by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 33, No. 11, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1425)
So powerful is the West’s propaganda that mere mention of the word “warlord” immediately conjures up images of a bearded thug terrorizing hapless civilians in Afghanistan. Just as terrorism has been made synonymous with Muslim activism, so warlordism has become the exclusive preserve of the Afghans. There are certainly plenty of warlords in Afghanistan, but they are bit-players compared to the warlords in Washington. America’s warlords are neither bearded nor brandish Kalashnikov rifles in their victims’ faces; they dress in business suits and speak in soundbites, but their policies and decisions hold much of the world hostage. They terrorize almost everyone everywhere with cruise missiles, Apache helicopters, F-16 planes and 1,000-pound bombs, and they run the most sophisticated and far-reaching brainwashing apparatus anywhere, ever, in human history.
One is reminded of the encounter between the emperor Alexander and a pirate, as narrated by St Augustine: “How dare you molest the seas?” demands Alexander.
“How dare you molest the world?” retorts the pirate. “Just because I do it with a small boat I am called a pirate; you do it with a big ship and you are called an emperor.”
Unlike Alexander, Washington’s warlords have co-opted Afghan warlords in their drive for world hegemony. Since September 2001, such satanic concepts as full-spectrum dominance, pre-emptive strikes and perpetual wars have openly become standard tools of US policy. Not only the militarization of space (through flawed missile defence) but also that of foreign policy has been accepted as normal. “911” was neither the most spectacular event in world history nor the most calamitous, and cannot possibly justify reducing two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq) to rubble. However, it was used by Washington’s warlords to launch their global crusade against the people they dislike most. But even their madness—and it is little short of that—has been conducted with some realism. When confronted in January 2003 by North Korea’s announcement that it intended to acquire nuclear weapons, while preparations for war against Iraq were in full swing because of its alleged possession of WMD, US president George Bush was forced to state publicly that “different circumstances require different strategies, from the pressure of diplomacy to the prospect of force” (Washington Post, January 6, 2003). Iraq was “do-able”, according to vice president Dick Cheney; North Korea was not. Those being threatened by the mad superpower can draw appropriate conclusions: it is safer to be a North Korea than an Iraq in today’s world.
The priorities and practices of US foreign policy under Bush were crafted by such well-known zionists as Paul Wolfowitz, J. Lewis Libby, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, William Kristol and Robert Kagan immediately after the first war against Iraq (January-March 1991). Two documents are worthy of note: Wolfowitz’s draft Defence Policy Guidance of 1991, and the statements and documents of the “Project for the New American Century”, founded by Kristol and Kagan in 1997. Some of these individuals—Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle and Libby—hold key positions in Bush’s government; others exercise influence through the myriad thinktanks that litter Washington’s political landscape.
While encouraged by Dick Cheney, then US defence secretary, such prescriptions were dismissed at the time by most Washington insiders as the outpourings of people out of touch with reality. Yet the neoconservatives, as they have come to be called, persisted in pushing their agenda. Joined by such ideologues as Charles Krauthammer and using the Weekly Standard(owned by William Kristol), as well as the National Interest (another rightwing publication, founded by Irving Kristol, father of William Kristol), they promoted their views relentlessly. Using the pretext of advancing the US agenda, it was and is aimed primarily at pursuing policies advocated by Israel. After all, sanctions-ravaged Iraq was no threat to the US or anyone else. Like the first zionist movement, which resulted in a zionist entity being implanted in Palestine, the second movement aims to achieve total domination of the Middle East by zionism. The Christian right, with their apocalyptic interpretations of the Bible, have also joined in.
Such calls to naked aggression and militarism have had their critics in the US, but it is important to understand that they are not opposed to this doctrine in principle; they are only concerned about the methods adopted to implement the agenda. This is as true of the isolationists on the right as of the liberals on the left. The Democratic Party, for instance, did not oppose Bush’s war against Iraq. Democratic challenger John Kerry was repeatedly asked by Bush to explain his position on the war during a Congressional vote in 2003; Kerry’s reply was that he would do a “better job” than Bush to prosecute the war. Neither its legality nor its morality was ever challenged, despite the horrible treatment—torture, rape and murder—meted out to the Iraqis whom the Americans went to liberate.
