excerpts from the book

Full Spectrum Dominance

U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond

by Rahul Mahajan

Seven Stories Press, 2003, paper


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, April 28, 2003, when asked about US empire-building

"We don't seek empires. We're not imperialistic. We never have been. I can't imagine why you'd even ask the question."

The Gulf War and the sanctions likely killed over 1 million people and led to a large-scale breakdown of Iraqi society.

The war was an integral, and perhaps the primary, component in a sweeping new vision of U.S. foreign policy associated with a group of ideologues who call themselves neoconservatives and who have emerged as the dominant influence in this administration. Although the roots of virtually every neoconservative idea can be discerned in the policies of the l990's, this is the first time in the post-Cold War era that their vision of using direct military means to extend the dominance of the United States has become the central approach.

This doctrine [of "odious debt"] was first used in 1898, after the Spanish-American War. The United States had "liberated" Cuba and decided to own it. The most blatant expression of the ownership was the Platt Amendment to the Cuban constitution that gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuba whenever it wished. When Spain pressed for repayment of Cuba's debt to Spain, the United States argued that the debt was invalid because it had been "imposed upon the people of Cuba without their consent and by force of arms."

This basic idea, that debts incurred by an unrepresentative regime need not be repaid by the people, has become part of customary international law and is one of the many arguments that the group Jubilee 2000 used in its largely unsuccessful efforts to get the Third World's foreign debt cancelled. In practice, it is honored more in the breach than the observance.

Very few, even among the neoconservatives, believe that regime change in Iran by military force will be easy to achieve. But with Iraq taken, the U.S. military has now almost completely surrounded Iran. There are U.S. forces in Turkey, Iraq, the Gulf States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan, every state that abuts Iran except for Russia. The United States also exercises effective military control over the Straits of Hormuz, through which most of Iran's oil must travel before it is exported to the world.

In its drive to war, the United States showed open contempt for the United Nations. On September 12, 2002, when Bush addressed the General Assembly, the message was, "The United Nations must do what we say or it risks
becoming irrelevant." In late 2002 and early 2003, the U.N. became an unwitting accomplice in the war, disarming Iraq while the United States moved ahead with its military mobilization and war plans. Then, on March 16, 2003, Bush issued twin ultimata-one to Iraq to "disarm" in 24 hours, and the other to the U.N. to pass a resolution for war within 24 hours. When neither entity acceded to these demands, war was essentially declared on both.

Shortly after the United States went to war without U.N. approval, in blatant defiance of the unique authority granted to the Security Council, Richard Perle, then chair of the Defense Policy Board, published an op-ed in the Guardian entitled "Thank God for the death of the UN." In it, he said very openly that the "abject failure" of the U.N. gave the world anarchy and that the United States was the only fit guarantor of order. He defined the future role of the U.N. quite clearly: "The 'good works' part will survive, the low-risk peacekeeping bureaucracies will remain, the chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat."

In the following weeks, the Bush administration, while employing less violent rhetoric, moved to implement Perle's vision. George Bush, when pressed on the "vital role" he said the U.N. should be playing, said, "That means food. That means medicine. That means aid." What that clearly did not mean was exercising any authority over the postwar ordering of Iraq.

Many of the supposed advocates of the U.N.'s authority did not really challenge this vision, except in detail. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, for example, urged that the U.N. play a lead role in relief and reconstruction, adding that the involvement of the U.N. would "bring legitimacy" to the Iraqi government that was to be created. Germany, a steadfast opponent of the war, suggested that it might play a role in reconstruction even if the U.N. was not in charge. Others suggested that the U.N. even be given some nominal authority in the creation of the interim Iraqi government.

But none of them challenged the basic idea that Iraqi society would be reconstructed under U.S. military occupation. With the United States occupying the country, of course, any authority the U.N. might have on paper (most likely a joint authority with the occupying forces in any case) would be moot in practice, given the clear U.S. goals and the leverage its presence would give it.

In essence, what the United States was pushing for and what the supporters of the U.N. were implicitly agreeing to was casting the United Nations in the role of a subordinate agent of U.S. policy. Worse, the U.N. was to be an enabler for U.S. aggression-helping to clean up the mess, even for a war that it explicitly didn't authorize, thus freeing the United States to move on to project its force elsewhere.

The final straw came when the United States called for the sanctions to be lifted. For over a decade, every U.S. government official maintained that the regime, not the sanctions, was the cause of malnutrition and social decay in Iraq; miraculously, when the regime was gone, the United States suddenly discovered that sanctions were a problem, independent of regime. This development occasioned a complete role reversal, as France and Russia, the permanent members of the Security Council previously most opposed to the sanctions, initially called for their continuation. The reason for the switch was clear; the United States, in the process of creating the Iraqi government it wanted, wanted to make sure that the United Nations had no further power over Iraqi oil money, so that instead that power would be wielded, directly or indirectly, by the United States. In particular, the money would then be directly available to finance reconstruction projects, the lion's share of which were to go to American corporations.

