Political Opinion and Commentary for the Progressive Internet

 www.crisispapers.org

HOME PAGE                                                         Essays by Ernest Partridge

Editor's Choice
The Crisis
Imperialism, Foreign Relations
The Media
The Elections
The Obama Administration
The G. W. Bush Administration
Progressivism / Democrats
Republicans -- Right Wing
Civil Liberties -- Dissent
Moral Issues -- The Law
Science, Philosophy, Education
Economics
The Environment
Lies -- Propaganda -- Corruption
Culture War -- Religious Right
Chronological list of Essays

Ernest Partridge's Blog

The Online Gadfly
(EP's Professional Website
)

Conscience of a Progressive
(A Book in Progress)

___________________

Essays by Bernard Weiner

Favorite Articles
Celebrity "Diaries" & "Memos"
"Shallow Throat" Conversations
The "Dummies" Primers
Satires, Fantasies and Parables
Book/Film Reviews
Essays and Analyses

Bernard Weiner's Blog

Guest Essays

Letters to The Crisis Papers
Recommended Blogsites
The Dissenting Internet
Progressive Broadcasting
The Activists' Page
The Liberty Library

The Editors' Page

Contact Us.

 

Bush's Foreign Policy: 
"There Must Be Some Way Out of Here"

An Address to River Oaks Area Democratic Women Houston, TX


By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, "The Crisis Papers."

September 16, 2003

 

"There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief. 
There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief. 

from "All Along the Watchtower" 
by Bob Dylan)
 


I'm from California where our political system is a bit, how shall we say, "different"... and rather confusing and shaky at the moment. So I can't tell you how happy I am to be in the Texas of ROADwomen and the State Senate Democrats and Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower -- where you all seem to have your acts much more together and aren't afraid to act as a true opposition should -- unlike so many Democrats in Washington, D.C., who seem unaware that their bodies actually possess spines. 

And we need those Democrats. For thanks to the excesses, lies and extremist policies of the Bush Administration, our country is in one of the most desperate crises we've ever been in -- imperial adventurism abroad, shredding of Constitutional guarantees at home, the slow strangulation of popular social programs, the imposition of unbearable debt burdens on the next generation, the turning over of pollution-control more or less to the polluters, and on and on and on -- and because of these crimes and misdemeanors, we need more spines, more outrage, more of us speaking up and helping to turn things around.

What I'd like to do this evening -- for about 35 minutes or so, and then move on to your questions and comments -- is to give you my take on how our country got into this current mess and how, all along Bob Dylan's watchtower, "there must be some way out of here."

The focus of this talk is foreign policy -- and in a few moments, I'll be concentrating on the Project for the New American Century, the organization of neo-conservatives that has provided the ideological underpinnings for our current fascination with invading and occupying other countries -- but permit me one quick domestic observation here, which we can expand on later: 

It's important to be aware that the neo-conservative hold on power did not spring fullgrown from the head of the 9/11 attacks; the neo-conservative evolution into power took decades of hard, slogging work, and lots of money from generous rightwing donors, who bought up important media outlets and financed innumerable think tanks and activist committees and college-recruiting drives and candidate-tutoring sessions. That history provides a lesson we progressives should and must learn. Hold that thought and we'll return to it later.

Now on to foreign policy and a quick, very quick, overview of the historical context.

The decades of the Cold War provided a stable container for American foreign policy; we had a recognizable enemy, the Soviet Union, and the strategy of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) kept us from destroying each other. The right wing had a focus for their aggression: the communist system.

With the implosion of communism, suddenly the U.S. was the only superpower on the planet. Bush#1 talked about a "new world order" but didn't do much about it; he even chose to leave Saddam Hussein in power after the first Gulf War. Bill Clinton, who came to office with little interest in or knowledge of foreign policy, likewise didn't seem to want to take aggressive advantage of the opportunities offered the U.S. in the world. In short, both Bush#1 and Clinton tended to behave in the slow, sure way of their predecessors, mostly content to use diplomacy as their main tool in defending American interests (by and large, American corporate interests). 

In the eyes of the neo-conservatives out there on the fringes of the Republican Party, this lackadaisical attitude was evidence of a golden opportunity going to waste. Damn it, they reasoned, there was nobody who could stop the U.S. from moving more aggressively around the world, taking what could be took, overthrowing governments not to our liking, installing so-called democratic regimes that would do our bidding and that would be open to doing business with U.S. and multinational corporations, moving the Islamic Middle East towards modernity, and so on.

