Washington's next war _ an all-out military assault on Iraq _ has, in effect, already been declared. Like the war on Afghanistan, the coming attack on Iraq is being sold as the next step in the "War On Terrorism." In fact, it has already become the next step in preparing the American people for a state of permanent war.
What is the object of this war?
Forget the catch-words _ "War on Terrorism," "defense of freedom," etc. _ employed to make the war against Iraq and similar wars still to come palatable to the American people. Bush's "Axis of Evil" _ Iraq, Iran and North Korea, since expanded to include Cuba, Libya and Syria _ are clearly high on the Administration's wish list for future wars. Nor are these yearnings simply the wet dream of a testosterone-enhanced male military establishment.
Domination and Control
Urged on by Vice-President Cheney and other key figures in his administration, such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, Bush has set out to do what his father couldn't _ to establish a "New World Order" dominated and controlled by the most powerful economic and military entity the world has ever seen.
Simply put, the "New World Order" is a world based upon and structured to promote US political and economic interests. Once the world has been tamed, as determined by the Bush administration and their supporters, it will be an orderly world, "benevolently" dominated by Washington.
The bombing of the World Trade Center became the Administration's window of opportunity to implement this policy. (Does the search for such a window account for the pattern of ineptitude that prevailed in the intelligence establishment before 9/11? The White House was certainly anything but inept when it came to orchestrating the tidal wave of jingoism that followed.)
In the climate thus generated, Bush and his cohorts sought to make their vision of a "New World Order" the heart of US foreign policy for the foreseeable future. That vision, they know, cannot be realized unless the country can be sold on the preparation necessary for a permanent state of war.
"The goal of US foreign policy," says Richard Haass, Director of Policy Planning for the State Department, "should be to persuade the other major powers to sign on to certain key ideas as to how the world should operate."
Those ideas include the "War on Terrorism," suppressing _ by armed force, if necessary _ attempts by nations to develop weapons of mass destruction (except, of course, in the hands of "responsible" governments like the US or those whom we approve), and support for free trade, market economies. The objective, Haass adds, is "locking them (US allies) into these policies and then building institutions that lock them in even more."
Countries that resist this vision face the threat of pre-emptive military first-strikes in any war Washington decides to undertake in the name of the "War on Terrorism." Bush has already declared that every country "must choose... [either] with us or against us." These targeted states, says Haass, forfeit "the normal advantages of sovereignty, including the right to be left alone inside your own territory. Other governments, including the United States, gain the right to intervene."
Punctuating the actual goal, the "War on Terrorism" has been transformed into the "Global War on Terrorism." Rumsfeld asserts that this "will not end until terrorist networks have been rooted out from wherever they exist; and it will not end until state sponsors of terror are made to understand that abetting terrorism is unacceptable and will have deadly consequences for the regimes that do so."
Imposing such a vision on America will not be easy. Many who were swept up in the mania of post-9/11 hyper-patriotism are having second thoughts about the course being followed and projected for the future. Even a few Democrats are beginning to consider the possibility of some forms of opposition.
This is why, over the past year, Bush has disposed of numerous legal obstacles to revving up an untrammeled US war machine. The centerpiece of this assault was the USA Patriot Act, shaped principally by Ashcroft, and adopted in October 2001 by a Congress falling all over itself to cooperate with a President bent on restricting civil liberties.
Since then, by Executive Order or Acts of a bi-partisan, compliant Congress, a whole range of civil rights have been undermined, giving Federal Law Enforcement agencies a virtual free hand in taking into custody anyone they designate either a "terrorist" or a "supporter of terrorism."
Now Bush has proposed the creation of a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security that would have at its disposal unprecedented powers to override constitutional prohibitions on governmental abuses of power.
Ironically, in view of the enthusiasm with which most of Congress has lined up to support the proposed department, its enactment would strip Congress of much of its authority. It would significantly weaken the Constitution's carefully structured balance of powers, shifting much of it to the Executive branch's already distorted concentration of power.
Needless to say, most of the rest of the world _ with the exception of Israel and a few puppet regimes _ are becoming increasingly alarmed by the militaristic and unilateral trends in Washington's overall foreign policy. They are not about to meekly assume their assigned places in the hierarchy of power as decreed by the US. America's Third World allies _ especially in the Muslim countries _ face growing angry opposition from their own citizens.
But Bush and his coterie of would-be dictatorial managers of the world remain undaunted. The makings of a momentous political showdown both at home and abroad may be looming in the not-so-distant future.
Irwin Silber, based in Oakland, CA, is a long-time journalist and activist, having edited Sing Out, The Guardian and Frontline.