William Rivers Pitt: The Other American Dream
The Other American Dream
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Sunday, 1 September, 2002
No other nation on the face of the earth uses the words "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" as the premise for their foundation in government.
America does, and scads of Constitutional law have been written and re-written, debated and considered, because a long time ago the Founders decided to base everything upon the absolute necessity of those three concepts. America is and has always been a nation of immigrants, because the promise of these simple ideals has lured millions of people from every corner of the globe to these shores.
These words are the basis of the American Dream, a concept so simple and yet so huge that it is difficult to define. How does one encapsulate the concept of "the pursuit of happiness" in so diverse a nation? The answer to that question lies in the interpretation of the word that comes before it, "liberty." Above all, and first in line, is "life." Americans have the right to be alive, free, and to pursue fulfillment in whatever way suits them, so long as that pursuit does not grossly interfere with the life, freedom and happiness of a neighbor.
The American Dream has come to mean a variety of things pertaining to ownership. Having your own home is part of the American Dream, as is owning a car, having a job, and the pursuit of monetary wealth. This is all well and good, for we live in a capitalist society so large that it would make Adam Smith faint dead away. Through it all, however, runs the pulsing heartbeat of those three simple concepts.
Of course, we have never achieved the lofty goals set by the Founders in this regard; liberty is still denied to many, and the pursuit of happiness is impossible for citizens treated unequally. Yet the American Dream, at bottom, is bent towards the creation of that more perfect union, where wrongs are made right and happiness is well within reach.
This is the American Dream we speak of openly, in daylight, when the children gather to learn about the land they call home. This is what we tell the immigrants when they raise their hands to take the pledge and become citizens. This is what we tell ourselves when we feel the need to be convinced that this nation is indeed good and great.
There is another American Dream which lurks in shadow, and speaks only in whispers of its designs. This other American Dream runs dark and silent, on rails lubricated by oil, blood and power. It works at all hours of the day and night to achieve its goals. It does not sleep. The existence of this other American Dream places the first one, the real one, the true one, in terrible peril. If this other American Dream is allowed to blossom into its intended potential, the American Dream we speak of to our children will cease completely to exist.
The proponents of this other American Dream look at the world in terms of empire. They seek to achieve hegemony over great swaths of strategically-important territory, and will do whatever is necessary to gain this control. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, they see America as the first truly global superpower. With the use of economic and military might, they seek to gain absolute dominion in the space opened by the fall of our former rival. The term "Globalization" encapsulates only a fraction of the plan.
For many years, the proponents of this other American Dream lingered in neo-conservative think tanks, like the Committee on the Present Danger, where they could only snipe from the fringes. With the rise to power of George W. Bush, in an election that denied him even the pretense of a mandate, these neo-conservative strategists suddenly found themselves walking the halls of power, because Bush was forced in the absence of a mandate to fall back upon his neo-conservative base for support. The other American Dream, alive for so long only in white papers within these think tanks, has become the central framework of American policy.
One proponent of this strategy is Richard Perle, a former Defense Department official within the Reagan administration. Perle is now chairman of the powerful Defense Policy Board, which carries great weight within the Pentagon. Recently, this board listened with avid attention to a policy briefing proffered by other hard-right think tankers that proposed a "Grand Strategy for the Middle East." The final slide of their presentation offered "Iraq as the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia as the strategic pivot (and) Egypt as the prize" in an effort to extend American hegemony over the entire Middle East. Such plans cast into deep shade the reasons put forth by the Bush administration to defend war against Iraq. There is far more on the table here than the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
The framework for this other American Dream has other champions in positions of great influence within the Bush administration. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and his assistant Paul Wolfowitz, spring from the same neo-conservative think-tank roots as Richard Perle. From their places high in government, these fringe elements have gained the required position to push forward with their plans.
This other American Dream is not solely a creation of Bush administration officials, nor has it just recently come to fruition, nor is it fixated solely upon the Middle East. The bloody history of Afghanistan represents a clear example of the kind of geopolitical gamesmanship that characterizes the plans these people have for America. Afghanistan in 1978 was ruled by a Communist puppet regime called the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). To foster a destabilization of that regime, so as to counter the growing Soviet influence in that strategically vital region, America began arming and training Afghan mujeheddin warriors, with Pakistan's assistance, in an effort to undermine the PDPA.
