ALEXANDRIA, Egypt - They've won. They got their war against Afghanistan
(planned before September 11). They're getting their war against Iraq
(planned slightly after September 11). After Iraq, they plan to get
their wars against Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Last Sunday,
one of them, Vice President Dick Cheney, said that President George
W Bush would have to make "a very difficult decision" on Iraq.
Not really. The decision had already been taken for him in the autumn
As far as their "showdown Iraq" is concerned, it's not about
weapons of mass destruction, nor United Nations inspections, nor non-compliance,
nor a virtual connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, nor the
liberation of the Iraqi people, nor a Middle East living in "democracy
The American corporate media are not inclined to spell it out, and the
absolute majority of American public opinion is anesthetized non-stop
by a barrage of technical, bureaucratic and totally peripheral aspects
of the war against Iraq. For all the president's (sales)men, the whole
game is about global preeminence, if not unilateral world domination
- military, economic, political and cultural. This may be an early 21st
century replay of the "white man's burden". Or this may be
just megalomania. Either way, enshrined in a goal of the Bush administration,
it cannot but frighten practically the whole world, from Asia to Africa,
from "old Europe" to the conservative establishment within
the US itself.
During the Clinton years, they were an obscure bunch - almost a sect.
Then they were all elevated to power - again: most had worked for Ronald
Reagan and Bush senior. Now they have pushed America - and the world
- to war because they want it. Period. An Asia Times Online investigation
reveals this is no conspiracy theory: it's all about the implementation
of a project.
The lexicon of the Bush doctrine of unilateral world domination is laid
out in detail by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), founded
in Washington in 1997. The ideological, political, economic and military
fundamentals of American foreign policy - and uncontested world hegemony
- for the 21st century are there for all to see.
PNAC's credo is officially to muster "the resolve to shape a new
century favorable to American principles and interests". PNAC states
that the US must be sure of "deterring any potential competitors
from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role" - without
ever mentioning these competitors, the European Union, Russia or China,
by name. The UN is predictably dismissed as "a forum for leftists,
anti-Zionists and anti-imperialists". The UN is only as good as
it supports American policy.
The PNAC mixes a peculiar brand of messianic internationalism with realpolitik
founded over a stark analysis of American oil interests. Its key document,
dated June 1997, reads like a manifesto. Horrified by the "debased"
Bill Clinton, PNAC exponents lavishly praise "the essential elements
of the Reagan administration's success: a military that is strong and
ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that
boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national
leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities".
These exponents include Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, chairman
of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory panel to the Pentagon made
up of leading figures in national security and defense, Florida Governor
Jeb Bush and Reagan-era White House adviser Elliott Abrahms.
Already in 1997, the PNAC wanted to "increase defense spending
significantly" to "challenge regimes hostile to our interests
and values" and "to accept responsibility for America's unique
role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to
our security, our prosperity, and our principles". The deceptively
bland language admitted "such a Reaganite policy of military strength
and moral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary
if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century
and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next".
The signatories of this 1997 document read like a who's who of Washington
power today: among them, in addition to those mentioned above, Eliot
Cohen, Steve Forbes, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, William Bennett,
Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, Lewis Libby, Norman Podhoretz and Dan
The PNAC, now actively exercising power, is about to fulfill its dream
of invading Iraq. In the PNAC's vision of Iraq, the only vector that
matters is US strategic interest. Nobody really cares about Saddam Hussein's
"brutal dictatorship", nor his extensive catalogue of human
rights violations, nor "the suffering of the Iraqi people",
nor his US-supplied weapons of mass destruction, nor his alleged connection
Iraq counts only as the first strike in a high-tech replay of the domino
theory: the next dominoes will be Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The
idea is to carve up Syria; let Turkey invade northern Iraq; overthrow
the Saudi royal family; restore the Hashemites to the Hijaz in Arabia.
And dismember Iraq altogether and annex it to Jordan as a vassal kingdom
to the US: after all, Jordan's King Abdullah is a cousin of former Iraqi
King Faisal, deposed in 1958. This would be one solution for the nagging
question of who would have any legitimacy to be in power in Baghdad
Rumsfeld loves NATO, but he abhors the European Union. All PNAC members
and most Pentagon civilians - but not the State Department - do: after
all, they control NATO, not the EU. These things usually are not admitted
in public. But Rumsfeld, the blunt midwesterner, former fighter pilot
and former servant of presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, prefers
John Wayne to Bismarck: even Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar,
a staunch ally of Bush, complained out loud that diplomacy for Rumsfeld
is an alien concept. Rumsfeld even has his own wacky axis of evil: Cuba,
Libya and ... Germany. If Rumsfeld barely manages to disguise his aversion
for dovish Secretary of State Colin Powell's views, one imagines to
what circle of hell he dispatches the pacifist couple of Jacques Chirac
and Gerhard Schroeder.