Lifting of the sanctions should have been opposed on the basis that only a legitimate Iraqi government, and not one imposed by the U.S. military, should have unfettered access to the oil money. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, Kuwait's oil was included under the embargo, along with Iraqi oil, so that neither the Iraqi government nor the puppet government it tried to set up could plunder Kuwait's oil wealth for its own purposes; the principle with the U.S. invasion of Iraq is the same. Since other countries deemed it politically impossible to act on those grounds, they fell back on a legalistic attempt to require that U.N. weapons inspectors declare Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction. After initial opposition, as of this writing, France had already moved to suggest a compromise plan that would partly serve those U.S. goals.

Using Iraq's oil money to finance basic humanitarian and reconstruction goals also clearly violates the obligation of the United States and United Kingdom under the Geneva Convention-having waged an aggressive war against Iraq, they were and are financially responsible for meeting those needs themselves.

The United States reached new heights of arrogance toward the U.N. when it refused to allow U.N. weapons inspections to resume after the war was over, instead taking over operations itself.

Vice President Dick Cheney, announcing the lifting of the 25-year executive ban on assassinations in the case of Osama bin Laden, said that the war on terrorism was "different than the Gulf War was, in the sense that it may never end. At least, not in our lifetime."

It's often been noted that a "search for enemies" is a necessary part of U.S. foreign policy; there's a need to justify incredible levels of military spending even as the United States has a near-monopoly on military power, and maintenance of U.S. world dominance occasionally requires that some seemingly recalcitrant state be battered into submission. Although there are examples where any enemy would do, in many cases ... we already know who the enemies are-countries with important strategic resources and some potential for independent policy.


We can see the structure of the emerging foreign policy in much more detail by examining two closely linked documents, the Bush administration's recently (September 2002) promulgated National Security Strategy (NSS) and "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century" {RAD), put out by the Project for the New American Century {PNAC) in September 2000.

Both documents can trace their roots back to the "Defense Planning Guidance" written in 1992 by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, then Number 3 in the Defense Department, and I. Lewis Libby, now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. So stark was its vision of unilateral military domination by the United States, without even lip service to the fiction that the United States is merely primus inter pares (first among equals) with respect to its allies, that the government was forced to repudiate it and have it rewritten with a more multilateral flavor before release. Now, the original rhetoric can be more openly embraced.

The name "Project for the New American Century" harkens back to Henry Luce's prophetic 1941 proclamation of the twentieth century as the "American century." The group is a private think-tank concerned, as the name suggests, with maintaining and extending U.S. world dominance. It's not just any think-tank, however; its board includes neoconservative leading lights like William Kristol and Robert Kagan, as well as John Bolton, now undersecretary of state for arms control. It was prepared with the input, inter alia, of Wolfowitz, Libby, Dov Zakheim (now chief financial officer for the Defense Department), and Eliot Cohen and Devon Cros, who serve on the advisory Defense Policy Board then chaired by Richard Perle.

"Rebuilding America's Defenses" came to the public's attention with the publication on September 15, 2002, of an article in the Scotland Sunday Herald luridly proclaiming that the document was Bush's "secret blueprint for U.S. global domination." Although it's not quite that, it does shed a great deal of light on post-9/11 policy decisions and helps to flesh out the rather scanty NSS, which reads like a collection of press releases.

The NSS starts off with a straightforward proclamation of the new challenges to "national security": "Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger America. Now, shadowy networks of individuals can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores for less than it costs to purchase a single tank." It states clearly the problem of asymmetric warfare: "Terrorists are organized... to turn the power of modern technologies against us." After this, one is hard-pressed to find anything dealing with the threat of al-Qaeda-style terrorism anywhere in the document.

Instead, we find a recipe for the United States somehow to solve all its problems by exacerbating all the reasons for them-by a further extension of its military dominance and a more aggressive approach toward countries that get in the way of "U.S. interests." It calls for openly basing U.S. global hegemony on complete American military dominance, relative not only to enemies but to allies as well: "our military must... dissuade future military competition."

It is here that it dovetails strongly with "Rebuilding America's Defenses" (RAD), which is essentially a blueprint for a new post-Cold-War American military and foreign policy that is structured to take advantage of the "unipolar moment." It is intended to sound the alarm against all of those (including, according to the document, Bill Clinton and his advisers) who saw the end of the Cold War as the opportunity for a "strategic pause" in which the United States could rest on its laurels (and its overwhelming military superiority). Instead, the end of any potentially meaningful military opposition to U.S. power calls, in the minds of the neoconservatives, for increased military spending and a dramatic transformation of both military technology and the role of the military: "Preserving the desirable strategic situation in which the United States now finds itself requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and in the future."

