the U.S. in effective control of the world's natural
resources. Zalmay M. Khalilzad (currently U.S. special envoy
to Afghanistan) had taken pretty much the same line a year
earlier in his book "From Containment to Global Leadership?:
America & the World After the Cold War" (Rand Corporation,
Shortly after George W. Bush's move into the White
House, in early 2001 -- i.e., when the so-called "loony" writers
were now on the inside the locus of power -- a report by the
Council on Foreign Relations was prepared ("Strategic Energy
Policy Challenges for the 21st Century") that advocated a
more aggressive U.S. posture in the world and called for a
"reassessment of the role of energy in American foreign policy,"
with access to oil repeatedly cited as a "security imperative."
In September of 2002, The Project for the New American
Century -- a HardRight think-tank that was founded in 1997,
to push for a policy of aggressive global hegemony* -- published
its white paper on "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy,
Forces and Resources for a New Century." The report was quite
frank about why the U.S. would want to move now toward imperialist
militarism, a Pax Americana: "At no time in history has the
international security order been as conducive to American
interests and ideals...The challenge of this coming century
is to preserve and enhance this 'American peace'."
"Most ominously, this PNAC document described four 'Core
Missions' for the American military. The two central requirements
are for American forces to 'fight and decisively win multiple,
simultaneous major theater wars,' and to 'perform the "constabulary"
duties associated with shaping the security environment in
critical regions.' Note well that PNAC does not want America
to be prepared to fight simultaneous major wars. That is old
school. In order to bring this plan to fruition, the military
must fight these wars one way or the other to establish American
dominance for all to see." (See "Of
Gods and Mortals and Empire," by William Rivers Pitt)
"To preserve the Pax Americana, the report says U.S. forces
will be required to perform 'constabulary duties' -- the United
States acting as policeman of the world -- and says that such
actions 'demand American political leadership rather than
that of the United Nations'...To meet those responsibilities,
and to ensure that no country dares to challenge the United
States, the report advocates a much larger military presence
spread over more of the globe, in addition to the roughly
130 nations in which U.S. troops are already deployed. More
specifically, they argue that we need permanent military bases
in the Middle East, in Southeast Europe, in Latin America
and in Southeast Asia, where no such bases now exist." (See
Jay Bookman, "Bush's
Real Goal in Iraq," Atlanta Journal & Constitution)
[ * Founders of PNAP include: Vice President Dick Cheney,
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Policy Board chairman
Richard Perle, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Weekly
Standard writer William Kristol. Other contributors to the
report included: Eliot Abrams, now with the National Security
Council; John Bolton, now Undersecretary of State; Stephen
Cambone is head of the Pentagon's Office of Program, Analysis
and Evaluation; Eliot Cohen and Devon Cross are members of
the Defense Policy Board, which advises Rumsfeld; I. Lewis
Libby is chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney; Dov
Zakheim is comptroller for the Defense Department. ]
The Bush Administration revealed its official foreign/military
policy on September 20, 2002, the "National Security Strategy
of the United States of America," and it is almost an idea-for-idea
mirroring and extension of the PNAC's White Paper of the year
before. The ideas, and the personnel who created them, are
now part and parcel of the Bush Administration. It's Mad Dogs
(& Englishmen) for real.
Major items not already covered by the reports above include
the concept, as an ongoing policy, of "pre-emptive" attacks
on countries that could possibly threaten the U.S. at some
future point, of ignoring international treaties and opinion
when they do not serve U.S. imperial goals, an enormous expansion
of major U.S. military staging bases around the globe. In
short, and stated proudly to the public, the Bush Administration
sees the U.S. as a New Rome, an empire with its foreign legions
keeping the outlying colonies in line. This is scary stuff.
And Now to Iraq
So how does all this connect to the war about to be waged
by the U.S. in Iraq, ostensibly about hidden armaments?
In August of 2002, William Rivers Pitt notes: "Defense Policy
Board chairman and PNAC member Richard Perle heard a policy
briefing from a think tank associated with the Rand Corporation.
According to the Washington Post and The Nation, the final
slide of this presentation described 'Iraq as the tactical
pivot, Saudi Arabia as the strategic pivot, and Egypt as the
prize' in a war that would purportedly be about ridding the
world of Saddam Hussein's weapons."
In other words, in order for the U.S. to assume "benevolent
hegemony" in the Middle East region of the globe, Saddam Hussein
must go, under any pretext that will work to conceal actual
U.S. motivations. Saddam has been an annoying irritant for
years, standing in the way of U.S. dominance of the area,
and, not coincidentally, of the huge reserves of oil under
Iraq's desert sands. If he won't leave on his own, and permit
the U.S. to set up a government more friendly to U.S. policies
(as in Afghanistan), he will be bombed out.
And, there's an added bonus for the U.S.: By unleashing its
bombs and missiles on Iraq, the lesson is passed on to others
in the area, and around the globe, who might be thinking of
standing up to U.S. imperial policy: This is what might well
happen to you and your government and your people ("collateral
damage") unless you accede peaceably to our demands.
