What an Empire We live in

Between 1798 and 2004, the United States conducted 322 operations involving US forces abroad, not counting covert operations, disaster relief, and routine alliance stationing and training exercises.153 of these occurred between 1946 and 2004, and have dramatically increased in frequency decade by decade. This astounding number represents the most prolific global projection of power by any empire in history. Even worse, no nation in modern times has worked so hard to kill independence movements, and the US has routinely done so in the name of freedom and democracy.
In The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Threat, published in 1979, Alan Wolfe states that, “Without a sharply negative view of an enemy, it is difficult to justify an activist foreign policy.” He rightly suggested that “postwar American policy has gone through two peaks, two valleys, and now seems to be entering a third peak,” with a peak being a US assertion of strength against Soviet ideology represented by an increased defense budget or interventions and symbolic displays such as moving the American fleet. For the first peak, Wolfe pointed to the period from the end of World War II to the early 1950s, particularly the decision to build the hydrogen bomb and the issuance of NSC-68, the blueprint for every belligerent strategy report issued by the Pentagon under the Bush administration, and similar documents drafted by Paul Wolfowitz and PNAC prior to the ascendancy of George W. Bush to the presidency. The second peak began in 1957 with the Gaither Report and culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The third peak began in 1976 with the Team B Report, authorized by then CIA director George Bush Sr.; the resulting push for intelligence community reform; and the reappearance of CPD, which flooded the media with false notions of an impending Soviet first strike.(Paul Nitze was instrumental in all three peaks as primary author of each of the three belligerent documents.)

It could be argued that a third valley arrived with the collapse of the Soviet Union, so sudden as to deflate and disappoint such staunch neoconservatives as Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. When asked in 1990 why he had stopped writing, Podhoretz lamented that he had lost his compass and no longer knew what to think, humorously noting that Kristol had moved all the way to Washington just as “the spirit blew out of the Beltway.” However, as Stephen Cohen argues below, the US-USSR Cold War never ended. Indeed, the consistent belligerent and bipartisan condescension of US foreign policy toward Russia since 1991 is indicative of deep-rooted and fundamental flaws that have plagued the US majority in the form of an aggressive arrogance that arises whenever financial, military, and political powers fall into the hands of a negative-activist minority. (I apply the term “negative” to signify the decidedly self-serving and willful use of violence in the process of manipulating the majority.)

Stephen Blank, professor and expert on Russia at the US Army War College, states: “The obvious implication of current policy is that NATO under US leadership will become an international policeman and hegemon in the Trans-Caspian, and define the limits of Russian participation in the region’s expected oil boom.”

Immediately after 9-11, Vladimir Putin promised support for Bush’s “war on terror,” with the caveat that NATO cease its eastward push. Bush agreed, and just as immediately set about pushing NATO eastward. Professor Stephen Cohen of NYU points out that (thus) the Cold War never ended, and with the US today openly stating that Georgia and Ukraine are to become NATO partners, with US troops present—and with Putin having drawn the line with Ukraine, as Russia subsidizes much of Ukraine’s economy—a new and very real tension has risen once again between the two largest possessors of nuclear arms. (In fact, a US warship and 200 Marines were chased out of the Russian province of Crimea just weeks ago by a massive group of protesters.)

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Cold War with the Soviet Union was less about confrontation between two superpowers and more about two superpowers ultimately exploiting the illusion of confrontation for domestic and global ventures of a profitable nature. For Soviet leaders, this illusion permitted the resolution and consolidation of its internal difficulties, most prominently rooted in its multiculturalism. Its borders grew more secure, and the suppression of dissent became easier. For the United States, exploiting the “threat of Soviet communism” in Europe fostered its wider economic command in European and global affairs. There were actually three cold wars, two of which are still raging: in East Asia, and in Latin America. The United States found this “threat” convenient in both of these regions, lending an easy excuse for basing its troops in East Asia—which again goes back to America’s historic obsession with China—and providing a distracting cover for long-standing exploits in Latin America, installing dictators to allow American fruit companies and other businesses to perpetually exploit the land while indigenous farmers suffer immensely. In fact, the best thing that ever happened to help cover the United States’ imperial ambitions in Latin America was the rise of Fidel Castro, allowing the US to point to the “spread of communism” and thus legitimize military operations, particularly under President Reagan, which in nearly every case targeted and killed the rise of national independence efforts, also known as democracy movements.
In 1974, when Gerald Ford took over for Richard Nixon in the White House after Watergate, Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld insisted that Ford appoint Dick Cheney as Assistant to the President. Ford had no idea who Cheney was, but under the pressure of Rumsfeld’s insistence, Ford approved Cheney’s appointment.