During the Cold War, especially in the '60s and the '80s, it was a commonplace technique to justify new

weapons programs by claiming that the Soviet Union was ahead of the United States, that there was for example, a "missile gap." Those claims were absurd, and U.S. military planners knew they were, but they preserved the posture of U.S. military policy as being primarily defensive against the Soviet threat. With the new National Security Strategy, the gloves are off-although we admit that nobody comes close to us militarily, we intend to accelerate our buildup so that no one can ever imagine rivaling us militarily and challenging our hegemony.

The authors of RAD note that this whole revolutionary transformation of the military and its role seems to be politically impossible in the climate of 2000, "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event-like a new Pearl Harbor." At that time, the authors must have despaired of the possibility, but within a year they had their Pearl Harbor and the chance to turn their imperial fantasies into reality. Conspiracy theorists will no doubt rejoice, but this, like so many events in the history of U.S. foreign policy, is simply another example of Pasteur's famous axiom that "Fortune favors the prepared mind."

In this stark military vision of world domination, China inevitably looms large as a country not in the U.S. sphere and with a fully developed military deterrent. In fact, according to RAD it will be America's primary strategic challenge in the near future. Consonant with Zbigniew Brzezinski's analysis in his book The Grand Chessboard that reunification of Korea would be a problem for U.S. strategic interests because the United States needs an excuse to keep troops in the area to bottle up China and keep Japan in its sphere of influence, RAD suggests that, although "conventional wisdom has it that the 37,000-man U.S. garrison in South Korea is merely there to protect against the possibility of an invasion from the North," and "Korean unification might call for the reduction in American presence on the peninsula and a transformation of U.S. force posture in Korea," what would be needed is "a change in their mission... not the termination of their mission."


From these two documents, one can discern the central principles of the neoconservative vision:

* Military transformation, i.e., massive spending to upgrade military technology so as to further increase America's already unquestioned superiority.

* Military bases, i.e., the continued expansion throughout the world of an American military presence that was already at its greatest global reach and dispersion everywhere-"the United States should seek to establish a network of 'deployment bases' or 'forward operating bases' to increase the reach of current and future forces." They are to be a primary element of U.S. political hegemony over both the countries hosting the bases and over the countries menaced by them.

* "Regime change," i.e., the overt establishment of governments that are strongly beholden to the U.S. military and thus under the more or less direct control of the United States. In this regard, there is a need for a military transformation strategy to take account of the greater requirements imposed by frequent regime change and postwar military occupation-"past Pentagon wargames have given little or no consideration to the force requirements necessary not only to defeat an attack but to remove these regimes [Iraq and North Korea] from power and conduct post-combat stability operations."

Left conspicuously out of these documents is the fourth component, broadly hinted at in the Bush-Cheney energy policy: maximal control over the production and transportation of oil.

Put them all together, and we see the broad contours of imperial strategy emerging out of the wreckage of the World Trade Center.



... American political dominance must be based on overwhelming military superiority, reinforced periodically by small "theater wars" fought against foes that are helpless to resist, to be followed potentially by American military occupation and installation of regimes that will obey American dictates. It goes without saying that American ideas of economic system and policy will be imposed in this process, just as in Bosnia, whose U.S.-imposed constitution commits it to the "free market" and requires that the head of the Central Bank be non-Bosnian. Indeed, according to the NSS, "lower marginal tax rates" and "pro-growth legal and regulatory policies to encourage business investment" in foreign countries are essential to our national security.

In RAD, this picture is unleavened by any invocation, no matter how spurious, of a serious threat posed by any of these states on the contrary, it is understood that "America and its allies... have become the primary objects of deterrence." Presumably because it was prepared when the neoconservatives were out of power, it is far more honest than most openly obtainable documents that are so clearly linked to current government policy. Its frequent invocations of "the American peace" can only be read as a recipe for a Pax Americana in the imperial sense and not as having anything to do with peace: "If an American peace is to be maintained, and expanded, it must have a secure foundation on unquestioned U.S. military preeminence 't48

This stark picture of plans for unprovoked aggression in pursuit of American world dominance is leavened only slightly by the NSS, which contains a tortured attempt to justify these plans by invoking the already infamous preemption doctrine. Recognizing correctly that "traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy... whose most potent protection is statelessness," it goes on to logically leap tall buildings with a single bound, claiming that this consideration requires the unprovoked targeting of small, weak, eminently deterrable states, none of which could conceivably withstand an American military attack.

Instead of following this insight to the obvious conclusion that traditional ideas of war don't work very well against stateless multinational terrorist networks, it opportunistically seizes on the 9/11 attacks to tie completely unrelated, and even diametrically opposed, plans for a hyperaggressive foreign policy to the need to protect people from terrorist attacks.

