Our War-Loving Foreign Policy Community Hasn’t Gone Anywhere September 22, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War, Foreign Policy, Iran.
Tags: Afghanistan War, roger hollander, Iraq war, Iran, war, Iraq occupation, gaza, foreign policy, iran nuclear, permanent war, foreign relations, bob woodward, civilian deaths, war profiteers, afghanistan occupation, mcchrystal, iran war, glenn greeenwald, israel agression, hamas war crimes, israel war crimes, military industry, continual warfare, james madison
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Advocates of escalation in Afghanistan chose Bob Woodward to “reprise his role as warmonger hagiagropher” by publishing Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s “confidential” memo to the President arguing for increased troops. As Digby notes, the vague case for continuing to occupy that country is virtually identical to every instance where America’s war-loving Foreign Policy Community advocates the need for new and continued wars. It’s nothing more than America’s standard, generic “war-is-necessary” rationale. That is not at all surprising, given that, as Foreign Policy‘s Marc Lynch notes:
The “strategic review” brought together a dozen smart (mostly) think-tankers with little expertise in Afghanistan but a general track record of supporting calls for more troops and a new counter-insurgency strategy. They set up shop in Afghanistan for a month working in close coordination with Gen. McChrystal, and emerged with a well-written, closely argued warning that the situation is dire and a call for more troops and a new counter-insurgency strategy. Shocking.
The link he provides is to this list of think tank “experts” who worked on McChrystal’s review, including the standard group of America’s war-justifying theorists: the Kagans, a Brookings representative, Anthony Cordesman, someone from Rand, etc. etc. What would a group of people like that ever recommend other than continued and escalated war? It’s what they do. You wind them up and they spout theories to justify war. That’s the function of America’s Foreign Policy Community. As one of their leading members — Leslie Gelb, President of the Council on Foreign Relations — recently wrote in re-examining the causes of his enthusiastic support for the attack on Iraq:
Coming from Gelb, of all people, that observation speaks volumes. As I wrote in 2007:
The Foreign Policy Community — a term which excludes those in primarily academic positions — is not some apolitical pool of dispassionate experts examining objective evidence and engaging in academic debates. Rather, it is a highly ideological and politicized establishment, and its dominant bipartisan ideology is defined by extreme hawkishness, the casual use of military force as a foreign policy tool, the belief that war is justified not only in self-defense but for any “good result,” and most of all, the view that the U.S. is inherently good and therefore ought to rule the world through superior military force.
That “experts” from the ”Foreign Policy Community” endorse more war is about as surprising — and as relevant — as former CIA Directors banding together to decide that they oppose the prosecution of CIA agents. The only event that would be news is if a group of people drawn from that “community” ever did anything other than endorse more war [and in the few instances where one hears war hesitation from them, it’s always on strategic grounds (“we may not be able to achieve our mission”) and never on legal, moral or humanitarian grounds (“it’s really not morally or legally justified to slaughter enormous numbers of innocent human beings under these circumstances or bomb, invade and occupy a country that isn’t attacking us or even able to”).
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We’re not even out of Iraq yet — not really close — and there is already an intense competition underway to determine where we should wage war next. Escalation in Afghanistan is just one option on the menu. Iran, of course, is the other (although Venezuela has replaced Syria as a nice dark horse contestant). In October, 2008, The Washington Post published an Op-Ed from former Sen. Chuck Robb (D-Va.) and Dan Coats (R-In.) urging the next President “to begin building up military assets in the region from day one” towards “launching a devastating strike on Iran’s nuclear and military infrastructure.” That October, 2008 Op-Ed was based on a new report they co-authored for the so-called (and aptly named) ”Bipartisan Policy Center,” which I analyzed here.
