The Iraq War Was Spawned in a Think Tank!
The Real Deal About the Iraq War
The plan to invade Iraq was hatched in “The Project for a New American Century,” a think tank founded by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in conjunction with other neo-conservative politicians and policy wonks committed to US world domination: a Pax-Americana to rival the ancient Pax-Romana.
However the evidence of the PNAC’s preeminent role in formulating the war policy against Iraq, and brainwashing George II into carrying it out – which was a piece of cake because his head is a tabular Rasa in which anything can be inscribed once you manage to get his ear – is overwhelming and indisputable.
Yet when I presented this fact to Mr. Hitchens, whom Prospect magazine has acclaimed as one of the great minds of our time, he vociferously dismissed the evidence and announced that anyone who suggests there is a relationship between the machinations of the PNAC and the Bush Administration’s decision to attack Iraq is “spouting paranoid garbage!”
Alas he shouted this declaration as he fled from the stage under fire from the audience, who had become enflamed as Mr. Hitchens’ professions of moral concerns in supporting the invasion of Iraq was exposed as duplicity. Thus I was denied the exquisite pleasure of flagellating him with the facts on this matter, but his overall argument was exposed as little more than artful sophistry.
In an attempt to explain his support for the Bushmen’s attack on Iraq by defining it as an altruistic act, in spite of America’s long record of imperialist misadventures in the Mid-East and elsewhere, Mr. Hitchens’ described this dramatic change in policy by which “the United States has managed to get itself…on the right side of history,” as the result “of some Hegelian alchemy that I’m still trying to analyze properly.” I had heard of Hegelian dialectics – a favorite subject of Karl Marx – but Hegelian alchemy was a new one on me. Hence I shall regard this as yet another instance of Mr. Hitchens’ retreat into faith based analysis, in spite of his much trumpeted atheism.
For my part, however, I have refrained from resorting to alchemy of any kind, or the sort of strange conjurations and black magic of which old Barbantio accused “black Othello” after he entranced his beautiful white daughter. In trying to make sense of the Bushmen’s policies I decided to rely upon a close reading of the evidence, a healthy disdain for ideologues of all stripes, and an abiding suspicion of the motives and methods of George II and the Bushmen. And I would invite Mr. Hitchens to follow my example and forget about alchemy, whether Hegelian or Saracen.
My argument is fairly straight forward and is about as simple as a discussion of such a complex issue can be. The raison d’etre of think tanks is to study policy issues, write position papers, shop them around to people in power, and lobby for their adoption. As non-governmental organizations they are privately funded, generally by wealthy persons, foundations and corporations who have an interest in the issues with which the think tank is concerned. All of this is true of The Project for a New American Century – whose name is a play upon Henry Luce’s imperialist vision of the twentieth century as “The American Century.”
This think tank was founded by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and that little grinning charlatan Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and ubiquitous television commentator on foreign affairs. The fact that Fox News features Kristol as a commentator on their Sunday Morning show without ever mentioning his role with the PNAC, which means that he is an ideologue with an agenda, only underscores the claims made about their lack of objectivity and journalistic ethics by former employees in the revealing documentary film Out Foxed.
When you add such characters as the militant policy wonks Paul Wolfowitz – for whom Mr. Hitchens has expressed great admiration – and Richard Perle, you have the major players in a crew that has been trying to get an American President to invade Iraq and overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime since the reign of George I. Failing to pressure the senior bush to knock off Saddam while American troops were baying at Baghdad’s door during the “Desert Storm” invasion of 1991, this foreign policy cabal had never ceased trying to convince someone else to do it.
Unable to persuade George I who, according to his CIA advisor on Middle-East affairs Ray McGovern began calling them “The Crazies,” and was soon joined in this assessment by General Colin Powell – then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – who called them “The Fucking Crazies!” they turned their attention to Bill Clinton.
But they got nowhere with Clinton, who was a Rhodes Scholar with a long interest in and understanding of foreign policy issues, plus he was committed to a strategy based on multi-lateralism; which is just the opposite of George II, a know-nothing whom the PNAC cabal would eventually persuade to carry out their dreams of conquest and reorganization of Iraqi society.
Some of the most convincing evidence regarding the fact that the PNAC ideologues, who took command of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy after the 9/11 attacks, cooked the evidence to suit their imperial ambitions can be found in the testimony of ex-CIA agents who were experts on Mid-Eastern affairs. Consider the account of Paul R. Pillar, a career CIA agent who served as the National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asian affairs from 2000 – 2005, and was an advisor to George II when the decision to attack Iraq was made.