Given these plans for repeated open aggression by the United States, it is no surprise that subversion of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and renunciation of any concept of international accountability for the United States is an essential part of this new policy. Not only has the United States not ratified the treaty creating the court, the National Security Strategy takes us a step further:

"We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept."

The United States has already concluded bilateral agreements with Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic, East Timor, The Gambia, Honduras, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Palau, Romania, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait, and India, in which each side agrees not to extradite the other's nationals for trial before the International Criminal Court.

The American Servicemembers Protection Act is known to many insiders as the "Invade the Hague" Act because it authorizes the president to go to war to prevent American personnel from being tried in international courts. Despite the numerous protestations of concern for ordinary American soldiers, the real concern with regard to the ICC is the potential trial of Henry Kissinger-and perhaps of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others in the near future. Indeed, according to the New York Times, "In most of their public utterances, [Bush] administration officials have argued that they feared American soldiers might be subject to politically motivated charges. But in private discussions with allies, officials say, they are now stressing deep concerns about the vulnerability of top civilian leaders to international legal action.''

A recipe for aggression is not complete without a strategy for impunity.


A Survey of U.S. Foreign Policy Since 9/11

The attacks of 9/11 provided the neoconservatives with their new Pearl Harbor ... Within hours of the attacks, they set about their task of reshaping the world.


The White House military budget request for fiscal 2004 totaled $399.1 billion. This represents roughly a 30 percent increase from the late '90s ...

The release of an explicit target list that includes China, the main strategic concern of the neoconservatives, as well as most of the list of "rogue states" the United States seems to be gunning for anyway, completes the picture of a transition to an overt policy of nuclear dominance based on a politically and militarily credible threat of a nuclear first strike.

As early as January 2002, military analyst William Arkin noted the theme of bases:

Since Sept. 11, according to Pentagon sources, military tent cities have sprung up at 13 locations in nine countries neighboring Afghanistan, substantially extending the network of bases in the region. All together, from Bulgaria and Uzbekistan to Turkey, Kuwait and beyond, more than 60,000 U.S. military personnel now live and work at these forward bases.

... the war on Afghanistan gave the United States control of the Afghan government ... but far more important is the fact that it has created a permanent U.S. military presence throughout the region.

In Afghanistan that presence includes 5,000 troops at the old Russian airbase at Bagram and another 3-4,000 in Kandahar, as well as numerous smaller deployments. In Pakistan, the United States has taken an airfield in Jacobabad for its own use, in addition to partial use of other fields-this is "part of what one Pakistani source predicts will become a 'semipermanent presence' of U.S. forces in Pakistan." This presence also includes a series of permanent and semipermanent bases as well as various bilateral agreements which allow for the use of landing strips, bases and facilities in surrounding countries, especially Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

U.S. presence in the region drives a military wedge between China and Russia. It also gives the U.S. military leverage over the oil of Central Asia, which might one day become an important source for China and Japan.


... an unprecedented level of U.S.-Indian military cooperation, with large joint exercises involving army, air force, and navy, and a resumption of U.S. military sales to India. Most significant, the U.S. and Indian navies are jointly patrolling the Straits of Malacca, one of the three primary chokepoints for world oil flow-25 percent of what is shipped goes through the strait. Virtually all oil going to Japan passes through the straits. With China's demand for oil projected to grow far faster than its production capacity, China will also become heavily dependent on the straits. The United States thus has potential control over the flow of oil to those countries and therefore political power over them.

One of the early responses of the Bush administration to 9/11 was to seek to undo congressional restrictions on U.S. military connections with Indonesia, imposed largely because of the success grassroots activists had in highlighting Indonesia's horrible abuses in its occupation of East Timor (which ended in 1999). In the aftermath of the Bali bombing, with Indonesia fully signed on to the "war on terrorism," resumption of high-level cooperation is once again on the agenda.

The U.S. military has also gone back to the Philippines. Y They were formally released from colonial status in 1946, but remained in a very explicit neocolonial relationship to the United States long after. Most Filipinos date Philippine independence not to 1946 but to 1991, when a massive popular movement essentially forced the Philippine government to kick the U.S. military out of its major bases, including Clark and Subic Bay. At that time, the Philippine constitution was amended to prohibit the presence of foreign troops, except in transit and for training exercises.

From February through July 2002, over 1,300 U.S. soldiers were in the Philippines, ostensibly helping the Philippine military to hunt down the Abu Sayyaf group, a small collection of bandits and kidnappers allegedly part of the global terrorist threat facing Americans. In fact, there is much reason to suspect that the true target of joint U.S.-Filipino operations is quite different. After a visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell in August, the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared "all-out war" on the Communist Party of the Philippines {CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army {NPA)-and virtually at the same time Powell added those two groups to the State Department's list of "foreign terrorist organizations." Popular resistance to a U.S. military role forced a delay in plans to deploy U.S. troops in the spring of 2003-in the end, 1,200 soldiers arrived in April 2003, but the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was forced to deny them any direct role in combat.