Strange, no journalist has stood up and ask Rumsfeld, in one of those
cosy Pentagon spinning sessions, how was his 90-minute session with
Saddam in Baghdad in December 20, 1983. The fuzzy photo of Rumsfeld
shaking hands with Saddam, observed by Iraqi vice premier Tarik Aziz,
is now a collector's item. Rumsfeld was sent by Reagan to mend relations
between the US and Iraq only one month after Reagan had adopted a secret
directive - still partly classified - to help Saddam fight Iran's Islamic
Revolution that had begun in 1979. This close cooperation led to nothing
else than Washington selling loads of military equipment and also chemical
precursors, insecticides, aluminum tubes, missile components and anthrax
to Saddam, who in turn used the lot to gas Iranian soldiers and then
civilian Kurds in Halabja, northern Iraq, in 1988. The selling of these
chemical weapons was organized by Rumsfeld.
Washington was perfectly aware at the time that Saddam was using chemical
weapons. After the Halabja massacre, the Pentagon engaged in a massive
disinformation campaign, spinning that the massacre was caused by Iran.
Cheney, as Pentagon chief from March 1989 onwards, continued to cooperate
very closely with Saddam. The military aid - secretly organized by Rumsfeld
- also enabled Saddam to invade Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Between 1991
and 1998, UN weapons inspectors conclusively established that the US
- as well as British, German and French firms - had sold missile parts
and chemical and bacteriological material to Iraq. So much for the moral
high ground defended by America and Britain in the Iraqi weapons of
mass destruction controversy.
September 2002's National Security Strategy (NSS) document simply delighted
the members of the PNAC. No wonder: it reproduced almost verbatim a
September 2000 report by the PNAC, which in turn was based on the now
famous 1992 draft Defense Policy Guidance (DPG), written under the supervision
of Wolfowitz for then secretary of defense Cheney. Already in 1992,
the three key DPG objectives were to prevent any "hostile power'
from dominating regions whose resources would allow it to become a great
power; to dissuade any industrialized country from any attempt to defy
US leadership; and to prevent the future emergence of any global competitor.
That's the thrust of the NSS document, which calls for a unipolar world
in which Washington's military power is unrivalled.
In this context, the invasion and occupation of Iraq is just the first
installment in an extended practical demonstration of what will happen
to "rogue" states alleged to have or not have weapons of mass
destruction, alleged to have or not have links to terrorism, and alleged
connections to anyone or anything that might challenge US supremacy.
The European Union, China and Russia beware: the Shock and Awe demonstration
that is about to be unleashed on Iraq is pure theatrical militarism
, a concept already analyzed by Asia Times Online.
It's no surprise that Bush, on February 26, chose to unveil his vision
of a new Middle Eastern order at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI),
a right-wing Washington think tank. The PNAC's office is nowhere else
than on the 5th floor of the AEI building on 17th St, in downtown Washington.
The AEI is the key node of a collection of neoconservative foreign policy
experts and scholars, the most influential of whom are members of the
The AEI is intimately connected to the Likud Party in Israel - which
for all practical purposes has a deep impact on American foreign policy
in the Middle East, thanks to the AEI's influence. In this mutually-beneficial
environment, AEI stalwarts are known as Likudniks. It's no surprise,
then, how unparalleled is the AEI's intellectual Islamophobia. Loathing
and contempt for Islam as a religion and as a way of life leads to members
of the AEI routinely bashing Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. They also oppose
any negotiations with North Korea - another policy wholly adopted by
the Bush administration. For the AEI, China is the ultimate enemy: not
a peer competitor, but a monster strategic threat. The AEI is viscerally
anti-State Department (read Colin Powell). Recently, it has also displayed
its innate Francophobia. And to try to dispel the idea that it is just
another bunch of grumpy dull men, the AEI has been deploying to the
BBC and CNN talk shows its own female weapon of mass regurgitation,
one Danielle Pletka. Lynn Cheney, vice president Dick's wife, a historian
and essayist, is also an AEI senior fellow.
The AEI's former executive vice president is John Bolton, one of the
Bush administration's key operatives as undersecretary of state for
arms control and international security. Largely thanks to Bolton, the
US unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM)
treaty. Bolton has also opposed the establishment of the new International
Criminal Court (ICC), recently inaugurated in The Hague. The AEI only
treasures raw power as established under the terms of neoliberal globalization:
the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade
Organization. Its nemesis is everything really multilateral: the ABM
treaty, the ICC, the Kyoto protocol, the treaty on anti-personal mines,
the protocol on biological weapons, the treaty on the total ban of nuclear
weapons, and most spectacularly, in these past few days, the UN Security
The AEI's foreign policy agenda is presided over by none other than
Richard Perle. As Perle is a longtime friend and advisor to Rumsfeld,
he was rewarded with the post of chairman of the Pentagon's Defense
Policy Board: its 30-odd very influential members include former national
security advisers, secretaries of defense and heads of the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA). Perle is also a very close friend of Pentagon number two
Wolfowitz, since they were students at the University of Chicago in
the late 1960s. Perle now reports to Wolfowitz.