The neoconservatives believed that in the process of moving more forthrightly in the world, the U.S. could reshape the political geography in key regions, for example bringing Islamic countries the benefits of Western-style democracy and the glories of the capitalist marketplace -- which, not coincidentally, would just happen to coincide with our corporate and strategic interests. Maximizing profit while doing the Lord's work -- what more could one ask for? Greed-in-stealth-disguise as altruism -- without, of course, first asking residents of those countries whether they might appreciate receiving those American gifts.

Which brings us to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Even though the group wouldn't be founded until 1997, the leading neo-conservatives -- mostly carryovers from the Reagan Administration, led by folks such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and so on -- were agitating for this kind of muscular American foreign/military policy as early as 1991.

Here's the list of names of the founders of PNAC. You'll be surprised at how many of the names you'll recognize, and a whole lot more that we don't recognize -- but keep in mind that most of these folks are currently creating America's foreign and military policy from key positions of power inside the Bush Administration: 

Elliot Abrams, Gary Bauer, William J. Bennett, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Elliot A. Cohen, Midge Dector, Paula Dobriansky, Steve Forbes, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Fred C. Ikle, Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Norman Podhoretz, Peter W. Rodman, Stephen P. Rosen, Henry S. Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, Vin Weber, George Weigel and Paul Wolfowitz. 

Among those who have affiliated with PNAC over the years since those founders set up the organization are: Newt Gingrich, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Robert Zoellick, Richard Perle, Wayne Downing, Douglas Feith, Michael Ledeen, and so many more.

I didn't read that long list to risk boring you, but so that we all can come to understand the quality and breadth of the opposition. 

The first thing to know is that these guys -- all of whom evolved from rabidly anti-Communist organizations, some of whom came originally from far-left groups, some of whom are Zionists from Jewish backgrounds but also Zionists from fundamentalist Christian churches -- these guys felt exiled from rightful power during the Clinton years. They were champing at the bit to get back into the White House, and, if and when that happened, they wanted there to be an off-the-shelf philosophy and strategy that could be taken down and templated right onto the new Republican Administration. And so they agitated and talked and wrote voluminously in the early-'90s about how the U.S. should use its muscle in the world.

They weren't taken very seriously by the mainstream of the Republican Party because their views were so extreme: initiating pre-emptive wars, abrogating treaties, humiliating the United Nations as a competitor, moving aggressively in regions to gain control of oil and gas, etc. In short, acting unilaterally as an arrogant, imperial bully. We're the one superpower, here's what we want, get out of our way or get run over.


So, with that background, here's a brief chronology of PNAC's evolution, with emphasis supplied by your's truly. 

1. The first public hint of this Pax Americana approach came in 1992, when then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney had a strategy report drafted for the Department of Defense, written by Paul Wolfowitz, then Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy. The report called for pre-emptive attacks and ad hoc coalitions where possible, but said the U.S. should be ready to act alone when "collective action cannot be orchestrated."

The central strategy was to "establish and protect a new order" that accounts "sufficiently for the interests of the advancing industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership" -- in other words, those other countries will share in some of the goodies but will not be making the key political decisions. At the same time, the U.S. would maintain military dominance capable of "deterring potential rivals from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."

Wolfowitz outlined plans (remember, this is in 1992) for intervention in Iraq for, among other reasons, to assure "access to vital raw material, primarily Persian Gulf oil."

Somehow, this report leaked to the press and the resulting roars of protest were immediate and intense. Senator Byrd cogently summed them up (and aren't we lucky to have that truth-telling old codger still in the Senate?): "The basic thrust of the document seems to be this: We love being the sole remaining superpower in the world and we want so much to remain that way that we are willing to put at risk the basic health of our economy and well-being of our people to do so." Bush#1 quickly repudiated the report and sent it back for retooling.

2. Finding no success inside the corridors of power, and then with Clinton ensconced in the White House, the neoconservatives retired to their think tanks and committees and began publishing their views in order to set the policy and rally the rightwing to their cause for that day when they would come back into control of American foreign policy.

Perhaps the most startling and important publiciation was written in 1996 for Foreign Affairs journal by neo-conservative leaders Bill Kristol (PNAC's chairman, who is editor of Rupert Murdoch's "Weekly Standard") and Robert Kagan (one of the intellectual doyens of PNAC). In their article, "Towards a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy," they came right out and said that the goal for the U.S. under these more aggressive policies has to be nothing less than "benevolent global hegemony," a polite term for total U.S. domination of the world but "benevolently" exercised, of course -- sort of like "compassionate conservatism" but on a global scale. 

