U.S. design and global complicity

Published : Jan 31, 2003 00:00 IST

U.S. marines on board USS Tarawa depart on January 6 from the San Diego naval station in California for the Gulf region on a six-month assignment. - PALMOURHAYNE/GAMMA

U.S. marines on board USS Tarawa depart on January 6 from the San Diego naval station in California for the Gulf region on a six-month assignment. - PALMOURHAYNE/GAMMA

The war-mongering vis-a-vis Iraq is only part of the United States' larger global design for the 21st century - to attain unchallenged supremacy of the world.

WITH 1,20,000 troops of the United States already stationed in the Gulf region, reservists being called up across the country, and the U.S. gripped by war hysteria, all the way from its leaders to its media networks to the overwhelming majority of the population, it now seems beyond doubt that the full-scale invasion - and possible occupation - of Iraq by the U.S. shall come sooner rather than later, even though the United Nations-appointed inspectors, who are doing the U.S. bidding, have so far failed to produce any evidence of Iraq's having in its possession or having the capacity to produce any weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear or biological or chemical weapons. The U.S. seems determined to proceed with its plans, however, regardless of any evidence proving or disproving its claims, while it is also likely that some sort of evidence may well be manufactured in the foreseeable future; for all the current posture of impartiality, Hans Blix, the chief U.N. inspector, is deeply committed to the imperial agenda. In any case, the invasion shall come because it is part of a much larger, inflexible global design which we shall detail below. Before proceeding with that wider analysis, though, it is important to recall some salient features of the situation as it has prevailed in the immediate past.

In an article that was published some months ago ("In the shadow of permanent war", Frontline, October 11, 2002) I had pointed out that the Anglo-American bombardment of Iraq had lasted longer than the U.S. war on Vietnam, indeed longer than the combined duration of the two World Wars. This began with the Gulf war of 1991 which, in a very important sense, has never ended. It was then, some 12 years ago, that George W. Bush Senior, the father of the current U.S. President, first determined that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the achievement of full mastery over Iraq was a key objective, and the U.S. has never swerved away from that objective. The only reason why the full-scale invasion, which is now impending, did not come sooner is that while the objective of overthrowing Saddam and defeating the Iraqi Army could be achieved very quickly, thanks to the overwhelming U.S. military superiority, the U.S. has never been quite sure what would follow that victory and has therefore toyed with various more or less dubious scenarios while its unremitting war-mongering has held a nation of 22 million suffering people to ransom.

In an opinion piece in The Los Angeles Times on January 5, 2003, Victor Marshall reminds us of some of that suffering: "A United Nations mission in March 1991 described the allied bombing of Iraq as `near apocalyptic' and said it threatened to reduce `a rather highly urbanised and mechanised society to a preindustrial age'... A subsequent demographic study by the U.S. Census Bureau concluded that Iraq probably suffered 1,45,000 dead - 40,000 military and 5,000 civilian deaths during the war and 1,00,000 post-war deaths because of violence and health conditions. The war also produced more than five million refugees. Subsequent sanctions were estimated to have killed more than half a million Iraqi children, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation and other international bodies." Meanwhile, air power was used to destroy or cripple Iraqi infrastructure and industry. This included destruction of electric power stations and refineries which deprived Iraq of 92 per cent of its installed power capacity as well as 80 per cent of its oil production capacity, not to speak of the destroyed petrochemical complexes, telecommunications centres (including 135 telephone networks), bridges (more than 100), roads, highways, railroads, hundreds of locomotives and boxcars full of goods, radio and television broadcasting stations, cement plants, and factories producing aluminium, textiles, electric cables, and medical supplies. The losses were estimated by the Arab Monetary Fund to be $190 billion.

