Tuesday, January 21, 2003


The empire-reflex has not left the consciousness of governing elites in the US ever since it began its brutal subjugation of the Philippine Republic in 1899. Indeed, the desire for empire has become even more acute with each intervention Washington has sponsored. Though the raiment of justifications used for its interventionism has become more complex and sophisticated, every now and then the imperial arrogance of the US is exposed naked to the global public in all its nastiness.

A year before the fateful 9/11 terrorist attack on the US, an organization seeking to promote “American global leadership” released a report that laid out with astounding clarity the imperial vision of America. Titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” the report noted that the US “is the only superpower, combining preeminent military power, global technological leadership and the world’s largest economy . . . At present, the US faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible.”

The report should be required reading for those who have used the inane slur of “anti-Americanism” with increasing promiscuity when confronted with facts showing how and why US war plans in Iraq are simply reflective of America’s aspirations for oil and empire.

A war for freedom in Iraq? Really?

The US provided the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein the capacity to acquire, develop and use chemical and biological weapons via transactions that in the early eighties were shepherded by a Reagan envoy named Donald Rumsfeld. This is the same Rumsfeld who sits today as George Bush Junior’s secretary of defense and who is at present busy preparing hundreds of thousands of US troops ostensibly to bring “freedom and democracy” to wretched Iraqis.

“We are forced to take military action against Iraq to confront the threat Saddam poses to the free world, in particular America,” says Bush of the premise behind the US buildup for war. True?

Not so, says the report “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” which completely strips the Bush administration of its oft-repeated “noble” intentions on Iraq and the Middle East. Published by the prominent group Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the report states how “the US 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.”

Established in 1997, the PNAC includes on its roster of founding signatories the current US Vice President, Richard Cheney, Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz (now deputy defense secretary), I. Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff), William Bennett (Bush Jr.’s education secretary) and Zalmay Khalilzad (former official of Unocal, the US oil company that negotiated with the Taliban in the ’90s to build a pipeline and the White House’s envoy to post-Taliban Afghanistan).

The Gift and the Curse

The PNAC report appears like a plan drawn up in 2003 to provide ideological scaffolding for America’s impending war on Iraq. Indeed, the announcement of Bush’s war intentions in the opening days of 2003 explicitly stated the primary objective of “the quick takeover of [Iraq’s] oil fields” with “the American military . . . running the country for some time.”

The PNAC report was not published this year or last year, not even in 2001, but in September 2000.

Breathtaking in its brazenness and lucidity, the plan, however, could not be executed because of a vital deficiency. “[T]he process of transformation,” said the PNAC report, “is likely to be a long one absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor.” On September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden gave them this event.

Unfortunately, as the US unwittingly gets slowly sucked into the imperial overreach quagmire, it is not the instance of Pearl Harbor that is increasingly being conjured; the imagery is bearing the likeness more and more of Mogadishu, a sentiment that is virtually echoed today even by sections of the US Establishment.

Bruce Hoffman of the influential US think tank Rand Corp. is worried. “It’s impossible to think something won’t happen,” he says. Last year, we began to see things we only imagined years ago, like a missile attack on [a] passenger airliner . . . . It’s just a matter of time before we’re not as successful or lucky.” This was an echo of the foreboding expressed by another US official who asked and answered his own question: “Can we get through 2003 without some major attack? The odds are against it.”

Looking back at 2002, Hoffman adds that “terrorists’ determination . . . hasn’t flagged or flattened [despite] the greatest worldwide effort ever against terrorism.”

Never mind the CIA appraisal that the not-so-new “war on terror” waged by the US on Afghan soil last year ensured that senior operatives of the al-Qaeda network would be more spread out and thus even more difficult to secure. The war inflicted by the US on Afghanistan managed to kill over 4,000 civilians, not one of whom was named Osama bin Laden. Has anyone asked lately how many more “bin Ladens” were created by that war?

Slaughter: an acceptable consequence?

When the US wages war anew on Iraq, it will likely follow the pattern of the first Gulf War where water treatment plants were bombed directly along with electrical grids. This will immediately knock out the 70 percent of water treatment plants that have no functioning back-up generator. Today at least 40 percent of Iraq’s “drinking water” is contaminated.