On September 20, 2001, Perle went on overdrive, fully mobilizing the
Defense Policy Board to forge a link between Saddam and al-Qaeda. The
PNAC sent an open letter to Bush detailing how a war on terrorism should
be conducted. The letter says that Saddam has to go "even if evidence
does not link him to the attack". The letter lists other policies
that later were implemented - like the gigantic increase of the defense
budget and the total isolation of the Palestinian Authority (PA), as
well as others that may soon follow, like striking Hezbollah in Lebanon
and yet-to-be-formulated attacks against Iran and especially Syria if
they do not stop support for Hezbollah.
The Bush administration strategy in the past few months of totally isolating
the PA's Yasser Arafat and allowing Israeli premier Ariel Sharon to
refuse as much as a handshake, was formulated by the PNAC. Another PNAC
letter states that "Israel's fight is our fight ... for reasons
both moral and strategic, we need to stand with Israel in its fight
against terrorism". The PNAC detested the Camp David accords between
Israel and the Palestinians. For the PNAC, a simmering, undeclared state
of war against Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Iran is a matter
Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security
affairs under Reagan, is also a member of the board of the Jerusalem
Post. He wrote a chapter - "Iraq: Saddam Unbound" - in Present
Dangers , a PNAC book. He is very close to ultra-hawk Douglas Feith,
who was his special counsel under Reagan and is now assistant secretary
of defense for policy (one of the Pentagon's four most senior posts)
and also a partner in a small Washington law firm that represents Israeli
suppliers of munitions seeking deals with American weapons manufacturers.
It was thanks to Perle - who personally defended his candidate to Rumsfeld
- that Feith got his current job. He was one of the key people responsible
for strategic planning in the war against the Taliban and is also heavily
involved in planning the war against Iraq.
David Wurmser, former head of Middle Eastern projects at the AEI, is
now special assistant to PNAC founder John Bolton, the undersecretary
of State for arms control and a fierce enemy of multilateralism. Wurmser
wrote Tyranny's Ally: America's failure to defeat Saddam Hussein , a
book published by the AEI. The foreword is by none other than Perle.
Meyrav Wurmser, David's wife, is a co-founder of the Middle East Media
In July 1996, Perle, Feith and the Wurmser couple wrote the notorious
paper for an Israeli think tank charting a roadmap for Likud superhawk
and then-incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu.
The paper is called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing
the Realm". Perle, Feith and the Wurmsers tell Bibi that Israel
must shelve the Oslo Accords, the so-called peace process, the concept
of "land for peace", go for it and permanently annex the entire
West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The paper also recommends that Israel
must insist on the elimination of Saddam, and the restoration of the
Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad. This would be the first domino to fall,
and then regime change would follow in Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Saudi
Arabia. This 1996 blueprint is nothing else than Ariel Sharon's current
agenda in action. In November last year, Sharon took the liberty to
slightly modify the domino sequence by growling on the record that Iran
should be next after Iraq.
Bush's speech on February 26 at the AEI claimed that the real reason
for a war against Iraq is "to bring democracy". Cheney has
endlessly repeated that Iraqis - like Germany and Japan in 1945 - will
welcome American soldiers with wine and roses. For Bush, Iraq is begging
to be educated in the principles of democracy: "It's presumptuous
and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world, or the one-fifth
of humanity that is Muslim, is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations
of life." But this very presumption is seemingly central to the
intellectual Islamophobia of both the AEI and PNAC.
The AEI and the PNAC shaped the now official Bush policy of introducing
democracy - by bombing Iraq - and then "successfully transforming
the lives of millions of people throughout the Middle East", in
the words of AEI scholar Michael Ledeen. At his AEI speech, Bush did
nothing else but parrot the idea. Many a voice couldn't resist to point
out the splendid American record of encouraging native democracy around
the world by supporting great freedom fighters such as the Shah of Iran,
Sese Seko Mobutu in the Congo, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Suharto in
Indonesia, the Somozas in Nicaragua, Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan and an array
of 1960s and 1970s Latin American dictators. Among newfound American
allies, Turkmenistan is nothing less than totalitarian and Uzbekistan
is ultra-authoritarian, and among "old" allies, Egypt and
Saudi Arabia have absolutely nothing to do with democracy.
Chalmers Johnson is president of the Japan Policy Research Institute,
based in California, and author of Blowback: The Costs and Consequences
of American Empire . A war veteran turned scholar, he could never be
accused of anti-Americanism. His new book about American militarism,
The Sorrows of Empire: How the Americans lost their Country , will be
published in late 2003. Some of its insights are informative in confirming
the role of the PNAC in setting American foreign policy.