Having done all that about a decade ago, the Anglo-American axis has kept up it pressure in numerous ways. U.S. officials have owned up to seven coup attempts that they have instigated; how many more there were, we do not know. The failure of those coup attempts is sometimes cited as a reason why nothing short of a full-scale invasion is likely to work. All of Iraq initially, and much of it subsequently, has been declared a "no-fly zone" where the Anglo-American axis powers do not allow the government of the country to fly its own aircraft, in flagrant violation of Iraq's sovereignty and without any basis in international law or a U.N. Security Council resolution; they have bombed most of the country at will, again without any sanction from the Security Council.

Indeed, the conversion of the Security Council into a tool to implement U.S. designs with respect to Iraq and Palestine as much as various parts of former Yugoslavia, has been a singular achievement of the United States and its supine allies during this period. As Denis Halliday, a former U.N. Assistant Secretary General and U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq during 1997-98, put it in his recent speech in Cairo: "We have a U.N. Security Council out of control. A Council corrupted by the U.S., the sole hyper-power, and undermined by the veto power of the five permanent members." He then goes on to point out that the claim that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction is a "Washington fiction" and that the sanctions against Iraq, which have been in place for 12 years and have caused unspeakable sufferings for millions of people, "are built on U.S. war crimes" and constitute an "ongoing collective punishment of the Iraqi people".

Under cover of this "no-fly zone" and incessant bombardment, the U.S. has tried to install a parallel government of its choosing, stationed in the U.S.-protected Kurdish territory in northern Iraq and comprised of the Iraqi National Council (INC), which it has spawned under the shadowy leadership of Ahmed Chalabi, a scion of a monarchist Iraqi family who was sentenced in absentia some years ago to a total of 34 years of hard labour by the Central Court of Amman for embezzlement of funds from the Petra Bank of Jordan. Chalabi is a great favourite of the Far Right super-hawks in power at the Pentagon, who are generally known as the "Wolfowitz cabal" - named after the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz - and may yet be imposed on Iraq pretty much the way Hamid Karzai, a former employee of UNOCAL Corporation, was imposed on Afghanistan. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is said to have invested $100 million in propping up that puppet entity (of Chalabi) which was then routed by the Iraqi Army in 1997. Chalabi fled to the United Kingdom, thousands of his followers fled to Turkey and perhaps an equal number of them lost their lives in the battle with the Iraqi troops.

One of the consequences of that misadventure has been that the CIA has lost faith in Chalabi while the Pentagon hawks, with little experience, continue to believe in him, so that the CIA continues to rely on its own professional operatives for information-gathering while the Pentagon hawks, not getting from the CIA the information they want, have created a parallel agency of their own, which listens more to Chalabi and his "dissidents". The prompted testimony of these hired "dissidents" shall soon be used to justify a full-scale invasion. The U.S. has also instructed the U.N. inspectors to get Iraqi scientists to defect. Once in U.S. custody, these captive scientists shall be required to corroborate the "evidence" provided by those U.S.-manufactured dissidents.

This focus on Iraq has taken remarkable turns. We now know that on the morning of September 12, 2001, the day after the World Trade Centre (WTC) events, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued vigorously in favour of invading Iraq as the first target and was only dissuaded by Secretary of State Colin Powell's argument that Al Qaeda was more clearly connected with Afghanistan, that Afghanistan was an easier country to invade and conquer, and that the U.S should not be engaged in two theatres of war simultaneously. A month later, on October 13, 2001, The International Herald Tribune revealed that the Pentagon-based Defence Policy Board, a powerful bipartisan group of national security experts, met for 19 hours on September 19 and 20, and members of the board agreed "on the need to turn to Iraq as soon as the initial phase of the war against Afghanistan and Mr. Bin Laden's organisation was over" (emphasis added). The dates of the meeting (September 19-20) are significant: this was before Bush famously declared his "global war on terrorism". If anything, the membership of the 18-member bipartisan board is even more significant, as it includes Harold Brown, President Jimmy Carter's Defence Secretary; Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State; James Woolsey, Director of the CIA in the Clinton administration; Admiral David Jeremiah, former Deputy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Dan Quayle, former Vice-President; and James Schlesinger, a former Defence and Energy Secretary.