3. In 1998, just shortly after PNAC was founded as an organization, the group unsuccessfully lobbied Clinton to attack Iraq immediately and remove Saddam from power. They urged America to initiate that war even if the U.S. could not muster full support from the Security Council at the U.N. Sound familiar? (Clinton replied that he was focusing on dealing with the very real threat coming from al-Qaida.)

4. In September of 2000, sensing a GOP victory in the upcoming presidential election, PNAC issued its white paper on "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for the New Century." The PNAC report was quite frank about why the U.S. would want to move toward imperialist militarism, a Pax Americana, because with the Soviet Union out of the picture, now is the time most "conducive to American interests and ideals... The challenge of this coming century is to preserve and enhance this 'American peace'." And how to preserve and enhance the Pax Americana? The answer is to "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major-theater wars." Note: Not to threaten to fight, or prepare to fight, but to actually launch these multiple wars. (Let's see, we've had the war in Afghanistan and now the war in Iraq... )

In serving as world constable, the PNAC report went on, no other countervailing forces will be permitted to get in the way. Such actions, for example, "demand American political leadership rather than that of the United Nations." No country will be permitted to get close to parity with the U.S. when it comes to weaponry or influence; therefore, more U.S. military bases will be established in the various regions of the globe. Currently, it's estimated that the U.S. now has between 135-150 military bases and deployments in different countries around the world, with the most recent major increase being in the Caspian Sea/Afghanistan/Middle East areas.

One final quote from this report: They were sanguine enough to realize that the objective conditions weren't right for an acceptance of their extremist positions by the American people. They noted that "the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor." Let's just sit with that one for a moment. 

5. Early in the Bush presidency the influential Council on Foreign Relations had joined with the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy (yep, that James Baker) to draft an energy proposal for the new administration, based on the scarcity of gas and oil reserves. It was called a "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century," and saw both Caspian and Iraqi oil as answers to the projected crisis, additionally citing the possible need for ''military intervention'' to secure energy supplies. Access to oil was repeatedly cited as a "security imperative," and the report's authors therefore urged that Cheney's energy task force include participation by the Department of Defense. 

Also around the same time, the U.S. Army War College featured a paper by Jeffrey Record, a former staff member of the Senate armed services committee, in which he argued for ''shooting in the Persian Gulf on behalf of lower gas prices.  Realizing that such language would sound rather crass, he recommended that a president come up with moral-sounding language that would transform such action into a ''principled crusade''. 

(We now know that Cheney's energy task force papers -- which he refuses to release to Congress or the American people -- contain maps of Iraq's oilfields; it is possible that the report also might include references to foreign-policy plans for how to gain military control of such oilfields abroad.) 

6. Mere hours after the 9/11, 2001, terrorist mass-murders, PNACer Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld ordered his aides to begin planning for an attack on Iraq, even though his intelligence officials told him it was an al-Qaida operation and there was no connection between Iraq and the attacks. CBS News got copies of Rumsfeld's instructions to his aides. "Go massive," the aides' notes quote him as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things related and not... Best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at the same time. Not only UBL [Usama bin Laden]." 

Rumsfeld leaned heavily on the FBI and CIA to find any shred of evidence linking the Iraq government to 9/11, but they weren't able to. So he set up his own fact-finding group in the Pentagon, the Office of Special Plans, staffed it with hardline PNACers, and, surprise, got the "intelligence" that supported an invasion -- based on the lies we all know about today.) 

Now we don't have to simply guess about was was going on in Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans. It turns out that a high-ranking Air Force lieutenant-colonel, Karen Kwaitkowski, worked in and with the Office of Special Plans from May 2002 until February of 2003. She resigned at that point and, appalled at what she witnessed, began writing forceful articles about her experience in the Pentagon. Here are some of her observations: 

"All primary staff work was conducted by political appointees [that is, by those with no experience in working with intelligence, but Rumsfeld's hand-picked aides who would give him what he wanted]... What I saw was aberrant, pervasive and contrary to good order and discipline. If one is seeking the answers to why peculiar bits of `intelligence' found sanctity in a presidential speech, or why the post-Hussein occupation has been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look no further than the process inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense... . [She continues]  "The answers [to questions about why the invasion] had been heavily crafted by the Pentagon, and to me, they were remarkably inadequate, given the late stage of the game. I suggested to my boss that if this was as good as it got, some folks on the Pentagon's E-ring may be sitting beside Hussein in the war crimes tribunals. Hussein is not yet sitting before a war crimes tribunal. Nor have the key decision-makers in the Pentagon been forced to account for the odd set of circumstances that placed us as a long-term occupying force in the world's nastiest rat's nest, without a nation-building plan, without significant international support and without an exit plan. Neither may ever be required to answer their accusers, thanks to this administration's military as well as publicity machine, and the disgraceful political compromises already made by most of the Congress."