This effort, however, had more in mind than the overthrow of the PDPA. Elie Krakowski, in a study written for the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in April of 2000, described Afghanistan's importance as going far beyond the dictates of the Cold War:
"(Afghanistan) owes its importance to its location at the confluence of major routes. A boundary between land power and sea power, it is the meeting point between opposing forces larger than itself. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has become an important potential opening to the sea for the landlocked new states of Central Asia. The presence of large oil and gas deposits in that area has attracted countries and multinational corporations. Because Afghanistan is a major strategic pivot, what happens there affects the world."
This places American aid to the mujeheddin in 1978 in a broader perspective. Our actions were not simply about attacking communism. In attempting to destabilize the PDPA, we were hoping to tempt the wrath of the Soviet Union. It worked: The USSR invaded and eventually destroyed its ability to extend influence into the region against the unyielding rock of Afghanistan, eliminating a strategic enemy and opening the region to broadening American hegemony.
Zbignew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor for President Carter during this period, bluntly confirmed this in 1998. "We did not push the Russians into invading," said Brzezinski, "but we knowingly increased the probability that they would. The secret operation was an excellent idea. The effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap."
Brzezinski's brag is revelatory, for it describes the lengths to which the proponents of this other American Dream will go to achieve this goal. Afghanistan was utterly destroyed by the Soviet invasion in 1979, by the ten-year war fought by Afghan warriors to remove them, and by the ravaging civil war that descended in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal. In that span was born the Taliban, trained to fight, and to propound their deadly interpretation of Islam, in Pakistani religious schools funded and supported by the American CIA.
Brzezinski's "Afghan trap" gave birth, as well, to Osama bin Laden, whose reputation as a heroic anti-Soviet mujeheddin warrior made him a demigod within Afghanistan. None of this - the Soviet invasion, the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, the wretchedness of life in Afghanistan - would have come into existence without the forces behind the other American Dream playing out geopolitical strategies designed to augment American control in the world.
This other American Dream was codified by Brzezinski in 1998, who authored in 1998 a study for the Council on Foreign Relations entitled, "The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives." The study describes in detail the importance of Afghanistan and the entire Central Asian region, which is described in its entirety as "Eurasia." According to the study, America must gain military and economic control of the region to stave off competition from China, Russia and Europe. The guts of the study are quoted below:
"But the Eurasian Balkans are infinitely more important as a potential economic prize: an enormous concentration of natural gas and oil reserves is located in the region, in addition to important minerals including gold...It is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America...A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world's three most advanced and economically productive regions.
"To put it in terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together."
Profoundly disquieting are the conclusions reached by Brzezinski regarding the means by which the American populace could be directed into supporting the actions required to achieve control in that region. "As America becomes an increasingly multicultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat."
The danger is clear. This geopolitical strategy of dominion in Central Asia, begun in 1978 with the "Afghan trap," put in motion a series of events that ultimately led to the creation of the Taliban, the empowerment of Osama bin Laden, and the attacks of September 11th. The plans described to Richard Perle's Defense Policy Board that target not only Iraq, but Egypt, Saudi Arabia and indeed the entire Middle East, were born from the same strategic imperatives.
This is the other American Dream. Already, the blowback from its dictates have dealt a terrible blow to the true dream we wish to live by. We live in fear now of mega-terrorism that was spawned by our actions in Central Asia and the Middle East, and by our desire for economic control of those regions and their resources. Because of the terrorism we have already endured, many of our essential liberties have been taken away in the blasphemous guise of protecting freedom. Because of the terrorism we have already endured, the fundamental right of life was taken from thousands of our citizens. The three pillars of our society have been shattered.
The proponents of this other American Dream control the military, economic and strategic policy that governs this nation. Their power was greatly increased by a terrorist attack put in motion by the activities of other American officials acting with the same strategy of hegemony and dominion in mind. They continue their work, right now, at this moment. One dream works feverishly, while the other withers and dies.
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- William Rivers Pitt is a teacher from Boston, MA. His new book, 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence,' will be published soon by Pluto Press.