It was at this meeting that Woolsey was directed to proceed to Europe to (a) "find" information that would link Iraq with the September 11 events and (b) consult with the London-based Iraqi "dissidents" (Chalabi and company) about the feasibility of instigating uprisings within the country. That same report in The International Herald Tribune quoted Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a member of the group, as saying: "If we don't use this as the moment to replace Mr. Saddam after we replace the Taliban, we are setting the stage for disaster." The report also went on to say that the group was "laying the groundwork for a strategy that envisions the use of air support and the occupation of southern Iraq with American ground troops to install an Iraqi opposition group based in London at the helm of a new government... Under this notion, American troops would also seize the oilfields around Basra, in southeastern Iraq, and sell the oil to finance the Iraqi opposition in the south and the Kurds in the north."

WE shall return to the matter of this rather incredible "strategy" but the matter of this group, and especially of its leading lights such as Wolfowitz himself as well as former Assistant Secretary of Defence Richard Perle who chairs it, should detain us somewhat longer. These two, along with the current Vice-President Cheney, were prominent figures at the Pentagon during Bush Senior's administration and were then - along with Rumsfeld, Lewis Libby (Cheney's Chief of Staff), William Bennet (former President Ronald Reagan's Education Secretary) and Zalmay Khalilzad (Bush Junior's Ambassador to Afghanistan) - founders of the key think-tank called `Project for the New American Century' (PNAC), which was itself one of the chain of rightwing think-tanks, such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Democracy and so on. Jason Vest of The Village Voice (November 21-27, 2001), Neil Mackey of The Sunday Herald (September 15, 2002) and John Pilger of New Statesman (December 16, 2002) are among journalists who have drawn our attention to the PNAC's seminal report, `Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century', drafted as a blueprint of American aims for Bush Junior before he actually won - rather, stole - the presidential election. As Pilger phrases it, "Two years ago it recommended an increase in arms-spending by $48 bn so that Washington could `fight and win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars'. This has happened. It said the United States should develop `bunker-buster' nuclear weapons and make `star wars' a national priority. This is happening. It said that, in the event of Bush taking power, Iraq should be a target. And so it is."

That report had described the global spread of the U.S. military forces as "the cavalry on the new American frontier". It recommends that the U.S. replace the U.N. in "peacekeeping" projects; that bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and elsewhere in the Gulf be maintained even after Saddam's overthrow; that the U.S. encourage a "regime change" in China and undertake "increase of American forces in South-east Asia"; that "U.S. Space Forces" be created to ensure supremacy in space and total control of cyberspace; that the U.S. consider developing "advanced forms of biological warfare; and that North Korea, Libya, Syria and Iran as among the states that require the U.S. to establish a "world-wide command-&-control system". As Neil Mackey points out, "The PNAC blueprint supports an earlier document written by Wolfowitz and Libby that said the U.S. must `discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role'." This aspect of the recommendation is clearly directed against Japan and western Europe.

It is now, after September 11, 2001, rather eerie and astonishing that this report, drafted a year before those events, actually suggested that what America needed as justification for putting in place its global design for the 21st century was "some catastrophic and catalysing event - like a new Pearl Harbour". As images of the WTC tragedy were flashed across the world, incessantly, day in and day out, dozens of commentators indeed compared that event to Pearl Harbour again and again and again, until the analogy - the two great and evil attacks on America - were indelibly inscribed in the minds of viewers, especially within the U.S. And, the tragedy of thousands of grieving families was soon turned into the empire's golden opportunity. Nicholas Lemann revealed in The New Yorker of April 2002 that Condoleezza Rice, Bush's National Security Advisor, told him she had called her senior officers and asked them "to think about `how do you capitalise on these opportunities'."