Back to the chronology. 

7. In the post-9/11 period, feeling confident that all plans were on track for moving aggressively in the world, the Bush Administration in September of 2002, as required by law, published its "National Security Strategy of the United States of America." The official policy of the U.S. government, as proudly proclaimed in this major document, is virtually identical to the policy proposals in the various white papers of the Project for the New American Century and others like it over the preceding decade. Chief among them are: 1) the policy of "pre-emptive" war -- i.e., whenever the U.S. thinks a country may be amassing too much power and/or could provide some sort of competition in the "benevolent hegemony" region, it can be attacked, without provocation. (A later corollary would rethink the country's atomic policy: nuclear weapons would no longer be considered only defensive, but could be used offensively in support of political/economic ends; so-called "mini-nukes" could be employed in these regional wars.) 2) international treaties and opinion will be ignored whenever they are not seen to serve U.S. imperial goals. 3) The new policies "will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia."

In short, the Bush Administration seems to see the U.S., admiringly, as a New Rome, an empire with its foreign legions (and threat of "shock&awe" attacks, including with nuclear weapons) keeping the outlying colonies, and potential competitors, in line. Those who aren't fully in accord with these goals better get out of the way; "you're either with us or against us."

Finally, one last quote, this one from Michael Ledeen, a leading neocon theoretician at the American Enterprise Institute, deeply involved in drumming up support for the Iraq invasion. Here he talks about the aggressive way the neo-conservatives like to move in the world.

"Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. Seeing America undo traditional societies, they fear us, for they do not wish to be undone. They cannot feel secure so long as we are there, for our very existence -- our existence, not our politics -- threatens their legitimacy. They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission."

This fits in with a theory out there that holds that the neoconservatives thrive on chaos, stirring things up in the world and then, as the global supercop, stepping in as the only one with the money and expertise to help calm things down. But peace comes with a price: control of the situation remains with the supercop. And if you object, you must be... not won over or convinced or debated and then defeated... but "destroyed." In this simplistic, nasty, brutish world: You're either with us, or against us.


Now, it's true that as we speak, the neoconservatives are on the defensive with regard to their Iraq policy, not only because of the whoppers they told to get us into the war but mainly because it's clear that they grossly misjudged how the world really works. They are facing harsh criticism not only from some Democrats and peaceniks but also from Republican senators, retired generals and ex-officials in the Administration.

Sure, the neo-conservative cabal is on the defensive and lying low for the moment -- both for practical and electoral reasons -- but we'd be derelict if we thought the PNACers were done-for or that they've altered their long-range goals. And we'd be stupid if we concentrated only on the misguided, perhaps criminally-liable Iraq debacle they've led us into. 

Because the neo-con policy of imperial control isn't ready to stop there. It requires permanent war -- both for foreign and domestic reasons. We don't know at this stage which country is next on the list for "regime change" -- it could be Saudi Arabia or Syria or Iran or Pakistan or North Korea or fill-in-the-blank. (Note that they aren't particularly eager to make war on North Korea, and not just because that might be a nuclear war. North Korea has few natural resources, whereas the Middle East is loaded with them. If you look at a world energy map, you'll see where the U.S. is making alliances and setting up military bases: the Middle East and the Caspian-area "stan" countries of the old Soviet empire.)

True, the PNAC boys have been forced by circumstances and by the impending 2004 election to pull in their horns for the moment, but the plans are being worked out, of this we can be sure, perhaps to be implemented after the 2004 election -- or, if the poll numbers are looking bad for Bush, conceivably before the election, to get the rally-around-the-president bump that, they believe, will bring him back into the White House for another four years. (Whether the American public would go along once again, after what they've witnessed in Iraq, is another question.)