The following year, on November 4, 1975, Rumsfeld and Cheney executed the infamous Halloween Massacre, persuading Ford to severely reduce the powers of the pro-détente, anti-Cold War Henry Kissinger, limit the role of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and most importantly, replace the proud Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) William Colby with the extremely anti-détente and pro-Cold War oil man George Bush Sr. Rumsfeld also bumped himself up to Secretary of Defense, and Cheney moved up to Rumsfeld’s old position of White House Chief of Staff.

This set the stage for devastating intelligence reforms and the eventual return of brutal policies in the CIA that had been drastically curtailed after Watergate, Vietnam, and other sins of statecraft.

Each year the CIA produces National Intelligence Estimates (NIE), and William Colby had staunchly defended their veracity in showing that the Soviet Union urgently sought parity through diplomacy (as it had all along), was in severe decline economically, and strongly desired an end to the Cold War. The NIE produced in 1976 showed precisely this, but the new DCI George Bush Sr. called for an independent team of outside analysts to challenge his CIA’s own findings. Far from independent, each member of this group, called Team B, was closely tied to the defense industry and all were extreme anti-Soviet, anti-détente, pro-Cold War hawks. Members included Paul Nitze, who had authored the scariest documents throughout the Cold War, indeed had officially launched the Cold War with his NSC-68 (while serving in the State Department as Director of Policy Planning), and Paul Wolfowitz, Nitze’s protégé, who has since produced the scariest post-Cold War documents.

Dissenting views were allowed in NIE in the form of footnotes, and the most prolific writer of dissenting footnotes in the NIE of 1976 was General George Keegan. Keegan had a history of creating pretexts, among them the Northwoods plan (below), and the “death ray scare” of the early 1970s designed to build public and military opposition to détente. Keegan also had close ties, in the religious fundamentalist sense, with Jack Kemp, Gary Bauer, General Daniel O. Graham, and many other figures prominent in the rise of interventionist policy after Team B.
Chronologically digressing for a moment to provide useful background, among the previous sins of statecraft in US history were Operation Northwoods and Operation Mongoose of 1962, two parts of one plan designed with help from both General Keegan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Lyman Lemnitzer. Northwoods was a plan to target American citizens in several cities and put the blame on Cuba, serving as a pretext for invasion of Cuba. (President Kennedy rejected the plan, and some contend that this rejection led Keegan, Lemnitzer, E. Howard Hunt, and others to plot his assassination.) In the declassified Northwoods documents, suggestions also include building a plane that looked like a Cuban MIG fighter jet to shoot down a chartered US commercial plane filled with students flying over Cuba on their way to a Caribbean holiday; staging a military strike on the US base at Guantanamo dressed as Cuban soldiers; and flying a remote-controlled commercial plane over Miami and using a fake Cuban MIG fighter to shoot it down in broad daylight for the American public to witness.

I pause to mention this because pretexts such as these have been used throughout US history, and represent the rising trend—from national to international—of organized assertions of combined powers of influence exercised in the hands of a negative-activist minority upon the majority in the form of terrorism. First strikes on US assets have served as pretexts for almost every major war in which it was involved. Even in its struggle for independence from Britain, rebels in 1770 engineered a first strike against colonists, called the Boston Massacre, to galvanize public opinion and demonize an enemy. In extremely organized fashion, British soldiers were provoked into killing five colonists—a pivotal event leading to the War of Independence. Boston revolutionaries under the leadership of Samuel Adams portrayed the event as a “cold-blooded slaughter of defensive colonists revealing England as murderous and oppressive,” and “proof that there was no alternative to war.” The findings of deep research into actual details of this event as noted in Nafeez Ahmed’s The War on Truth are both startling and instructive in understanding the efficiency of such methods.

Shocking attacks on symbols of American power as a pretext for aggressive war is, in fact, an old and familiar pattern of the American corporate state…with an attendant corporate media frenzy focusing all public attention on the Enemy to justify the next transnational mass murder. Throughout there is one constant to this long record of hoodwinking the American public into bankrolling ever rising military expenditures and periodic wars for corporate treasure…to provide the pretext and the public rage to launch wars of aggression against convenient and weaker enemies by which very major and many-leveled gains are achieved for the US corporate-military complex.
Now back to 1979, the year that international terrorism found a new incarnation through consolidation of converging interests and the “war on terror” was conceived. (Its conception was necessarily followed by a process of maturation: first applied to the Cold War and in rhetoric within limited theaters, such as in Latin America and the Palestine-Israel situation; second in the post-Cold War formulation of a global “war on terror” plan during the 1990s; and third in its implementation after 9-11.) On January 21, 1979, 170 admirals and generals published a letter to President Carter in major US newspapers, calling for US military superiority over the Soviet Union, the recognition of Israel’s strategic value and the reinforcement of its military capabilities, and a final renunciation of détente. The organizers of this campaign were the previously mentioned General Lemnitzer, the Operation Northwoods Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman from the early 1960s; General Daniel O. Graham, a major Team B participant; and General Keegan, the second half of the Northwoods leftovers and the footnote man from the 1976 NIE.

Around June of 1979, according to Zbigniew Brzezinski, “The United States launched a covert operation to bolster anticommunist guerrillas in Afghanistan at least six months before the 1979 Soviet invasion of that country. We did not push the Russians into invading, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.” The US had actively recruited Afghan warlords to form terrorist groups along the northern border, forcing the USSR to conduct a full-scale invasion in December to counter the US destabilization program. Among the methods used by the US in this program was the production and distribution of textbooks to schools (madrassas) promoting the war-values of murder and fanaticism, fostering a generation steeped in violence.

The US government ‘in collusion with Pakistan’s leaders took abusive advantage of the opportunity…to rule out the creation of any responsible and independent organization among Afghans…in complete disregard to the Afghan people’s sovereignty and sacrifices.’
“a group of powerful elites from various countries gathered at an international conference in Jerusalem to promote and exploit the idea of ‘international terrorism.’ The (Jerusalem) conference (on International Terrorism, or JCIT) established the ideological foundations for the ‘war on terror.’ JCIT’s defining theme was that international terrorism constituted an organized political movement whose ultimate origin was in the Soviet Union. All terrorist groups were ultimately products of, and could be traced back to, this single source, which—according to the JCIT—provided financial, military, and logistical assistance to disparate terrorist movements around the globe. The mortal danger to Western security and democracy posed by the worldwide scope of this international terrorist movement required an appropriate worldwide anti-terrorism offensive, consisting of the mutual coordination of Western military intelligence services.”

The nonexistent target of this antiterrorist program leads us to ask what the real target was. It is crucial to identify the architects of the JCIT’s terrorism project.
Present and former members of the Israeli and United States governments, new right politicians, high-ranking former United States and Israeli intelligence officers, the anti-détente, pro-Cold War group associated with the policies of Senator Henry M. Jackson—a group of neoconservative journalists and intellectuals—and reactionary British and French politicians and publicists.” Among prominent individuals who participated were Menachem Begin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, and George Bush Sr. (The aforementioned anti-détente, pro-Cold War group associated with the policies of Senator Henry Jackson are well known to be Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, Douglas Feith, Robert Kagan, Charles Horner, and James Woolsey, to name a few.)
A nation of such greed and superior strength will often allow itself to be attacked because it can afford to do so, and because in the minds of a negative-activist minority it makes strategic sense to do so. In Inventing the Axis of Evil, Bruce Cumings notes that:

From Polk’s attack on Mexico to the South’s shelling of Fort Sumter, the sinking of the Maine and the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, the Tonkin Gulf incident, and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, presidents who were bent on war or not, expecting it to erupt or not, nonetheless waited until the enemy made the first move.

Cumings goes on to point out that the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq did not fit that typical pattern—though it is now clear from documents and statements, many of them authored by Paul Wolfowitz, that this administration (and its supporting base of influential negative-activist groups) was obsessed with Middle East intervention and global dominion via force long before they took office, with Iraq as their first stepping stone. Thus, 9-11 was a plausible pretext, and one for which President Bush’s administration was willing to wait.
Osama bin Laden’s activities occurred ‘with the full approval of the Saudi regime and the CIA.’ Under contract with the CIA, he and the family company built the multi-billion dollar caves known as the Tora Bora complex: ‘to serve as a major arms storage depot, training facility, and medical center for the Mujaheddin.’