Johnson is just one among many who suspect that "after being out
of power with Clinton and back to power with Bush ... the neocons were
waiting for a 'catastrophic and catalyzing' event - like a new Pearl
Harbor" that would mobilize the public and allow them to put their
theories and plans into practice. September 11 was, of course, precisely
what they needed. National Security Advi Condoleezza Rice called together
members of the National Security Council and asked them "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". She said, "I really think this period is
analogous to 1945 to 1947 when fear and paranoia led the US into its
Cold War with the USSR".
Johnson continues: "The Bush administration could not just go to
war with Iraq without tying it in some way to the September 11 attacks.
So it first launched an easy war against Afghanistan. There was at least
a visible connection between Osama bin Laden and the Taliban regime,
even though the United States contributed more to Osama's development
as a terrorist than Afghanistan ever did. Meanwhile, the White House
launched one of the most extraordinary propaganda campaigns of modern
times to convince the American public that an attack on Saddam Hussein
should be a part of America's 'war on terrorism'. This attempt to whip
up war fever, in turn, elicited an outpouring of speculation around
the world on what were the true motives that lay behind President Bush's
obsession with Iraq."
The Iraq war is above all Paul Wolfowitz's war. It's his holy mission.
His cue was September 11. Slightly after Rumsfeld, on September 15,
2001 at Camp David, Wolfowitz was already advocating an attack on Iraq.
There are at least three versions of what happened that day. As a reporter,
the Washington Post's Bob Woodward (remember Watergate) used to bring
down presidents; now he's a mere presidential public relations officer.
In his book Bush at War he writes that Bush told Wolfowitz to shut up
and let the number 1 (Rumsfeld) talk. The second version, defended by
the New York Times, says that Bush listened attentively to Wolfowitz.
But a third version relayed by diplomats holds that in Bush's executive
order on September 17 authorizing war on Afghanistan, there's already
a paragraph giving free reign to the Pentagon to draw plans for a war
Former CIA director James Woolsey, a certified five-star hawk, is a
great friend of Wolfowitz. Woolsey is also the author of what could
be dubbed "the high noon" theory that defines nothing less
than Bush's vision of the world. According to the theory, Bush is not
a six-shooter: he is the leader of a posse.
That's how Bush described himself in a conversation last year with then
Czech president Vaclav Havel. As film fans well remember, Gary Cooper
in High Noon plays a village marshal who tries by all means to convince
his friends to assemble a posse to face the Saddam of the times (a lean
and mean Lee Marvin) who is supposed to arrive in the noon train. In
the end, Cooper has to face "Saddam" Marvin all by himself.
It's fair to argue that the Bush administration today is enacting a
larger-than-life replay of a high noon. The posse is the "coalition
of the willing". The logic of the posse is crystal clear. The US
first defines a strategic objective (for example, regime change in Iraq).
They propagate their steely determination to achieve this objective
(an awesome worldwide propaganda and disinformation campaign combined
with a major military deployment). And finally they assemble a posse
to help them: the coalition of the willing, or "coalition of the
bribed and bludgeoned", as it was dubbed by democrats in Europe
and the US itself. A devastating report by the Institute for Policy
Studies in Washington has detailed a "coalition of the coerced".
Whatever its name, those who do not join the coalition (the absolute
majority of UN member-states, as well as world public opinion) remain,
as Bush says, "irrelevant".
With missionary fervor, Wolfowitz has been pursuing his Iraqi dream
step by step. In late 2001, James Woolsey roamed all over Europe trying
to find a connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda. He couldn't find anything.
But then in January 2002, Iraq was formally inducted in the "axis
of evil along with Iran and North Korea. Rumsfeld went on overdrive:
he said that Saddam supported "terrorists" (in fact suicide
martyrs in Palestine, who have nothing to do with al-Qaeda). He said
that Saddam promised US$25,000 to each of their families. The neocons
embarked on a media blitzkrieg, and Wolfowitz's mission finally hit
During the Cold War in the 1970s, Wolfowitz learned the ropes laboring
on nuclear treaties, the endless talks with the Soviets on nuclear armament
limitations. At the time he also started a career for one of his better
students, Lewis Libby - who today is Cheney's chief of staff. For three
decades Wolfowitz has been involved in strategic thinking, military
organization and political and diplomatic moves. Even former Jimmy Carter
national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the author of The Grand
Chessboard - or the roadmap for US domination over Eurasia - allegedly
allows Wolfowitz to figure alongside Henry Kissinger, McGeorge Bundy
or Zbig himself: that select elite of academics who managed to cross
over to high office and radiate intellectual authority and almost unlimited
power by osmosis because of close contact with an American president.
Wolfowitz routinely talks about "freedom and democracy" -
with no contextualization. His renditions always sound like a romantic
ideal. But there's nothing romantic about him. During the First Gulf
War, Wolfowitz was an undersecretary at the Pentagon formulating policy.
Cheney was the Pentagon chief. It was Wolfowitz who prepared Desert
Storm - and also got the money. The bill was roughly $90 billion, 80
percent of it paid by the allies: a cool deal. It was Wolfowitz who
convinced Israel not to enter the war even after the country was hit
by Iraqi Scuds, so the key Arab partners of the 33-nation coalition
would not run away.
