by Ismael Hossein-Zadeh | November-December 2003
UNDER THE INFLUENCE of a cabal of the so-called neoconservatives, the Bush Administration openly embarked on an ambitious project to recast the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East – and perhaps beyond. Not only has this created insecurity and turbulence in the Middle East, it has also thrown most of the post-World War II international alliances, treaties, and institutions into disarray and confusion.
The relentless mobilization for war and militarism has also contributed to the undermining of both civil liberties and economic conditions of the overwhelming majority of the American people. While arms manufacturers are showered with massive amounts of tax dollars, nothing effective is done to stem the rising tide of unemployment and economic insecurity for the poor and working people.
The disproportionate allocation of resources in favor of arms industries is directly contributing to the undermining of both physical infrastructure (such as roads, bridges and ports) and soft/social infrastructure such as health care, education and nutrition.
Under a carefully orchestrated war atmosphere, and under the guise of a fiscal stimulus package, a huge capital-friendly tax cut is proposed that will drastically redistribute national income/resources in favor of the wealthy. Millions of Americans have witnessed their retirement savings disappear by the bear and corrupt market, and more than a million filed for bankruptcy last year alone.
Unsurprisingly, then, despite the somewhat artificial and somewhat coerced patriotism, many Americans are worried about their economic situation and, like many people in other parts of the world, anxious about international relations and world peace and stability.
What makes the foreign policy projections of the Bush Administration’s team of neoconservatives particularly dangerous is their self-righteous sense of being on a mission; hence their impatience in dealing with complex situations, their intolerance for discussion, debate and dissent, and their tendency to opt for pre<->emptive/adventurous shortcuts.
This strategy of Washington’s war-making cabal of neoconservatives in constantly contriving new external enemies seems to be derived from the political philosophy of H.L. Mencken, who maintained: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”(1)
Thus, for example, in the face of legitimate questions about the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Bush administration hurriedly invaded the country in an attempt to preempt further questions and/or a national debate on the issue. Likewise, in the wake of death and destruction in Iraq, and in the face of mounting economic problems at home, they are threatening war against Iran, Syria and other countries.
The Administration’s war juggernaut seems to be following the logic of the proverbial bicyclist who has to keep riding forward or else he will fall over; that is, embarking on new adventures and creating new problems as a way of dealing with the existing/old ones!
What then lies behind the Administration’s tendency toward a permanent state of war – pursued in the name of “preemption,” “regime change” and “war on terrorism”? Official explanations such as weapons of mass destruction, Saddam’s threat to the United States – or his connection to Al Qaeda, never actually claimed but cleverly hinted by U.S. officials – can now easily be dispensed with as flimsy pretexts for the invasion of Iraq.
Critics have pointed to a number of driving forces/factors to war. An obvious factor is said to be the President’s political need to maintain his 9/11-induced strong status as Commander-in-Chief, and his need for re-election on security/defense grounds. A second hypothesis attributes the Administration’s drive to war to its desire to divert attention from corporate scandal and economic recession.
Expansion of the American empire is offered as a third explanation. Control of the major sources of oil constitutes a widely cited fourth factor in the administration’s drive to war.
Whatever the contributory impact of these factors, they are not, in my view, the major driving forces behind the Administrations war machine. The Administration’s war juggernaut, rather, seems to be driven by an alliance/axis of two other forces: the Military-Industrial Complex and the hard-line Zionist proponents of a “Greater Israel” in the “Promised Land.”(2)
As I shall explain shortly, both of these forces perceive their interests better served by fomenting war and tension in the Middle East region. It is this convergence of interests on war and convulsion in the region that lies behind the current alliance of these two powerful forces.
This alliance is represented by a cabal of closely connected individuals who are firmly ensconced in the Pentagon. They also hold powerful positions within the National Security Council, the White House, the Congress and, to a lesser extent, the State Department. Not all hold official positions in the government apparatus. They also work within and through various lobbying think tanks, unofficial interest groups, consulting/research institutes, and the media.