The United States has had a major land-based military presence in the Middle East, especially in the Persian Gulf region, ever since the Gulf War. Since 9/11, that presence has grown. As of March 2003, in numerous bases in the Gulf region, the U.S. deployment exceeded 250,000 troops. Permanent bases include three in Oman, a much upgraded and expanded al-Udeid in Qatar, bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, and a new Special Forces deployment in Djibouti. With this, the United States has a military presence abutting Bab el Mandeb Strait (connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden) as well as at the Straits of Hormuz {connecting the Persian Gulf to the Sea of Oman), two of the major chokepoints for world oil traffic.

Since 9/11, the United States has also moved to deploy Special Forces in Georgia, and to train an anti-terrorist force to patrol the Pankisi Gorge, an alleged refuge for al Qaeda elements and for Chechen fighters. It's also worth mentioning the giant Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, which has 7,000 troops stationed, and whose existence is one of the primary consequences of the Yugoslavia war. Its proximity to the planned Trans-Balkan AMBO (Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria Oil) pipeline, which will bring Caspian oil from Black Sea ports to the Adriatic Sea without having to pass through the highly congested Bosporus trait, is notable. Redeployment of European-based U.S. forces to southeastern Europe is one of the key necessities noted in "Rebuilding America's Defenses," and is an essential part of bringing Eastern Europe directly under the U.S. "security umbrella."

U.S. intervention in Colombia brings together the themes of suppressing armed popular resistance movements and oil. For several years, the United States has given major support to organized state terror in Colombia under the guise of a "drug war." This has involved massive defoliation campaigns reminiscent of Vietnam, in which not only coca crops but many normal food crops are destroyed; experimental use of a biological defoliant, "Agent Green" has been proposed. During this time, tens of thousands of Colombians have been killed, over two million made into internal refugees, and the social fabric of much of rural Colombia destroyed.

Since 9/11, the counter-drug efforts have been completely recast. In November, U.S. Special Forces began "training" the Colombian military in counterinsurgency, in accord with an explicit 2002 budget appropriation of $94 million to help protect the Cano-Limon pipeline, which carries 100,000 barrels a day to the coast of Colombia for Occidental Petroleum. Seen as a symbol of foreign domination, the pipeline has been bombed over 900 times since the early 1980s by the FARC and the ELN, which also extract oil royalty payments from local government officials.


U.S. operations in Venezuela, a major oil-producing country, after 9/11 have been perhaps the most revealing of all. Anyone who followed New York Times coverage of the presidency of Hugo Chavez Frias knew that Chavez was likely to be a primary target for U.S. attempts at "regime change," an understanding made explicit by pronouncements shortly after installation of the Bush administration.

People who attempted to understand Venezuela and the Chavez phenomenon simply by reading mainstream media reports could have been forgiven if they thought that he was a military dictator hated by the population, a consistent impression projected especially in the coverage by the New York Times. When there was a coup attempt on April 12, in fact, both the Times and the State Department initially reacted by hailing the coup as a victory for democracy-even though the first action of the coup leader, the "responsible businessman" Pedro Carmona Estanga, was to dissolve the National Assembly.

After the news got out that Chavez had been elected with 62 percent of the vote) and after a spontaneous popular uprising helped put this "hated man" back in power, the powers-that-be in the United States were forced to recant and admit that a coup is not a good way to remove a democratically-elected government. One Bush administration official, however, hastened to add that Chavez should understand that "legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters"-an area where the Bush administration should have an especially keen insight.

Since then, it has (very quickly) transpired that the United States did not just welcome the coup attempt with open arms. It actively fostered the coup. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which, as the name suggests, is a quasi-governmental organization designed to subvert democracy in other countries, gave $877,000 to anti-Chavez forces over the course of the year leading up to the coup. Among the NED's other exploits is the buying of the 2000 elections in Yugoslavia, where it spent roughly $25 million dollars to support opposition groups against Milosevic.

According to Stratfor, the private military intelligence corporation (http://www.stratfor.com), the CIA had been working on organizing oil union leaders and military commanders against Chavez since the summer of 2001. Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs and one of the Reagan administration's point men in its Central American operations, met several times with coup leaders and advised Carmona during the coup attempt-he claims, of course, that he knew nothing of the attempt.

Chavez had long been a target, not so much for his actions against the Venezuelan oligarchy, but for his actions affecting the world oil market. Venezuela under Chavez has returned to its original role of fostering cooperation between oil-producing nations (Venezuela is the actual founder of OPEC), and played an instrumental role in bringing the price of oil back from its low of $7 per barrel in 1998. Chavez has also moved toward solidarity with non-oil-producing nations, giving Cuba oil at cut-rate prices, and has moved to increase the royalties foreign companies like Exxon-Mobil have to pay for Venezuelan oil.