But Saddam always remained his nemesis. When Bush senior lost his re-election,
Wolfowitz became dean of the School of Advanced International Studies
at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Later, he was fully convinced
that Iraq was behind the first attack against the World Trade Center,
Wolfowitz and Perle, though close, are not the same thing. Perle is
virtually indistinguishable from the hardcore policies of the Likud
in Israel. Perle thinks that the only possible way out for the US -
not the West, because he despises Europe as a political player - is
a multi-faceted, long-term, vicious confrontation against the Arab and
Muslim world. Wolfowitz is more sophisticated: he has already served
as American ambassador to Indonesia. He definitely does not subscribe
to the fallacious Samuel Huntington theory of a clash of civilizations.
Wolfowitz even believes in an independent Palestine - something that
for Perle is beyond anathema.
Wolfowitz, born in 1943 in New York, is the son of a Polish mathematician
whose whole family died in Nazi concentration camps. It was Allan Bloom,
the brilliant author of The Closing of the American Mind and professor
at the University of Chicago, deceased in 1992, who steered Wolfowitz
towards political science. Wolfowitz had the honor of being cloned by
Saul Bellow in the novel Ravelstein : the Wolfowitz character shows
up under a fictional name in the same role he occupied in 1991 at the
Pentagon. Messianic, and a big fan of Abraham Lincoln, Wolfowitz is
a walking contradiction: his fierce unilateralism is based on his faith
in the universality of American values.
Wolfowitz and his proteges's are hardcore "Straussians" -
after Leo Strauss, a Jewish intellectual who managed to escape the Nazis,
died in 1999 as a 100-year-old and was totally anti-modern: for him,
modernity was responsible for Nazism and Stalinism. Strauss was a lover
of the classics - most of all Plato and Aristotle. His most notorious
disciples were Chicago's Allan Bloom and also Harvey Mansfield - who
translated both Machiavelli and Tocqueville and was the father of all
things politically correct in Harvard.
Strauss believed in natural right and in an immutable measure of what
is just and what is unjust. Thus the Wolfowitz credo that a vague "democracy
and freedom" is a one-size-fits-all panacea to be served everywhere,
even by force. Plenty of neo-hawks followed Bloom's courses at the University
of Chicago: Wolfowitz of course, but also Francis Fukuyama of "end
of history" fame, and John Podhoretz, who reigns over the editorial
pages of the ultra-reactionary Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid the New
York Post. As to Mansfield, his most notorious student was probably
William Kristol, the editor of the also Rupert Murdoch-financed magazine
Weekly Standard. In Kristol's own formulation, all these Straussians
are morally conservative, religiously inclined, anti-Utopian, anti-modern
and skeptical towards the left but also towards the reactionary right.
Ronald Reagan, because of his "moral clarity" and his "virtue",
is their supreme icon - not the devious realpolitik couple of Richard
Nixon and Kissinger. This conceptual choice is absolutely essential
to understand where the neocons are coming from. Take the crucial expression
"regime change": there's nothing casual about it. Strauss
used to say that "classic political philosophy was guided by the
question of the best regime". Here Strauss was talking specifically
about Aristotle and his notion of politeia . The "regime"
- or politeia - designates not only government, but also institutions,
education, morals, and "the spirit of law". In the mind of
these Straussians, to topple Saddam is a mere footnote. "Regime
change" in Iraq means to implant a Western Utopia in the heart
of the Middle East: a Western-built politeia . Many would argue this
is no more than a replay of Rudyard Kipling's "white man's burden".
Perle, also a New Yorker, is much, much rougher than Wolfowitz. No Aristotle
for him. A dull man with a psychopath gaze, he recently accused New
Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh of being "a terrorist" - because
Hersh, in a splendid piece, unveiled how Perle set up a company that
will profit immensely from war in the Middle East. Perle has repeatedly
declared on the record that the US is prepared to attack Syria, Lebanon
and Iran - all "enemies of Israel". One of his most notorious
recent stunts was when he invited an obscure French scholar to the Defense
Policy Board to bash the Saudi royal family. He casually noted that
if the invasion of Iraq brings down another couple of "friendly"
Arab regimes, it's no big deal. At a recent seminar organized by a New
York-based public relations firm and attended by Iraqi exiles and American
Middle East and security officials, Perle proclaimed that France was
no longer an ally of the US; and that NATO "must develop a strategy
to contain our erstwhile ally or we will not be talking about a NATO
alliance". This hawk, though, is no fool, and loves la vie en rose
: Richard Perle spends his holidays in his own house in the south of
If you are a Pentagon senior civilian adviser, saying all those things
out loud, they pack a tremendous punch in Washington: it's practically
official. As official as Perle musing out loud whether the US should
"subordinate vital national interests to a show of hands by nations
who do not share our interests" by seeking the endorsement of the
UN Security Council on a major issue of policy (that's exactly what
happened on Monday). Perle has been saying all along that "Iraq
is going to be liberated, by the United States and whoever wants to
join us, whether we get the approbation of the UN or any other institution".