Some of the well-known figures of what I call “the cabal” are Donald Rumsfeld (Secretary of Defense), Paul Wolfowitz (Under Secretary of Defense), Richard Cheney (Vice President), Richard Perle (Defense Policy Board), Douglas Feith (Defense Dept.), James Woolsey (former Director of Central Intelligence), David Wurmser (State Dept.), William Kristol (Editor, The Weekly Standard), Michael Ledeen (Oliver North’s Iran/contra liaison with the Israelis), Elliott Abrams (National Security Council), Lewis Libby (Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff), Fred Ikle (Defense Policy Board), Zalmay Khalilzad (White House), David Wurmser (State Department), Dov Zakheim (Defense Department), Peter Rodman (Defense Department), Richard Armitage (State Department), Norman Podhoretz (well-known doyen of the neoconservatives), David Frum (President Bush’s speech writer), John Bolton (State Department), Frank Gaffney (Director, Center for Security Policy), Joshua Muravchik (American Enterprise Institute), Martin Peretz (editor-in-chief, The New Republic), Leon Wieseltier (The New Republic), and former Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.).
The number of the publicly known think tanks through which the Alliance operate include The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Project for the New American Century (PNAC), Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Hudson Institute, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Middle East Forum, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and Center for Security Policy (CSP).
Some of the well-known publications that support, formulate, and propagate the views of the Cabal are: The Weekly Standard, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, National Review and the Washington Times.
Role of the Military-Industrial Complex
Because I have dealt with the role of the Military-Industrial Complex in the Bush Administration’s drive to war in an earlier article, I shall be brief here. (That earlier article, “Behind the Drive to War: Bush’s Escalating Military Budget,” can be viewed at: http://www.counterpunch.org/zadeh1025.html, and a version appears in Against the Current 102.)
My brief discussion of the issue here consists largely of excerpts and paraphrases from that earlier article. The theory behind the military industries’ tendency to war is straightforward: peace is simply not good for the business of these industries. War, by contrast, means good business; not only in terms of production and/or sales in general but also in terms of the industry’s appropriation of a big chunk of the nation’s tax dollars.
Excluding the elusive costs of the military adventure in Iraq, the official Pentagon budget for the fiscal year 2004 will amount to nearly $400 billion, the highest item in the Federal budget. Officially, military spending is the second highest item in the Federal budget after Social Security payments. But Social Security is a self-financing trust fund. So, in reality, military spending is the highest budget item.
In fact, if the social security trust fund is excluded from the Federal budget, as it should be, the military budget will be more than one-third of the entire Federal budget. President Eisenhower’s warning near the end of his second term against the potential dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex seems to have been prompted largely by this intrinsic tendency of the Complex towards war and militarism.
Of course, tendencies to build bureaucratic empires have always existed in the ranks of military hierarchies. By itself, this is not what makes the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex more dangerous than the military powers of the past empires. What makes it more dangerous is the “Industrial” part of the Complex.
In contrast to the United States’ military industry, arms industries of the past empires were not subject to capitalist market imperatives. Furthermore, those industries were often owned and operated by imperial governments, not by market-driven private corporations. Consequently, as a rule, arms production was dictated by war requirements, not by market or profit imperatives, which is often the case with today’s U.S. arms industry.
The fact that powerful interests within the Military-Industrial Complex derive “war dividends” from international conflicts explains why representatives of the Complex have almost always reacted negatively to discussions of international cooperation and detente (tension reduction). Thus, for example, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Korean War and “Communist threat” were used as pretexts to overrule those who called for limits on military spending following the end of the World War.
Representatives of the Military-Industrial Complex, disproportionately ensconced in the State and Defense Departments, succeeded in having President Truman embark on his famous overhaul of the U.S. foreign policy, which drastically increased the Pentagon budget and expanded the military-industrial establishment.
Likewise, in the face of the 1970s’ tension-reducing negotiations with the Soviet Union, representatives of the Complex rallied around Cold Warrior think tanks such as the “Committee on the Present Danger” and successfully sabotaged those discussions. Instead, once again they managed to reinforce the relatively weakened tensions with the Soviet Union to such new heights that the 1980s came to be known as the Second Cold War – hence the dramatic “rearming of America,” as President Reagan put it.
Similarly, when the collapse of the Soviet system and the subsequent discussions of “peace dividends” in the United States threatened the interests of the Military-Industrial Complex, representatives of the Complex invented the “threat of rogue states to our national interests,” and successfully substituted it for the “threat of communism” of the Cold War era – thereby, once more, averting efforts at cutting the military spending. They also moved swiftly to exploit regional tensions and perhaps instigate certain states to react in a manner that would make the application of the term “rogue” to such states plausible. Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, was the first to fall into this trap.(3)
Thus, long before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, beneficiaries of war dividends were searching for “rogue states” and other pretexts to justify and further expand the Pentagon budget. The needs of these beneficiaries of “war dividends” for international convulsions helps explain why they viewed the monstrous attacks of 9/11 as an opportunity for remilitarization.