With CIA support to override visa requirements, Osama rounded up recruits and sent them into the United States for terrorist training by the CIA; the recruits then returned to fight against Soviet forces. At the height of this operation, the US was shipping 65,000 tons of arms annually to Osama bin Laden’s fighters. Pakistani operatives in contact with bin Laden received assistance from “American Green Beret commandos and Navy SEALS in various US training establishments,” and by 1988, Jane’s Defense Weekly reported that “with US knowledge, bin Laden created Al-Qaeda (The Base): a conglomerate of quasi-independent Islamic terrorist cells spread across at least 26 countries.”]When Iraq invaded Kuwait after the fall of the Soviet Union, Osama bin Laden attempted to rally the Saudi royal family to organize civil defense and raise a group of Afghan war veterans to fight against Iraq. This offer was declined, and instead the royal family accepted the stationing of 300,000 US soldiers. This is said to be the point at which Osama chose to become an enemy of the Saudi regime, although according to a classified intelligence report, a deal was struck with the tacit approval of the CIA that allowed Osama to leave Saudi Arabia with his funding and supporters. The deal also stipulated that funding for his activities would continue with the caveat that he not target the Saudi kingdom.[40]Al-Qaeda subsequently received increased funding through Saudi Arabia, stronger organizational support from Pakistani intelligence services, and more equipment and training from the CIA. Its network received direct assistance from these three sources, with active and tacit support of Western intelligence agencies in spreading to 40 countries and conducting pro-Western operations in Macedonia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Chechnya (and Moscow), Bosnia, Philippines, Spain, Morocco, Kenya, and others (including the US and United Kingdom), covering key regions where Western interests are at stake: the Balkans, the Caucasus, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Asia Pacific—all central to control of the Eurasian continent. Thus, in the wake of the Cold War with Russia, US means of statecraft grew more aggressive.

In 1993, the bombing of the World Trade Center had led investigators to a wealth of evidence indicating intelligence community complicity, and warnings of another, larger attack. In 1995, Project Bojinka, in which eleven commercial jets were to be hijacked and flown into major buildings in the United States, was thwarted, producing another mass of evidence that planes would be used as flying bombs. The top concern of Olympic officials for the 2000 Sydney games, in fact, was an airliner-based attack by al-Qaeda. Subsequent investigations strongly indicated that the next attack date would be September 11, the anniversary of the 1996 conviction of those caught in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing campaign. Throughout the years leading up to 9-11, especially in the nine months prior to the attacks, investigators and representatives from dozens of nations and within US borders attempted to warn top White House and US intelligence officials of an attack set for the second week of September 2001 using hijacked planes as flying bombs. All attempts were systematically ignored. Statements by top officials immediately after the attacks, that no one was prepared for or could have predicted the events—and that no plans for an invasion of Afghanistan existed—therefore, were lies. In fact, in October 2000, the Pentagon held an evacuation drill with the theme that an airplane had been hijacked and flown into the building. Warned of an impending al-Qaeda attack on the Genoa, Italy, G8 Summit in July 2001, the office of President Bush, who was scheduled to attend, arranged to have the skies cleared and secured, just as they had been for the 2000 Olympic games.[50] Also in July 2001, US representative Tom Simons warned Taliban leaders, “we will offer you a carpet of gold or bury you with a carpet of bombs.” [51]

So, the US had at last put its reinvented (post-Cold War) international terrorism plan to work, knowingly paving the path to the “war on terror” well before it began. This military option was perfect for those who longed for a new Pearl Harbor for economic gain at the hands of “international terrorists.” The groundwork was complete; the evil mastermind created, and all that was needed to complete the Unocal pipeline was a legitimate excuse for taking control of the region. The CIA was still negotiating the pipeline deal in August 2001 while troops were already stationed in surrounding states. Thus, all that was needed was a trigger, a pretext to galvanize public opinion.

In June 2001, Paul Wolfowitz’s speech to the graduating class at West Point had cited Pearl Harbor and stressed the imminence of a similar surprise. On September 9, two days before the attacks, President Bush was presented with detailed plans to invade Afghanistan and remove the Taliban before the heavy snowfalls of the Afghan winter.The plans highlighted a global campaign against al-Qaeda. How long, we must ask, were the Pentagon and CIA drawing up these plans simultaneous to their operations that had created and supported the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the first place? The answer, according to law professor Francis Boyle, is four years, with wargames and troop gatherings in neighboring states for this invasion commencing in 1997.

After September 11, top insiders of the military-industrial-academic-congressional-thinktank complex exploited a fearful electorate, not because of a real threat, but because the door to profits had been kicked open. This is why security has not improved, only the spending for war and the price of oil to pay for it have increased while profits have skyrocketed.

According to Ahmed:

A plausible conclusion from all this is that the (2001-present) US military campaign in Afghanistan, assisted by Pakistani military intelligence, was not really designed to destroy al-Qaeda at all. Rather, it was designed to crush the (uncooperative) Taliban regime, in the knowledge that al-Qaeda would be displaced elsewhere to safety. Fighting a ‘war on terror’ against al-Qaeda had never been the real goal of the plans for a military invasion of Afghanistan, which had been formulated years before 9-11. Those plans were motivated by other strategic and economic interests. But the 9-11 terrorist attacks happened to provide a convenient and powerful pretext to implement those plans, as well as other geostrategic imperatives.