And Bush repeated these words almost verbatim. As for the tremendous
unpopularity of the US, "it's a real problem and it undoubtedly
diminishes our ability to do the things that we think are important.
I think that's bad for the world because if the United States, as the
leader it has always been, has its authority and standing diminished,
that can't be good for the Swiss or the Italians or the Germans. But
I don't know how you deal with that problem ..."
Perle and Wolfowitz may shape policy, but that would not enhance their
mundane status among the political chattering classes if they didn't
have a bulldog to disseminate their clout in the media. That's where
William Kristol, the chairman of the Project for a New American Century
and the director of the magazine Weekly Standard comes in. Kristol's
co-chairman at the PNAC is Robert Kagan, former deputy for policy in
the State Department in the bureau for Inter-American affairs. Kagan
is the author of Of Paradise and Power: America vs Europe in the New
World Order - where, according to a fallacious formula, Europeans living
in a kind of peaceful, Utopian paradise will be forced to stomach unbridled
American power. Robert is the son of Donald Kagan, ultra-conservative
Yale professor and eminent historian. Kagan junior is a major apostle
of nation building, as in "the reconstruction of the Japanese politics
and society to America's image". He cheerleads the fact that 60
years later there are still American troops in Japan. The same, according
to him, should happen in Iraq. Any strategist would remind Kagan that
in Japan in 1945 the emperor himself ordered the population to obey
the Americans and in Germany the war devastation was so complete that
the Germans had no other alternative.
William is the son of Irving Kristol and Gertrud Himmelfarb, classic
New York Jewish intellectuals and ironically former Trotskyite who then
made a sharp turn to the extreme right. Former Trotskyites have a tendency
to believe that history will vindicate them in the end. Irving, at 82
a former neo-Marxist, neo-Trotskyite, neo-socialist and neo-liberal,
today is officially a neoconservative and one of the AEI's stalwarts.
Kristol junior reportedly likes philosophy, opera, thrillers and is
fond of - who else - Aristotle and Machiavelli, who not by accident
were eminences behind the prince. Instead of rebelling against his parents,
he sulked in his bedroom rebelling against his own generation - the
anti-war, peace-and-love, Bob Dylan-addicted 1960s baby boomers. Although
admitting that Vietnam was a big mistake, William did not volunteer
to go to war, a fact that qualifies him as the archetypal "chicken
hawk" - armchair warmongers who know nothing about the horrors
of war. William wants to erect conservatism to the level of an ideology
of government. His great heroes include Reagan - for, what else, his
"candor" and "moral clarity". A naked imperialist?
No, he's not as crass as Rumsfeld: he prefers to be characterized as
a partisan of "liberal imperialism".
As media hawk-in-chief, William is just following up daddy's work: Irving
Kristol was the ultimate portable think tank of Reaganism. Today, Kristol
junior is convinced that the Middle East is an irredeemable source of
anti-Americanism, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and an assorted
basket of evils. Kristol of course is a very good friend of Wolfowitz,
Kagan and former ex-CIA chief James Woolsey, who not by accident heaps
lavish praise on The War over Iraq: Saddam's tyranny and America's mission
, a book by Lawrence Kaplan and ... William Kristol. Woolsey loves how
the book goes against the "narrow realists" around Bush senior
and the "wishful liberals" around Bill Clinton.
Under Bush senior, William Kristol was Dan Quayle's chief of staff.
Under Clinton, he was in the wilderness until he finally managed to
launch the Weekly Standard. Who financed it? None other than Rupert
Murdoch, whose tabloidish Fox News is widely known as Bush TV. The Weekly
Standard loses money in direct proportion to the expansion of its influence.
It remains invaluable as the voice of "Hawk Central".
Hawks, or at least some neoconservatives, seem to understand the importance
of a lighter touch as a key public relations strategy. That's where
David Brooks comes in. Brooks, former University of Chicago, former
Wall Street Journal and now a big fish at the Weekly Standard, was the
one who came up with the concept of "bobos" - bourgeois bohemians,
or "caviar left" as they are known in Latin countries. "Bobos",
accuse the neocons, do absolutely nothing to change a social order that
they seem to fight but from which they profit. Bobo-bashing is one of
the neocon's ideological strategies to dismiss their critics out of
In his conference at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil,
in January, Noam Chomsky demistified the mechanism through which these
people, "most of them recycled from the Reagan administration",
are implementing their agenda: "They are replaying 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 only two days march
from Texas, a threat to survival so severe that Reagan had to declare
a national emergency. Or an airfield in Grenada that the Russians were
going to use to bomb us (if they could find it on a map); Arab terrorists
seeking to kill Americans everywhere while Gaddafi plans to 'expel America
from the world', so Reagan wailed. Or Hispanic narco-traffickers seeking
to destroy our youth; and on, and on."