These attacks were treated not as crimes, which they actually were, but as war on America. Once it was thus established that the United States was “at war,” military buildup followed logically. What is more, President Bush and his circle of war-making advisors have made their declared war on terrorism open-ended and permanent.
It is open-ended because the President’s close advisors seems to have no difficulty finding terrorism by definition; that is, “by deciding unilaterally what actions around the world constitute terrorism,” or by arbitrarily classifying certain countries as “supporters of terrorism,” as Bill Christison, retired CIA advisor, put it.(4) Justification of war has never been made so simple, requiring merely the fancy of the beneficiaries of “war dividends.”
The Role of Militant Zionism
Just as the beneficiaries of war dividends view international peace and stability inimical to their interests, so too the hard-line Zionists perceive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors perilous to their goal of gaining control over the promised “Land of Israel.”
The reason for this fear of peace is that, according to a number of United Nations resolutions, peace would mean Israel’s return to its pre-1967 borders; that is, withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But because proponents of greater Israel are unwilling to withdraw from these territories, they are therefore afraid of peace.
Hence their continued efforts at sabotaging peace negotiations, including the heinous crime of assassinating the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for having signed the Oslo Peace Accord with Palestinians. By the same token, these proponents view war and convulsion (or as David Ben-Gurion, one of the key founders of the State of Israel, put it, “revolutionary atmosphere”) as opportunities that are conducive to the expulsion of Palestinians, to the territorial recasting of the region, and to the expansion of Israel’s territory.
This judgment is based neither on theory, nor on conjecture, nor on simple logic. It is based on the well-known Zionist philosophy of establishing a Jewish state in the “Promised Land.” As a leading journalist and historian in Israel, Tom Segev, puts it:
“The idea of transfer [of Palestinians from their land] had accompanied the Zionist movement from its very beginnings, first appearing in Theodore Herzl’s diary. In practice, the Zionists began executing a mini-transfer from the time they began purchasing the land and evacuating the Arab tenants ... ‘Disappearing’ the Arabs lay at the heart of the Zionist dream, and was also a necessary condition of its existence . . .With few exceptions, none of the Zionists disputed the desirability of forced transfer – or its morality.”(5)
Because the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Palestine were not Jewish but Muslim and Christian Arabs, the question that faced the planners of a Jewish state in Palestine was, therefore, how to bring about the necessary removal of Palestinians from their land. Obviously, expulsions could not be brought about during normal, peaceful times; war and application of force were deemed necessary.
But launching war and applying force in the name of expulsions would be politically disastrous. Rather, any opportunity afforded by wars in the region was to be exploited. David Ben-Gurion explained the importance of the convulsive social circumstances to the objective of expelling the Palestinians and expanding the Jewish territory in these words: “What is inconceivable in normal times is possible in revolutionary times; and if at this time the opportunity is missed and what is possible in such great hours is not carried out – a whole world is lost.”(6)
The “great hours” arrived in the 1948 war, under whose cover they managed to expel 750,000 Palestinians (more than 80 percent of the indigenous population), and thus achieve “an overwhelmingly Jewish state.”(7) But while the state that was thus created achieved the objective of “overwhelmingly Jewish population,” it fell short of achieving the second major goal of militant Zionist planners: capturing the entire Palestine, the “Land of Israel,” from Jordan to the Mediterranean. It remained for another war, the 1967 war, to gain control of additional land, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Occupation of additional land, however, could not this time be accompanied by commensurate expulsion of its inhabitants. (About 30,000 Palestinians were expelled in 1967, compared to hundreds of thousands in 1948.) Additional territory, therefore, also meant an additional dilemma: the so-called “demographic problem.” The non-Jewish inhabitants of the occupied territories, combined with their higher rates of population growth, were viewed as a long-term threat to the ideal of “overwhelmingly Jewish state of Israel.”
Years of wrenching debate over how to resolve this “dilemma” led (by the 1980s) to a major fissure in the ranks of the Israeli leaders. The realist faction, headed by the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his co-thinkers, gradually became convinced that the goal of capturing the entire Palestine based on the overwhelmingly Jewish population was unattainable.
The time had arrived in their view for Israel to consider the “land-for-security” proposals, along with the underlying ideas of two independent, side-by-side states of Israel and Palestine. This line of thinking eventually became the basis for the so-called Oslo Peace Accord between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
The hard-line proponents of “Greater Israel” such as Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, by contrast, insisted on redoubling the “necessary” efforts to achieve the goal of capturing the “Land of Israel.” They acknowledged that, for the time being, certain conditions (the important friendly relations between the United States and a number of Arab states, the large Palestinian population in the occupied territories, and world public opinion) were not favorable to achieving this goal.