Venezuela shows most clearly that "regime change" has nothing to do with installing democracy (in a slightly less direct way, so do Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine). The key question for U.S. planners is still, as it has been for a long time, how to minimize the potential for independent policy in the rest of the world, especially in the Third World.



Ever since the Bush administration's presentation to the General Assembly on September 12, 2002, and the passage of UNSCR 1441 in November 2002, the claim that war was necessary to enforce international law and, incidentally, to make the U.N. "relevant," was high on the list of justifications.

At the same time, other nations possess WMD and are in violation of U.N. resolutions. Israel, for example, is in violation of, at a very conservative count, over 30 resolutions, pertaining among other things to the very substantive issue of the continuing illegal occupation of another people, along with violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention through steady encroachment on and effective annexation of that land. Israel's repeated invasions and bombing of Lebanon were clear violations of U.N. resolutions in some cases and international law in every case. Indonesia, another U.S. ally, violated U.N. resolutions for a quarter of a century in East Timor with relative impunity. Morocco is illegally occupying Western Sahara. And so on. In each of these cases, the United States wouldn't be required to go to war to help uphold international law; it could start simply by terminating aid and military sales to these countries.

The United States itself is also a very odd country to claim a mandate to uphold international law. Ever since a 1986 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling against the United States and in favor of Nicaragua, the United states has refused to acknowledge the ICJ's authority (the $17 billion in damages it was ordered to pay were never delivered). Shortly after that judgment, the United States actually vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on states to respect international law.

The following [are the] principles of U.S. humanitarian intervention:

* The humanitarian crisis is an excuse, not a reason. The United States intervenes when it sees something to gain, frequently economic and political control or a military foothold.

* The United States doesn't particularly care whether its intervention ameliorates the humanitarian crisis or exacerbates it. The intervention is structured primarily to serve the aforementioned interest.

* The United States has little interest in traditional humanitarian and peacekeeping methods, which involve a patient presence on the ground. Such interventions don't serve the purpose of gaining greater power and control. A massive use of military force, on the other hand, always benefits the United States as an empire by showing its willingness to use force, its devastating superiority, and most of all, its impunity.

In the current dominant mode of global control, power is exercised mainly through economic means, mostly I through multilateral institutions like the IMF, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. As a result of IMF/World Bank structural adjustment in the 1980s and '90s and even more because of the proliferation of "free trade" agreements in the '90s-the process usually referred to as globalization-the world had come to the point where, before 9/11, the U.S. Treasury Department had more control over the economic decisions of Third World countries than did the duly elected governments of those countries-with the partial exception of the Middle East and Central Asia, where "globalization" had made much less of a dent. With their freedom of action taken away, it didn't matter who was elected to rule in most Third World countries; no longer could they try seriously to implement a substantial reform program dedicated to improving human welfare.



Actually, it has never been a secret that U.S. Middle East policy revolves around oil. Strong U.S. interest in the region's oil dates from after World War I, in particular after the 1920 San Remo agreement, in which Britain and France essentially divided the oil of the Middle East between them. Britain had early on established the standard colonial means of dealing with oil; pressuring a weak, corrupt government to grant an oil concession, essentially a deal whereby some corporation gained the right to all the oil that lay under the land in the area covered by the concession, and was required to pay only token royalties to the government of the country. In the first 50 years of Middle East oil concessions, Western corporations and a small ruling elite in the Middle East got very rich, but the people benefited minimally if at all.

Unhappy U.S. oil companies complained strenuously about their exclusion, and through the intervention of the U.S. government (Herbert Hoover played a major role in this), replaced the San Remo agreement with the 1928 "Red-line" agreement, which gave them a 23.5 percent share of all oil concessions in the former Ottoman Empire (excluding Kuwait); later this agreement came to apply only to Iraq. In 1933, Texaco and Chevron gained the ultimate prize-a 60-year concession on the lion's share of Saudi oil, which they later shared with Exxon and Mobil in the formation of Aramco. Around that time, Gulf also obtained 50 percent of the Kuwaiti concession.

World War II brought the strategic significance of oil into sharp relief, as availability of supplies was often the determining factor in military engagements. Though the United States produced almost two-thirds of the world's oil at the time, it moved very firmly to maintain and extend control over Middle East oil, already seen as the largest supply in the world. In 1943, in an attempt to woo Ibn Saud, President Franklin Roosevelt made Saudi Arabia eligible for Lend-Lease aid by declaring its defense to be of vital interest to the United States; in 1945, after the Yalta Conference, he personally visited Ibn Saud.

The significance of Saudi oil was already clear-a 1945 State Department document called it "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history."