AS regards the military design, that thinking has centred essentially on one question: should the U.S. fight several wars at the same time (a view held by many in the Pentagon) or should it go after its designated little enemies around the globe one by one (the Powell view)? According to James Webb, a former Assistant Secretary of Defence and Secretary of Navy in the Reagan administration, this debate as well as the unwavering focus on Iraq has been going on for over a decade. As he puts it, it is "a rift that goes back to the Gulf war itself, when neo-conservatives were vocal in their calls for `a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad'." (The Washington Post, September 4, 2002) In other words, they have been arguing all these years in favour of a full-scale U.S. occupation that would last long enough to remake the Iraqi state much as the U.S. remade the Japanese state after the Second World War. Webb himself, who confesses to being a former Marine officer and an abiding Republican, offers unanswerable arguments as to why this is pure fantasy. However, that kind of argument gained great momentum after September 11, especially because those who represented that view were now fully in control of the U.S. military policy at the Pentagon. Thus, Jason Vest was already reporting in November 2001:

According to both Pentagon and intelligence sources, in mid-September the Project for the New American Century - a hawkish private policy group whose membership overlaps with the official Defence Policy Board - sent President Bush a letter after a two-day conference, declaring that failure to promptly remove Saddam would constitute a "decisive surrender in the war against terrorism". Ominously, it also held that if Syria and Iran refused to drop all support for Hezbollah, "the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation against these known state sponsors of terrorism"... Perle's Defence Policy Board also sent Bush a letter recommending all measures be taken to install the heretofore dubious and ineffectual Iraqi National Congress of Ahmed Chalabi as the new leadership in Baghdad, backed by the deployment of American troops to secure Iraqi oilfields.

By December 2, 2001, The Observer was reporting that "America intends to depose Saddam Hussein by giving armed support to Iraqi opposition forces across the country... President George W. Bush has ordered the CIA and his senior military commanders to draw up detailed plans for a military operation that could begin within months... the planning is being undertaken under the auspices of the U.S. Central Command at McDill air force base in Tampa, Florida, commanded by General Tommy Franks, who is leading the war against Afghanistan." This same Tommy Franks was to go on record later as saying that the post-war settlement in Iraq will require the stationing of substantial U.S. forces there for a long time, on the model of South Korea (where U.S. troops have been stationed for half a century). This of course goes far beyond the earlier idea of a short-term "MacArthurian regency". General Tommy obviously fancies himself a proconsul for life, and then to be succeeded by similar proconsuls, into infinity.

By February 2002, Colin Powell, the Jamaican-born Secretary of State who is generally credited to be the moderate and prudent voice in the Bush Administration, was declaring that the question of U.N. inspections of Iraqi facilities had become irrelevant and that the U.S. was in any case committed to the removal of Saddam Hussein. Afghanistan had been captured by then and the U.S. felt more confident of concentrating on this other, larger prize. Since then, a new generation of weapons are being churned out by the military-industrial complex; the U.S. has established new military bases and upgraded the existing ones in the whole region; prepared its own corporations and negotiated with other countries the parameters for the sharing of the Iraqi oil bonanza; cajoled the more powerful countries and intimidated the weaker ones into giving it a Security Council resolution which can be easily interpreted as permission to wage war in case Iraq fails to meet any of the impossible demands that the U.S. keeps making, including a "regime change", that is, the imposition of a regime comprising U.S. clients. By now, of course, virtually all of Iraq's neighbours, from Qatar to Turkey, have fallen in line; as have, in the world of great powers, France, Germany and Russia.

I HAVE traced this earlier history to illustrate how predictable the more recent events have been, and how much Iraq has been at the centre of an unfolding strategic design of a global scope. This design is rooted in the fact that we are living through an extremely dangerous phase of history, in which (a) the U.S. commands more power than any imperial centre ever has in the entire human history, with no competitors worth the name; (b) the U.S. is ruled by not just the usual Republican rightwing but a regime so much of the Far Right that some of the more notorious U.S. Presidents of this century, from `Teddy' Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, seem positively more civilised; (c) the core of these Far Right zealots have taken hold of the U.S. military establishment in so complete a fashion that the Pentagon is emerging as something of an autonomous centre of power which treats even the CIA with contempt and as being too liberal and cautious. (Perle is reported to have said that the information they are getting from the CIA is "not worth the paper it is written on" and has helped Rumsfeld create parallel agencies more loyal to this Far Right cabal.)