But they argued that some of those conditions could be changed, including geographic boundaries and territorial configurations of a number of countries in the region. Specifically, the hard-liners called for Israel to bring about the dissolution and fragmentation of the Arab states into a mosaic of ethnic groupings. This had been Ariel Sharon’s vision in planning the Israeli invasion of Lebanon as far back as 1982.
Thinking along those lines, Sharon stated on March 24, 1988, that if the Palestinian uprising continued, Israel would have to make war on her Arab neighbors. The war, he hinted, would “provide the circumstances” for a massive removal of the Palestinian population from the West Bank and Gaza and even from inside Israel proper. This implication is an unmistakable revival of David Ben-Gurion’s view that “revolutionary times” provide opportunities for population transfer from the “Land of Israel.”
USSR’s Demise and the Unholy Alliance
The collapse of the Soviet Union removed a major obstacle to that plan. As long as the Soviet Union existed as the countervailing world power to the United States, when the world in general and the Middle East region in particular were divided into East-West blocs of influence, the United States simply would not abandon or antagonize its Arab/Muslim allies in the region by supporting the Zionist plan of another overhaul of the geography of the region.
In pursuit of their goal of establishing a Jewish state in the “Land of Israel,” the Zionist leaders have always tried to portray their interests as coinciding with those of the United States. By the same token, they have also always tried to portray the opponents of their expansionist policies as enemies of the United States. But as just noted, such attempts at manipulation were not fully effective during the Cold War atmosphere.
In the aftermath of the Cold War era, however, those schemes began to resonate in a new way. This was not because the Zionist strategists suddenly became smarter, or the U.S. policy makers in the region suddenly became more susceptible to Zionist influence. Rather, the interests of the Military-Industrial Complex now converged with those of the hard-line Zionists in a continuing convulsion in the region.
This analysis contradicts the view/judgment that the U.S.-Israeli relationship represents a case of “tail wagging the dog;” i.e. that the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is shaped by the Israeli/Zionist leaders. While, no doubt, the powerful Jewish (and religious right) lobby exerts considerable influence over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, the efficacy and the extent of that influence depends, ultimately, on the real economic and geopolitical interests of the U.S. foreign policy makers. In other words, U.S. foreign policy makers would go along with the demands of the Zionist lobby only if such demands also serve the interests of those policy makers (not necessarily the interests of the American people, or U.S. “national interests” in general).
In their search for substitutes for the Soviet threat of the Cold War era, proponents of U.S. militarism found a strong, well-established network of politically savvy allies: militant Zionists. Because the interests of these two powerful groups converged over fomenting war and convulsion in the Middle East, an ominously potent alliance was forged between them – ominous, because the mighty U.S. war machine was now supplemented by the Zionist lobby’s unrivaled public relations capabilities.(8)
The hawkish warmongers in and around the Bush Administration who have come to be known as neoconservatives serve the interests of this alliance. “Rogue states,” “war on terrorism,” “preemptive strikes” and “regime change” have been some of the politically useful products of the creative minds of the spin-doctors of the unholy alliance.
Not surprisingly, soon after the demise of the Soviet Union, representatives of the alliance embarked on a joint offensive against a whole host of long-established international institutions and conventions, arms control treaties and, most importantly, the Oslo peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. In place of those long-established multilateral treaties and conventions, they now called for American unilateralism and/or militarism, along with an overhaul of the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East.
The alliance promotes its views and plans through an extended but tightly knit web of interlocking and/or overlapping network of influential think-tanks and lobbying entities, mentioned earlier in this essay. Some of these lobbying think tanks and their major political players have direct Israeli connections. For example, Colonel Yigal Carmon, formerly of Israeli military intelligence, was a co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute.
The other co-founder of MEMRI, Meyrav Wurmser, was a member of the Hudson Institute, while her husband, David Wurmser, headed the Middle East Studies Department of the American Enterprise Institute. Richard Perle, a major player in the neoconservative movement, was both a “resident fellow” at the American Enterprise Institute and a trustee of the Hudson Institute.(9)
Focusing on two of these influential think-tanks, JINSA and CPS, Jason Vest (reporting for The Nation) effectively unmasks “the close links among the two organizations, right-wing politicians, arms merchants, military men, Jewish billionaires, and Republican administrations.”(10)
“A Strategy for Securing the Realm”
In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War era, these think-tanks and their neo-conservative spin-doctors published a number of policy papers which clearly and forcefully advocated plans for border change, demo<->graphic change and regime change in the Middle East.