For both the AEI and the PNAC, the Middle East is a land without people,
and oil without land - and this is something anyone will confirm in
the streets or power corridors in Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Ramallah, Damascus
or Baghdad. The image fits the AEI and PNAC's acute and indiscriminate
loathing and contempt for Arabs. The implementation of the AEI's and
the PNAC's policies has led to the transformation of Ariel Sharon into
a "man of peace" - Bush's own words at the White House - and
the semi-fascist Likud Party becoming the undisputed number one ally
of American civilization. The occupied Palestinian territories - see
never-complied, forever-spurned UN resolution 242 plus dozens of others
- became "the so-called occupied territories" (in Rumsfeld's
own words). Jewish moderates, inside and outside Israel, are extremely
One of the key excuses for the Iraq war sold by Washington was the elimination
of the roots of terrorism by striking terrorists and the "axis
of evil" that supports them. This is a total flaw. The excuse is
undermined by the US themselves. Not even Washington believes war is
the way to fight terrorism, otherwise the Bush administration would
not have adopted the AEI and PNAC agenda of promoting "democracy
and liberty" in the Arab world. But neither the Arabs nor anyone
else is convinced that the US is committed to real democracy or to the
"territorial integrity of Iraq" when key members of the administration,
like Perle, signed "Clean Break" in 1996 advising Benjamin
Netanyahu that Iraq and any other country which tried to defy Israel
should be smashed. The message by the PNAC people to Netanyahu in 1996
and to Bush since 2001 has been the same: international law is against
our interests; we fix our own objectives; we go for it and the rest
will follow - or not. Even Zbig Brzezinski has recognized the American
corporate press - unlike the European press - has not uttered a single
word about the total similarity of the agendas. But concerned Americans
have already realized the superpower has no attention span, no patience,
no tact - and many would say no historical credibility - to engage in
nation-building in the Middle East.
There's not much democracy on the cards either. Iraqis and the whole
Arab nation view as an unredeemable insult and injury the official American
plan to enforce a de facto military occupation. Iraq is already carved
up on paper into three sections (just like the British did in the 1920s).
Two retired generals - including Arabic-speaking, Lebanese-origin John
Abizaid - and a former ambassador to Yemen - will control the three
interim "civil" administrations. Abizaid studied the history
of the Middle East at Harvard - and this is as far as his democratic
credentials go. Everything in Iraq will be under overseer supremo Jay
Garner, a retired general very close to Ariel Sharon and until a few
months ago the CEO of a weapons firm specialized in missile guidance
systems. Iraqis, Palestinians and Arabs as a whole are stunned: not
only has the US flaunted international legitimacy in its push to war,
it will also install an Israeli proxy as governor of Iraq and will keep
pretending to finally be committed to respect the never-complied dozens
of UN resolutions concerning Palestine.
As much as Israel is widely regarded by most 1.3 billion Muslims as
the de facto 51st American state, many responsible Americans denounce
the Iraq war as Sharon's war. Washington's Likudniks - the AEI and PNAC
people - allied with evangelical Christians - are running US foreign
policy in the Middle East. Since Autumn 2002, they have managed to convince
Bush to increase the tempo - with no consultation to Congress or to
American public opinion - betting on a point-of-no-return scenario in
Iraq. Meanwhile, Sharon, in a relentless campaign, managed to convince
Bush that war on Palestine was equal to war against terrorism. But he
went one step beyond: he convinced Bush that the Palestinian Intifada,
al-Qaeda and Saddam are all cats in the same bag, plotting a concerted
three-pronged offensive to destroy Judeo-Christian civilization. Thus
the subsequent, overwhelming Bush administration campaign to try to
convince public opinion that Saddam is an ally of bin Laden. Few fell
into the trap. But European strategists got the drift: they are already
working with the hypothesis that the geopolitical axis in the Middle
East is about to switch from Cairo-Riyadh-Tehran to Tel Aviv-Ankara-Baghdad
In a recent hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, undersecretary
of state for political affairs Mark Grossman and undersecretary of defense
for policy Douglas Feith talked for four hours and through 86 pages,
apparently detailing how the US will rebuild Iraq after liberation through
massive bombing. Feith has been on record saying that this war of course
"is not about oil", while stating a few sentences later that
"the US will be the new OPEC". A source confirms that it was
clear at the Senate hearing both Feith and Grossman had absolutely no
idea what the Arab world is all about. Senators asked how much the war
would cost (Yale economist William Nordhaus said the occupation may
cost between $17 billion and $45 billion a year): nobody had an answer.
Feith and Grossman said it was "unknowable". Rumsfeld is also
a major exponent of the "not knowable" school. The cost of
war for American taxpayers - some estimates go as high as $200 billion
- is "not knowable". The size of the occupation force - some
estimates range as high as 400,000 troops - is "not knowable".