Writing in The London Review of Books, Anatol Lievan, a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace in Washington D.C., has quite correctly described this Far Right cabal as "the dominant neo-conservative nationalists" and, more pointedly, as representatives of "anti-Muslim American nationalism". Every member of this cabal has had and continues to have extremely close relations with leaders of the Likud, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's ruling party, in whose own policy formations Perle and Wolfowitz have featured prominently, so that in addition to the historic alignment of the U.S. and Israeli policies, we are also witnessing a new and extremely dangerous convergence between the politically organised Far Right in the two countries as well as a historically unprecedented convergence between Zionism's expansionist militarism and the American Christian fundamentalist messianism. Aside from the key question of oil, Iraq is so central in their thinking because, if left to peace and prosperity, Iraq would be the last remaining Arab country that could effectively oppose Israel as part of its own ambition to emerge as a leader of secular Arab nationalism, which is the only ideology that is capable of harnessing the immense anti-imperialist sentiment that prevails in the Arab world.

Conversely, in case of a full-scale invasion of Iraq, Israel is likely not only to complete its destruction of the Palestine Authority (P.A.) and force the exodus of the maximum number of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza into such neighbouring states as Jordan and Egypt, but also to move militarily into Syria and Lebanon. If this design succeeds, Iran would be the next target. Some 12 per cent of the Israeli Air Force is already in south-eastern Turkey and parts of it are routinely flying around the Iranian border for gathering intelligence, provocation and so on. The U.S. and Israel are also encouraging Azari separatism in Iran, with possible collusion from Turkey; and aggression against Iran can be prepared any day, on the pretext of its own nuclear programme. Similarly, if Saudi Arabia finds it in its own interest to be less pliant or if there are radical, anti-monarchical developments there, the U.S. may well move to create a separate entity there in the Shia-dominated eastern zone where much of the oil resources are located. And it is of course unclear what future awaits Iraq itself.

The U.S. can dislodge Saddam easily and it is very likely that the Iraqi Army will disintegrate under unbearable military pressure; some commanders may even defect to the U.S. However, it is very unlikely that men like Chalabi can provide a stable, even remotely popular, government there. Massive disorder, with various ethnicities getting played out against each other, in an unending fight over the spoils of war, is much more likely. The ongoing tussle among Kurdish, Turkish and Arab groups in the oil-rich region around Kirkuk in northern Iraq, thanks to the disintegration of the central Iraqi authority under Anglo-American pressure, is perhaps a foretaste of things yet to come, after the full-scale invasion. As Lieven puts it in his article, "The planned war against Iraq is not after all intended only to remove Saddam Hussein, but to destroy the structure of the Sunni-dominated Arab nationalist Iraqi state as it has existed since that country's inception. The `democracy' which replaces it will presumably resemble that of Afghanistan - a ramshackle coalition of ethnic groups and warlords, utterly dependent on U.S. military power and utterly subservient to U.S. (and Israeli) wishes." Meanwhile, it is also possible that the level of the strife on the one hand, and the high stakes involved in establishing its own oil monopoly on the other, shall force the U.S. to station a substantial number of its own troops in garrisons across Iraq and establish something of an "indirect rule", in the style of colonialism's heyday, above the ethnic clients.

In a much broader geo-political perspective, complete monopoly over oil, the world's most strategic commodity, not only in the Gulf region and the Caspian Sea basin but also all the way from Venezuela to Indonesia, is also seen by these "neo-conservative American nationalists" as a major weapon for coercion and manipulation in their relations with secondary powers in the advanced industrialised world itself - western Europe and Japan surely, but also, increasingly, China. This, however, is a large and complex matter to which we shall return in a subsequent piece when we shall also detail some of the salient features of the new weapons systems as well as the weapon dollar-petrodollar connection in the U.S. military-industrial complex, which is the driving force impelling the imperial authority towards permanent war.

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