For example, in 1996 an influential Israeli think tank, Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, sponsored and published a policy document, titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” which argued that the Netanyahu government should “make a clean break” with the Oslo peace process and reassert Israel’s claim to the West Bank and Gaza.
It presented a plan whereby Israel would “shape its strategic environment,” beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad, to serve as a first step toward eliminating the anti-Israeli governments of Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iran.(11)
The document, intended as a political road map for the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu, was prepared by a “Study Group” which included Richard Perle (American Enterprise Institute, Study Group Leader), James Colbert (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), Douglas Feith (Feith and Zell Associates), Robert Loewenberg (President, Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies), David Wurmser (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies), and Meyrav Wurmser (Johns Hopkins University).
The dual role that a number of these individuals play is remarkable in serving as advisor both to the Likud party/government and to President Bush’s Administration (Perle is now a member of the Defense Policy Board; Feith is an Assistant Secretary of Defense; and Wurmser is special assistant to State Department chief arms control negotiator John Bolton).
In an “Open Letter to the President” (Clinton), dated 19 February 1998, a number of these lobbyists, along with a number of their cohorts in the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, recommended “a comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime.” The letter further proposed: “It will not be easy – and the course of action we favor is not without its problems and perils. But we believe the vital national interests of our country require the United States to [adopt such a strategy].”(12)
Similarities between the recommendations made in this 1998 letter to President Clinton and those made in the 1996 report to the Likud party/government of Benjamin Netanyahu are unmistakable. The only difference is that whereas the 1996 report stressed the “national interests” of Israel the 1998 letter stressed the “national interests” of the United States.
Contrary to the neoconservatives’ claims, their belligerent policies serve neither the interests of the ordinary citizens of the United States, nor of the Jewish people. They serve primarily the interests of the U.S. arms manufacturers and the interests of militant Zionism – as perceived by its (misguided) leaders.
In September 2000 – the same month, coincidentally, when Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem sparked the Second Intifada and the subsequent descent into chaos – another think-tank of the warmongering cabal of neoconservatives, Project for the New American Century (PNAC), issued a report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century.”
This report explicitly projected an imperial role for the United States the world over, and specifically an expanded U.S. presence in the Middle East region, using the claims against Saddam Hussein’s regime as a pretext: “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.”(13)
This sample evidence clearly shows that the Military-Industrial-Zionist alliance had intended to invade Iraq and recast the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East long before the 9/11 atrocities. Indeed, evidence indicates that, aside from its triggering effect, those atrocities had very little to do with such plans.
Not surprisingly, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, representatives of the Military-Industrial-Zionist alliance began calling for war not just against Osama Bin Laden and/or Al Qaeda but also against a number of countries that allegedly supported or harbored terrorism. Thus on September 20, 2001 the neoconservative strategists of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) sent a letter to President Bush arguing that the “war on terrorism” must also include punitive measures against Iraq, Iran, and Syria:
It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack [of 9/11] on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism . . . . We believe the administration should demand that Iran and Syria immediately cease all military, financial, and political support for Hezbollah and its operations. Should Iran and Syria refuse to comply, the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation against these known state sponsors of terrorism.(14)
In the 29 October 2002 issue of the Weekly Standard, William Kristol and Robert Kagan, two of the leading figures of the neoconservative cabal, reveal more of the plan of changing regimes and reestablishing a new world order:
When all is said and done, the conflict in Afghanistan will be to the war on terrorism what the North Africa campaign was to World War II: an essential beginning on the path to victory. But compared with what looms over the horizon – a wide-ranging war in locales from Central Asia to the Middle East and, unfortunately, back again to the United States – Afghanistan will prove but an opening battle . . . But this war will not end in Afghanistan. It is going to spread and engulf a number of countries in conflicts of varying intensity. It could well require the use of American military power in multiple places simultaneously.(15)
This ominous projection of another world war was made more explicit by Eliot Cohen three weeks later in a Wall Street Journal rticle, titled “World War IV”:
“Osama bin Laden’s War?. . . A less palatable but more accurate name is World War IV. The Cold War was World War III . . . The enemy in this war is not ‘terrorism’ . . . but militant Islam. The enemy has an ideology, and an hour spent surfing the Web will give the average citizen at least the kind of insights that he might have found during World Wars II and III by reading ‘Mein Kampf’ or the writings of Lenin, Stalin or Mao.”(16)
Professor Cohen is not alone in this portrayal of radical Islam as “the enemy,” the “threat to Western values,” and the culprit in “the clash of civilizations.” His ideological cohorts in crafting this insidious theory include Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, Samuel Huntington, Charles Krauthammer and a whole host of other co-thinkers.(17)
Defining the President’s Mission
Despite certain concessions to the demands of the neoconservatives, both Presidents Bush Sr. and Clinton stopped short of fully complying with those demands. With the arrival of their candidate Bush Jr. in the White House, however, neoconservative strategists redoubled their efforts. As they competed with the traditional, multilateral approach favored by State Department’s Colin Powell, in order to win the President over to their policy of unilateralism, neoconservative strategists began to define foreign policy issues and objectives in religious, missionary, and mythical terms.