The duration of the occupation - former NATO supreme commander Wesley
Clark has mentioned no less than eight years - is "not knowable".
Arabs, Asians, Europeans - and a few Americans - warn of blowback: the
whole Middle East may explode in a violent, vicious anti-imperialist
struggle. As this correspondent has been hearing for months from Pakistan
to Egypt and from Indonesia to the Gulf, "dozens of bin Ladens"
are bound to emerge. The strategy advocated by the evangelic apostles
of armed democratization - overwhelming military force, unilateral preemption,
overthrow of governments, seizure of oil fields, recolonization, protectorates
- is being roundly condemned by the same educated Arab elites which
would be the natural leaders of a push for democratization. Many question
not Washington's objective, but the method: they simply cannot stomach
the "imperial liberalism" version marketed by the hawks. The
current absolute mess in Afghanistan is further demonstration that "democratization"
via an American proconsul is doomed to failure. Moreover, 16 eminent
British academic lawyers have certified the Bush doctrine of preemptive
self-defense is illegal under international law.
Even a tragically surreal, zombie regime like North Korea's has retained
one essential lesson from this whole crisis : if you don't want regime
change, you'd better maximize your silence, speed and cunning to build
your own arsenal of WMDs. Muslims for their part have understood that
the unlikely Franco-German-Russian axis of peace was and still is trying
to prevent what both al-Qaeda and American fundamentalists want: a war
of civilizations and a war of religion. And the world public opinion's
insight is that Washington may win the war without the UN - but it will
lose peace by shooting the UN down. As a diplomat in Brussels put it,
"The world has voted in unison: it does not want to be reordered
by a posse in Washington."
The men in the AEI and the PNAC galaxy may be accused of intolerance,
arrogance of power, undisguised fascist tendencies, ignorance of history
and cultural parochialism - in various degrees. This is all open to
debate. They may be "chicken hawks" like Kristol junior or
attack dogs like Rumsfeld. But most of all what baffles educated publics
across the world - especially the overwhelming majority of public opinion
in Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain - is the current non-separation
of Church and State in the US.
George W Bush is not ideologically a neoconservative. But he is certainly
a man with a notorious lack of intellectual curiosity. Backed by his
core American constituency of 60 to 70 million Bible-believing Christians,
born-again Bush is setting out to do God's will on a crusade to Babylon
to "fight evil" - personified by Saddam. Martin Amis, Britain's
top contemporary novelist, argues that Bush, being intellectually null,
had no other option than to adopt God as his foreign policy mentor.
Amis wrote in the Observer that "Bush is more religious than Saddam:
of the two presidents, he is, in this respect, the more psychologically
primitive. We hear about the successful 'Texanization' of the Republican
party. And doesn't Texas seem to resemble a country like Saudi Arabia,
with its great heat, its oil wealth, its brimming houses of worship,
and its weekly executions." For former weapons inspector Scott
Ritter, Bush is "a fundamentalist who does not respect international
law. The United States is becoming a crusader state." For the absolute
majority of 1.3 billion Muslims, a sinister crusader it is.
The endgame will reveal itself to be a cheap family farce: the Bush
family delivers an ultimatum to the Hussein family. What Gore Vidal
describes as "the Bush-Cheney junta" has won: Cheney, Rumsfeld,
Wolfowitz, Perle, the AEI and PNAC stalwarts. Paul Wolfowitz, above
all, has won his own personal crusade. Colin Powell has lost it all.
It does not matter that the State Department's classified report, "Iraq,
the Middle East and change: no dominoes" was unveiled by the Los
Angeles Times. Wolfowitz and Perle will play with their dominoes. By
predictable mechanisms of power as old as mankind itself (and incidentally
very common in the former USSR) it was Powell - the adversary of the
new doctrine of preemption - who was charged to defend it in the face
of the world. Sources in New York confirm he was told to get in line:
his discourse, his body language, his whole demeanor changed. Seasoned
American diplomats are appalled by the devastating political and diplomatic
failure of the Bush administration. They know that by deciding to go
to war unilaterally - and leaving the international system in shambles
- the US has squandered its biggest capital: its international legitimacy.
And to make matters worse there was absolutely no debate - in the Senate,
or in the public opinion arena - about it.
Americans still have to wake up to the fact of how startlingly isolated
they are in the world. The world, for its part, will keep deploying
its weapons of mass democracy. There can be no "international community"
as long as the popular perception lingers in so many parts of the world
of a clash between the West and Islam. Always ready to recognize and
love the best America has to offer, hundreds of millions of people would
rather try to save it from the fatal unilateralism distilled by the
American fundamentalists of the PNAC and the AEI. Everyone in Baghdad,
the former great capital of Islam at its apex, is fond of saying how
it has survived the Mongols, the barbarians at the gate. The evangelic
apostles of armed democratization cannot even imagine the fury a new
breed of barbarians may unleash at the gate of the new American century.