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March 25, 2004

Was It All Planned? Iraq and Empire-Builders

by Jon Basil Utley

"It all began when the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989, effectively ending the Cold War and prompting the Pentagon to undertake a search for a new set of principles, in part to prevent Congress, then controlled by the Democrats, from slashing the defense budget. The key participants were Cheney, Wolfowitz and Colin Powell – the three men worked closely together on forestalling cutbacks." Zalmay Khalizad, a Wolfowitz aide, authored the 12 year old Defense Planning Guidance Memo. Cheney was most pleased with it, saying "You've discovered a new rationale for our role in the world!" See details and more in Washington Post Report (3/7) by James Mann's from his forthcoming book, Rise of the Vulcans.

The original document, leaked to the New York Times, had "stressed the need to prevent the emergence of any rival (even regional) power," the so called, Wolfowitz Doctrine. The document had created a furor in Japan and Europe as other nations were "less than thrilled at the notion that the United States might try to limit their military and economic power." (Ibid). It encouraged China (as we have since learned) to restart its long dormant strategic missile projects. "Presidential candidate Bill Clinton's spokesman said that the document represented an effort by the Pentagon "to find an excuse for big budgets instead of downsizing." (ibid)

Khalizad (who is now U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan) had his memo downsized by Wolfowitz top aide, I Lewis "Scooter" Libby (now Cheney's top aide) who made "a subtle, crucial change." (ibid). The revised draft said "America had to be ready to protect its critical interests abroad "with only limited additional help, or even alone, if necessary." The new version didn't mention preemption specifically, but noted that "sometimes a measured military action can contain or preclude a crisis." Another neocon, John Bolton, who now is Asst. Secretary of State for International Organizations, added, "It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so – because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States." Insight magazine, 1999

However, there is a major gap in Mann's article. Let's go back to the first Iraq war in 1991. Mann's information is the missing link from earlier strange goings on. When Saddam first invaded Kuwait there were unexplained reports about how U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie had told him, "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts such as your dispute with Kuwait" and "Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction ... that Kuwait is not associated with America." This was backed up by testimony to Congress by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly that Washington was not taking sides in the dispute between Kuwait and Iraq. Could Saddam have been played a sucker? He knew little of the outside world and had the megalomania of most dictators and didn't understand the imperialist elements in Washington.

Then there was another big lie, that Iraqi troops were massed on the Saudi border, ready to invade. This, we may forget, was the original rationale for sending U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia, to defend it from possible Iraqi invasion. Well, the "evidence" was satellite photos which showed the massed Iraqi army. Washington kept saying they would be released, but kept finding reasons not to. Now we know it was another lie, researched by the Christian Science Monitor.

Leaving Iraq festering in misery for 10 years, leaving 10,000 troops based in Saudi Arabia to aggravate fundamentalist Muslims, and undermining the Palestine Israel Oslo peace accords (see Pat Buchanan's "Have the Neocons Killed a Presidency?") – it couldn't have been planned better to engender the monstrous enemy we now have – Islamist terrorists hidden in a sea of a billion Muslims. But it's what the War Party wanted, a justification for massive military budgets and grounds for establishing an American world empire to "protect" us from enemies that we ourselves helped create. Most Americans were blithely unaware of the hatred being generated against America by Washington's policies, nor that a million Iraqis died from disease and starvation during the U.S. imposed blockade.

So this was the international scene when 9/11 struck. Then the move became to transfer American animus towards Iraq. Last Sunday on 60 Minutes Richard Clarke, former Counter-terrorism Co-ordinator, corroborated former Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill's accusations that the Administration was searching for an excuse to invade Iraq before 9/11, fabricating evidence to justify empire in the Middle East and air bases in Central Asia. Clarke's book argues that "The rapid shift of focus to Saddam Hussein, launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide." This is also the view of most Europeans.

With the collapse of Soviet communism, there were only two foreseeable potential enemies worthy of America's might, China or the Muslim world. Most of us forget that before 9/11 the neoconservatives were working hard to foster military confrontation with China, to justify massive new defense spending. Even before 9/11 the neocon flagship Weekly Standard, a major outlet for China confrontation views, was urging a massive $100 billion increases in the Defense Budget (instead of tax cuts, as one editorial urged).

Finally it should be noted that those who benefit from war or the threat of war are many more than just the old military-industrial complex, warned about by former President Eisenhower. Indeed remember that most of the uniformed military opposed the attack on Iraq. It was pro-war neocon civilians who took over Pentagon policy making positions. Today it encompasses most key congressional districts (weapons sub-contracts are distributed widely into key congressional districts). An important new group is composed of many Think Tank intellectuals and leading elements of the Christian Right, the Armageddonites. The media itself prospers as millions of viewers stay glued to their televisions; whole new bureaucracies are created such as Homeland Defense. Guards, inspectors, police, and other government officials all become more vital and are paid commensurately, often able to retire after 20 years work with pensions reaching over a million dollars. We call them all The Beltway Bombers.

And so we now have what they sought. Massive multi hundred billion dollar increases in military spending and military bases all over the world. No doubt the War Party did not seek that America be so isolated nor our interests really be threatened as they are today, but then wars always lead in unanticipated directions, that is a reason that real statesmen try to avoid starting them.

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  • Jon Basil Utley is associate publisher of The American Conservative and Robert A. Taft Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. A former correspondent for Knight Ridder in South America, Utley has written for the Harvard Business Review on foreign nationalism and was for 17 years a commentator on the Voice of America. He is director of Americans Against World Empire.

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