As James P. Pinkerton (of New York Newsday) puts it, the neoconservatives:
“word-creations, such as ‘moral clarity,’ ‘axis of evil’ and ‘Bush Doctrine,’ spread far and wide. These word-weavings were repeated over and over again, in magazines, books and cable news shows. Bush became Winston Churchill, Saddam Hussein became Hitler, the Arabs were ripe for Americanization, and the U.S. military became the sword not only of vengeance, but also of do-gooding and nation-building.”(18)
Not accidentally, the strategy of couching foreign policy in missionary terms worked. As a born-again Christian, and with little patience for nuances and gray areas, the President was energized once he was led to view his international responsibilities as “missions.” The missionary approach was further reinforced by the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
As Stephen Sniegoski put it, “Neoconservatives have presented the September 11 atrocities as a lightning bolt to make President Bush aware of his destiny: destroying the evil of terrorism.” Norman Podhoretz, one of the neoconservative strategists, gleefully describes the “transfigured” President:
A transformed – or, more precisely, a transfigured – George W. Bush appeared before us. In an earlier article . . . I suggested, perhaps presumptuously, that out of the blackness of smoke and fiery death let loose by September 11, a kind of revelation, blazing with a very different fire of its own, lit up the recesses of Bush’s mind and heart and soul. Which is to say that, having previously been unsure as to why he should have been chosen to become President of the United States, George W. Bush now knew that the God to whom, as a born-again Christian, he had earlier committed himself had put him in the Oval Office for a purpose. He had put him there to lead a war against the evil of terrorism.(19)
Having helped define the President’s “mission,” the neoconservative cabal took the most advantage of the thus energized President. By deliberately couching their nefarious objectives in missionary terms, and repeatedly defining their enemies, real or imaginary, in biblical language (“axis of evil, evil-doers, good vs. evil, day of reckoning,” and the like), they had no difficulty getting the President to carry out their agenda, including the invasion of Iraq.
Whether in light of the less-than successful mission in Iraq, along with all the underlying instances of deception, disinformation, and political scandal, the President will continue to (or can) carry out the rest of the neoconservatives’ plan of “World War IV” beyond Iraq remains to be seen.
In summary: Two major forces behind the Bush Administration’s policy of war and mischief in the Middle East are (a) the Military-Industrial Complex, and (b) the Zionist proponents of establishing a Jewish state in the “Land of Israel.” The perceived interests of both of these forces converge on the promotion of war and convulsion in the region. It is this convergence of interests on war that explains the unholy alliance between representatives of these two ominously powerful interest groups.
Militant Zionists, striving to capture the <170>Land of Israel,<170> have always tried to portray opponents of their policies of expulsion and expansion as enemies of the United States, and to thereby get the U.S. military force to fight and/or support their wars of territorial extension. Under the bipolar world of the Cold War era, however, the United States needed its Arab/Muslim “allies” in the Middle East; this meant that, in its support of Israel, the U.S. could not at the time afford to abandon those allies and comply with the Zionist demands of regime and/or border change in the region.
But the collapse of the Soviet system and the end of the Cold War changed this geopolitical scenario. As representatives of the arms industries sought substitutes for the Soviet threat of the Cold war era, they found in radical Islam a plausible candidate, long promoted by a number of theoretical leaders of militant Zionism and their ideological cohorts as a major “threat to Western civilization.”
The interests of militant Zionism in fighting “radical Islam” now converged with those of the U.S. military industries.(20) The cabal of neoconservative warmongers in and around the Bush Administration largely represents this alliance.
What can be done to rein in this dangerously unbridled force?