We make this example if only to show how the impending US war on Iraq will again target the weakest of Iraqis: the hundreds of thousands of children -- not Saddam -- who will suffer more. According to UN officials, the impact of a new US military campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein would likely be worse than the humanitarian crisis caused by the 1991 Gulf War.

The UN estimates the number of those likely to be put at risk of acute hunger and disease to be 10 million Iraqi civilians, including more than 2 million homeless and refugees. Such numbers have not been known, however, to faze the US government, which has displayed a face of humanity so harrowingly similar to the Israeli mien.

Echoing the sentiments of his commanders and the leaders of his government, an Israeli army officer commented on their deliberate shelling in 1996 of the UN station at Qana, Lebanon, that slaughtered 106 Lebanese refugees who, fleeing from the artillery Israel had directed against them, sought shelter in the UN compound. “It’s a war; in a war these things happen . . . It’s just a bunch of Arabs. Why are you taking it so hard?”

Former general Ehud Barak, who was then Israel’s Prime Minister, dismissed the Qana slaughter as an “unfortunate mistake.”

Does anyone still remember the reaction of Colin Powell (today reinvented as a peacenik) when he was asked 10 years ago if he knew how many Iraqis died in the 1991 Gulf War? To tell you the truth, said Powell, “that is really not a matter I am terribly interested in.”

Downright dirty double standards

Who can blame the good general for such a response? If the only reaction that the Reagan/Bush government gave to the 200,000 Iranians killed during the eighties by Iraqi soldiers using weapons of mass destruction supplied by the US was for the young Saddam to “step up its air war and bombing of Iran,” why should Powell be interested in a mere 130,000 Iraqi civilians who died in the 1991 war?

Israel inevitably rises from any discussion of the Middle East crisis. How can it not be so? Israel -- a state intent on destroying the Palestinian people -- continues to be central to the rage that has for so long been seethed in the Arab world. Israel ultimately bears the heaviest responsibilities for the awesome cruelty of the doomed Palestinians -- a people who will soon enter their 36th year of occupation under Israel. Israel is central to any discussion concerning Iraq and the spate of UN resolutions that Saddam’s regime has been accused of violating.

The UN Resolutions directed at Iraq -- the latest, 1441, Washington shamelessly slavered for -- call for renewed and more intrusive weapons inspections. In its latest regurgitation of its war mantra, Washington warns Iraq that “[e]ven the slightest resistance could constitute the ‘material breach’ of the resolution that triggers war.”

As if to prove its seriousness, the US has sent its warships and troops and conducted its war exercises for all to see. Believers in the US as an objective global dispenser of justice would have exclaimed “What bravery! What righteousness!” their mouths surely agape at the high-tech weaponry, massive aircraft carriers and destroyers and tanks of America.

“That’s what you get, Saddam, for thumbing your nose at the UN!” the believer would have said. Sure. Israel has violated 29 UN resolutions, all of which are supposed to be binding. In May 2000 Israel finally obeyed a UN Resolution -- Security Council Resolution 425 -- which called for the total withdrawal of Israeli forces from Southern Lebanon. This, only after the Hezbollah had exacted from Israeli forces a daily casualty rate so horrific the Israeli public was no longer willing to support the presence of its troops in Lebanon. Israel complied with Resolution 425 a little bit late, however. The resolution was passed in 1978. Did Washington even protest any UN resolution violation of its vile Middle East gendarme, at any point from the issuance of each resolution to the present?

Why does the US feel incredulous when, due to its unquestioning support of Israel, it is accused of being the biggest stumbling block to resolving the Middle East predicament? There was no remonstration from the US when Israel slaughtered the Qana refugees. America continues to block yogurt-making equipment, child vaccines, dialysis equipment, and printing equipment for school textbooks in Iraq for the absurd reason that these could be “potential military dual use materials and weapons of mass destruction.” But the US -- over its usual diplomatic and financial support -- will send Patriot missiles and 600 troops to Israel this January in fact, just like in 1991.

UN resolution violations = war?

The air is thick today in the mainstream media about war, weapons inspections, UN resolution violations, geopolitics and “regime change.”

The line of the US that violations of UN resolutions are tantamount to war is accepted as fact rather than utter foolishness. If this equation were true, there would be war against Morocco; its occupation of the Western Sahara violated a Security Council resolution. What resolutions were violated by Indonesia when it occupied of East Timor?

