The threat posed by US terrorism to the security of
nations and individuals was outlined in prophetic detail in a
document written more than two years ago and disclosed only
recently. What was needed for America to dominate much of humanity
and the world's resources, it said, was "some catastrophic and
catalysing event - like a new Pearl Harbor". The attacks of 11
September 2001 provided the "new Pearl Harbor", described as "the
opportunity of ages". The extremists who have since exploited 11
September come from the era of Ronald Reagan, when far-right
groups and "think-tanks" were established to avenge the American
"defeat" in Vietnam. In the 1990s, there was an added agenda: to
justify the denial of a "peace dividend" following the cold war.
The Project for the New American Century was formed, along with
the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute and others
that have since merged the ambitions of the Reagan administration
with those of the current Bush regime.
One of George W Bush's "thinkers" is Richard Perle. I interviewed
Perle when he was advising Reagan; and when he spoke about "total
war", I mistakenly dismissed him as mad. He recently used the term
again in describing America's "war on terror". "No stages," he
said. "This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies.
There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are
going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq... this is entirely
the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the
world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to
piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war... our
children will sing great songs about us years from now."
Perle is one of the founders of the Project for the New American
Century, the PNAC. Other founders include Dick Cheney, now
vice-president, Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz,
deputy defence secretary, I Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff,
William J Bennett, Reagan's education secretary, and Zalmay
Khalilzad, Bush's ambassador to Afghanistan. These are the modern
chartists of American terrorism. The PNAC's seminal report,
Rebuilding America's Defences: strategy, forces and resources for
a new century, was a blueprint of American aims in all but name.
Two years ago it recommended an increase in arms-spending by $48bn
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.
As for Iraq's alleged "weapons of mass destruction", these were
dismissed, in so many words, as a convenient excuse, which it is.
"While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate
justification," it says, "the need for a substantial American
force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of
Saddam Hussein." How has this grand strategy been implemented? A
series of articles in the Washington Post, co-authored by Bob
Woodward of Watergate fame and based on long interviews with
senior members of the Bush administration, reveals how 11
September was manipulated.
On the morning of 12 September 2001, without any evidence of who
the hijackers were, Rumsfeld demanded that the US attack Iraq.
According to Woodward, Rumsfeld told a cabinet meeting that Iraq
should be "a principal target of the first round in the war
against terrorism". Iraq was temporarily spared only because Colin
Powell, the secretary of state, persuaded Bush that "public
opinion has to be prepared before a move against Iraq is
possible". Afghanistan was chosen as the softer option. If
Jonathan Steele's estimate in the Guardian is correct, some 20,000
people in Afghanistan paid the price of this debate with their
Time and again, 11 September is described as an "opportunity". In
last April's New Yorker, the investigative reporter Nicholas
Lemann wrote that Bush's most senior adviser, Condoleezza Rice,
told him she had called together senior members of the National
Security Council and asked them "to think about 'how do you
capitalise on these opportunities'", which she compared with those
of "1945 to 1947": the start of the cold war. Since 11 September,
America has established bases at the gateways to all the major
sources of fossil fuels, especially central Asia. The Unocal oil
company is to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. Bush has
scrapped the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, the war
crimes provisions of the International Criminal Court and the
anti-ballistic missile treaty. He has said he will use nuclear
weapons against non-nuclear states "if necessary". Under cover of
propaganda about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, the
Bush regime is developing new weapons of mass destruction that
undermine international treaties on biological and chemical
In the Los Angeles Times, the military analyst William Arkin
describes a secret army set up by Donald Rumsfeld, similar to
those run by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and which Congress
outlawed. This "super-intelligence support activity" will bring
together the "CIA and military covert action, information warfare,
and deception". According to a classified document prepared for
Rumsfeld, the new organisation, known by its Orwellian moniker as
the Proactive Pre-emptive Operations Group, or P2OG, will provoke
terrorist attacks which would then require "counter-attack" by the
United States on countries "harbouring the terrorists".
In other words, innocent people will be killed by the United
States. This is reminiscent of Operation Northwoods, the plan put
to President Kennedy by his military chiefs for a phoney terrorist
campaign - complete with bombings, hijackings, plane crashes and
dead Americans - as justification for an invasion of Cuba. Kennedy
rejected it. He was assassinated a few months later. Now Rumsfeld
has resurrected Northwoods, but with resources undreamt of in 1963
and with no global rival to invite caution. You have to keep
reminding yourself this is not fantasy: that truly dangerous men,
such as Perle and Rumsfeld and Cheney, have power. The thread
running through their ruminations is the importance of the media:
"the prioritised task of bringing on board journalists of repute
to accept our position".
"Our position" is code for lying. Certainly, as a journalist, I
have never known official lying to be more pervasive than today.
We may laugh at the vacuities in Tony Blair's "Iraq dossier" and
Jack Straw's inept lie that Iraq has developed a nuclear bomb
(which his minions rushed to "explain"). But the more insidious
lies, justifying an unprovoked attack on Iraq and linking it to
would-be terrorists who are said to lurk in every Tube station,
are routinely channelled as news. They are not news; they are
This corruption makes journalists and broadcasters mere
ventriloquists' dummies. An attack on a nation of 22 million
suffering people is discussed by liberal commentators as if it
were a subject at an academic seminar, at which pieces can be
pushed around a map, as the old imperialists used to do.
The issue for these humanitarians is not primarily the brutality
of modern imperial domination, but how "bad" Saddam Hussein is.
There is no admission that their decision to join the war party
further seals the fate of perhaps thousands of innocent Iraqis
condemned to wait on America's international death row. Their
doublethink will not work. You cannot support murderous piracy in
the name of humanitarianism. Moreover, the extremes of American
fundamentalism that we now face have been staring at us for too
long for those of good heart and sense not to recognise them.
With thanks to Norm Dixon and Chris Floyd.