Marjorie Cohn: Bush's Twin Masters
Bush's Twin Masters
By Marjorie Cohn
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 26 September 2005
This article is based on the author's remarks at the September 24 anti-war rally in San Diego.
George W. Bush's two masters - the neoconservatives and the right-wing Christians - were the guiding force behind his decision to invade Iraq, change its regime, and control it permanently.
The neocons' blueprint for Bush's war can be found in a 1992 draft of the Pentagon Defense Planning Guidance on Post-Cold War Strategy, prepared by Paul Wolfowitz. It said, "Our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in [the Middle East and Southwest Asia to] preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil."
The US had played a pivotal role in the Middle East for 50 years. One year before the Shah was toppled, I visited Iran as an international observer on behalf of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Tehran sported a US corporation on nearly every corner, but the people were mired in poverty. In 1953, the CIA had overthrown the democratically-elected secular prime minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, whose government had nationalized the British oil company. The US installed the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, ushering in a 25-year reign of terror.
Iran became the largest customer for United States arms. US-based oil companies replaced the British. When Iranians began to rise up against the Shah, the US told the Shah it supported him "without reservation" and encouraged him to use force to maintain his power, even trying to engineer a military coup to save him. In 1979, a broad-based united front consisting of nationalists as well as militant Muslims coalesced around the Ayatollah Khomeini, overthrew the Shah, and inaugurated a theocracy of religious fascism.
Because of Washington's longstanding support for the Shah, Khomeini's government became a model for fundamentalist anti-US Islamic regimes. The United States was eager to counter the now anti-American Iranian government and prevent it from controlling the Persian Gulf, the largest oil source in the world.
To keep both Iran and Iraq from controlling the Gulf, the US quietly encouraged Iraq to invade Iran in 1980, with the promise of financing from Saudi Arabia. The US removed Iraq from its list of terrorist nations, and allowed the transfer of arms to Iraq, while simultaneously permitting Israel to arm Iran.
The United States supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical and biological weapons. Even after Iraq used its chemical weapons in the early 1980s, the US restored diplomatic relations with Iraq. Still playing both ends against the middle, the US itself supplied arms covertly to Iran in 1985.
Thinking the United States was still his ally, Saddam let April Glaspie, the career Foreign Service officer who headed the US mission in Iraq, know that he was about to invade Kuwait in 1991. Glaspie responded with a green light, and Saddam invaded. But the US, not wanting Iraq to dominate the western shore of the Persian Gulf, reacted by re-invading Kuwait. The United States didn't really wish to destroy Iraq; it still wanted Iraq as a counterweight to Iran. But the US underestimated Saddam's ability to maintain his position of control over the Kurds and the Shiites - both politically and through the use of terror. The survival of Saddam represented a severe limitation on American political power.
Employing the same strategy it later used in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the United States attacked the infrastructure of Iraq in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, which led to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths from disease caused by unclean water. During Operation Desert Fox in 1998, the US bombed Iraq after Saddam refused to let UN inspectors into Iraq, on the grounds they were spying for the CIA. It turns out they were indeed CIA spies, according to the Washington Post.
By mid-2000, the United States had dropped 88,000 tons of bombs over Iraq, killing many civilians. Between 4,000 and 5,000 children per month died in Iraq as a result of prior US bombing and sanctions.
After the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration mounted a concerted campaign to prepare the American people for war on Iraq. Although unable to find any weapons of mass destruction or evidence linking Iraq to 9/11, Bush never wavered in his march toward war.
Bush's Iraq war is consistent with his new military strategy of "pre-emptive" war set forth in The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002, and the Project for the New American Century's September 2000 document.
But there was no danger to pre-empt in Iraq, which had not invaded any country for 12 years. Iraq's military, severely weakened by the Gulf War, years of sanctions and intrusive inspections, never posed a threat to the US or other countries in the region.
A quarter of a million US and UK troops launched numerous 2,000-pound bombs on Baghdad in rapid succession. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed and tens of thousands have been wounded. Nearly 2,000 American soldiers have died and thousands more have been wounded.
No weapons of mass destruction have been found and the Iraq/al-Qaeda link has been discredited. Indeed, Wolfowitz admitted in Vanity Fair that the weapons of mass destruction rationale was a "bureaucratic" excuse for war, upon which "everyone" could agree. In light of the failure to find any WMDs, Wolfowitz revealed a new rationale for Operation Iraqi Freedom: using Iraq to redraw the Middle East in order to reduce the terrorist threat to the United States.
Two years before Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Bush administration's plan to take military control of the Gulf region regardless of whether Saddam was in power was detailed in the Report of The Project for the New American Century. It says: "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
Indeed, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has confirmed that toppling Saddam was on George W. Bush's agenda long before 9/11.
According to O'Neill, in January 2001, Rumsfeld articulated the desire to "dissuade" other countries from "asymmetrical challenges" to United States power, a characterization strikingly similar to that in Wolfowitz's 1992 Pentagon paper. Rumsfeld's advocacy of a pre-emptive attack "matched with plans for how the world's second largest oil reserve might be divided among the world's contractors made for an irresistible combination," O'Neill later said.
Five months later, Vice President Dick Cheney's secret energy task force, in a May 2001 report, called on the White House to make "energy security a priority of US trade and foreign policy" and to encourage Persian Gulf countries to welcome foreign investment in their energy sectors.
When US-UK forces took control of Iraq, their first order of business was to secure the oil fields instead of the hospitals. Meanwhile, Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root was awarded a controversial $7 billion no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq's oil fields.
In July 2003, the public interest group Judicial Watch finally secured some of the documents from Cheney's energy task force meetings. They contain the smoking gun: "a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as 2 charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects" and "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts." The documents are dated March 2001, two years before Bush invaded Iraq.
Bush's twin masters are the neocons and the right-wing Christians.
The United States' uncritical support for Israel, and the installation of a US- and Israel-friendly regime in Iraq, is not motivated by love for the Jewish people. Rather, this support is critical to the right-wing Christian agenda. In order to fulfill the Scripture's promise, the right-wing Christians want to transfer the temple mount in Jerusalem from Muslim to Jewish hands, to facilitate the rebuilding of the temple so Jesus can return.
US assistance to Israel maintains that country as an America-friendly presence in the midst of countries that are exploited by and resent the policies of both the United States and Israel. Instead of fighting terror - as Bush likes to proclaim - his war on Iraq has drawn foreign terrorists into Iraq to fight against the Western infidels.
Its success in removing Saddam's regime made way for the United States to construct 14 US military bases in Iraq. All of these bases are instrumental to Washington's strategy to maintain hegemony in the Middle East. Kellogg Brown & Root, which built the infamous tiger cages in Vietnam and Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, got the no-bid contract for reconstruction in Iraq, and in New Orleans as well.
Our government's atrocious neglect of the poor and marginalized people of the Gulf Coast before and after Hurricane Katrina has come into full focus. And Bush's opposition to the Kyoto Protocol - which would require US corporations to sacrifice some of their profits to combat global warming - has come home to roost in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Nearly half the National Guard and many high-water vehicles were in Iraq when they should've been in New Orleans.
The Bush administration has spent more than $200 billion on an illegal and unjustified war of conquest in Iraq and continues to send $3 billion of aid per year to Israel to fund its brutal military occupation of the Palestinian people. It is time for the US to get out of the business of funding killing and occupation, and into the business of funding healthcare, jobs, education and housing.
Marjorie Cohn, a contributing editor to t r u t h o u t, is
a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, executive
vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US
representative to the executive committee of the American