Today, they have a new Post Op-Ed breathlessly warning that “we have little time left to expend on Iranian stalling tactics” because ”Iran will be able to produce a nuclear weapon by 2010″ and therefore, if there is no quick diplomatic resolution, “in early 2010, the White House should elevate consideration of the military option.” Today’s Op-Ed is based an updated report they issued which shrieks in its title that “Time is Running Out” (a phrase melodramatically super-imposed on the cover over an Iranian flag and an almost-expired hourglass). The report itself repeatedly demands that the U.S. threaten Iran with severe military action, beginning with a naval blockade (the Report’s advocacy for that action begins by noting, with a dismissive yawn: ”Although technically an act of war . . . .” – “technically an act of war”: whatever).
The arguments for attacking Iran are so similar to the ones used for Iraq that it’s striking how little effort they make to pretend it’s different (Iran will get nukes, give them to Terrorists, we’ll lose a city, etc.) The Bipartisan Policy Center Report never takes note of the irony that it “justifies” a threat of attack against Iran by pointing to that country’s violations of U.N. Resolutions, even as Article 2 of the U.N. Charter explicitly provides that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” — a prohibition they demand the U.S. violate over and over. As always, we’re exempt from everything. Just imagine what our elite class would say if Iran’s leading newspapers routinely published articles from leaders of its two largest political parties explicitly advocating a detailed plan to attack, invade, blockade and bomb the U.S.
Also today in The Post, Fred Hiatt’s Deputy Editor, Jackson Diehl, argues that Israel’s so-called “success” in its attack on Gaza and the lack of bad outcomes from that attack may/should create the view that “even a partial and short-term reversal of the Iranian nuclear program may look to Israelis like a reasonable benefit.” When examining the costs and benefits, Diehl does not weigh or even mention the more than 700 civilians killed in Gaza (252 of them children, according to an Israeli human rights group), nor the fact that, according a U.N. Report, Israeli (and Hamas) engaged in war crimes so serious that they may constitute “crimes against humanity” warranting a war crimes tribunal. When I interviewed one of the “expert consultants” on the Robb/Coats Attack-Iran report, Kenneth Katzman, he explicitly acknowledged that, when formulating its recommendations for attacking Iran, the “Bipartisan Center” never considered the number of Iranian civilians we would slaughter (you remember Iranian civilians: the ones whom Bomb-Iran cheerleaders recently pretended to care so much about). ”Number of civilian deaths” never enters the war-justifying equation because the people doing the weighing aren’t the ones who will will be killed.
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It’s hard to overstate how aberrational — one might say “rogue” – the U.S. is when it comes to war. No other country sits around debating, as a routine and permanent feature of its political discussions, whether we should bomb this country or that one next, or for how many more years we should occupy our conquered targets. And none use war as a casual tool for advancing foreign policy interests, at least nowhere close to the way we do (the demand that Iran not possess nuclear weapons is clearly part of an overall, stated strategy of ensuring that other countries remain incapable of deterring us from attacking them whenever we want to). Committing to a withdrawal from Iraq appears to be acceptable, but only as long as have our escalations and new wars lined up to replace it (and that’s to say nothing of the virtually invisible wars we’re fighting). For the U.S., war is the opposite of a “last resort”: it’s the more or less permanent state of affairs, and few people who matter want it to be any different.
Indeed, the factions that exert the most dominant influence on our foreign policy have only one principle: ongoing wars are good (the public and private military industry embraces that because wars are what bestow purpose, power and profits, and the Foreign Policy Community does so because — as Gelb says — it bestows “political and professional credibility”). In his 1790 Political Observation, James Madison warned: ”Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded. . . . No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Can anyone doubt that “continual warfare” is exactly what the U.S. does and, by all appearances, will continue to do for the foreseeable future (at least until we not only run out of money to pay for these wars — as we already have — but also the ability to finance these wars with more debt)? Doesn’t turning ourselves into a permanent war-fighting state have some rather serious repercussions that ought to be weighed when deciding if that’s something we want to keep doing?
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On an unrelated note: Tomorrow at roughly 10:30 a.m., I’ll be on NPR’s On Point with the ACORN-obsessed John Fund of The Wall St. Journal to talk about the ACORN ”scandal.” I have many things to say to/about John Fund (some based on this post); along those lines, note this amazing report that 25 of the GOP Senators who just voted to cut off funding to ACORN opposed, in 2006, legislation to curb abuse and fraud by federal contractors, including the ones eating up billions up billions of dollars in taxpayer funds in Iraq. Local listings and live audio feed for On Point are here.
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.
Tags: arthur blessitt, bay of pigs, billy graham, bob woodward, bush dynasty, bush family, bush illegal abortion, champagne unit, cia, conspiracy theory, conversion, covert operations, dallas, doug wead, evangelicals, frederick clarkson, george h.w. bush, George W. Bush, jack kemp, jfk assassination, John Dean, nixon, pat roberston, poppy bush, reagan, religious right, roger hollander, russ baker, texas national guard, watergate
The Bush family (photo: www.stillman.org)
January 4, 2009
Below is an addendum to today’s feature “New Book Reveals How Faith is Like a Covert Operation for the Bush Family”. The book discussed is Russ Baker’s: Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces that Put it in the White House, and what Their Influence Means for America (Bloomsbury Press, 2008)
Baker has unearthed many startling facts about the careers of Bush 41 and Bush 43. He also draws some head turning conclusions about some of the key figures in both the Watergate scandal and the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the relationship of Poppy Bush to both events. But before we summarize some of the book’s major disclosures, it is worth discussing the elephant in the room (For a full analysis of the revelations regarding the religious life of the Bushes, see today’s feature: ).
Investigative works are often labeled “conspiracy theories.” This term is generally used to suggest that whatever an author has learned, he or she may be a bit unhinged, and we may therefore not take the material seriously. And we are safe to go about our business as usual. While there are people and work, no matter how well intentioned to which the label might fairly apply, the label is also used by many of us to dismiss information and analyses that make us uncomfortable even when they legitimately push the boundaries of our understanding of modern politics, business and government. But as we address our own discomfort in the face of such material, we need to remind ourselves that investigative journalism discomfits the author as well. Journalists like Baker are constantly checking and cross checking, making sure that disturbing information is in fact so. Even more awkward are the disturbing questions that the journalist cannot answer, but are themselves so well founded that they must be raised. Conspiracy theorists tend to take the opposite tack. Information is shaped or interpreted to conform to predetermined and often fevered conclusions, while countervailing information is downplayed or ignored.
Baker is a well-respected journalist who has written for major newspapers and magazines and has served as a contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. His effort to understand the lives of the presidents Bush unexpectedly led him to reexamine Watergate and the Kennedy assassination and other murky episodes of recent American history, “documenting the secrets that the House of Bush has long sought to obscure.”
“I’ll admit it,” Baker writes in his conclusion. “Fear of being so labeled has haunted me throughout this work. It’s been an internal censor that I’ve had to resist again and again. And also an external one, as friends within the journalistic establishment reviewed my findings, found them both credible and highly disturbing, and yet urged me to stay away from them for my own good. I began to realize that I was experiencing the very thing the process is designed to induce. The boundaries of permissible thought are staked out and enforced. We accept the conventional narratives because they are repeated and approved, while conflicting ones are scorned. Isn’t this how authoritarian regimes work? They get inside your mind so that overt repression becomes less necessary.”
“Whose interests does this serve?” he continues. “As this book demonstrates, the deck has long been and continues to be, stacked on behalf of big money players, especially those in commodities and natural resources *from gold to oil *and those who finance the extraction of these materials. The defense industry, and the aligned growth of business of “intelligence,” provide muscle. On a lower level is an army of enablers*the campaign functionaries, the PR people, the lawyers. This was the Bush enterprise. The Bushes embodied it as a dynasty, but it is larger than them, and will prove more enduring.”
Here are some of the major revelations of the book:
*George H. W. (“Poppy”) Bush, and many of his closest associates throughout his adult life were deeply and secretly enmeshed in covert intelligence activities. He has gone to great lengths to conceal many of his activities, no matter how mundane, and engaged in overt acts of misdirection. Bush’s extensive intelligence ties prior to his becoming CIA Director in the Ford administration, and going back to World War II, have not been previously reported. Baker calls this Bush’s “double life.”
