Dual Loyalties

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Thursday, August 05, 2004

Bush's Real Rationale for War

Progressive News - Bush's Real Rationale for War by Patrick Doherty: "Bush's Real Rationale for War
by Patrick Doherty

published by TomPaine.com

Bush's Real Rationale for War

As the nation begins debate on how to reform the intelligence community, it is essential to remember that the Iraq war was not driven by bad intelligence, per se. As Bush's former director of policy planning admitted, this was a "war of choice." Intelligence was not used to make a decision for war, it was manipulated to mislead Americans into backing a war already planned.

Publicly, President Bush offered four rationales to justify the invasion: the presence of WMD, Iraqi collaboration with Al Qaeda, the possibility of giving WMD to Al Qaeda, and bringing democracy to Iraq. Since the invasion, numerous commissions have shown the first three to be plainly false. The lack of post-war planning, the elevation of Iyad Allawi and the pervasive corruption among U.S.-funded contractors has put the lie to the fourth rationale.

So just why did Bush choose war?

From the evidence before us today, there is no one single reason. Rather, there are three converging and tightly interwoven reasons: oil, Israel and military transformation. The Cheney energy strategy required Iraqi oil; AIPAC and the Christian right wanted to weaken the Arab world to strengthen Israel; and Don Rumsfeld wanted to expedite the transformation of the U.S. military.

Reason #1: The Cheney Energy Policy
The first rationale underlying the Iraq invasion can be found in two recommendations from the vice president's task force on energy policy, delivered in May 2001:

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"The NEPD Group recommends that the President make energy security a priority of our trade and foreign policy.
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"The NEPD Group recommends the President support initiatives by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria, Qatar, the UAE, and other suppliers to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment."

America gets its oil from the global market, not from individual countries. But in the 1990s, oil-producing countries took a holiday from expanding production capacity, while demand grew steadily. With the supply/demand balance extremely tight, oil-producing states did not have the financial or engineering capacity to build the additional capacity, meaning the national oil companies in many OPEC states were faced with the need to open their fields to foreign investment. They resisted and prices rose.

In the post-Cold War era, the demand increase is coming from Asia. Chinese export success is raising the living standards of the 200 million Chinese consumers. That means elevated demand for energy, raising prices around the world. But unlike Cold War-era supply shocks, rising demand has the threefold effect of reducing American economic growth, creating price incentives for alternative energy sources and strengthening the political influence of the rising Asian consumers. Add OPEC's production quotas and the situation looked grim—at least to the task force.

That the U.S. government thinks about the security of global oil supplies is nothing new. America has had an explicit policy for the last 24 years—the "Carter Doctrine"—which states:

"An attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."

Iraq, with the second-largest conventional oil reserves but lacking the capacity to exploit them, looked like the lynchpin in increasing oil production, countering rising Chinese influence and reducing OPEC's pricing power. But with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, the only option would be to seize and privatize Iraqi oil. That goal was conspicuously absent in the task force recommendations, but revealed in former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill's memoir. O'Neill stated that in February 2001, the National Security Council staff was already drafting a document detailing how the U.S. government should divide up the Iraqi oilfields among the major western oil companies after a U.S. invasion.

This helps to understand why the Bush administration had declared early in its tenure that China was a strategic competitor. What most commentators did not realize, however, was that the theatre of that competition would be the Persian Gulf.

Reason #2: Strengthen Israel, Weaken Arabs
The Bush administration has a complex relationship with Israel. The President owes his election in large part to Christian conservatives. Christian Zionists, led by Tom DeLay in the House, want to see the State of Israel control all the biblical lands. President Bush is also indebted to AIPAC, the powerful lobby Jewish lobby. AIPAC is staunchly backing the right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who rejects the longstanding policy of "land-for-peace." In addition, the neo-conservatives who dominate Bush's foreign policy architecture view negotiations with Arafat and the PLO to be morally equivalent to Chamberlain negotiating with Hitler in Munich.

Not surprisingly, this convergence of powerful interests forged an alternative Israel policy for the United States. Paul Wolfowitz, interviewed in May 2003, outlined this new policy:

"…While it undoubtedly was true that if we could make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue we would provide a better set of circumstances to deal with Saddam Hussein, …it was equally true the other way around that if we could deal with Saddam Hussein it would provide a better set of circumstances for dealing with the Arab-Israeli issue."