There is no doubt that the neoconservatives’ adventurous foreign policy is a threat to world peace and stability. There is also no doubt that their policies are also menacing U.S. citizens’ civil liberties, undermining their social safety net programs, curtailing the working people’s rights and opportunities, plundering national resources, and creating a huge fiscal strain.
Equally there is no question that the neoconservatives’ pyrrhic success – so far – in shaping the U.S. foreign policy, including the invasion of Iraq, has benefitted from heavy doses of deception, disinformation, and Machiavellian manipulations. The question, rather, is: How long can the cabal of neoconservatives get away with telling so many lies, committing so much fraud, and doing so much damage – both domestically and internationally?
External/international resistance to the neoconservatives’ adventures will obviously help. But the crucial, restraining opposition has to come from within, that is, from the American people. Such opposition to neoconservatives’ destructive policies is bound to unfold.
There are strong indications that, as Eric Margolis points out, “The longer U.S. forces stay in Iraq, the uglier the guerrilla war will get. And the more Americans will realize they were led into this needless conflict by a [President] manipulated by a cabal of neo-conservatives whose primary loyalty is not to the United States.”(21)
There is hope that as the American people realize that their sons and daughters are losing their lives because some policy makers lied, or that they are losing their jobs and livelihood because their national resources are squandered on the production of the means of destruction, they will demand the kind of accountability that will go some way to make the perpetrators of war and deception pay for their destructive policies.
Notes1. As cited by Carlton Meyer in: http://www.g2mil.com/May2003.htm
2. It is important to distinguish between hard-line/militant and moderate Zionists. While almost all Zionists would say that they dream of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, they greatly differ over what this really means. Generally speaking, two broad approaches have evolved over this issue: the moderate and the hard-line approaches.
Moderate Zionists do not deny the right of non-Jews to live in Palestine. They favor the idea of accommodation and peaceful coexistence with the non-Jewish natives of Palestine, either as a democratic, federal state, or as two independent states. Accordingly, they do not support the idea of forceful occupation of land, expulsion of indigenous people, and the establishment of a Jewish state based on exclusively or overwhelmingly Jewish population. Albert Einstein is the most well-known proponent of this approach.
Hard-line Zionists, by contrast, aim at capturing the “entire Palestine,” the “Promised Land,” stretching from Jordan to the Mediterranean, and establishing a state there based on exclusive or overwhelming majority of Jewish people. Accordingly, they advocate the policy of physical expulsion of the Palestinians from this “Promised Land.” “The iron wall,” a phrase put forward by Vladimir Jabotinsky in the 1920s, as the appropriate policy for militant Zionists to adopt in Palestine, succinctly captures this approach. It is this approach of Zionism, the hard-line approach, that I critique in this essay.
3. Evidence of such a trap surfaced in subsequent U.S. Congressional hearings on the issue. For example, an official message delivered to Saddam Hussein by the U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie on 25 July 1990, just days before the invasion of Kuwait, pointed out: “We have no opinion on . . . conflicts like your border dispute with Kuwait ... Secretary of State James Baker has directed our official spokesman to emphasize this instruction . . . I have direct instructions from the President.” For this and more evidence see, among other sources, International Viewpoint, No. 200, February 18, 1991, 4; Douglas Kelner, The Persian Gulf TV War Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1992; and James Ridgeway (ed.), The March to War, 1991.
4. “The Disastrous Foreign Policies of the United States,” Counterpunch, May 9, 2002: http://www.counterpunch.org/christison0806.html
5. Tom Segev, “One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate” (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000), 404-5; as quoted in Stephen J. Sniegoski, “The War on Iraq: Conceived in Israel,” http://www.thornwalker.com:16080/ditch/snieg_conc1.htm. For a history of Zionist ideas on expulsion, see e.g. Benny Morris, “Righteous Victims” (New York: 1999); Nur Masalha, “Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of ’Transfer’ in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948” (Washington: Institute of Palestine Studies, 1992).
6. Quoted in Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Introduction to German edition (10 July 2002), http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/id127.htm.
7. See Sniegoski, op. cit.
8. For some of the strategies through which the Zionist lobby manipulates the public opinion, especially in the United States, see, for example, http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article1395.shtml.