The long and short of it is that these guys in charge of our foreign/military policy have to be stopped ASAP. Not only because of the damage they will cause in other areas of the world -- all the death and destruction in the name of "democracy" and "war on terror" and "free-market capitalism" -- and the deaths and injuries and moral confusions our troops will face. All that would be bad enough.

But there's also the domestic component: the damage being done to our own country, our own institutions, our own sense of ourselves as a moral nation. More and more citizens are expressing their revulsion about what's being done in their names, what it's costing in lives and treasure, what's happening to the state and municipal infrastructures as most of the monies go for war and security costs, what's happening to our beloved Constitution and its guarantees of due process of law as we become more and more a militarist state, what's happening to the reputation of the U.S. abroad as we live the life of an international pariah, what's happening in the way of growing terrorism as a result of our misguided policy toward the Islamic world. 

In short, the wrong-headed U.S. foreign policy, and the crudeness of its approach, and the incompetency with which it's being carried out -- all of these lead to two inescapable conclusions: 1) that the United States, rather than revealing the supreme authority that can be exercised by the one remaining superpower, has instead demonstrated the limits of its power when faced with real-world obstacles on the ground; terrorists take heart in knowing that they can, often with the overt or covert support of the local populations, hit the U.S. and make it bleed whenever they want, and for however many decades they want; and, 2) that such misguided policies by the United States, rather than strengthening its position in the world, causes great damage to the long-term and short-term national interests of our country.

In other words, these neo-conservatives -- virtually none of whom served in the military, but who feel perfectly comfortable sending our young soldiers into the bloody business of war -- are putting our country in jeopardy as a result of their misguided (and, in my opinion, greedy, power-hungry) policies. They must be stopped. 


So how can we get out of this dangerous, PNAC-led pit we're in, how can we find a way out of here? Here are a few suggestions; no doubt you have many more.

1. As individuals and through our groups, we need to put unrelenting pressure on our legislators in Washington to stand up and be counted. If we just sit back and let Congress handle things, we're telling them we don't really care all that much. In order for them to find the courage to stand up straight and fight the worst of Bush's foreign and domestic atrocities, we have to prove to them that their political backsides are covered by an aroused populace. In short, their chances for re-election are in our hands, and if they continue their imitation of a dog rolling over for its master, they need to know that they will pay the electoral consequence. 

2. We need to recognize that we're in a very different kind of political fight. In the old days, the parties battled hard and took and gave hard knocks, but afterwards the name of the game was compromise and civil debate. These guys, the neoconservatives who have hijacked the Republican party from its more sensible, moderate-conservative moorings, have only one goal in mind: To win, no matter what they have to do to get to victory. If the five conservative justices of the Supreme Court have to jettison their states-rights philosophy to rule that the state of Florida should not be permitted to recount its votes, then, in order to install one of their own, they do a 180-degree reversal in midair and rule in favor of Bush. If the Republicans historically have stood for smaller, less-intrusive government, once in power, they do a 180-degree reversal and suddenly we've got a huge, growing, big-brother style government. (A growing number of anti-big-government Republicans are appalled by this police-state development.)

In short, we have to realize that we're dealing not with a mere change in political style but rather with a change in kind. These guys play for keeps and are willing to do most anything to maintain their power -- how else can you explain why they would commit a felony, by leaking the name of a covert CIA agent to the press? They did this to the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, after he wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times -- he felt compelled to do this after the Administration's multiple claims that Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium in Niger -- that detailed how he'd been dispatched last year by the CIA at Cheney's request to check out the Niger uranium story but that he returned to tell Cheney's office that the story was unreliable. How else can one interpret this hardball politics, putting a covert CIA agent's life in danger along with all the contacts she'd made over the years, except as a threat to anybody else who might be thinking of telling some truths about the inner workings of the Bush Administration?

3. We need to demand the use of old-fashioned paper ballots in the 2004 election until the computer-voting problems are solved. Just in case you haven't heard, here's a quick summary: The Congress has mandated use of computer-voting machines in all the states; three companies control the proprietary software codes used to count those computer votes; all three are Republican supporters, one is partially owned by a Republican Senator, one is connected to a fundamentalist, rightwing foundation. The companies will not allow examination of those software codes. Various outsiders easily have broken into the system and demonstrated that the software is so deficient, it is possible to enter and manipulate the votes, exit and nobody will ever know you were there. There are suspicions that votes may well have been tampered with in half-a-dozen key states in the 2002 election, where Democrats were either way ahead or even with their opponents right before election day but mysteriously lost when the computer vote tallies were announced. A week or two ago in Ohio, the CEO of one of the three computer companies, one of Bush's big-donor Pioneers, promised to "deliver" the vote for Bush in Ohio in 2004. In short, there are enough questions like this to demand a stop to computer-voting in its tracks until these problems are dealt with. After the Bush manipulations in Florida in the 2000 election, and the possibly corrupted election of 2002, the 2004 election must not only be fair and square but must demonstrably appear to be fair and square so that the citizenry can have confidence that their votes are properly registered, and that our democratic system works.

