A Wilful Blindness
Those who support the coming war with Iraq refuse to see that it has anything
to do with US global domination.
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 11th March 2003
The war in Afghanistan has plainly brought certain benefits to that country:
thousands of girls have gone to school for the first time, for example, and in
some parts of the country women have been able to go back to work. While over
3000 civilians were killed by the bombing; while much of the country is still
controlled by predatory warlords; while most of the promised assistance has not
materialised; while torture is widespread and women are still beaten in the
streets, it would be wrong to minimise the gains that have flowed from the
defeat of the Taliban. But, and I realise that it might sound callous to say
it, this does not mean that the Afghan war was a good thing.
What almost all those who supported that war and are now calling for a new
one have forgotten is that there are two sides to every conflict, and therefore
two sets of outcomes to every victory. The Afghan regime changed, but so, in
subtler ways, did the government of the United States. It was empowered not
only by its demonstration of military superiority but also by the widespread
support it enjoyed. It has used the licence it was granted in Afghanistan as a
licence to take its war wherever it wants.
Those of us who oppose the impending conquest of Iraq must recognise that
there's a possibility that, if it goes according to plan, it could improve the
lives of many Iraqi people. But to pretend that this battle begins and ends in
Iraq requires a wilful denial of the context in which it occurs. That context
is a blunt attempt by the superpower to reshape the world to suit itself.
In this week's Observer, David Aaronovitch suggested that, before September
11, the Bush administration was "relatively indifferent to the nature of the
regimes in the Middle East"1. Only after America was attacked was it forced to
start taking an interest in the rest of the world.
If Aaronovitch believes this, he would be well-advised to examine the website
of the Project for the New American Century2, the pressure group established,
among others, by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis
Libby, Elliott Abrams and Zalmay Khalilzad, all of whom (except the president's
brother) are now senior officials in the US government. Its statement of
principles, signed by those men on June 3 1997, asserts that the key challenge
for the United States is "to shape a new century favorable to American
principles and interests"3. This requires "a military that is strong and ready
to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and
purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that
accepts the United States' global responsibilities."4
On January 26 1998, these men wrote to President Clinton, urging him "to
enunciate a new strategy", namely "the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from
power."5 If Clinton failed to act, "the safety of American troops in the
region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and
a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will all be put at hazard."
They acknowledged that this doctrine would be opposed, but "American policy
cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN
Last year, the Sunday Herald obtained a copy of a confidential report
produced by the Project in September 2000, which suggested that blatting Saddam
was the beginning, not the end of its strategy. "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."7 The wider strategic aim, it insisted, was "maintaining global
US pre-eminence". Another document obtained by the Herald, written by Paul
Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby, called upon the United States to "discourage
advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to
a larger regional or global role"8.
On taking power, the Bush administration was careful not to alarm its allies.
The new president spoke only of the need "to project our strength with purpose
and with humility"9 and "to find new ways to keep the peace"10. From his first
week in office, however, he began to engage not so much in nation-building as
The ostensible purpose of Bush's missile defence programme is to shoot down
incoming nuclear missiles. The real purpose is to provide a justification for
the extraordinarily ambitious plans - contained in a Pentagon document entitled
Vision for 2020 - to turn space into a new theatre of war, developing orbiting
weapons systems which can instantly destroy any target anywhere on earth11. By
creating the impression that his programme is merely defensive, Bush could
justify a terrifying new means of acquiring what he calls "full spectrum
dominance" over planetary security.
Immediately after the attack on New York, the US government began
establishing "forward bases" in Asia. As the assistant Secretary of State
Elizabeth Jones noted, "when the Afghan conflict is over we will not leave
Central Asia. We have long-term plans and interests in this region"12. The US
now has bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Georgia. Their presence has, in effect, destroyed the
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation which Russia and China had established in an
attempt to develop a regional alternative to US power.
In January, the US moved into Djibouti, ostensibly to widen its war against
terror, while accidentally gaining strategic control over the Bab Al Mandab -
one of the world's two most important oil shipping lanes. It already controls
the other one, the Strait of Hormuz. Two weeks ago, under the same pretext, it
sent 3000 men to the Philippines. Last year it began negotiations to establish
a military base in Sao Tomé and Principe, from which it can, if it chooses,
dominate West Africa's principal oilfields. By pure good fortune, the US
government now exercises strategic control over almost all the world's major
oil producing regions and oil transport corridors.
It has also used its national tragedy as an excuse for developing new nuclear
and biological weapons13, while ripping up the global treaties designed to
contain them. All this is just as the Project prescribed. Among other
enlightened policies, it has called for the development of a new generation of
biological agents, which will attack people with particular genetic
Why do the supporters of this war find it so hard to see what is happening?
Why do the conservatives who go beserk when the European Union tries to change
the content of our chocolate bars look the other way when the US seeks to
reduce us to a vassal state? Why do the liberal interventionists who fear that
Saddam Hussein might one day deploy a weapon of mass destruction refuse to see
that George Bush is threatening to do just this against an ever-growing number
of states? Is it because they cannot face the scale of the threat, and the
scale of the resistance necessary to confront it? Is it because these brave
troopers cannot look the real terror in the eye?
I have decided from now on to attach references to my articles. These may not
always appear immediately, due to time constraints. The references for this
article are as follows:
1. David Aaronovitch 9 March 2003. Thank the Yank. The Observer.
7. Since publishing this article, I've been given the URL for this document,
which turns out to be publicly available. It is called Rebuilding America's
Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century, and it can be
downloaded at http://www.newamericancentury.org/publicationsreports.htm
8. Cited by Neil Mackay, 15 September 2002. Bush planned Iraq 'regime change'
before becoming President. Sunday Herald.
9. Remarks By The President To State Department Employees, February 15, 2001.
The White House.
10. Remarks By The President To Students And Faculty At National Defense
University, May 1, 2001. The White House.
12. Sergey Ptichkin and Aleksey Chichkin, 22 January 2002. Russia 'Encircled'
by US, NATO When Afghan Operation Over. Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
13. See for example Paul Richter, March 9, 2002. U.S. Works Up Plan for Using
Nuclear Arms. The Los Angeles Times; and Edward Hammond, 21 September 2001.
Averting Bioterrorism Begins with US Reforms. The Sunshine Project.
14. On page 72 of the document Rebuilding America's Defenses (ibid)is the
following sentiment: "And advanced forms of biological warfare that can
"target" specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of
terror to a politically useful tool. This is merely a glimpse of the
possibilities inherent in the process of transformation, not a precise
prediction. Whatever the shape and direction of this revolution in military
affairs, the implications for continued American military preeminence will be
profound. As argued above, there are many reasons to believe that U.S. forces
already possess nascent revolutionary capabilities, particularly in the realms
of intelligence, command and control, and longrange precision strikes. Indeed,
these capabilities are sufficient to allow the armed services to begin an
"interim," short- to medium-term process of transformation right away, creating
new force designs and operational concepts - designs and concepts different
than those contemplated by the current defense program - to maximize the
capabilities that already exist."