A Night of Fear Mongering, Big Time

Get ready for three more years of bloody hell.

That’s the message President Bush seems to have sent Congress and the rest of the world in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

It’s unclear whether the president is preparing the American public for another war, perhaps with Iran, the likeliest target, or if there’s another rogue nation in the administration’s crosshairs.

But make no mistake, President Bush’s address has made it clear that there’s no chance the turmoil his foreign policies have caused in the Middle East will get any better as long as he’s running the country.

Bush continues to rely heavily on the public’s fear to push forth an agenda that will only fan the flames of hatred people harbor toward this country and that will no doubt give rise to a second and third generation of terrorists.

Instead of explaining how the administration plans to win the peace in Iraq and decrease the military presence in that country, President Bush indicated that there’s lots more blood that still needs to be spilled.

“Abroad, our Nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal – we seek the end of tyranny in our world … the future security of America depends on it…. In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores…. Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change.”

What’s incredibly disturbing about Bush’s address Tuesday night is that it nearly identical to the explosive commentary contained in white papers prepared by right-wing think tanks like the Project for the New American Century and the American Enterprise Institute.

It’s no secret that these think tanks have had a major impact in shaping US foreign policy, particularly in dictating exactly how Bush should deal with Iraq and its president, Saddam Hussein.

Bush has used, virtually word for word, the written statements by PNAC members when he speaks publicly about the Iraq crisis. PNAC, whose goal is to promote America’s foreign and defense policies, according to its web site, has become a lightning rod for criticism. There are uncanny similarities between its policies and that of the Bush administration on matters relating to national defense, Asia, and the Middle East.

Most of its members cut their teeth in the Reagan and the first Bush administrations. However, many of its former members, notably Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney, are working in the current Bush administration. William Kristol, the editor of the ultra-conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, heads PNAC.

Over the past several years, the organization has succeeded in getting the Bush administration to scrap the Army’s Crusader Artillery Program and in getting Congress to approve a one-year increase of more than $48 billion for national defense. But it was PNAC’s position to drive America into a war with Iraq that seems to have influenced Bush the most.

Dozens of letters and reports by PNAC members regarding Iraq have been posted on the think tank’s web site, which lays out in startling detail how war is the only way to deal with the so-called threat from so-called rogue nations.

Reading through the letters, one has the impression not that the US is in imminent danger but that the people who run PNAC have been hell-bent for war for nine years, for reasons having to do with a skewed ideology that the US can reshape the Middle East.

Robert Kagan, co-chair of PNAC and a former Deputy for Policy in the State Department’s Bureau for Inter-American Affairs during Reagan’s presidency, wrote in 1999 that the US should “complete the unfinished business of the 1991 Gulf War and get rid of Saddam.”

It’s simply not enough to increase inspections by the United Nations, PNAC says, or to think that “we can contain Saddam inside a box” to ensure the safety of the US and our allies. It has to be war.

“Above all, only ground forces can remove Saddam and his regime from power and open the way for a new post-Saddam Iraq whose intentions can safely be assumed to be benign,” Kristol said in a PNAC report in 1997. Containment and inspections won’t work, Kristol said

Consider the impact Kristol had on Cheney when the Vice President spoke about Iraq before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nashville in August 2002.

“This is the same dictator who dispatched a team of assassins to murder former President Bush as he traveled abroad,” Cheney said. “A person would be right to question any suggestion that we should just get inspectors back into Iraq, and then our worries will be over. Saddam has perfected the game of cheat and retreat, and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception. A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with U.N. resolutions. On the contrary, there is a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow back in his box.”

“Meanwhile, he would continue to plot. Nothing in the last dozen years has stopped him – not his agreements; not the discoveries of the inspectors; not the revelations by defectors; not criticism or ostracism by the international community; and not four days of bombings by the US in 1998. What he wants is time and more time to husband his resources, to invest in his ongoing chemical and biological weapons programs, and to gain possession of nuclear arms,” Cheney said.

In Iran, the Bush administration has been quietly encouraging a “popular uprising” for some time now. But it’s not working. More than half of the people who voted in the last election support the country’s radical president. So any talk of regime change by the administration will likely be done in the context of a pre-emptive strike against the country.

A few years ago, Senator Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, drafted an amendment to the Senate Foreign Authorization bill titled The Iran Democracy Act, which calls for using the new Radio Farda to host programming from Iranian Americans who communicate with their families inside Iran about the desire for an internationally-monitored referendum vote on what form of government Iran should have.

Brownback and other hardliners in Congress are still promoting the same agenda today.

That amendment also provides grants for private radio and TV stations in the US that broadcast pro-democracy news and information into Iran, as well as funds to translate books, videos and other materials into Persian – specifically, information on building and organizing non-violent social movements.

This is the type of political warfare the Bush administration believes will force Iran’s government from power. But the Bush administration will have a hard time convincing Iranians, who haven’t forgotten how the first President Bush encouraged the Kurds to rise up against Saddam Hussein during the 1990s only to be abandoned by that administration and ultimately slaughtered by Hussein.

But that doesn’t stop the think tanks from believing that it can’t be done.

“For Iran, the approach might be compared to the approach the United States and other democratic states took to Poland in the 1980s,” said David Frum, President Bush’s former speechwriter, who is credited with coining the phrase “axis of evil” in an April 5, 2002, presentation at AEI. “In Poland, as in Iran, an economically incompetent authoritarian regime ruled over an increasingly angry population. In Poland, as in Iran, a mass opposition movement rose up against the regime: Solidarity in Poland, the student democratic movement in Iran. Back in the 1980s, the United States and its allies never confronted the Polish communists directly. Instead, they imposed stringent economic sanctions on the regime – and contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for its covert newspapers and radio stations and to support the families of jailed or exiled activists.”

Richard Perle, who still advises the Pentagon on foreign affairs and who is one of the architects of the Iraq war, has been calling for a pre-emptive strike against Iran for the past three years.

“The idea that our victory over Saddam will drive other dictators to develop chemical and biological weapons misses the key point: They are already doing so. That’s why we may someday need to preempt rather than wait until we are attacked,” Perle said in a letter to AEI members in February 2003.

And Michael Ledeen, another influential AEI scholar, claims that the US ought to “bag” Iran’s regime because of its anti-American views.

‘The Iranian people have shown themselves to be the most pro-American population in the Muslim world, but the Iranian regime is arguably the most anti-American on Earth. Let’s support the people, and help them bag the regime.”

Tuesday’s State of the Union address appears to be a sign that the think tanks may soon get their way again.


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