4. We need to focus like a laser on the 2004 election, and work our behinds off to defeat Bush, by uniting behind whatever reasonable candidate the Democrats put up, even if we don't agree with some of that candidate's positions. Just consider for a moment: Bush&Co. control the Executive branch of government, effectively control the Judiciary, fully control the Legislature, and have more or less control over the Fourth Estate, the mass-media owned by conglomerates that tend to support the Administration. The only way to break the momentum of the neo-conservative juggernaut is to break off one of its wheels, and that means taking back either the House or Senate, which won't be easy in 2004, or by defeating Bush at the polls (assuming we can deal effectively with the computer-voting scandal). So once the Democratic ticket is chosen, we must move full-steam ahead to support it, with money, volunteer effort, helping educate our neighbors and colleagues, knocking on doors to talk up the candidates, whatever it takes. The economy is suffering, our deficit is gargantuan, popular programs are being cut left and right, pensions are shrinking, the U.S. is hated or distrusted in much of the globe, our kids are fighting and dying all over the world, corporations are writing the pollution rules -- in short, Bush is vulnerable. His so-called "re-elect" numbers are way down, as low as 40% in some polls. It's time to take our country back to more sane and civil policies. And we can do it.

5. We need to take back the "national security" issue from the Republicans. They cannot be permitted to own the flag, or to own "God" or "national security." Karl Rove already has made clear that the Bush campaign is going to run on the "security" issue. Americans are fearful, frightened, still in a kind of post-traumatic stress after 9/11, which is played on constantly by the Administration. Our candidates/we have to stress that many of the policies of the Bush Administration are harming our national security rather than improving it, and that we can do better at maintaining and improving national security against terrorists without shredding the Constitutional guarantees of due process and civil liberties. 

You do know that even though 150 cities and a number of states have voted not to honor the so-called Patriot Act, Bush has said he wants to expand it, so as to further "untie the hands" of the police forces in our country. Already under the Patriot Act: the tradition of lawyer/client confidentiality is compromised; citizens can be (and have been) "disappeared" into military-base gulags without anyone knowing and without access to a lawyer; your telephone messages and emails can be intercepted, and your home can be entered surreptitiously without you ever being informed, and so on. And Bush wants to "untie the hands" of the police-state government even further, to permit administrative subpoenas and warrants instead of having to go through a judge or grand jury. Does this sound like the America you and I know and love, or is it more reminiscent of Germany in 1933?

6. We need to convince our officials that simply reacting to force and terror -- with more force and terror -- simply won't bring security and peace. Ask the Israelis. It doesn't work. If the U.S. really wanted to remake the soil in which terrorism grows, it would deal forcefully with the one issue that could lead to a lessening of tensions in the Muslim world: the Israel/Palestine situation. Instead, the Bush Administration issues high-sounding pronouncements and "road maps" and then does nothing really to defuse the situation. A comprehensive peace is the only solution -- which would mean Israel giving up its settlements in Palestinian land and ending the Occupation; Palestine ceasing its terror attacks, which it might possibly do if it had its own contiguously viable state; and turning Jerusalem into an international city -- but the U.S. is pre-occupied with dubious wars of its own. Sad, and ultimately self-destructive.

I'll close on this PNAC story. Some months back, I was debating a rightwing host on his nationally syndicated radio show. We were arguing mainly about Iraq and its comparisons to Vietnam, about which these days there are even more similarities. Toward the end, I quoted from some of the PNAC doctrines -- about starting wars pre-emptively, breaking treaties, keeping other countries and organizations down so as to remain the top boss, imitating permanent war and so on; there was a long silence and I heard him gulp. Clearly, he wasn't fully aware of some of this information. Finally, he said, "If you can prove what you're telling me, and get that out there to the American people, you might well deny George Bush a second term."

Whattya say? Let's do it. 

 

Copyright 2003, by Bernard Weiner

 

Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances