to Swagger and Bully Your Way to Disaster: Bush's Foreign
March 5, 2003
By Bernard Weiner, The
don't like to distrust their leaders. In a world that appears
so chaotic, one wants, needs, some sense of firm, unshakeable
foundations. If we can't trust our cops, our priests, our
corporate accountants, our elected officials, who will be
there to provide that container of stability, our sense that
the world works and that we're not just victims waiting for
the random finger of fate to tap us on the shoulder?
I'm not just talking about other people here. I feel that
For a long time, even though I didn't vote for them - and
had anxieties about their motives - I didn't want to believe
that the Bush Administration was all that bad, or had lied,
or had done terrible things. I so believe in the goodness
of this country and in its institutions - especially in the
Constitution that has served us so well for more than 200
years - that I tried to avoid seeing the awful things being
done in Washington, D.C.
But when time after time, the facts revealed otherwise, I
finally left the world of denial and moved into the world
of sadness and disappointment - and anger. My government had
been hijacked by those who cared hardly a wit for the genius
of our Constitution, or for treating political opponents with
civility, or for the traditions of careful, respectful diplomacy
It became more and more clear that the folks inhabiting the
White House were not good people. Oh, they said publicly that
their actions were being taken for all the right reasons -
freedom and liberty and the Constitution and to protect America
- and they certainly wrapped themselves not only in the flag
but in religious-sounding trappings as well.
But their motives in private seemed mostly to involve a drive
for profits for themselves and their corporate friends, and
a seemingly insatiable lust for power and control. And all
done in secret - the most secretive Administration in modern
times - so that we wouldn't be able to find out what they're
really up to.
Rather than delve into the full list of economic, political,
environmental and civil liberties catastrophes for which they're
responsible, let's just focus today on Bush Administration
foreign policies, since they involve the U.S. in military
adventures that are potentially disastrous to our citizenry.
We're about to launch a "pre-emptive" war against Iraq -
without an overt provocation, without a large international
coalition behind us, without United Nations authorization,
without the support of most of Europe's populations (not even
in Great Britain, our lone major supplier of troops), without
the support of more than half of the U.S. citizenry, without
the support of Iraq's 22 fellow Arab countries, without the
support of NATO-member Turkey, without even the support of
the first President Bush's chief advisors, and without the
support of many of America's military and intelligence leaders.
In short, it's pretty much a unilateral White House operation,
with a few hangers-on nations who don't want to risk angering
Given this strange situation, we had better damn well be
clear on how we got to this place. Having some context will
help us shape our thinking, our tactics, our strategies, in
trying to stop the war before it begins. (And, if we're unsuccessful
in doing that, in how to deal with the political and strategic
necessities of opposing U.S. policy during a war.) Whichever
way we go, we need to be involved in helping build a Movement
for peace and justice that will take back the country from
the shadow forces currently in control.
The Paper Trail
The first thing to understand is that the true motivating
factors for Bush&Co. policy in Iraq have precious little to
do with Saddam Hussein's weaponry. That is but the pretext,
the cover story - which, as you may have noticed, tends to
shift daily. First it's "regime change"; then (so as not to
frighten potential U.N. supporters) it's "disarmament of Iraq";
then, when Saddam moves in the direction of at least partial
disarmament, it's "regime change" again; then it's "democracy"
for Iraq and the region. But it's really smoke and mirrors,
my friends. Let's see what is actually at play here.
The Administration's stated reasons may flip on a dime -
how does Ari Fleischer do the daily flipping with a straight
face? - but a nation's major foreign policy doctrine doesn't
arrive overnight, and certainly this one didn't emerge full-grown
from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It had been in the works
for quite some time, at least for a decade.
How can we be so sure? Well, it turns out that there's a
long, highly visible paper trail that fills in the context.
Let's take a look.
During the years when Bill Clinton was struggling with the
rising tide of conservatism in the House of Representatives,
and then with fighting off the various "scandal" investigations,
and then battling for his political life when he was impeached
for lying about sex, the intellectual cadres of the HardRight
were shaping a foreign policy for the next century.
The situation was staring them in the face: There was a vacuum
on the world scene. No more Superpower rival. The Soviet Union
had collapsed of its own internal contradictions. The time
was ripe for moving and taking in the world, as there was
nobody and no force that could stop the U.S.
The Foundations Are Laid
A number of HardRight position papers and books spelled out
the justification for the U.S. seizing the moment. Some of
these you may have heard about already, others are less known.
In all cases, the folks creating the imperial policy on paper
are now creating and shaping the imperial policy for real
inside the Bush Administration.
1. In 1992, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney had a report
drafted for the Department of Defense, written by Paul Wolfowitz.
In it, the U.S. government was urged, as the world's sole
remaining Superpower, to move aggressively and militarily
around the globe. Somehow, this report leaked to the press,
and, since the objective political forces hadn't yet coalesced
in the U.S. that could implement this policy free of resistance,
President Bush the Elder repudiated the paper and withdrew
it. (Wolfowitz, then undersecretry of defense for policy,
is now Deputy Secretary of Defense; Cheney, of course, now
holds the title of Vice President.)
2. Various HardRight intellectuals outside the government
were spelling out the new policy in books and influential
journals. Zalmay M. Khalilzad (formerly associated with big
oil companies, currently U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan)
wrote an important volume in 1995, "From Containment to Global
Leadership: America & the World After the Cold War," the import
of which was identifying a way for America to move aggressively
in the world and thus to exercise effective control over the
planet's natural resources. A year later, in 1996, neo-conservatives
Bill Kristol (now editor of the rightwing Weekly Standard
newspaper) and Robert Kagan, in their Foreign Affairs article
"Towards a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy," came right out and
said the goal for the U.S. had to be nothing less than "benevolent
global hegemony," a euphemism for total U.S. domination (but
"benevolently" exercised, of course.)
