This war came from a think tank : Why Old Europe Says No

by Jochen Boelsche,

It was in no way a conspiracy. As far back as 1998, ultra right US think
tanks had developed and published plans for an era of US world domination,
sidelining the UN and attacking Iraq. These people were not taken
seriously. But now they are calling the tune.

German commentators and correspondents have been confused. Washington has
tossed around so many types of reasons for war on Baghdad "that it could
make the rest of the world dizzy", said the South German Times.

And the Nuremburg News reported on public statements last week by
Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer to an inner circle in the US that war
can only be avoided if Saddam not only disarms, but also leaves office.

Regime change is a condition that is in none of the barely remembered 18 UN
resolutions. The Nuremburg News asked in astonishment whether Fleischer had
made the biggest Freudian slip of his career or whether he spoke with the
President's authority.

It's not about Saddam's weapons

So it goes. Across the world critics of President Bush are convinced that a
second Gulf War is actually about replacing Saddam, whether the dictator is
involved with WMD or not. "It's not about his WMD," writes the German born
Israeli peace campaigner, Uri Avnery, "its purely a war about world
domination, in business, politics, defence and culture".

There are real models for this. They were already under development by far
right Think Tanks in the 1990s, organisations in which cold-war warriors
from the inner circle of the secret services, from evangelical churches,
from weapons corporations and oil companies forged shocking plans for a new
world order.

In the plans of these hawks a doctrine of "might is right" would operate,
and the mightiest of course would be the last superpower, America.

Visions of world power on the Web

To this end the USA would need to use all means - diplomatic, economic and
military, even wars of aggression - to have long term control of the
resources of the planet and the ability to keep any possible rival weak.

These 1990's schemes of the Think Tanks, from sidelining the UN to a series
of wars to establish dominance - were in no way secret. Nearly all these
scenarios have been published; some are accessible on the Web.

For a long time these schemes were shrugged off as fantasy produced by
intellectual mavericks - arch-conservative relics of the Reagan era, the
coldest of cold-war warriors, hibernating in backwaters of academia and
lobby groups.

At the White House an internationalist spirit was in the air. There was
talk of partnerships for universal human rights, of multi-lateralism in
relations with allies. Treaties on climate-change, weapons control, on
landmines and international justice were on the agenda.

Saddam's fall was planned in 1998

In this liberal climate there came, nearly unnoticed, a 1997 proposal of
the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) that forcefully mapped out
"America's global leadership". On 28 Jan 1998 the PNAC project team wrote
to President Clinton demanding a radical change in dealings with the UN and
the end of Saddam.

While it was not clear whether Saddam was developing WMD, he was, they
said, a threat to the US, Israel, the Arab States and "a meaningful part of
the world's oil reserves". They put their case as follows:

"In the short term this means being ready to lead military action, without
regard for diplomacy. In the long term it means disarming Saddam and his
regime. We believe that the US has the right under existing Security
Council resolutions to take the necessary steps, including war, to secure
our vital interests in the Gulf. In no circumstances should America's
politics be crippled by the misguided insistence of the Security Council on

Blueprint for an offensive

This letter might have remained yellowing in the White House archives if it
did not read like a blue-print for a long-desired war, and still might have
been forgotten if ten PNAC members had not signed it. These signatories are
today all part of the Bush Administration. They are Dick Cheney - Vice
President, Lewis Libby - Cheney's Chief of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld - Defence
Minister, Paul Wolfowitz - Rumsfeld's deputy, Peter Rodman - in charge of
'Matters of Global Security', John Bolton - State Secretary for Arms
Control, Richard Armitage - Deputy Foreign Minister, Richard Perle - former
Deputy Defence Minister under Reagan, now head of the Defense Policy Board,
William Kristol - head of the PNAC and adviser to Bush, known as the brains
of the President, Zalmay Khalilzad - fresh from being special ambassador
and kingmaker in Afghanistan, now Bush's special ambassador to the Iraqi

But even before that - over ten years ago - two hardliners from this group
had developed a defence proposal that created a global scandal when it was
leaked to the US press. The suggestion that was revealed in 1992 in The New
York Times was developed by two men who today are Cabinet members -
Wolfowitz and Libby. It essentially argued that the doctrine of deterrence
used in the Cold War should be replaced by a new global strategy.