Presently a professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University, Pillar published a detailed account in Foreign Affairs magazine explaining how the Bush Administration either ignored or misused intelligence reports in arriving at the decision to invade Iraq. Which is to say he was an eyewitness to the manipulation of intelligence that the retired CIA agents around Ray McGovern predicted was going on to whip up war hysteria in support of the invasion.
Calling the relationship between the Bushmen and the intelligence community “dysfunctional” professor Pillar tells us: “The most serious problem with U.S. intelligence today is that its relationship with the policymaking process is broken and badly needs repair. In the wake of the Iraq war, it has become clear that official intelligence analysis was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community’s own work was politicized. As the national intelligence officer responsible for the Middle East from 2000 to 2005, I witnessed all of these disturbing developments.”
The complaint about the Bushmen politicizing intelligence is especially telling because it echoes the complaint of Ralph McGhee about the Johnson Administration’s politicizing of Vietnam era intelligence in his seminal book Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA. In Fact McGhee blamed that disastrous war on the cooking of intelligence as to the size and significance of the communist led nationalist insurgencies in Asia. Both of which they grossly underestimated.
The extent of American ignorance about these movements that he discovered after he was recalled from the field and stationed behind a desk at CIA headquarters in Langley Virginia, shocked and appalled him. And he attributes this willful ignorance to the fact that the legally mandated CIA mission of providing objective intelligence was perverted by the policies of several presidents, Democrat and Republican, who turned the agency into a covert action force carrying out the policy objectives of the executive branch.
Anyone who has read this book should have no doubt about the dangers of political interference in the evaluation of intelligence. In the Vietnam era it not only led the US into tactical and strategic cul de sacs, it also allowed Lyndon Johnson to justify his criminal decision to send thousands of young Americans to their deaths and cause the slaughter of over a million Vietnamese, when according to Robert McNamara, who was the Secretary of Defense, they knew the rationale for the war was a damn lie!
As if unburdening his soul before standing in Judgment for his sins McNamara has publicly confessed their murderous duplicity, which was driven by Johnson’s egomaniacal obsession with not being the first American President to lose a war! It is a grand historical irony that another macho Texas wannabe cowboy has led the nation into another un-winnable war based on a big lie.
The reasons for this Administration’s obsession with invading Iraq and removing its government are complex and cannot be fully explained by US interest in Iraqi oil, as some opponents of this war believe, although Iraq’s 13 trillion dollar oil reserves figure much more prominently in shaping that policy than is generally acknowledged in the mainstream media. As one wag wryly observed:”If Iraq was exporting asparagus, Bush would never have invaded.”
Ted Koppel, a bonafide star in major media, explained the role of oil in shaping American policy toward Iraq in a New York Times article of 2/ /06, appropriately titled “Will Fight for Oil.” In a learned and candid commentary on the history of American policy in the oil rich Middle East he argues: “Keeping oil flowing out of the Persian Gulf and through the Strait of Hormuz has been bedrock American foreign policy for more than a half-century.”
Koppel ridicules the Bush Administration’s denial of the central role oil played in its decision to occupy Iraq and observes, “There’s no reason to be coy about why the U.S. is in Iraq. The reason for America’s rapt attention to the security of the Persian Gulf is what is has always been. It’s about the oil.”
Pillar tells us that the Commission set up to study the pre-war intelligence failures chaired by Judge Laurence Silberman and Senator Chuck Robb catalogued the intelligence failures in a exhaustive 2005 report, “an acrimonious and highly partisan debate broke out over whether the Bush administration manipulated and misused intelligence in making its case for war. The administration defended itself by pointing out that it was not alone in its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and active weapons programs, however mistaken that view may have been…But in making this defense, the White House also inadvertently pointed out the real problem: intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs did not drive its decision to go to war.”
Instead Pillar explains that, “A view broadly held in the United States and even more so overseas was that deterrence of Iraq was working, that Saddam was being kept “in his box,” and that the best way to deal with the weapons problem was through an aggressive inspections program to supplement the sanctions already in place. That the administration arrived at so different a policy solution indicates that its decision to topple Saddam was driven by other factors — namely, the desire to shake up the sclerotic power structures of the Middle East and hasten the spread of more liberal politics and economics in the region.”