3. In 1998, Kristol, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, out of nowhere,
lobbied to convince President Clinton to attack Iraq and remove
Saddam Hussein from power. The January letter from the Project
for the New American Century (PNAC), a HardRight think-tank
founded the previous year, said that a war with Iraq should
be initiated "even if the U.S. could not muster support from
its allies in the United Nations." Sound familiar? (President
Clinton replied that he was focusing on dealing with al Quaida
4. In September of 2000, the PNAC, sensing a GOP victory
in the upcoming presidential election, issued its white paper
on "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources
for the New Century." These were no lightweight pundits; these
guys were (and are) the heavy-hitting movers and shakers of
far-right Republican strategy, including: Dick Cheney, Donald
Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol, Eliot
Abrams, John Bolton, I. Lewis Libby, et al.
The 2000 PNAC report was quite frank about why the U.S. would
want to move toward imperialist militarism, a Pax Americana,
because with the Soviet Union out of the picture, now is the
time most "conducive to American interests and ideals...The
challenge of this coming century is to preserve and enhance
this 'American peace'." And how to preserve and enhance the
Pax Americana? The answer is to "fight and decisively win
multiple, simultaneous major-theater wars."
In serving as world "constable," the PNAC went on, no other
countervailing forces will be permitted to get in the way.
Such actions "demand American political leadership rather
than that of the United Nations," for example. No country
will be permitted to get close to parity with the U.S. when
it comes to weaponry or influence; therefore, more U.S. military
bases will be established in the various regions of the globe.
(A post-Saddam Iraq may well serve as one of those advance
5. George W. Bush moved into the White House in January of
2001. Shortly thereafter, a report by the Administration-friendly
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."
(It's possible that inside Cheney's energy-policy papers -
which he refuses to release to Congress or the American people
- are references to foreign-policy plans for how to gain military
control of oilfields abroad.)
6. Five hours after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, Secretary
of Defense Rumsfeld ordered his aides to begin planning for
an attack on Iraq, even though his intelligence officials
told him it was an al Qaida operation and there was no connection
between Iraq and the attacks. "Go massive," the aides' notes
quote him as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things related and
not." (In the past year, Rumsfeld leaned heavily on the FBI
and CIA to find any shred of evidence linking the Iraq government
to 9/11, but they weren't able to. So he set up his own fact-finding
group in the Pentagon, with similar results.)
7. Feeling confident that all plans were on track for moving
aggressively in the world, the Bush Administration in September
of 2002 published its "National Security Strategy of the United
States of America." The official policy of the U.S. government,
as proudly proclaimed in this major document, is virtually
identical to the policy proposals in the various white papers
of the Project for the New American Century and others like
it over the past decade.
Chief among them are: 1) the policy of "pre-emptive" war
- i.e., whenever the U.S. thinks a country may be amassing
too much power and/or could provide some sort of competition
in the "benevolent global hegemony" sweepstakes, it can be
attacked, without provocation. (A later corollary would rethink
the country's atomic policy: nuclear weapons would no longer
be considered defensive, but could be used offensively in
support of political/economic ends.) And, 2) ignoring international
treaties and opinion whenever they are not seen to serve U.S.
In short, and stated proudly to the public, the Bush Administration
seems to see the U.S. as a New Rome, an empire with its foreign
legions (and threat of nuclear weapons) keeping the outlying
colonies, and potential competitors, in line. Those who aren't
fully in accord with these goals better get out of the way;
"you're either with us or against us."
The Bush Drool
Which brings us back to Iraq. Bush is like a drooling, fixated
hounddog on scent; other vital crises may be exploding all
around him (North Korea's increasingly bellicose nuclear-missile
strategy, the U.S. economy in tatters), but his eyes and nose
are locked onto Direction Baghdad.
Bush risks doing irreparable harm to America's short- and
long-term economic, political and military interests, but,
damn it, Saddam is still in Baghdad and he's gotta go. No
second attack front via Turkey? Forget it, Saddam's gotta
go. No support from the rest of the world? Ignore it, Saddam's
gotta go. Why? Because America's foreign/military policy -
its goals of dominance and control of natural resources -
requires it. Don't bother me, I'm eatin'.
So, unless some amazing event occurs in the next several
weeks - a worldwide boycott aimed at U.S. economic interests,
Saddam having a heart attack (or going into exile in Las Vegas),
North Korea launching a nuclear missile at Kuwait, the courts
ruling that only the Congress has the right to declare war
- hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops will head into the
Persian Gulf desert, after the "Shock & Awe" cruise-missile
bombardment, to locate and decapitate the Iraqi leader and
to "protect" the oilfields "on behalf of the Iraqi people"
Tens of thousands of civilians and military personnel likely
will die or be maimed. Dissent inside the U.S. will make the
Vietnam era look like a beach party. Terrorism will explode
worldwide, especially inside America. The U.S. will be more
and more isolated. The economy will tank. A global recession
or depression will follow.
And why? Because a few HardRight ideologues, most of whom
have never been to war, decided more than a decade ago to
start a conflagration in the Persian Gulf that the U.S. could
profit from, both monetarily and in terms of dominating power.
It's disgraceful. It's disgusting. It may even be impeachable.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., is co-editor of The
Crisis Papers, has taught at various universities, and
was a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly