by William O. Beeman
coming U.S. invasion of Iraq was not prompted by the events of Sept.
11. It is a 5-year-old plan, conceived by a cabal of officials running
defense and security in the White House today, when they were out of
power during the Clinton administration. The Sept. 11 tragedy, along with
the Bush presidency, gave them the momentum they needed to implement the
plan, which lumbers forward like a drunken elephant threatening to
destroy everything in its path.
It appears that the only force that can derail the war machine at this point is American public opinion. The administration will back down only if it fears that by pursuing this conflict it will lose the White House in 2004.
In 1997, during the Clinton administration, a number of refugees from the administration of President George Bush Sr., including Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, got together to lobby then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to invade Iraq. This group was still smarting from the "unfinished" first Gulf conflict. Calling themselves the "Project for the New American Century" (PNAC), the group drew up the plans for a second Iraq war.
In a letter to President Clinton dated Jan. 26, 1998, the PNAC called for "the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power." In a letter dated May 29, 1998, to Gingrich and Sen. Trent Lott, they stated that Clinton had not listened to them and asserted: "We should establish and maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force to protect our vital interests in the Gulf -- and, if necessary, to help remove Saddam from power." Chair of the PNAC was William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine.
Signatories to the plan constitute a neoconservative Who's Who. Aside from Kristol, they include Elliott Abrams, the convicted Iran-Contra conspirator whom Bush recently appointed director of Middle Eastern policy on the National Security Council; Paul Wolfowitz, deputy to Secretary Rumsfeld at the Pentagon; John Bolton, now undersecretary of state for arms control and international security; Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Science Board; William J. Bennett, secretary of education under President Reagan; Richard Armitage, deputy to Colin Powell at the State Department; Zalmay Khalilzad, President Bush's ambassador to Afghanistan; and other members of the current administration.
Their ideas are no secret. They were printed in a September 2000 PNAC report entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century," and in the book "Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy," edited by Robert Kagan and William Kristol.
These publications make it clear that the ultimate aim of the PNAC is permanent colonial occupation of Iraq and American domination of the region and its oil from that base of power.
Now all of these men are at the center of power in Washington. With so many chiefs beating the drums of war, it is not surprising that the White House slaps aside virtually every element that would modify or curtail the conflict --even facts. The lack of any proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the absence of any connection between Iraq and the al Qaeda militants, the opposition of virtually every other nation on Earth to a war in Iraq, the reluctance of the United Nations to support U.S. militancy, the astonishing decline in favorable world public opinion toward the United States and the poorly reported successful boycott of American goods by the 1 billion consumers in the Islamic world all seem to make no difference.
American public opinion seems to be the only force strong enough to stop the war machine, and the only person listening in the Bush administration appears to be White House political strategist Karl Rove. In engineering the political moves of this administration, Rove has been right most of the time, so the president pays attention to him. Rove's strategy of advocating the war to American voters won the mid-term congressional elections for the president. Now the winds have changed and Americans are no longer sure that invading Iraq with scant international support is a good idea. Given this lack of a public mandate for a unilateral war, Rove reportedly convinced the president to seek the approval of the United Nations and other Arab states in the region. However, it was clear that the war strategists went along expecting to garner quick nominal approval and then to proceed with the original invasion plan.
This did not happen. The invasion bogged down in debate and consultations. The delays created by U.N. deliberations and inspections brought out the petulance in President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld. The president these days is sounding like a 5-year-old having a tantrum, as he complains of the lack of progress in the inspections and berates Saddam. For his part, having called publicly for the Iraqi president's ouster, Secretary Rumsfeld told reporters on Jan. 16 that even if Saddam Hussein left Iraq, the United States might still invade. Apparently no one is going to deny these White House warriors their long-planned invasion.
This state of affairs is a stiff test for American democracy. With public opinion so crucial in shaping the actions of this administration, it is certain that Americans will get this war -- unless they say emphatically that they don't want it. The militants in the White House are champing at the bit. Only their fear of the voters holds them in check.
January 21, 2003 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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