Then Professor Pillar reveals this rather astonishing bit of information: “If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war — or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath. What is most remarkable about prewar U.S. intelligence on Iraq is not that it got things wrong and thereby misled policymakers; it is that it played so small a role in one of the most important U.S. policy decisions in recent decades.”
The obvious question raised by these revelations is: If Bush ignored the advice of the professionals in the intelligence community who was he listening to when he made the decision to invade Iraq? And the answer is equally obvious. It was the ideologues in the Project for a New American Century who had unsuccessfully tried to convince George I and Bill Clinton to invade. But these presidents had proved too smart to go for a sucker move like that; it took Denny Dimwit to go for that Okey Doke!
The evidence on this question is overwhelming. From the inception of the PNAC there was a steady drumbeat calling for an invasion of Iraq. Their position was published in The Weekly Standard, which is a mouth piece for the PANC. It could hardly be otherwise when its editor, William Kristol, is a founder, Executive Director, and major theoretician of the think tank.
In a November 16, 1998 article published in the Weekly Standard, titled “How To Attack Iraq,” Bill Kristol rants, “It now seems fairly certain that some time in the next few weeks the Clinton administration will have to strike Iraq. There are really no acceptable alternatives.” And why is an attack on Iraq such an urgent necessity?
According to Kristol, “Saddam’s recent demand for the expulsion of UN weapons inspectors and for the removal of Richard Butler as head of the inspections regime is mostly a ploy to buy time…The longer the present crisis lasts, the more weeks the United states spends arguing with its allies and with Russia, the closer Saddam comes to his real objective: Finally acquiring chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them.”
And why is nothing short of an invasion acceptable to our pugnacious pundit? “More hollow threats of force, more empty declarations that ‘all options are on the table,’ will only further erode America’s already badly damaged credibility…Even the Clinton administration, confronted by the inescapable and horrible logic of the situation, will soon come to the conclusion that military action is necessary.”
Right wing Ideologue: Bill Kristol
This article was published only 17 months after the founding of the PNAC, and already Bill Kristol – a wimpy little nerdy guy who looks like he gave up his lunch money for protection on the way to school – is frothing at the mouth, hysterically crying for an attack on Iraq, a country that had made no aggressive moves against the US. Even a casual reading of this bombastic screed will reveal all of the major themes in the arguments the Bush administration would employ as justification for the invasion of that country five years later.
These themes were repeated in published polemics by PNAC associates right up until the decision to invade Iraq was made. In an October 21, 2002 article in the Weekly Standard titled A Necessary War, written just five months before the invasion,Reuel Marc Gerecht, a militant PNAC ideologue, asks: “Could a war with Iraq compromise America’s war on terrorism? It would appear that many in the foreign policy establishment believe so.”
Gerecht cites Senators from both parties who opposed any invasion of Iraq for the purpose of regime change and observes, “Both have echoed former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft’s dire warning that an attack on Iraq would ‘jeopardize,’ if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign…Former Secretary of State James Baker, another close advisor to Bush Pere, was only a little more conditional, urging the present administration to confront Iraq in the right (multi-lateral) way or risk damaging our relationships with Arab and European states and ‘perhaps even our top foreign policy priority, the war on terrorism.”
After dismissing the opinions of Senators from both sides of the aisle, a former National Security Advisor and a Secretary of State, he then goes on to dis the professionals in the CIA. “And if you spend any time with working level real-politickers who staff the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, and the Pentagon, you’ll quickly hit Scowcroftian resistance to a second Gulf campaign.”
It is no wonder that the Iraq war has turned into such a disaster; the planners rejected the opinions of everybody who knew what they were talking about. The PNAC ideologues remind me of the kinds of people who presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union, of whom Andropov’s official ideologist said in an interview with Jim Lehrer: ”Whenever reality contradicted our official ideology, we dismissed reality.” Thus when we consider who the players were that became the architects of this policy, and examine what they believed, it is easy to see that the invasion of Iraq was inevitable once they came to power.
To begin with, among the founders of the PNAC were Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, who became the Vice-President and Secretary of Defense. Ironically, George Bush was not the first choice of the PANC crew. They recognized that he was a simple minded frat boy with no discernable philosophy on foreign affairs, and was therefore likely to be managed by the same moderate Republicans like Brent Skowcroft and Colin Powell, who had advised his father. John McCain was more their flavor.
Furthermore Bush’s disavowal of any special interest in Middle Eastern affairs, or nation building, increased their anxiety about Bush. But then a series of fortuitous events occurred that would radically alter the fortunes of the PANC ideologues and change the course of history. First Bush chose Cheney as Vice-President; then he put him in charge of the transition team when the Supreme Court selected him to occupy the Oval Office.
The result was that Cheney stacked PANC cadres in critical foreign policy and national security positions. At the end of this process here is what the Bush administration looked like. Dick Cheney, Vice President, Don Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense; Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Peter Rodman; Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State; John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; Elliot Abrams, Senior Director for Near East, Southwest Asian, and North African Affairs, National Security Council; Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Chief of Staff, Office of the Vice President; James Woolsey, a former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and member of the Defense Policy Board, where he joined Richard Perle, a long time hysterical hawk who urged war against the communist in the past and militant Muslims in the present.
Paul Wolfowitz: Neo-Con Theoritician
This rogue’s gallery of neo-con chicken hawks demonstrates how the PNAC effectively staffed the upper echelons of the defense establishment and planted important players in the State Department; all they needed was a catalyst that would ignite a chain of events which would place them at the levers of power. The catastrophe on 9/11 supplied that catalyst. In fact, they had predicted that it would take an event of “the magnitude of Pearl Harbor” in order to create the necessary public support to implement their costly and dangerous military plans!
It is this prediction that has spawned a spiraling movement of conspiracy theorists who argue that the Bush administration organized the events of 9/11 in order to institute a police state at home, and gain carte blanche approval for military adventures abroad. We never got an opportunity to discuss this growing controversy due to the fact that the extended give and take that I had prepared for never happened because of the bungling intrusions of our hyperactive moderator; the debate time between me and Hitchens was dramatically reduced when the moderator decided to open the floor for questions prematurely. So let me say here that I consider the conspiracy theorists to be crazier than “The Crazies!”
In January of 1998, eleven months before Bill Kristol’s article demanding an attack on Iraq was published, five men from the PNAC cabal signed a letter to Bill Clinton pleading with the Democratic president “to turn your administration’s attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power.” Although unsuccessful in selling their views to men with the power to implement them, they continued to expend considerable time, money and intellectual effort theorizing about how to radically increase the role of military power in achieving US foreign policy objectives.
Hence when these PNAC cadres took over critical positions in the Bush administration they didn’t come empty handed. Early in 2000, with no hint that they would soon be in power, the PNAC published a comprehensive document stating their vision of the world, along with a detailed plan outlining how American military power is to be promiscuously employed in order to realize this vision. Titled Redesigning America’s Defenses, itis the neo-con master plan for world domination, a Pax-Americana. Unabashed imperialists that they are, they actually use this term.
There’s no shame in PNAC’s game; they make it abundantly clear that they are out to rule the world by whatever means necessary! “The United States is the world’s only superpower,” the document declares, “combining preeminent military power, global technological leadership, and the world’s largest economy…At present the United States faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible. There are, however, potentially powerful states dissatisfied with the current situation and eager to change it, if they can…Preserving the desirable strategic situation in which the United States now finds itself requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and into the future.”
Well, if you wonder what happened to the so-called “peace dividend” look no further. This document makes it clear that if they had anything to do with it there would be no reduction in defense spending despite the collapse of the Soviet Empire, or the reality of the unipolar world that has emerged in the aftermath: “We did not accept pre-ordained constraints that followed from assumptions about what the country might or might not be willing to expend on its defenses.”
The document also makes it abundantly clear that the PNAC was “building upon the defense strategy outlined by the Cheney Defense Department in the waning days of the Bush Administration. The Defense Policy Guidance drafted in the early months of 1992 provided a blueprint for maintaining US prominence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.”
The document goes on to lament the fact that the plan, which was largely authored by Paul Wolfowitz, was “Leaked before it had been approved,” then “criticized as an effort by ‘cold warriors’ to keep defense spending high and cuts in forces small despite the collapse of the Soviet Union; not surprisingly, it was subsequently buried by the new administration.”
Having had no luck in getting their agenda adopted as policy by George I, then being put on ice during eight years of two Clinton administrations that were very successful in foreign affairs – Our President was widely admired and America was loved around the world in this period – the neo-con ideologues and the PNAC were in hog heaven under George II. They would finally get the opportunity to translate their silly position papers into policy.
In order to understand the assumptions that informed the Bush administration’s policy on the Middle East in the post-9/11 period – when “The Crazies” took over and George II freaked out and stopped listening to the professionals in the State Department and CIA, giving a free rein to the PNAC cabal – one must study the section of the plan dealing with the Persian Gulf region.
Here we see their grand vision for this part of the world, and the thoughtful investigator will discover that the conflict with Iraq is actually a pretext for wider ambitions. “In the Persian Gulf region,” the report explains, “the presence of American forces, along with British and French units, has become a semi-permanent fact of life…Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. 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.”
Thus we see that “The Crazies” coveted the entire oil rich Gulf Region, convinced that whoever controlled this energy source could rule the world. Ted Koppel notes that the region produces 80 million barrels a day, and the world consumes 80 million barrels a day. But based upon the language in the report it is clear that they don’t really understand the age of white supremacist domination of the world is over!
The building of new military bases in Iraq is further evidence of both their imperialist ambitions and their delusions about the realities of the age in which we live. According to the PNAC document, the real reason for constructing the Iraqi bases arises from the fact that “Saudi domestic sensibilities demand that the forces based in the Kingdom nominally remain rotational.”
This demand arises from the fact that the Saudi Royals only allowed Americans to garrison troops in their country because of a fear of Saddam; it was a forced play. But in so doing they became apostates in the eyes of Islamicists like Osama Bin Laden, who regarded it as a sacrilege to invite swine eating infidel troops into the Muslim holy lands of Arabia, within the shadow of Mecca.
This event was a major impetus for the development of Al Qaeda out of the remnants of the CIA trained Moujiadeen of Afghanistan and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. Here the vision of the neo-cons and the Saudi Royal Family diverged, once Saddam was checked by virtue of Operation Desert Storm, they wanted the Americans out; but the PNAC cabal had other ideas.
“From an American perspective,” they argued, “the value of such bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene. Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should US-Iranian relations improve; retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in US security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region.”
Thus to those who have read this section of the PNAC document – like that old ex-CIA watch dog Ray McGovern, whose warnings during the mobilization for the Iraqi invasion has proven so prophetic – Rumsfeld’s present saber rattling toward Iran comes as no surprise. And he has put the nation on notice like a latter day Paul Revere bellowing: Beware the neo-cons are coming, and they are bearing bombs!
This warning echo’s in a April 16, 2006 commentary in the New York Times by Steve Simon and Richard Clarke, the former anti-terror Czar, titled “Bombs That Would Backfire. And, even as I write, the brilliant and prescient journalist Seymour Hirsh has published a cover story in The New Yorker magazine exposing the Bush administration’s secret plans for an attack on Iran with tactical nuclear weapons.
Sadam Hussein: The Bushman’s Fall guy!
An Avowed Foe of the Islamic Jihadists!
Any objective and reasonably intelligent observer can see the PNAC plan is a blueprint for perpetual war and imperial domination of the oil producing areas of the Middle East. And since the cabal who authored these plans is now in charge of US national security/foreign policy in terms of issues of war and peace, the crazies have literally taken over the nut house and they are making a serious attempt to realize their fantasies.
That fact, more than any faulty intelligence about “weapons of mass destruction” or a Saddam Hussein/Osama bin Laden alliance, explains why the Bushmen invaded Iraq and squandered military resources that should have been deployed against Al Qaeda. And it is a decision I am convinced we shall live to regret.
In fact, according to Richard Clarke – who was then the reigning anti-terrorism Czar in the federal government – the PNAC cabal began calling for the invasion of Iraq immediately after the 9/11 attack, although there was no evidence of Iraqi involvement in the assault nor and reason to suspect any. It is all too clear that they saw this as their big moment, the one they had been waiting on for a decade, and they were determined to make the most of it!
The logical outcome of this neo-con obsession is that Saddam is on trial and Osama has been forgotten. If Mr. Hitchens can’t see this obvious pattern; the PANC cabal manipulating the facts to suit their ideological imperatives, he really is a fool in spite of his penchant for ostentatious erudition.
British Gadfly Christopher Hitchens
Harlem, New York
May 4, 2011
***** This Commentqary is an excerpt from a 110 page essay
The Emperors New Clothes: Reflections On My Debate With Christopher Hitchens