Those circumstances included the elimination of Saddam Hussein's support for Palestinian bombers' families, reduced oil prices weakening the political influence of Saudi Arabia and OPEC, and the existence of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, reducing our dependence on Saudi Arabia while allowing the US to monitor Syria and Iran more intimately. Free of a credible threat of Arab invasion, Israel would enjoy a much stronger negotiating position.

Reason #3: Expedite Military Transformation
The neoconservatives came into power in 2001 with the intention of remaking America's armed forces so that they can dominate in the post-Cold War security environment. In practice, however, dominance is merely an extension of the Carter Doctrine, recognizing that our economy is dependent on inconveniently distributed sources of foreign oil. In sharp contrast to 20th century containment, 21st century dominance would require new bases, new doctrine and new weapons.

Iraq was sitting at the crossroads of all three components. An American client in Baghdad would allow us to permanently station forces, dominate the Persian Gulf and the Caucasus, and back up Israel. A major war against a conventional enemy would provide an opportunity to demonstrate new operational doctrine built around information dominance and precision strike. Finally, an extended occupation would in turn shake up the structure of the military, enabling more significant changes to Cold War-era traditions and structures.

The Project for a New American Century, the think tank Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz patronized before taking office, actually anticipated the opportunity that a 9/11 event would present to the task of transformation:

"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor."

Why The Deception?
The Bush administration appears to have chosen its course of action on the basis of two converging elements: necessity and opportunity. The necessity was created by America's addiction to oil and the unwillingness of our politicians to do anything about it. In America's first Gulf War, a clear application of the Carter Doctrine, it became clear that America was not willing to trade blood for oil. That put American policymakers in a bind—either lie to America or confront our addiction. When the principals from Bush 41 returned to office in Bush 43, the threat was different, but the economic stakes just as high. This time they decided to justify war on different grounds. They chose to lie.

September 11, 2001 provided a unique opportunity. The overwhelming surge of patriotism and trust derived from the attacks on New York and Washington combined with a media narrative making Al Qaeda rhetorically comparable to the Soviet Union allowed the Bush administration the cover it needed to ram through the war without serious political resistance. It was a cynical stratagem to exploit American's weak understanding of Iraq, Al Qaeda, oil markets and international relations.

Unfortunately, oil, Israel and transformation will continue to drive U.S. policy in the Middle East until we get on a path to eliminate—not just reduce—our consumption of oil for energy. With both the 9/11 Commission and experts like Jessica Stern and the CIA analyst "Anonymous" saying terror is motivated by these very policies, America must ask its presidential candidates why they are choosing cheap gasoline over security.

With near consensus between Kerry and Bush on oil, Israel and transformation, odds are this reality will not change before November. We can only hope it changes before the next attack."

Blair’s Butler and the OSP

AxisofLogic/ Europe

"Jim Lobe knows all about the OSP. As far back as August of 2003 he wrote that “An ad hoc office under US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith appears to have acted as the key base for an informal network of mostly neo-conservative political appointees that circumvented normal inter-agency channels to lead the push for war against Iraq. Retired intelligence officials from the State Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have long charged that the two offices exaggerated and manipulated intelligence about Iraq before passing it along to the White House.” "

Pro-Israel influence on US policy

ei: It's worse than you thought: pro-Israel influence on US policy: "It's worse than you thought: pro-Israel influence on US policy
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 15 March 2004

In the early weeks of the invasion of Iraq, when the US thrust toward Baghdad appeared to be meeting more resistance than expected, an awful row broke out in Washington over the role of pro-Israel groups and individuals in dragging the country to war. Increasing media examination of the roles of key neoconservative figures associated with Likudnik groups gave rise to a backlash that sought to tar anyone who dared raise questions with anti-Semitism.

Laurence Cohen, a columnist for the Hartford Courant, rejected criticism of key Iraq hawks Richard Perle, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and others, claiming, "It took about four seconds for this clustering to stir anti-Semitic rumblings to the effect that these crafty, secretive Jews had come together in the Rose Garden to chant special prayers that transformed George W. Bush,

Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld into anti-Iraqi warriors, prepared to sacrifice American lives in a subtle defense of Israel." (13 April 2003) Such claims were echoed by many pro-Israeli figures, such as Rabbi Marvin Hier, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who claimed, "It has now become en vogue to blame the war on Iraq on Jews." (Washington Post, 15 March 2003)

Ironically, the only times such vicious anti-Semitic caricatures appeared in the US mainstream media were when commentators like Cohen introduced them. The effect was to give the entirely false illusion that such characterizations were rampant, and to seize on a few, rare and misplaced comments about Jewish officials to silence a legitimate debate about the role of pro-Israeli activists.

Now, a new firsthand account of life in the US Defense Department shows just how pro-Israeli groups exerted their influence from within the government. Karen Kwiatkowski retired as a lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force after two decades of distinguished service. Her last posting was at the Near East South Asia (NESA) directorate at the Pentagon.

In a lengthy article in the online journal Salon.com, Kwiatkowski writes, "From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq." The "seizure of the reins of US Middle East policy," Kwiatkowski recounts, "was directly visible to many of us working in the Near East South Asia Policy office, and yet there seemed to be little any of us could do about it."

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith (left) and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Near Eastern South Asian Affairs and Special Plans William Luti brief reporters on policy and intelligence during a Pentagon press conference on June 4, 2003. (DoD/Helene C. Stikkel)

All this happened under the watch of Bill Luti, the deputy secretary of defense for NESA, and went up and down the chain of command.

Some of the specific incidents Kwiatkowski recalls are illustrative: "Longtime office director Joe McMillan was reassigned to the National Defense University. The director's job in the time of transition was to help bring the newly appointed deputy assistant secretary up to speed, ensure office continuity, act as a resource relating to regional histories and policies ... Removing such a critical continuity factor was not only unusual but also seemed like willful handicapping."

Kwiatkowski said "the expertise on Mideast policy was not only being removed, but was also being exchanged for that from various agenda-bearing think tanks, including the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs." The main agenda of all these organizations is advocating closer US-Israel ties. She saw the "replacement of the civilian head of the Israel, Lebanon and Syria desk office with a young political appointee from the Washington Institute, David Schenker. Word was that the former experienced civilian desk officer tended to be evenhanded toward the policies of Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon of Israel, but there were complaints and he was gone." As the personnel changed, so did the atmosphere; Kwiatkowski recalls that a "career civil servant rather unhappily advised me that if I wanted to be successful here, I'd better remember not to say anything positive about the Palestinians."

In an official meeting at which Kwiatkowski was present, Luti openly called Marine General, former Chief of Central Command, and Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni, a "traitor" for having reservations about the march to war, and open contempt and calls for Secretary of State Colin Powell to resign were common. What she observed until her voluntary early retirement was nothing less than a full-scale assault on the intelligence and policymaking apparatus of the United States. She witnessed intelligence and careful analysis being replaced with propaganda, falsehoods and manipulation and fed to the Congress and the Executive Office of the President. This "fear peddling" was, Kwiatkowski writes, "designed to take Congress and the country into a war of executive choice, a war based on false pretenses."

What prompted Kwiatkowski to speak out is the "swiftness of the neoconservatives casting of blame," for the failures in Iraq, "on the intelligence community and away from themselves." She is indignant that, "we are told by our president and neoconservative mouthpieces that our sons and daughters, husbands and wives are in Iraq fighting for freedom, for liberty, for justice and American values. This cost is not borne by the children of Wolfowitz,


Perle, Rumsfeld and Cheney. Bush's daughters do not pay this price." Many Americans and observers in the Middle East hope that if Bush is defeated in the November election, it will lead to a reversal of course in US policy. But realistically, a President John Kerry would not pressure Israel any more than Bill Clinton did, and in the post-September 11, 2001, environment, probably less. And Kerry, despite his misgivings about the Iraq war, talks of staying until the "job is done."

But that doesn't mean there is no difference between Kerry and Bush. Hussein Ibish, communications director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee explains that, "under President Kerry, the neoconservative influence on US foreign policy would almost certainly be greatly diminished for the simple reason that almost all the prominent neoconservatives have aligned themselves with the Republican Party."

US policy would likely revert to what it was under Clinton, with some adjustments for the post-September 11 environment. But in the current circumstances, restoring the professional policymaking and intelligence apparatus of the US would be a huge improvement. Above all, it would neutralize the forces that are quietly still pushing for a march from Baghdad to Damascus in a second Bush term.


Ali Abunimah is a co-founder of The Electronic Intifada. This article first appeared in The Daily Star.
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