*Poppy Bush was deeply involved with an array of CIA covert operators, Bay of Pigs veterans and rightwing Texas oil industry characters linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Baker shows that Bush was actually in Dallas on November 21, 1963 and was probably there on the day of the assassination as well. Baker draws no particular conclusions from the fact, except to document, describe and underscore the great lengths he went to conceal the fact.
*Baker asserts that, much to his own surprise, Richard Nixon while no innocent, was not the instigator of the Watergate crimes and the cover-up, but appears to have been set-up. What’s more, some of the seeming good guys, were not, and much of what seemed to be, was not as it seemed. Among those he implicates in the set-up are Poppy Bush and perhaps most remarkably, John Dean, the former White House counsel who became best known as the key whistleblower.
*In a related point, Baker notes that Nixon suspected the CIA of infiltrating his White House staff. Nixon recognized the Watergate burglars from his own days supervising covert operations as Vice President in the Eisenhower administration, and knew that their bosses were seasoned CIA hardliners with ties to the Bay of Pigs invasion and events linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Nixon battled the CIA for files on what he called the “Bay of Pigs thing,” but never could get access to them. (To borrow from Woody Allen, just because Nixon was paranoid, doesn’t mean they were not out to get him.)
*Baker questions the integrity and independence of famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward of the Washington Post who he reports had been recommended for his job by senior Nixon White House officials who had known him when he worked in Naval intelligence prior to his becoming a reporter. In that capacity, which Woodward denies he held, he was a frequent visitor to the White House.
*Baker details the Bush family’s personal, political and business connections to the Saudi royal family; and to apparent international slush funds and money laundering schemes. Much of this is told in such a matter of fact fashion that it is easy to lose sight of the significance of many of the individual facts.
Regarding George W. Bush, in addition to the manufacture of the legend his conversion story (see main story) the book covers familiar turf regarding how strings were pulled to get George W. Bush into the “Champagne Unit” of the Texas Air National Guard in order to avoid military service that might send him to Vietnam; how he failed to fulfill that service; and how his failure was systematically covered-up and politically defused. Also covered are the allegations of how W. was an abuser of illegal drugs in addition to his apparently drinking problems as a young man.
One important story from W.’s past that has long been rumored is confirmed in this book. It is a story that perhaps as much as his going AWOL from the National Guard and orchestrating a cover-up could have derailed his political career.
And that story is the illegal abortion he obtained for a girlfriend in Texas before Roe v. Wade. This is substantiated in part by four reporters whose stories were not published, but who shared their “experiences and detailed source notes” and even tapes with him. Two Bush pals took charge of arranging the abortion go to the hospital and who went to the hospital to inform her that he would not see her again. All of the names are named. Certainly as an candidate who was seeking to appeal to conservative evangelical, anti-abortion constituencies, this would have been a high hurdle to overcome.
“As president,” Baker concludes, “Bush promulgated tough new policies that withheld U.S. funds not only to programs and countries that permitted abortions, but even to those that advocated contraception as opposed to abstinence. Moreover, his appointments to the Supreme Court put the panel on the verge of reversing Roe v. Wade. Like his insistence on long prison sentences for first time drug offenders and his support for military action, his own behavior in regard to sexual responsibility and abortion could be considered relevant *and revealing.” Such journalistic understatement is typical of Baker’s narrative, even while reporting potentially politically explosive material.
Perhaps the revelation that would be most difficult for readers will not be anything about the Bush family, or Watergate or the Kennedy assassination, or any of the figures in this nearly 500 page book and 1000-plus footnotes. “These revelations about the Bushes,” Baker writes, “lead in turn to an even more disturbing truth about the country itself. It’s not just that such a clan could occupy the presidency or vice presidency for twenty of the past twenty-eight years and remain essentially unknown. It’s that the methods of stealth and manipulation that powered their rise reflect a deeper ill: the American public’s increasingly tenuous hold upon the levers of its own democracy.”