In 1951, Iran nationalized its oil, whose concession had belonged to British Petroleum. Oil companies colluded to embargo Iran's oil, and the country suffered without oil income for two years until a joint U.S.-British coup toppled the democratically elected government and restored the tyrannical Shah Reza Pahlavi to power. The post-coup division gave rights over 40 percent of Iran's oil to American companies.

The 1958 uprising in Iraq, mentioned earlier, directly imperiled the Anglo-American condominium over the region's oil, whence the strenuous reaction from the United States. Qassem, Iraq's ruler at the time, antagonized the oil companies further in 1961 with the passage of Law 80, which nationalized the oil lying under the 99.5 percent of Iraq's land that was then largely unexplored and not in production. As mentioned before, he paid for his temerity.

By the 1970s, the strategic situation and U.S. power in the Middle East had changed dramatically. The United States was bogged down in Vietnam, Britain had withdrawn its troops from the region (although Israel had emerged as a new military power at the same time), and the Soviet Union was playing a newly assertive role. In 1971, Libya nationalized a British Petroleum concession; in 1972, Iraq completed its nationalization; in 1975, Kuwait and Venezuela nationalized; and by 1980, Saudi Arabia had as well. The United States was able to make only symbolic gestures in response, like placing Iraq on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In 1980, responding to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Carter Doctrine was promulgated: "An attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America." This was followed by implementation of plans to create a Rapid Deployment Force, which eventually evolved into the Central Command, the organization in charge of prosecuting Gulf Wars 1 and 2.

Gulf War 1 obtained for the U.S. military a permanent land-based presence in the Middle East, gave the United States partial control over Iraqi oil (through the U.N. sanctions), and enhanced the power of Saudi Arabia, a longtime U.S. ally, in the global oil market.

There are two components to the question of oil as a material prize: First, the profits to be made on oil concessions (oil is unique among commodities in that the primary source of profits is the "downstream" production, not the "upstream" refining and retail marketing); and second, the investment of petrodollars. Both considerations militate for the long-term U.S. strategy of propping up despotic but weak feudal elites throughout the region. At first, these feudal elites, uninterested in the well-being of their populations, signed sweetheart deals with Western oil companies. Later, as the elites began to appropriate a larger share of the profits and especially after the nationalizations of the 1970s, the consideration was that these elites would happily invest those profits in the United States and Europe rather than in regional development.

In the l990s, Saudi Arabia and the small Gulf states recycled tens of billions of petrodollars into the United States in arms transactions alone. Currently, it is estimated that total Arab flight capital is somewhere from $1-1.2 trillion, a staggering figure and at least twice the GDP of the Arab world. Unlike the oil concessions, which benefit specifically oil companies, these petrodollar investments benefit all First World corporations.

Oil is not only the most traded commodity in terms of value in the world, it is by far the most important strategic commodity, because every country requires oil to run. Control the flow of oil to a country and you have a knife to its jugular; controlling the price of oil also gives significant political leverage.

Since the most powerful entities that depend on Middle East oil are the European Union, Japan, and more recently China, control of Middle East oil is presumably primarily directed at them as competitors or potential competitors.

World oil consumption is growing rapidly, but non-OPEC production has already peaked. The Middle East has two-thirds of the world's oil reserves and will be increasingly important as a source of oil in the future-according to the Bush-Cheney energy policy, by 2020 Persian Gulf oil will supply between 54 and 67 percent of world needs. According to the USEIA, world oil consumption will increase from 75 mbd in 1999 to 119 in 2020. Thus, Middle East production will have to be dramatically higher.


... what is really on the horizon is a colonial re-appropriation of the Middle East's energy reserves.

George Kennan

We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth but only 6.3 percent of its population.... In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming, and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford the luxury of altruism and world benefaction.

He went on to add,

"We should cease to talk about such vague and-for the Far East-unreal objectives as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better."

Convergence of Israeli and American "strategic interests" in the Middle East: One of the questions on everyone's lips is the role of Israel's supporters in shaping this new foreign policy. Undoubtedly, they are in the ascendant in the public eye; undoubtedly they have significant power on Capitol Hill and in the larger society, especially when combined with the Christian Right. They benefit also from a strong feeling of cultural affinity-Israel has always been represented since the early days of the Zionist movement as an outpost of Europe in the Middle East.

However, notwithstanding their considerable influence, it is equally certain that Israel supporters do not run things in Washington. It is the United States that is the superpower and it is an American elite that the government is attempting to serve. What is happening is that, with the fall of the Soviet Union, there is a greater and greater convergence between U.S. and Israeli "strategic interests." For the Sharonist wing in Israel, and the neoconservatives in the United States, the convergence is almost complete.

The reason is simple-in the calculations of the policymakers, the Arab states no longer have a choice. They can't go to the Soviet sphere; they certainly can't embark on an independent economic policy any more than any Third World country could by itself. When Israel invaded southern Lebanon in 1982, many U.S. policymakers were deeply concerned about the possibility that disaffected Arab states would deal more with the Soviet Union. Today, the United States can easily get away with more and more open support for the policies of a "Greater Israel"-and that is what is being done, notwithstanding the rhetorical support for a "Palestinian state."