In other words, the US created the threat and, through the resultant fear, the worldwide authoritarian means to pretend to deal with it while exercising the full scope of its imperial ambitions. This is why the US has more than 750,000 troops in at least 134 countries today. Moreover, that the US knowingly harbored al-Qaeda cells throughout the 1990s and up to if not beyond 9-11 lends a new perspective to President Bush’s post-9-11 promise to “make no distinction between those who committed these terrible acts and those who harbor them.”

On September 16, 2001, Osama bin Laden issued a statement to Al Jazeera: “The US government has consistently blamed me for being behind every occasion its enemies attack it. I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons.” Evidence appears to support his contention that 9-11 was not a result of his orders, but rather a convenient outcome of manipulations of people within his sphere of influence by oil company representatives, intelligence services, and others in preceding years.

Speaking of Enron, it is Professor Peter Dale Scott’s opinion that the American people remain traumatized by the 2000 election, a crisis that was substantially influenced by Enron’s interests in Afghanistan. Enron paid Christian Coalition president Ralph Reed $500,000 to stop John McCain’s campaign, and was the biggest donor to the Bush campaign.[58] (Enron was also one of the largest donors to the Gore campaign.) It is plausible that 9-11 was on the table of persons other than Osama bin Laden, especially in light of revelations regarding 9-11 complicity of top-level American Airlines officials at its center in Fort Worth,Texas.
The fallout of training people how to blow things up and kill others gives them an upper hand, because secrets are shared that cannot be revealed in the homeland, in this case the US. All parties complicit agree not to implicate one another.

Americans had double agents in al-Qaeda and in the Project Bojinka group (the Philippines’ Abu Sayyaf), which merged and melded with al-Qaeda from the very beginning. Double agents become triple agents, and their intermediaries are up to their own misdeeds or simply unable to report all the information to their superiors. All in all, with Enron’s stake in the Central Asian Republics [and Halliburton, Unocal, Chevron, et al] and the 2000 election, the best possible outcome for those who were put in office—and setting conditions for the indefinite control of the majority in the US—was 9-11, legitimizing entry into the region on a massive scale whether engineered or not.

Democrat and Republican administrations have been equally complicit in using invented threats as cover for imperial expansion. No fundamental changes in this pattern have occurred as a result of the election of a new president—ever. The current Bush administration has made the most effective use of the ideology of international terrorism; the only difference is the Soviet Union as the alleged sponsor has been replaced by the newly invented and CIA-approved transnational Islamist threat at taxpayer expense. This point is crucial: Power in the United States is conventionally believed to be derived from the consent of the governed, yet the governed have unknowingly paid the salaries of every Taliban leader and member (thus tacitly supported the immense suffering under their leadership), paid for Pakistani intelligence services, paid for pipeline surveys and construction, paid for CIA and Pentagon black operations and negotiations between US representatives and Taliban leaders, paid for every gun and bullet used in installing and removing them, and for everything throughout the Cold War and since that had nothing to do with promoting the general welfare.
Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz had lunch with members of the 9-11 Commission (tasked with investigating government failures) during its deliberations, whereupon Wolfowitz advised them to write what was essentially a declaration of war.]

It is a fact that Iraq was discussed within the Bush Cabinet just hours after the attacks on 9-11, and it is a fact that two months later, during the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, President Bush asked Donald Rumsfeld to begin plans for invading Iraq. What we are left with, then, with this “long war” to “rid the world of evil,” is a permanent state of defense buildup and preparation for advanced warfare, and other lucrative perpetual peaks of power assertion via real interventions and official (and belligerent) Pentagon strategies. It is not comforting that likely and so-called moderate presidential candidates such as Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton support the war in Iraq, or that Republican Senator John McCain, who speaks against torture, also stated that, “The United States is the greatest force for good in the world. We have not an obligation to go out and start wars but to spread democracy and freedom throughout the world.” Both views keep the past ghosts of our manifest failures alive to threaten our future while fortunes flow to the ruling minority.
Though 9-11 was either an engineered pretext for assertion of power, a conveniently provoked trigger for assertion of power, or both, either way our government brought it on with imperial ambitions in the shadows of deception and public ignorance in a nation founded on power derived from the consent of its people. Such arrogant and longstanding policies of bullying and lying for corporate wealth remain for the moment traditional tools of US foreign and domestic policy. But this “fourth and permanent peak” is in the end likely to prove fatal for the negative-activist continuum, perhaps fatal for humankind itself. Regardless, the positive-activist movement is on the verge of shifting into high gear.