Its goal was the enduring preservation of the superpower status of the US -
over Europe, Russia and China. Various means were proposed to deter
potential rivals from questioning America's leadership or playing a larger
regional or global role. The paper caused major concerns in the capitals of
Europe and Asia.

But the critical thing, according to the Wolfowitz-Libby paper, was
complete American dominance of Eurasia. Any nation there that threatened
the USA by acquiring WMD should face pre-emptive attack, they said.
Traditional alliances should be replaced by ad-hoc coalitions.

This 1992 masterplan then formed the basis of a PNAC paper that was
concluded in September 2000, just months before the start of the Bush

That September 2000 paper (Rebuilding America's Defences) was developed by
Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Libby, and is devoted to matters of
"maintaining US pre-eminence, thwarting rival powers and shaping the global
security system according to US interests".

The cavalry on the new frontier

Amongst other things, this paper said, the USA must re-arm and build a
missile shield in order to put itself in a position to fight numerous wars
simultaneously and chart its own course. Whatever happened, the Gulf would
have to be in US control:

"The US has sought for years to play an ongoing role in the security
architecture of the Gulf. The unresolved conflict with Iraq provides a
clear basis for our presence, but quite independent of the issue of the
Iraqi regime, a substantial US presence in the Gulf is needed."

The paper describes these US forces stationed overseas in the raw language
of the Wild West, calling them "the Cavalry on the New American Frontier".
Even peace efforts, the paper continues, should have the stamp of the USA
rather than the UN.

Gun-at-the-head diplomacy

Scarcely had President Bush (jnr) won his controversial election victory
and replaced Clinton than he brought the hardliners from the PNAC into his
administration. The old campaigner Richard Perle (who once told the Hamburg
Times about 'gun-at-the-head diplomacy') found himself in the key role at
the Defense Policy Board. This board operates in close cooperation with
Pentagon boss Rumsfeld.

At a breath-taking pace the new power-bloc began implementing the PNAC
strategy. Bush ditched international treaty after international treaty,
shunned the UN and began treating allies as inferiors. After the attacks of
11 September, as fear ruled the US and anthrax letters circulated, the Bush
cabinet clearly took the view that the time was ripe to dust off the PNAC
plans for Iraq.

Just six days after 11 September, Bush signed an order to prepare for war
against the terror network and the Taliban. Another order went to the
military, that was secret initially, instructing them to develop scenarios
for a war in Iraq.

A son of a bitch, but our son of a bitch

Of course the claims of Iraqi control of the 11 September hijackers never
were proven, just like the assumption that Saddam was involved with the
anthrax letters (they proved to be from sources in the US Military). But
regardless, Richard Perle claimed in a TV interview that "there can be no
victory in the war on terror if Saddam remains in power".

The dictator, demanded Perle, must be deposed by the US as a matter of
priority "because he symbolises contempt for all Western values". But
Saddam had always been that way, even when he gained power in Iraq with US

At that time a Secret Service officer from the US embassy in Baghdad
reported to CIA Headquarters: "I know Saddam is a son of a bitch, but he is
our son of a bitch". And after the US had supported the dictator in his war
with Iran, the retired CIA Director Robert Gates says he had no illusions
about Saddam. The dictator, says Gates "was never a reformer, never a
democrat, just a common criminal".

But the PNAC paper does not make clear why Washington now wants to declare
war, even without UN support, on its erstwhile partner.

A shining example of freedom

There is a lot of evidence that Washington wants to remove the Iraqi regime
in order to bring the whole Middle East more fully under its economic
sphere of influence. Bush puts it somewhat differently - after a liberation
that is necessitated by breaches of international law, Iraq "will serve as
a dramatic and shining exampled of freedom to other nations of the region".