What about Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus, which has been condemned by the Security Council? The text of the UN Charter, the supreme instrument of international law, is the one most often neglected today. It states that all nonmilitary solutions must be used before war can even be considered.

At the time the UN inspection team in Iraq left in 1998, the weapons inspectors had said that up to 95 percent of what they were looking for had already been found and accounted for. This is not a measly amount, yet it also states that the job is still not done. Why did the inspection team leave Iraq then? Today, the mainstream US media say Saddam had kicked out the UN inspectors in 1998.

The same media, however, reported in 1998 that it was the UN that ordered the inspectors to leave Iraq because the US government then had warned the UN that they intended to bomb Iraq and did not wish to kill UN inspectors. Recall the UN inspection team assessment in 1998 -- 5 percent of inspection work remained.

Is it anti-American to ask whether the US seriously wants an unsullied implementation of the inspection process or just war as a prelude of its occupation of Iraq?

Somehow, the PNAC vision resonates anew in the answer.

Regime change roulette

What about the US-articulated basis for “regime change” in Iraq? Few things can match the ludicrousness of this idea.

What happens when nuclear India decides it is time for “regime change” in Pakistan? Time to deploy the nuke warheads to the border, put the Indian troops on red alert and hope for regime change in Islamabad? So Israel decides one of these days to openly aim the 400 nuclear bombs in its armory and tell Syria “It’s time for a regime change”? What if Damascus does a similar buildup but does so ahead of Israel and makes the case more eloquently with the massing of Syrian troops that “It is time for regime change in Tel Aviv”?

All these -- in furtherance of the US “threat of war” doctrine -- is supposed to contribute to world peace?

And yet even more contradictions. North Korea, Iraq’s support cohort in what Bush calls “axis of evil,” announces it has nuclear weapons. Washington’s immediate response is that it will confront the “evil regime” in Asia with diplomacy and the aid carrot even as it threatens Iraqis with annihilation due to the specter, not the actuality, of its possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Maybe it’s because Dear Leader does not sport the same bushy mustache of Saddam? Maybe it’s the wild hairdo? Or maybe it’s just because North Korea does not have oil? Ah, but if I insist it’s about oil, I’m likely to be accused of anti-Americanism.

Promoter or enemy of peace?

Considered to carry one of the more acute concentrations of redneck patriots, the US defense establishment and the weapons industry continue to receive a gargantuan share of the US budget. This year, total military spending is pegged at $396.1 billion, with a further $38 billion to be spent on “homeland defense.” Washington predicts that the war budget will increase by 30 percent by 2007, equivalent to over $451 billion. According to the Federation of American Scientists (FASI), the US weapons industry is second only to the US agriculture industry in its receipt of US taxpayer subsidies, receiving over $10 billion a year.

Should US citizens -- and the rest of the world -- feel more secure with the kind of attention the US government has lavished on its military and defense apparatus? America’s fantastically shortsighted foreign policy, which has created more wars and deeper resentment among developing nations, says otherwise. Unfortunately for US citizens -- and, again, the rest of us – it’s not just US foreign policy that’s the problem. The problem is also from within -- the very weapons sector in the US which continues to be given mind-boggling billions of dollars.

In 2001 the US weapons industry controlled approximately 50 percent of the world arms market. Of the 42 active conflicts in 1999, the US supplied arms or military technology to parties in more than 92 percent of the conflicts. During virtually the same period, the US delivered almost $6.8 billion in armaments to nations widely considered to regularly violate basic standards of human rights and to countries that continue to recruit children for their official armed forces. An authority on national security affairs calls the US “an equal opportunity death merchant” with good reason. Democratic political systems or morally desirable leaders have never been the currency of the US weapons industry, only greenbacks.

In October 2002, for instance, an annual weapons conference and exhibition was held in Jordan. On display during the exhibit were the Stars and Stripes and the usual array of ultramodern arms manufactured by US firms such as Sikorsky, Raytheon, Harris Corp., JPS, Pratt & Whitney, AM General and Environmental Tectonics. The roster of buyers for whom, presumably, the event was organized was equally impressive. They included delegates from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya -- official representatives of regimes that the Bush administration finds repugnant. Officially, that is.

What do we do with the US?

“What do we do with the US?” This is the question printed on a widely distributed shirt at Bali, Indonesia, in a conference held in the middle of 2002 in preparation for the Earth Summit Part 2 of Johannesburg, South Africa. The T-shirt wasn’t really well-designed; in fact, with its dull blue ink printed on plain white cloth, not even pure cotton, it looked positively boring. But its limited prints ran out swiftly, lapped up by both country delegates to the event and NGOs alike.

The question on the T-shirt was to be repeated a number of times in the lobby of the conference center during the proceedings, in the gardens outside, in the bars at night after the day’s frustration with the efforts of the US delegation to stymie attempts to make various vital environmental agreements more binding, lasting and effective.

The question would return to haunt the halls of conference centers in Johannesburg, where the Earth Summit 2 was taking place. It bears relevance to bring this concern up; after all, chief among the targets for “preemptive strikes” of the US delegation during the green conference was the Kyoto Protocol. Yes, the climate treaty, the one that intends to reduce the grave dangers posed by climate change -- the biggest environmental threat facing the planet today -- by phasing out society’s dependence on fossil fuels.

We all know that petroleum-addicted America is the largest consumer of fossil fuels today and, thus, the biggest emitter, too, of greenhouse gases. You would think that by pushing for the passage of the Kyoto Protocol, the US would not just help in protecting the global commons but also, by consequence, help in strengthening global security. Reducing the malevolent influence of oil obviously plays some part in reducing the potential for and source of many of today’s conflicts. But no, the US will have none of it.

Stop the war; do something, anything

“What do we do with the US?” actually begs the question of what to do with a Philippine government so enamored with its role of cheerleader to the wildest and by far the most dangerous rogue policeman the world has ever known. Because it is here, in our country, where we can and should contribute the most for peace. We do not have to follow the path of war that the US wishes the whole world to take.

But the government does not listen, you will say. If so, then we must make our government listen. Speak out. You don’t have to wait for a mammoth demonstration (but it would be wise to join if you come across one). Wear a pin. Send out e-mails. Write letters, sign petitions. Hang a banner on your gate and let your neighbors know that you will not allow Bush and bin Laden to speak for you. Help give out antiwar leaflets.

Do something, anything. As William Pitt of Media Lens says, “It will make others in the country who feel isolated in their fear that something has gone terribly wrong understand that they are not alone. Big storms gather around small particles . . . The moment is here, now, upon us all.”

1. “US plans to grab Iraqi oil fields,” David E. Sanger and James Dao, Today, January 7, 2003.
2. See www.newamericancentury.org. See also “No war, No WTO,” Norm Dixon, Green Left Weekly, November 13, 2002.
3. “Dark days ahead as Bush faces troubles worldwide,” Robin Wright, Today, January 6, 2003.
4. “The Case Against the War,” transcript of CBC interview with Phyllis Bennis, TNI Fellow, CBC Radio, November 2, 2002.
5. “Iraq war could put 10M people in need of aid-UN,” Colum Lynch, Today, January 8, 2003.
6. Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation: the Abduction of Lebanon, Thundermouth Press/Nation Books, New York, 2002.
7. Quote is from the article “What war looks like” by the eminent US historian Howard Zinn. See http://www.medialens.org
8. “The Iraq ploy and the resemblances to the start of the Cold War,” Saul Landau, TNI Fellow, Progreso Weekly, November 28, 2002. See also Aliran Monthly, December 2001.
9. “Awesome cruelty of a doomed people” is borrowed from the title of The Independent’s Robert Fisk’s dispatch from a satellite phone, on board an airliner turning away from New York, on September 11, 2001.
10. “Angry Saddam accuses UN inspectors of spying,” Neil MacFarquhar, Today, January 8, 2003.
11. “US sends troops, Patriots to Israel,” Michael R. Gordon, Today, January 17, 2003.
12. “The Iraq Ploy …” Saul Landau.
13. “Arming for Armageddon: Boomtime for the Military-Industrial complex,” John Stanton, December 30, 2002. Stanton is a Virginia-based writer specializing in national security matters. For the October 2002 weapons conference, see http://www.sofex.com.jo/htm/index.html
14. “Here. Now.” William Rivers Pitt, November 26, 2002. http://www.medialens.org

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