August 18, 2003
Summer is here. The month of August, as we learned last year, is not the time to launch another political marketing blitz (viz. Iraq). So we are left with the usual assortment of bland news, sprinkled with a blackout on the East Coast and a front-runner in California whose "good" friends, beside the Kennedy and Bush families, include people like Ken Lay of Enron fame and Kurt Waldheim of Nazi past -- no doubt, a perfect mix to become California's next Terminator, err, governor... Meanwhile, left widely uncovered in the main media was the significant announcement of a quasi-official bipartisan foreign policy strategy that calls for the remaking of a region made of 22 countries and a combined population of 300 million -- the Middle East; a strategy that, we are told, will require a generational commitment.
In an address to the 28th Annual Convention of the National Association of Black Journalists on August 7, 2003, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice talked about "the security challenge -- and moral mission -- of our time," that of bringing freedom and democracy to the entire Middle East; an "opportunity" and an "obligation" that will take "patience and perseverance." In Dr. Rice's own words, "But if that different future for the Middle East is to be realized, we and our allies must make a generational commitment to helping the people of the Middle East transform their region." Tailoring her speech to the audience she compared this new American revolutionary endeavor to the Civil Rights in the sixties, and she went on to analogize this "opportunity" with the Marshall Plan and US policies toward post WW II Europe. (1)
Not even the newspaper of record covered this momentous, far-reaching story. It was largely ignored but for a segment in the August 8 PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer led by Margaret Warner who questioned three full-fledged members of the Washington Establishment (2) and was subsequently picked up by the good folks of the Libertarian right, Llewellyn H. Rockwell (3) and his muckraking acolyte at Antiwar.com, Justin Raimondo. (4) The latter two commentators, not surprisingly in light of their politics, assailed Dr. Rice for the assuredly inexact analogy she made between the forthcoming mission civilisatrice in the Middle East and the US Civil Rights. Raimondo wryly noted the incongruousness of having Dr. Rice advocate the White Man's Burden -- but is she not a born-again Christian imbued with a sense of mission, whatever the color of her skin may be? -- before concluding that it was a "carefully choreographed" farce orchestrated by the neo-conservative "Lefties" (The Bush administration, as everybody knows, is under the spell of "commies" in sheep's clothing!). But beyond their cultural criticisms they both failed to examine the other analogy, that of post WW II Europe and the Marshall plan -- also an assuredly inexact analogy -- and, more importantly, the fact that what Dr. Rice was expressing represents the consensual views of the Washington Establishment.
This consensus was clearly demonstrated by the participants in the NewsHour discussion led by Ms. Warner when she asked "whether America is ready for this [generational] commitment." The three guests were: Samuel R. (Sandy) Berger, former assistant and deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs under President Clinton; Richard Haass, who served on the NSC in the first Bush administration and recently left the State Department to join the Council on Foreign Relations as its new president; and Philip Zelikow, who also served on the NSC in the first Bush administration, wrote a book with Dr. Rice, and is a professor of history at the University of Virginia.
This generational commitment to transform the Middle East is "an appropriately ambitious and conservative vision both at the same time" (Sandy Berger), "exactly on target" (Richard Haass), and, like "the situation after World War World II . . . . we are going to need to recommit first money and then long-term presence of troops [...] for an indefinite venture. . . . the administration is rapidly trying to articulate really a whole comprehensive new agenda for years and years to come" (Philip Zelikow).
Those who keep questioning how long the troops will remain in Iraq should heed the concluding words of Sandy Berger: "Iraq is essentially an American aircraft carrier now in the Middle East from which we promote regime change from Iran to Syria. This is very much a long-term undertaking that Dr. Rice is talking about."
This long-term undertaking did not begin under the Bush II administration. Remember these words? "Countries that persistently host terrorists have no right to be safe havens." Our battle against terrorism "will require strength, courage and endurance." "We will not yield to this threat. We will meet it no matter how long it may take. This will be a long, ongoing struggle. We must be prepared to do all that we can for as long as we must." "There will be no sanctuary for terrorists. We will persist and we will prevail." They look very much like the repetitive incantations that we've been hearing from the current Commander in Chief since 9/11, but they were actually pronounced by former president Clinton in 1998, in the wake of the bombing of the Kenya and Tanzania embassies. Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) quoted President Clinton's words during a most interesting Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Select Intelligence Committees on September 19, 2002. (5) Shelby added, "Those were very strong words. I agreed with him. I welcomed it. And they sound a lot to me like what President Bush has said recently and said well, and said just before we destroyed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan with overwhelming force."
There is a remarkable continuity in the strategy, from one administration to the other. The Clinton Administration literally paved the way for the invasions -- renamed "liberations" -- of Afghanistan and Iraq. The question was not whether to take on Afghanistan, then Iraq, and eventually the entire Middle East but when to make the move. It did not start with 9/11. It's just the continuation of a long-planned strategy. By 1998, after the embassy bombings, the US administration was not ready to invade. So it launched a series of cruise missiles against bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan.
In the same Joint Hearings on September 19, 2002, Sandy Berger provided the reasons why they had not moved to invade Afghanistan in '97/'98:
"We, both the president and myself, spoke to secretary of Defense, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff on numerous occasions about boots on the ground options in Afghanistan. And they looked at them, I believe seriously. And their assessment, this is pre-9/11, we don't have Pakistan, we don't have Uzbekistan, we don't have Tajikistan, we don't have any of those neighbors. Their assessment was that given the distance for staging, given the likelihood of detection, given the inability to have forces approximate for back-up, that it -- and most importantly, in the absence of actionable intelligence, that it was likely to fail." (6)
And why, following the attack on the USS Cole, had they not moved in 2000?
"I don't think that that was feasible before 9/11. Let's remember that in all of the Clinton administration, 67 Americans had been killed by terrorists and that's 67 far too many. 12 in Africa. But it's in order of magnitude different than what happened to us on 9/11. I don't think there was anybody up here calling for an invasion of Afghanistan. I don't think there was anybody in the press calling for an invasion of Afghanistan. I just don't think that was something we would have diplomatic support, we would not have had basing support. And so I don't think the kind of full scale war that we've seen since 9/11 was feasible unfortunately before then." (7)
These hearings also confirmed what was claimed in the alternative media in the fall of 2001, that the invasion of Afghanistan had been planned long before 9/11. (8) The tragedy of 9/11 allowed the current administration to sell the policy to the public and then came the turn of Iraq.
The usual herd of pundits was recruited. The empire-builder advocates such as Michael Ignatieff, Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Friedman, et al., the "experts," the think-tankers, etc., have propagandized the strategy for years, to an ever-wider audience. On March 18, 2003, two days before the commencement of the Iraq invasion, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman appeared with Professor Fawaz Gerges of Sarah Lawrence College on The Oprah Winfrey Show. (9) Considering the risks of the coming military campaign, Friedman put it thus:
"Well, I think, Oprah, that we are defining here our identity in the world after 9/11. You know, after 9/11, I wrote 'This is World War III,' and--and in some ways the battle for Afghanistan was the first, you know, battle in this World War III, and this is the second battle in this World War III. . . . Now what does that mean? It means approaching this battle, in some ways the way we approached D-Day and its aftermath, with a Marshall Plan, with a reaching out to others and with real nation-building so that when the smoke clears, and we look at Iraq a year or two years from now, people say, 'You know, you--you lived up to your promise; it's a better place.'"
During the entire show, as Prof. Gerges expressed serious misgivings about the strategy, Friedman kept hammering the same lines:
"My fear is that we won't live up to the D-Day level of this war. This is the most audacious thing we've ever done, Oprah. From a standing start, we're engaging in a preventive war to take apart and rebuild a country half a world away. We cannot afford to do it wrong. I agree with all of, you know, Professor Gerges' concerns, but my own feeling is that we cannot afford to do it wrong. And, therefore, we're going to have to do it right."
"And my--my approach, Oprah, is, I wouldn't have constructed the context for this war the way the president did it. But this is what he's done. We're now going to war and my column is going to be devoted to turning lemons into lemonade, because we have no other choice. . . . And every voice in this country, in--in--in my view, every responsible voice, has to be dedicated in that direction. . . . And I'm going to use my pen to tilt us in that direction."
"You know, I kind of have two models in my mind of wars. One is, Israel won a war 35 years ago in six days. And it's been trapped in the seventh day ever since. Because it's never been able to translate that military victory into a political victory that made life safer for Israelis. That is the challenge for us, here, to translate whatever military victory we have into a peace that makes life safer for us, which will also depend on how others are treated and feel."
"So there's kind of a--the Six Day War model and the D-Day model. After D-Day, through the Marshall Plan, and an approach to Europe, we--we constructed a universe and a Europe that was very hospitable and safe for Americans. It made it [a] safer world. And it's that attitude, the way we approached the world after D-Day that we're going to have to apply here for a wholly different part of the world."
And finally a feel-good conclusion:
"...when a--when watching the president last night, Oprah, it--all I could think about was, you know, I never felt more traumatized as an American after 9/11 but I also never felt, in a funny way, more secure. Because I f--never felt more solidarity with my fellow Americans and in some way with the world. And that glass has been broken. And we're--we--the only way we're going to succeed in this Iraq project is if we do it in a way that repairs that glass."
The recurring message was reinforced by the negative-positive approach taken by Prof. Gerges. Gerges appeared much more negative during the show but kept asking, "are we willing to stay in Iraq for at least a decade? Are we willing to invest billions of dollars and--and political capital in the social and political reconstruction of Iraq? Are we willing to stick around?" From reading the transcript, one could sense that Prof. Gerges strongly doubted the resolve of the U.S.; but in doing so he further supported the need for staying the course, hence affirming Friedman's take.
A take that was fully embraced and expanded upon by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in her speech. The timing of the speech, in the midst of summer, suggests that it was a trial balloon to test the receptivity of the audience, which would explain the absence of coverage by the main media. It furthermore suggests that the Establishment is moving hand in hand to advance the strategy even if the message needs to be refined or slightly altered. Thomas Friedman, the alleged globalist, humanitarian "liberal," and Condoleezza Rice, the neo-conservative born-again Christian, walking in unison, sing the same tune. It has to be done. It's a long-term project. It's a moral mission. Freedom and democracy, security and liberty, are all dependent on the outcome. We cannot fail. We will prevail.
It matters little that the analogy with the Civil Rights is bogus. It matters little that the 1948 European Recovery Program -- the Marshall Plan -- was part of the Truman Doctrine (10) that followed the 1947 economic/military aid packages to Greece and Turkey to combat the spread of communism in Europe and was devised as a business plan to benefit the US economy (11) -- and that the Europeans welcomed it. What matters is the repetition of the message that comes from the entire Establishment, on both sides of the aisle.
August one year ago I wrote in "Gulf War II" that the U.S. would invade Iraq; the following month, in "The Black Golden Spigot," I also wrote: "The US of A will soon be in Iraq, make no mistake about it. But the real prize IS Saudi Arabia and the 'real enemy' IS what the French used to call the 'yellow peril,' PRChina, at least according to this insane oligarchy."
This "insane oligarchy" (again, on both sides of the aisle), its gargantuan appetite fully whetted by Afghanistan and Iraq, is contemplating remaking 22 countries with a combined population of 300 million in its own image....and not a peep is heard from within the Fourth Estate or from the Democratic candidates... Talk about insanity!
Meanwhile, in the August 13, 2003 New York Times, Thomas Friedman, writing in Baghdad, concluded his Op-Ed thus:
"It would be a tragic irony if the greatest technological power in the history of the world came to the cradle of civilization with its revolutionary ideas and found itself defeated because it couldn't keep the electricity on."
The next day, on August 14, 2003, a power line failure forced an Ohio electrical plant to shut down. By 4:11 pm, the entire Northeast of the USA and parts of Canada had gone dark.
· · · · · ·
1. Dr. Condoleezza Rice Discusses Foreign Policy
Remarks by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice at 28th Annual Convention of the National Association of Black Journalists, August 7, 2003
2. "The U.S. & the Middle East," PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, August 8, 2003
3. "Rice Explains Why You Should Support the Occupation," by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., LewRockwell.com, August 11, 2003
4. "A POLITICALLY CORRECT WAR? Condi Rice says you're a 'racist' if you don't support the 'liberation' of Iraq," by Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com, August 11, 2003
5. Cited by Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) on September 19, 2002, during the Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Select Intelligence Committees chaired by Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL). The two witnesses were General Brent Scowcroft, the national security advisor to both President Ford and President George H. W. Bush and Mr. Samuel R. Berger, the national security advisor President Clinton.
6. ibid. Sandy Berger answers a question asked by Sen. Shelby about the efforts to "capture or kill" bin Laden. Berger also notes: "I don't know what I can say in this hearing, but capture or kill -- until the chairman rules me out of order. It was no question, the cruise missiles were not trying to capture him. They were not law enforcement techniques. Okay?" He adds, "So our focus was, in addition to breaking up Al-Qaeda cells around the world, in addition to a number of other things we were doing, our focus was getting bin Laden (a), (b) Putting pressure on the Taliban. We froze Taliban assets, about $250 million. We went to the United Nations. We got sanctions on the Taliban. We sent senior diplomats to meet with the Taliban and issue to them privately the same threat that President Bush issued publicly after September 11, that is, if there was any further incident involving bin Laden, they would be held personally accountable as the Taliban." (back)
7. ibid. Sandy Berger answers a question asked by Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA): "Why didn't the Clinton administration in 2000 or 2001 launch a combined military effort something like what we've done after September 11th?" (back)
8. See Gilles d'Aymery, "Osama Bin Laden: Convenient Scapegoat?" Swans, October 29, 2001 (back)
9. The Oprah Winfrey Show (4:00 PM ET) - BNO, March 18, 2003 Tuesday
HEADLINE: Anti-Americanism: Why do so many dislike the US?; Tom Friedman of The New York Times and Fawaz Gerges of Sarah Lawrence College discuss the world's view of America. (back)
10. On the Truman Doctrine, see an excerpt of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1980) covering the period 1945-1960, at http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/zinn-chap16.html#trumandoc
See also The Truman Library at http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/doctrine/large/doctrine.htm (back)
11. "Soon after passage of the Foreign Assistance Act, Kiplinger Magazine, a publication for business people, printed a guide to show them how to benefit from the plan. 'The Marshall Plan is very much a business plan. . . ,' it concluded. 'At its root is an office and factory and warehouse job. The Marshall Plan means work, and you will be one of the workers.' During the years of the Marshall Plan, when much of the money European participants received was spent on U.S.-produced food and manufactured goods, the American economy flourished." http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/marshall/mars11.html (back)
Iraq on Swans
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