By Chris Floyd -
Febuary 23, 2003.
ATTACK ON IRAQ. Vast increases in military spending. Planting new
American bases all over the world, from the jungles of South America
to the steppes of Central Asia. Embracing the concept of preemptive
war and unilateral action as cornerstones of national
"The rule of law is dead.
These policies may seem like
reactions to the changed world confronting America after the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks. But in fact, each one of them -and many other policies now being
advanced by the Bush administration -was planned years before the first plane
ever struck the doomed Twin Towers.
They are the handiwork of an obscure but
influential conservative group called Project for the New
whose members - including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld - now sit at the highest reaches of power. The papers they
produced during the 1990s are like a roadmap of the course that America is
following - a course that PNAC hopes will lead to an utterly dominant America in
PNAC was formed in 1997, with a
roster of conservative heavy-hitters, many of whom are now major players in the
Bush administration. In addition to Cheney and Rumsfeld, the lineup included
Paul Wolfowitz (now deputy defense secretary), Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of
staff), Zalmay Khalilzad (special emissary to Afghanistan), John Bolton
(undersecretary of state for arms control), and Elliot Abrams, who was convicted
of lying to Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal but was pardoned by George H. W.
Bush (now White House director of Middle East policy).
Other influential participants
included publisher Steve Forbes, conservative Christian activist Gary Bauer,
former Secretary of Education William Bennett, former Vice President Dan Quayle,
and Jeb Bush, brother of the president-to-be and now governor of Florida.
PNAC fired its first shot across the
bow in 1998, with letters to President Clinton and congressional leaders calling
for regime change in Iraq, by force if necessary, and the establishment of a
strong U.S. military presence in the region. Then in September 2000, just months
before the disputed election that brought George W. Bush to power, the group
published a highly detailed, 90-page blueprint for transforming America's
military -and the nation's role on the world stage.
The document, "Rebuilding America's
Defenses," advocated a series of "revolutions" in national defense and foreign
affairs - all of which have come to pass, in a very short time, since the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks.
The measures proposed in PNAC's 2000
•Projecting American dominance with a
"worldwide network of forward operating bases" - some permanent, others
"temporary access arrangements" as needed for various military interventions -
in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. These additions to America's
already-extensive overseas deployments would act as "the cavalry on the new
American frontier" - a frontier that PNAC declared now extends throughout the
•Withdrawing from arms control
treaties to allow for the development of a global missile shield, the deployment
of space-based weapons, and the production of a new generation of battlefield
nuclear weapons, especially so-called "bunker-busters" for penetrating
•Raising the U.S. military budget to
at least 3.8 percent of gross domestic product, with annual increases of tens of
billions of dollars each year.
•Developing sophisticated new
technologies to "control the global commons of cyberspace" by closely monitoring
communications and transactions on the Internet.
•Pursuing the development of "new
methods of attack - electronic, non-lethal, biological ... in new dimensions, in
space, cyberspace, and perhaps the world of microbes."
•Developing the ability to "fight and
decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars." This means moving
beyond the two-war standard of preparedness that has guided U.S. strategy since
World War II in order to account for "new realities and potential new
conflicts." It lists countries such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Libya
as targets for those potential new conflicts, and urges Pentagon war planners to
consider not merely containing them or defeating them in battle, but "changing
Oddly enough, although regime change
in Iraq was still clearly a priority for PNAC, it had little to do with Saddam
Hussein and his brutal policies or his aggressive tendencies. Instead, removing
Hussein was tied to the larger goal of establishing a permanent U.S. military
presence in the Persian Gulf in order to secure energy supplies and preclude any
other power from dominating the vital oil regions of the Middle East and Central
The PNAC report puts it quite
plainly: "The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role
in Gulf regional security. 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."
Many critics say this is why the Bush
administration has offered a constantly shifting menu of rationales for the
impending attack on Iraq: because the decision to remove Hussein was taken long
ago as part of a larger strategic plan, and has little to do with any imminent
threat from the crippled Iraqi regime, which is constantly bombed, partially
occupied (with U.S. forces already working in the autonomous Kurdish
territories), and now swarming with United Nations inspectors. If the strategic
need for the attack "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein," then
almost any rationale will do.
Perhaps due to the presence of
Washington insiders like Cheney and Rumsfeld, the PNAC report recognized that
thorny political difficulties could stand in the way of implementing the group's
far-reaching designs. Indeed, in one of the most striking and prescient passages
in the entire 90-page document, PNAC acknowledged that the revolutionary changes
it envisaged could take decades to bring about - unless, that is, the United
States was struck by "some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl
That new Pearl Harbor did come, of
course, in the thunderclap of Sept. 11, 2001. And the PNAC alumni now in
government were quick to capitalize on this catalyzing event.
All of the PNAC recommendations
listed above were put into place, with almost no debate from a shellshocked
Congress and a populace reeling from the unprecedented assault on American
In the very first days following the
attack, Rumsfeld urged the Bush Cabinet to make "Iraq a principal target of the
first round in the war against terrorism," despite the lack of any proof
connecting Baghdad to the terrorist atrocity, according to Bob Woodward's
insider account, "Bush at War."
But Rumsfeld was overruled by Colin
Powell, who counseled that "public opinion has to be prepared before a move
against Iraq is possible."
The "war on terrorism" was launched
initially against Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime was harboring the Saudi
terrorist Osama bin Laden and his band of international extremists. The attack
on Afghanistan was accompanied by the construction of new American bases and
"temporary access arrangements" throughout Central Asia, giving America a
military "footprint" in the strategically vital region for the first time.
At the same time, new U.S. forces
were dispatched to East Asia, to the Philippines, for example, where just last
week American troops were ordered into direct combat against Muslim insurgents,
and to South America, to help Colombia fight "narco-terrorists" and to protect
that nation's vital oil pipelines.
Meanwhile, at home, military budgets
skyrocketed to deal with the "new realities and potential new conflicts." As it
had earlier indicated it would, the Bush administration withdrew from the
landmark ABM arms control treaty and began construction of missile defense
facilities. It provided new funds for the militarization of outer space (dubbed
"Full Spectrum Dominance"), and the development of "non-lethal" biochemical
weapons. Pentagon technicians, led by another convicted Iran-Contra figure, John
Poindexter, began the development of Internet data-mining and monitoring
technology (which, despite some recent congressional restrictions, continues
And the U.S. announced a new nuclear
strategy, including the willingness to use tactical nuclear weapons - a move
supported by the Republican-led House of Representatives, which approved
Pentagon plans to develop the bunker-buster nukes specifically recommended by
PNAC. And just this month, Rumsfeld told Congress that he has asked the
president for a special waiver that will allow American forces to use non-lethal
chemical arms in subduing enemy armies - and enemy populations. The
long-standing international treaties banning combat use of chemical weapons have
"tangled us up so badly," Rumsfeld testified.
Finally, much of the PNAC philosophy
was enshrined as official U.S. policy last September when Bush proclaimed a new
National Security Strategy. Bush even adopted some of the same language found in
the PNAC reports. He stated that no global rival would be allowed even the "hope
of surpassing or equaling the power of the United States" and pledged that
America would maintain its "global leadership" through "the unparalleled
strength of the United States armed forces and their forward presence" around
Bush pledged the United States to
PNAC's cherished principle of preemptive war, saying the nation will act not
only against imminent threats but also "against emerging threats before they are
fully formed." Bush called this "the path of action - the only path to peace and
security." He declared that America would use its power of global leadership to
promote the "single sustainable model of national success" - a free enterprise
system that Bush describes in some detail, including low taxes, little
government regulation of business, and open markets for international investors.
The existence of PNAC and its
influence on the Bush administration is not some sinister conspiracy theory. It
follows a pattern frequently seen in American history: A group of like-minded
people band together in think tanks, foundations, universities, and other
institutions, where they lay out their vision for America's future. And when
they at last have access to the levers of power, they try to make that vision a
reality. In that sense, the PNAC group is not so different from the academics
and activists behind Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs, for example.
What is different now is that the
Sept. 11 attacks have given this particular group an unprecedented amount of
political capital - not to mention cold, hard federal cash - to put their
long-held dreams into practice, virtually without opposition. What is also
different is the essential goal of that vision: the establishment of what might
almost amount to an American empire.
This empire would be different from
the old Roman or British models, of course. It would not entail direct
occupation of foreign lands, but instead offer paternal protection and guidance
- albeit backed up with strategically plaaced military bases and "temporary
access arrangements" for the inevitable "constabulatory duties" required to
enforce PNAC's longed-for "Pax Americana."
However, the intent is not conquest
or plunder, but the chance to bring "the single sustainable model of national
success" to all the world, to set people, and their markets, free - as long as
no "regional or global challenges to America's leadership" arise, of course.
But there will be costs to taking up
what Thomas Donnelly, the principal author of the PNAC blueprint, calls "the
free man's burden." Donnelly, a former journalist and legislative aide, wrote in
the journal Foreign Affairs last year that America should look to its "imperial
past" as a guide to its future.
Reviewing "The Savage Wars of Peace,"
a pro-American dominance book by journalist Max Boot, Donnelly cites approvingly
the "pacification" of the Philippines by American forces in 1898-1900, in which
at least 100,000 Filipinos were killed in a bid for independence. He also points
to the U.S. Army's success in subduing the Native American tribes in a series of
small wars, and, closer to our time, the efficient "constabulatory operation" in
Panama, which was invaded by the first President Bush in 1989.
Similar "savage wars of peace" -
pacifications, counterinsurgencies, police actions, invasions - will be required
to maintain American dominance, says Donnelly.
And here too, George W. Bush has
clearly echoed the thinking of the PNAC members who now surround him in the
White House. Speaking at a Republican fund-raiser last August, the president
seemed keenly aware of the heavy price in blood and treasure the nation will
have to pay to maintain its imperium in the New American Century:
"There's no telling how many wars it
will take to secure freedom in the homeland."
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