Television and radio commentators have also been putting “positive spin” on the invasion and the situation that has resulted from it, despite mounting US casualties and the Iraqi resistance that is escalating daily. The increasing desertions, psychological trauma suffered by many US soldiers, and sharp questioning by soldiers of US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld while he was on a ‘morale-boosting’ trip to Kuwait in early December, have all been dismissed as minor irritants. US television and Hollywood are famous for winning wars on the screen. Hollywoodnever lost a single battle during the Vietnam war; Rambo defeated the Red Army in Afghanistan singlehanded, the mujahideen playing only an insignificant role in the entire struggle; and today America is “winning the hearts and minds” of the Iraqis by blowing them to pieces. American television ‘analysts’ never tire of telling their audiences that the situation in Iraq is not as bad as it is reported in the media; one wonders which media they are referring to. The talking heads of CNN, Fox News, CBS, ABC, NBC and so on, replete with their own army of retired generals and colonels, have a total monopoly on reporting, yet have failed completely to convince Americans that all is well.
Voices of dissent are now beginning to emerge even from the inner sancta of the establishment, not because they question the war’s legality or morality but because of its escalating costs. Even if one ignores Paul Krugman, professor of economics at Harvard University, who has been a persistent critic of Bush’s fiscal policies —his piece in the New York Times of December 10 is a scathing attack on Bush’s privatization proposal to “borrow trillions, put the money in the stock market and hope”—others like Harlan Ullman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and columnist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times are also beginning to question the Bush administration’s policies.
Speaking at the New American Foundation, a Washington-based thinktank, on December 9, Ullman warned that the US was sailing into very dangerous times and, like the Titanic, appears to be headed for disaster. This stark warning came from an establishment figure who is not known for his hyperbole, and who works with the likes of Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, both national security advisors to former presidents. For Ullman the dangers are as much internal as external. Friedman, on the other hand warned on December 2: “recent tax cuts and runaway spending are expected to add $5 trillion to the cumulative deficit. In my lifetime we will have gone from the Greatest Generation to the Profligate Generation to the Bankrupt Generation.” He said that Bush could afford to launch wars against Afghanistan and Iraq because of surpluses accumulated by Bill Clinton, but continues to act as if nothing could possibly go wrong. “But what if there is another 9/11 or war of necessity? We’re cooked.” Being the world’s biggest warlord, it seems, carries a huge price-tag as well.
Kevin Rafferty, a former managing editor for the World Bank, predicts an even bleaker future for the US. He says: “this is beginning of the end of US hegemony. It will be a tougher new world that emerges, but as with the British Empire or Ancient Rome, there is nothing God-given or eternal that says Washington must rule the world forever” (the Japan Times, November 15, 2004). He sees Iraq as an expensive drain on an “overstretched US economy”; $200 billion were committed to Iraq and Afghanistan last year and Bush has requested another $80 billion to $100 billion for 2005. He quotes economist Stephen Roach of the Morgan Stanley Bank as saying that “some of the numbers are nothing short of frightening. The US currently has $38 trillion in debts, and there is a $54 trillion federal funding gap—the difference between what the government is committed to pay out and what it will receive in tax revenues.” Dismissing optimistic forecasts by some economists, Roach says that the US “external deficit [has] risen to 5.7 percent of GDP.” It is now absorbing more than 80 percent of the world’s surplus savings, “requiring $2.6 billion of capital inflows each business day to fund its domestic saving shortfall.”
How long can this state of affairs last? Rafferty thinks that the US is heading for an “economic nuclear explosion”. When the explosion occurs depends on when the rest of the world decides that it no longer wants to keep its assets in US dollars. Some members of OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) have already begun to demand payments in euros. If China and Japan (which between them hold about 40 percent of US dollar assets) decide that they no longer want dollars, the US, in Friedman’s words, will be “cooked”. The oppressed of the world can hardly wait for that day, and they can thank the warlords in Washington for bringing it about, despite the fact that it was entirely unintended.