What Motivates the Drive Towards War?

by Savitri Hensman


The possibility of starting a war in the Middle East has been widely discussed recently. One of the reasons put forward by those who want the USA and other countries to attack Iraq is humanitarian concern for current and potential victims of Saddam Hussein's regime. On the part of some, no doubt, this is genuine. But there are also other - often overlapping - motives held by influential people and organisations in or linked with the USA. These may override the serious concerns about such an attack held by many, including senior members of former Republican governments and other right-wingers as well as left-wingers and liberals, members of the Iraqi opposition and eminent religious and secular figures.

Some of the suggested reasons for, and goals of, military action are outlined below, largely using the words of pro-war political leaders and opinion-formers themselves.

1. Strengthening US dominance

'Total war' for 'a new American century'

'America's foreign policy has drifted dangerously astray, especially since 1993,' wrote Dr Edwin J Feulner Jr., president of the Heritage Foundation, in 1996. 1 'A large part of the problem is that the Clinton administration appears to be incapable of distinguishing between America's vital interests and some liberal do-gooders' marginal interests.' He set out his belief that 'the world longs for America's leadership', suggested that safeguarding national security, preventing a major power threat to Europe, East Asia or the Persian Gulf, maintaining access to foreign trade, protecting Americans against threats to their lives and wellbeing and maintaining access to resources were vital interests, and added that 'using force multinationally is no more moral than using it unilaterally'.

Heritage was one of the most influential of many right-wing think-tanks. Set up in the early seventies by Feulner and Paul Weyrich, at that time Congressional aides, with financial backing from beer magnate Joseph Coors, it helped to shape the policies of the Reagan administration. From its Washington office near the Capitol, it employed a large team of researchers to produce briefings for politicians and journalists on various issues. Board members included the wealthy Richard Scaife, whose foundations helped to fund it and other organisations with similar views, and Jeb Bush. 'We truly have become an extension of the Congressional staff, but on our own terms and according to our own agenda', a vice-president of Heritage wrote in its 1995 annual report. 2

Similar views informed the Project for the New American Century, set up in 1997. Its statement of principles stated that 'American foreign and defense policy is adrift... As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world's preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge. Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?...

What was distinctive was the list of signatories, many of whom had held prominent positions under Ronald Reagan or George HW Bush and who were to rise to prominence again. They included Richard B Cheney, who was to become Vice President to George W Bush; Donald Rumsfeld, who was to become Secretary of Defense; Paul Dundes Wolfowitz, who was to become Deputy Secretary of Defense; Peter W Rodman, who was to become Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs; Elliott Abrams, who was to become National Security Council Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations; Zalmay Khalilzad, who was to become US special envoy to Afghanistan and Senior Director for Gulf, Southwest Asia, and other Regional Issues, National Security Council; I Lewis Libby, to become Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney; and Paula Dobriansky, to become Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs. Once in power, they set about trying to put these principles into practice, with the backing of like-minded people including co-signatories Richard Perle, now at the American Enterprise Institute and Chairman of the Defense Policy Board (a quasi-governmental position), former CIA director R James Woolsey, Frank Gaffney, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Security Policy, and Jeb Bush, now Florida governor and brother of the US President. 4Despite opposition from more pragmatic colleagues, they have had considerable success.

After the 11 September terrorist attacks, many took the view that the US government should focus resources on removing the threat from Al-Q'aeda, capitalise on international sympathy to build a broad alliance and undermine the rationale for supporting such organisations by trying to bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians, including persuading Israel to honour UN resolutions on the occupied territories. The Project for the New American Century took the opposite view. It wrote to President Bush, urging him to broaden the war against terrorism: 'We agree with the Secretary of State that US policy must aim not only at finding the people responsible for this incident, but must also target those "other groups out there that mean us no good" and "that have conducted attacks previously against US personnel, US interests and our allies"... even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aimed at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq... any war against terrorism must target Hezbollah. We believe the administration should demand that Iran and Syria immediately cease all military, financial, and politician support for Hezbollah and its operations. Should Iran and Syria refuse to comply, the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation... Until the Palestinian Authority moves against terror, the United States should provide it no further assistance.' 5 Tensions rose in governmental circles between those who wanted to attack non-Al Q'aeda organisations in Lebanon and elsewhere and more cautious politicians like Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had little time for the worldview, articulated at an American Enterprise Institute panel moderated by Richard Perle on 29 October 2001, by Michael Ledeen: 'This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there... If we just let our own vision of the world go forth, and embrace it entirely, and we don't try to be clever and piece together clever diplomatic solutions to this thing, but just wage a total war against these tyrants, I think we will do very well, and our children will sing great songs about us years from now.' 6 This approach was not confined to the Middle East. In January 2002, GW Bush dubbed Iraq, Iran and North Korea an axis of evil. In May, Undersecretary of State John R Bolton added Cuba, Libya and Syria to the list of rogue terrorist nations, and claimed that China and Russia were the two largest sources of weapons of mass destruction that ended up in the hands of rogue nations seeking to destroy the USA. 7 (In a 1997 article on countering terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction, in addition to the 'problem states' of China, Iran, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and North Korea, Bolton - then Senior Vice President of the American Enterprise Institute - had claimed that 'Palestinian and other terrorists... fanatics in Northern Ireland, narcotics Mafiosi in Colombia and the Caribbean, and many more would all be vastly more threatening if they could move from isolated acts of terror to mass murder', and suggested that for industrialized democracies to defend themselves 'the sine qua non of success is likely to be the willingness to use force, preemptively where necessary, to protect their populations.' 8)