9. The literature on the neo-conservative think tanks, their family-like close ties, and their relentless scheming to further the interests of the war industries, on the one hand, and those of militant Zionism, on the other, is plentiful. Here is a sample: (a) Stephen J. Sniegoski, op. cit., http://www.thornwalker.com:16080/ditch/snieg_conc.htm; (b) Brian Whitaker, “US think tanks give lessons in foreign policy,” The Guardian, August 19, 2002: http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,777100,00.html; (c) Richard H. Curtis, “Israel’s Lobby Tries to Widen Net Against Terrorism,” “Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,” December 2001: http://www.wrmea.com/archives/december01/0112026.html; and (d) Akiva Eldar, “An Unholy Alliance with the Christian Right: Gary Bauer and Likud,” Counterpunch, April 8, 2003: http://www.counterpunch.org/eldar04092003.html.
10. Jason Vest, “The Men From JINSA and CSP,” The Nation, September 2, 2002: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020902&s=vest&c=1.
11. Sniegoski, <MI>op. cit<D>. The original document, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” can be viewed at: http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm.
12. The signers include many of the same Bush administration advisors and neoconservativbe figures mentioned earlier. See “Open Letter to the President,<170> February 19, 1998, http://www.iraqwatch.org/perspectives/rumsfeld-openletter.htm; Sniegoski, op. cit., http:// www.thornwalker.com:16080/ditch/snieg_conc2.htm; Frank Gaffney, “End Saddam’s Reign of Terror: Better late than never,” National Review Online, February 21, 2002, http://www.nationalreview.com/contributors/gaffney022101.shtml.
13. The sponsors of the report included Richard Cheney (Vice President), Donald Rumsfeld (secretary of defense), Paul Wolfowitz (deputy secretary of defense), and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, was also a co-author of the report. See Sniegoski, op. cit.
14. The letter’s signatories included William Kristol, Gary Bauer, Eliot Cohen, Midge Decter, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Eli Jacobs, Michael Joyce, Donald Kagan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Richard Perle, Martin Peretz, Norman Podhoretz, Randy Scheunemann, Stephen J. Solarz, Leon Wieseltier and Marshall Wittmann. William Kristol & others, “Toward a Comprehensive Strategy: A Letter to the President,” September 20, 2001, http://www.nationalreview.com/document/document092101b.shtml; also in: “Project for the New American Century,” http://www.newamericancentury.org/Bushletter.htm.
15. Robert Kagan and William Kristol, “The Gathering Storm,” The Weekly Standard, October 29, 2002: http://theweeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/000/384thhhq.asp.
16. Eliot A. Cohen, “World War IV,” The Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2001, >http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=95001493. After arguing that “the enemy in this war is not terrorism . . . but militant Islam,” Professor Cohen goes on to suggest that the first battle in this war should start with Iraq: “Iraq is the obvious candidate.” Even if we assume that Professor Cohen is right in saying that “the enemy is militant Islam,” it is not clear why, then, he suggests that the war against militant Islam, “World War IV,” should start with Iraq. Not much love was lost between the secular Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and militant Islam. Nor have ties been found between Saddam’s regime and Al Qaeda.
17. See, for example, (a) Bernard Lewis, “What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response,” Oxford/New York 2001; (b) Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” New York 1997; (c) Charles Krauthammer, Interview, “Middle East Quarterly,” December 1994; and (d) Daniel Pipes, “There are no Moderates: Dealing with Fundamentalist Islam, The National Interest,” Fall 1995.
18. James P. Pinkerton, “The Iraq War, or America Betrayed,“ ny-Newsday.com, July 15, 2003: http://www.nynewsday.com/news/nationworld/nation/ny-vppin153372005jul15.story.
19. Sniegoski, op. cit. Norman Podhoretz, “In Praise of the Bush Doctrine,” Commentary, in http://www.ourjerusalem.com/opinion/story/opinion20020904a.html.
20. For a sample of views expressed within the neoconservative handlers of the President’s foreign policy in favor of “World War IV” see, for examples, (a) Justin Raimondo, “World War IV: Has it arrived?” in http://www.antiwar.com/justin/j040403.html; (b) Gail Russell Chaddock, “Tracing the Roots of America’s war in Iraq: `Neocon’ architects of a muscular US policy eye more regime changes in the region,” in http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0409/p03s01-uspo.html; (c) Herald Tribune, Special to World Tribune.com, Friday, April 4, 2003, “What’s Next? U.S. Set Sights on Iran, North Korea,” in http:// 126.96.36.199/2003/ss_wmd_04_03.html.
21. Eric Margolis, “U.S. Falling Into Bin Laden’s Trap,” Toronto Sun, July 6, 2003, in http://www.canoe.ca/Columnists/margolis_jul6.html.
ATC 107, November-December 2003