Experts like Udo Steinbach, Director of the German-Orient Institute in
Hamburg, have doubts about Bush's bona fides. Steinbach describes the
President's announcement last week of a drive to democratise Iraq as "a
calculated distortion aimed at justifying war".

There is nothing currently to indicate that Bush truly is pursuing
democratisation in the region.

"Particularly in Iraq," says Steinbach, "I cannot convince myself that
after the fall of Saddam something democratic could take shape."

Control the flow of oil, control your rivals

This so called pre-emptive war that the PNAC ideologues have longed for
against Iraq also serves, in the judgement of Uri Avnery, to take the
battle to Europe and Japan. It brings US dominance of Eurasia closer.

Avnery notes:

"American occupation of Iraq would secure US control not only of the
extensive oil reserves of Iraq, but also the oil of the Caspian Sea and the
Gulf States. With control of the supply of oil the US can stall the
economies of Germany, France and Japan at will, just by manipulating the
oil price. A lower price would damage Russia, a higher one would shaft
Germany and Japan. That's why preventing this war is essential to Europe's
interests, apart from Europeans' deep desire for peace."

"Washington has never been shy about its desire to tame Europe," argues
Avnery. In order to implement his plans for world dominance, says Avnery,
"Bush is prepared to spill immense quantities of blood, so long as it's not
American blood".

The world will toe the American line

The arrogance of the hawks in the US administration, and their plan to have
the world toe their line while they decide on war or peace, shocks experts
like the international law expert Hartmut Schiedermair from Cologne. The
American "crusading zeal" that can make such statements he says is "highly

Similarly Harald Mueller - a leading peace researcher - has long criticised
the German Government for "assiduously overlooking and tacitly endorsing"
the dramatic shift in US foreign policy of 2001. He says the agenda of the
Bush administration is unmistakable:

"America will do as it pleases. It will obey international law if it suits,
and break that law or ignore it if necessary ... The USA wants total
freedom for itself, to be the aristocrat of world politics."

Infatuated with war

Even senior politicians in countries backing a second Gulf War are appalled
by the radicals in the White House.

Beginning last year, responding to the PNAC study, long-serving Labour MP
Tam Dalyell raged against it in the House of Commons:

"This is rubbish from right wing think tanks where bird-brained war-mongers
huddle together - people who have never experienced the horror of war, but
are infatuated with the idea of it."

Even his own leader got a broad-side: "I am appalled that a Labour PM would
hop into bed with such a troop of moral pygmies."

Across the Atlantic in mid February, Democrat Senator Robert Byrd (at 86
years of age the so-called "Father of the Senate") spoke out. The longest
serving member of that Chamber warned the pre-emptive war that the Right
were advocating was a "distortion of long-standing concepts of the right of
self-defence" and "a blow against international law". Bush's politics, he
said "could well be a turning point in world history" and "lay the
foundation for anti-Americanism" across much of the world. (Byrd's speech
is at A
lonely voice in a US Senate silent on war.)

Holding the rest of the world in contempt

One person who is absolutely unequivocal about the problem of
anti-Americanism is former President Jimmy Carter. He judges the PNAC
agenda in the same way. At first, argues Carter, Bush responded to the
challenge of September 11 in an effective and intelligent way, "but in the
meantime a group of conservatives worked to get approval for their long
held ambitions under the mantle of 'the war on terror'".

The restrictions on civil rights in the US and at Guantanamo, cancellation
of international accords, "contempt for the rest of the world", and finally
an attack on Iraq "although there is no threat to the US from Baghdad" -
all these things will have devastating consequences, according to Carter.

"This entire unilateralism", warns the ex-President, "will increasingly
isolate the US from those nations that we need in order to do battle with

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This war came from a think tank

By : Journalist Jochen Boelsche