reflections on PNAC

Wendy S. Painting
October 6, 2008

For me the words “Project for the New American Century” (PNAC) bring many thoughts to mind, but they usually begin with a quote from a paper that the neoconservative think tank with this name published in 2000. This paper suggested that the New Order of the World, which the think tank envisioned, planned and achieved, would be difficult for American citizens to accept and that “the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor. ...” Of course, this new Pearl Harbor was realized in the attacks of 9/11 and in its wake PNAC was able to mobilize and convince U.S citizens to support their ‘revolutionary’ policies. For the most part, I think, average people had not realized that the policies enacted IMMEDIATELY after 9/11 had been scripted and “perfected” in advance of this catastrophe. While Americans, with the helpful network news channels and pundits, believed they were reacting to an event, the neo-con elite were only realizing some very long term goals. PNAC has now, years after its advent, spawned cultural reactions. An activist group calling themselves “Project For A New American Citizen” has been working on a project called “Rebuilding Americas Senses” in response to the neo conservatives ‘proposals.’ But what are the sensibilities which need to be rebuilt and why?

PNAC members serving on George W. Bush’s administration included Richard Armitage (Deputy Secretary of State) , Dick Cheney (VP) , Francis Fukuyama (leading intellectual and foreign policy advisor), Bruce Jackson (former Lockheed Martin VP), Scooter Libby (Chief of Staff to VP), Donald Rumsfeld (Secretary of Defense) , Paul Wolfowitz (Deputy Secretary of Defense), Jeb Bush (governor of Florida), Thomas Donnelly (Lockheed Martin director of communications.), William Kristol (former student of Neo Conservative forefather Leo Strauss), R. James Woolsey (former CIA director), and Vin Weber (Board member of National Public Radio.) The Usual Suspects.

The think tank, established in 1997, advocated a return to Reagan based economic policies and fiercely sought American world dominance with equally fierce and antagonistic international military policies. One of their ultimate goals was to invade Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein, an action which they felt was incomplete after the Gulf War. PNAC advocated preemptive warfare, a doctrine which is antithetical to United States founding philosophy or ideological mythology and completely changed previous notions, albeit mythological ones, of U.S military Rules of Engagement. The genius of PNAC was that it was able to sell its policy of unprovoked warfare (read MURDER and GENOCIDE) by telling Americans and everyone else in the world, that these policies were meant to bring political and economic freedom to others. Incidentally, it is this policy, which current VP candidate unabashedly endorses but was unable to recognize as ‘The Bush Doctrine,’ which would be more accurately entitled the PNAC doctrine. That a grad student, and not a very good one at that, knows the intellectual and philosophical foundations of Palins’ own purported and supported policies, when she does not, is concerning to me, to say the least.

The lofty goals which PNAC proposed called for a highly aggressive posturing in the affairs of other nations and are in response to a perceived international (read Middle Eastern) power vacuum after the Cold War. What ‘concerned’ PNAC domestically was not the thought of its own citizens lack of education and health care, nor was it the thought of economic sustainability and autonomy, but was the fear that American citizens, without the imminent threat of nuclear warfare and an EVIL SOVIET EMPIRE around which to rally national consciousness, would never support these policies. U.S citizens, it was decided, would need a worthy external enemy around which to rally and about whom to blame their ills, if PNAC was ever to enact its noble vision of the future. Enter Osama Bin Laden on stage right and Saddam Hussein on stage left.
It was through this stroke of brilliant public manipulation that PNAC, working through the Bush administration, brought the U.S and the rest of the world such classics as “The Global War on Terror” which has produced the wildly popular singles “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and “Operation Enduring Freedom.” But PNAC is no one hit wonder, the “military revolution” which spawned new and exciting ways to butcher families and regions, and saw U.S weapons development contracts fill the pockets of PNAC members, should not be forgotten. A few of my own favorites PNAC moments or issues of involvement, which I believe should be included in some future Greatest Hits record, involve the U.S (read international political and economic elite) domination of cyber-space and outer space. We haven’t even begun to speak about Homeland Security.

Regardless, PNAC often wrote on the need to assert “American global leadership.” But what of American domestic leadership? What of the problems faced within the country, which, according to neo conservatives, is a country that must be asserted as THE bright and shining city on a hill and leadership for world restructuring, like it or not? We might want to note that 25% of children in the United States are below the poverty line and as of 2004 had the highest infant mortality rate in a list of “modern” nations. These are just some of the economic glories which the U.S can boast of and force onto others.

Furthermore, PNAC stated in March 2003 that the U.S was “committed to the rebuilding of Iraq and will provide the necessary resources and will remain [in Iraq] for as long as it takes.” Recently I spoke to a soldier, who was on leave, but soon to be redeployed to Iraq and who spoke to me and others at great personal risk. He spoke of U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq. Although his unit is an ordinance unit, his particular job was to “guard” Iraqi civilians. He guarded them as they worked for pennies a day building U.S military installations. Most disturbingly, these workers range in ages from 7 or 8 years old to over 70. This particular soldier kept telling me the names of small children who are now, it seems, slaves under the umbrella of the United States of America, a fact which should cause all United States citizens a great deal of shame. Their eyes, he said, would not leave his mind. He said he felt guilty and that he could not sleep anymore, that he woke in the middle of the night reaching for his weapon and crying when the faces entered his waking consciousness.

I wonder if those who penned the PNAC documents and letters could come up with a convincing argument as to how slave labor, including child labor, brings political and economic freedom to anyone, even the captors, or how this practice, to name only one, can be to any civilized people, nation, or individual, examples of ethical leadership. What kind of leadership can we expect when issues like these are not allowed into the public consciousness, much less the public debate?

1. How many Democrats sat on PNAC and who were they?
2. What does PNACs quote about Pearl Harbor imply about the politics and rhetoric which occurred from the “Leaders” immediately after 9/11?
3. What are the founding theoretical and philosophical principles of neo conservatism and how did they develop?
4. How do the documents and papers of PNAC frame the issue of national (economic and political) sovereignty for the U.S and others?