Many anti-war marchers in the U.S. and in other countries
think the sole and central issue is oil. But the core motivation
is imperial domination. Bombing a small country more or less
defenseless against U.S. military technology gets one the
oil, to be sure, but it yields even bigger dividends: a world
that does the U.S. bidding because it fears destruction of
its society from U.S. military might. (Influential elements
in the governments in Germany and France and Russia and China
and Japan are in opposition to the way the U.S. is moving
against Iraq not only, or even mainly, because the rush to
war makes no immediate or logical sense, but because they
see the handwriting on the wall: the U.S. will stand like
a Colussus astride the globe, the one Superpower who cannot
be challenged without paying a high economic or military price.
These oppositional forces believe that the U.S. must be challenged
now before the die is totally cast. (Already, the Bush Administration
is plotting how to retaliate against the Germans and French
for humiliating the U.S. in public at the United Nations.)
The stakes are so high. That is why the Bush Administration,
with its swaggering, bullying, arrogant attitude, is trying
so hard to convince everyone that U.S. military action --
and the imperial dominance that will follow -- is "inevitable,"
and that to not climb aboard is to be "irrelevant" -- which
is to say that, if you oppose our march to power, you will
never do good business, or have good relations, with America
again. To make its policy work, the U.S. must destroy or greatly
weaken any countervailing powers: the United Nations, NATO,
"Old Europe," etc. That is why this confrontation over Iraq
with our former allies is so nasty: both sides know exactly
what's really going on and what's at stake.
No Free Lunch: The Consequences
Now, there is no such thing as a free lunch. You always pay,
one way or another. The U.S. will pay big time for its Roman-style
imperial moves around the globe. First, terrorism will skyrocket,
obviously in the theaters of war as nationalist guerrillas
and fanatic fundamentalists ambush and otherwise target U.S.
forces and institutions in their countries (as is happening
daily again in Afghanistan). But this will also happen at
U.S. and other Western interests in other countries as well.
And, of course, such U.S. policies around the world guarantee
that there will be more and bigger terrorist attacks inside
the United States, including waves and waves of impossible-to-defend-against
suicide bombers, and biological and chemical and even dirty-bomb
radiological weapons. Presumably, the Bush Administration
feels it can handle such terrorism -- and may welcome its
effect on an already frightened citizenry: the population
will become even more compliant to the government's restrictions
on its freedoms and dissent, thus ensuring passage of whatever
laws it wishes. HardRight domination of the political scene
for another decade or two will be guaranteed, they believe.
So Americans will pay in blood for such aggressive, greed-and-power
policies of the Bush Administration. But it will also pay,
big time, in other ways. You see, the conservatives for years
have wanted to decimate and, if possible, destroy a wide variety
of social programs that help ordinary citizens and those too
poor to fend well by themselves. Those programs, including
most notably Medicare and Social Security, are so popular
and engrained in the social fabric, that not even Bush&Co.
can attack them head on. But if there's no money in the budget
to pay for them, because so much of our national treasury
has to go toward wars to "protect our national security,"
then the Bush Administration feels it can't be blamed. It's
not our fault; we love those programs, but we simply don't
have any more funds. So Head Start and money for schools,
and drugs for our seniors, and for keeping up the urban infrastructures,
etc. etc., get cut or eliminated.
The giant corporations and their officers will make out like
bandits -- and the Bush Administration now wants to give them
even more tax breaks -- but ordinary folk will just have to
fend for themselves. The economy, deeply in debt, with humongous
deficits stretching out into the far future, will tank; the
few remaining environmental protections will be wiped out,
and polluters will be even more free to spew their filth into
our air and water; more jobs will be lost, we will go into
a deep Depression (economic and psychological). But we'll
sit atop the globe, King of the World!
My beloved grandchildren, I know it all sounds bleak as I
write this now -- and you'll have to deal with the fallout
from the misguided and dangerous policies of our days. But
the future as projected by the HardRightists of the Bush Administration
is not inevitable. More and more folks here in this country
are beginning to learn what's really going on; many abroad
already have done so. They are organizing to stop the Bush&Co.
momentum, to turn this country around from its obsession with
profits and power to a more humanitarian way of looking at
people and the world.
Recently, up to 10 or 11 million people demonstrated in the
streets around the world -- on the same issue, on the same
day. This has never happened before in human history -- and
it took place before the war had even begun! Many other ordinary
American citizens, including moderate conservatives appalled
at what their party is doing in their name, feel sympathetic
to the cause.
There is a coalescing of concern, worldwide. The fight is
not going to be easy. These are not nice people we're battling
and they play with real guns and bullets and don't mind using
them. But your Gran and Gramps, like so many others, feel
they have to fight to restore our Constitutional protections,
and on behalf of peoples everywhere. We aim to bring back
the light to our world made dark by shadow forces who have
far too little love in their minds or in their hearts.
Welcome to our world. May we make it far better for you by
the time you're able to fully comprehend what I've written
Love to you all -- Grandpa.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government & international
relations at various universities, worked as an activist journalist
during "The Sixties," was a writer/editor with the San Francisco
Chronicle for nearly 20 years, and currently co-edits The