The protests of February 15, 2003, were something new in the history of the world. In every country, there are people who follow U.S. policy, understand what it's about, and accept the importance of opposing it. The 11 million who marched against the war on Iraq were only part of a larger phenomenon. At Davos, at the World Economic Forum, according to an accidentally leaked e-mail from Newsday writer Laurie Garrett, the mood was more anti-American than ever. On March 1, 2003, the Turkish parliament actually rejected a resolution allowing for Turkey to be used as a staging area for the war-even though the inducement was $15 billion in aid and grants and even in spite of the obvious risk of severe punishment from the IMF. France not only openly opposed the U.S. drive to war, it even did its own counter-"diplomacy," getting 52 African nations to agree to a declaration calling for more time.

At a global AIDS conference in Barcelona, when U.S. Health Secretary Tommy Thompson was heckled by demonstrators, the audience cheered the hecklers. And the audience did not come from the slums of Manila or Calcutta-they were government officials and "important" NGO representatives. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Colin Powell was booed.

The press is reporting that around the world George W. Bush is considered a far greater threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Il or whomever the United States targets tomorrow.

While the American empire has never ridden higher in terms of absolute power, its base of acquiescence and support is getting weaker by the day. The dark vision can be opposed, and maybe even stopped.


At exactly the time of maximal ferment, both domestically and internationally, the antiwar movement in the United States was afflicted with a variety of self-appointed spokespeople who were very careful to tell us the right and wrong ways to oppose the war. For Todd Gitlin, Marc Cooper, Michael Walzer, Michael Berube, and others, it was right for us to oppose the war on Iraq because it was poorly thought out, because it was a "distraction" from the war on terrorism, and similar reasons; it was and is not all right to question the fundamental goodness of America's role in the world, it wasn't all right to oppose the war on Afghanistan, and it wasn't all right to oppose the sanctions on Iraq or to argue that Iraq posed no significant threat beyond its borders.

As Walzer wrote in the New York Review of Books, "Defending the embargo, the American overflights, and the U.N. inspections: This is the right way to oppose, and to avoid, a war." That's the embargo that destroyed a society, the American overflights combined with bombing that were the prelude to a war, and the U.N. inspections that prepared the way for that war by disarming the targeted enemy.

Without delving too much into their tendentious reasoning, or into their total lack of contribution to any antiwar movement, their continuing role now is very clear. They were and are trying to keep the antiwar movement both from becoming a more sustained movement and from being an anti-imperialist movement, two considerations that are linked.

The dangers of this approach should by now be evident. The mainstream of the anti-Vietnam War movement was always actuated more by immediate concern with American casualties than with other important issues, and many continued to think of the Vietnam War as an aberration rather than an epitome of U.S. foreign policy. As a result, once U.S. troops withdrew in 1973, the movement largely disappeared even as the United States violated the Paris Peace Accords and continued to heavily arm South Vietnam. From 1975 to 1994, while Vietnam was subject to some of the most crippling sanctions ever levied by the United States (Iraq is Number One), while Vietnam was losing the "peace" and being slowly prepared for recolonization, there was hardly a peep out of the movement.

The anti-Gulf War movement, which was even more focused on potential American casualties and less prepared to deal with the realities of U.S. foreign policy, collapsed almost immediately. As a result, when the anti-Iraq-sanctions advocacy group, Voices in the Wilderness, formed in 1996, they truly were voices in the wilderness.

Few had paid any attention for five years while the people of Iraq suffered.

The war on Iraq was actively opposed around the world, not just because of the sympathy and solidarity people felt with the people of Iraq, but because people knew that the war was about more than Iraq. The war was a major step toward ushering in that dark vision mentioned earlier. In that vision, there is no law between nations, only the rule of force; there are no institutions with any legitimacy except the American military and the American corporation; the rising tide of economic inequality reaches cancerous proportions; the despoliation of the planet is accelerated beyond all reason for the most venal calculations of immediate gain; democracy is a shell game designed to fool the masses; the continent of Africa, except for the oil-bearing regions, is consigned to Outer Darkness; and all movements for global justice are crushed immediately into nonexistence.

The failure of the anti-Vietnam War movement to oppose Vietnam's slow strangulation through the ensuing "peace" was a real tragedy. It was avoidable had there been a better understanding of the situation-many did oppose the Vietnam War out of deeply held moral convictions and were repulsed by the vision of their country as, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." Had that moral repulsion found a sustained, mass-based political avenue, the United States might have contributed something unique to the world's history: an empire brought down and transformed by the force of the moral vision of its citizens.

It still can.

New World Order

U.S. Imperialism / Neocolonialism

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