Some hawks had long urged that China should be treated as a strategic competitor rather than partner, and ties with Taiwan were strengthened. 9 Reports by the Pentagon and Rand Organisation examined the possible implications of military action in the Asia-Pacific region and the problems of access for the US Air Force. A Rand study co-edited by Khalilzad pointed out that 'In the Asian arena, the USAF's biggest problem may be lack of adequate basing in the South China Sea and in Southeast Asia' and proposed the use of five locations outside the USA as 'forward support locations' which would put most of the world within range of the C-130, useful for resupply and combat. These bases could be on US territory in Alaska, Puerto Rica and Guam, in Britain and on Diego Garcia. 10

Perhaps the most extreme suggestion so far within right-wing circles in the US establishment has been that of National Review senior editor Richard Lowry, in an online forum, where he noted lots of sentiment for 'nuking Mecca' if an American city faced nuclear attack by terrorists. He stated, 'I don't know quite what to think. Mecca seems extreme, of course, but then again few people would die and it would send a signal. Religions have suffered such catastrophic setbacks before. As for the Saudis, my only thought is that if we're going to hold them responsible for terrorism, we had better start doing it now, not after an even more catastrophic attack.' However 'Moderates opt for something more along these lines: "Baghdad and Tehran would be the likeliest sites for a first strike. If we have clean enough bombs to assure a pinpoint damage area, Gaza City and Ramallah would also be on the list. Damascus, Cairo, Algiers, Tripoli and Riyadh should be put on alert that any signs of support for the attacks in their cities will bring immediate annihilation." Then there are those who think we really can't do too much differently than what were doing now.' 11 While Lowry is something of a maverick, there was some embarrassment in the US government when the news leaked that the Defense Policy Board had discussed a presentation by a Rand analyst urging that Saudi Arabia, due to its support of Islamic terrorists, should be treated as an adversary and, if it did not stop funding fundamentalists, its oil wells should be targeted. 12 Measures that at one time might have seemed outlandish are now being discussed by US opinion-formers and decision-makers, though some remain strongly opposed.

Outside the constraints of 'the United Nations or any other multinational organization'

Some of the advocates of global dominance for the USA have little respect for international law and institutions. 'After 50 years it has become clear that the UN is only a marginal player in establishing international peace', according to a Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum in 1995. 13 In a 1997 debate on 'is international law really law?', Bolton expressed the view that 'Treaties are "law" only for US domestic purposes. In their international operation, treaties are simply "political" and not legally binding' so that 'To the extent that adherence to the UN Charter carries any obligation, it is political in nature' 14. In 1998, Senator John Ashcroft expressed indignation to the US Senate that, after a recent agreement with Saddam Hussein, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had suggested that the USA would probably have to consult other Security Council members before launching military strikes against Iraq: 'Let me state categorically that the United States does not require the permission of the United Nations to use our military forces in the pursuit of our national interests... the comments by Secretary General Annan over the weekend are indicative of a growing arrogance of a United Nations that has grown accustomed to dictating American foreign policy towards Iraq... The deployment of our forces to defend our national interests is not subject to the approval of the United Nations or any other multinational organization.' 15 He is now the Attorney General.

When an International Criminal Court was created in 2002 to prosecute those guilty of serious human rights violations anywhere in the world if their own state does not bring them to justice, the US government put pressure on other governments to agree not to hand over US citizens to the Court. 16 In August 2002, President Bush signed into law the US Servicemembers Protection Act, authorising the use of military force to liberate any citizen of the USA or a US-allied country being held by the Court, which is located in the Hague. 17

Yet some of those concerned with maintaining US dominance have emphasised the need to keep allies on board. At a forum in December 2001 jointly organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, where speakers included James Woolsey and Peter Rodman, it was suggested that 'The weeks following September 11 reflected the imperative of cohesion. Past Afghanistan, however, the next steps of the antiterrorist campaign may emerge as a serious cause for tension between the United States and its European allies... Europe's followership beyond Afghanistan and the war's military dimension, there and elsewhere, will depend on the US ability to explain its leadership with a clear presentation of the evidence that determines its action and of the goals to which that action is committed.' 18 An Executive Committee member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, John Hillen, a decorated Gulf War veteran19 and one-time defense consultant to George W Bush20, has earlier proposed that the USA should steer a middle path between excessive activism or dangerous isolationism: 'Absent a threat to national interests, strategic policy will be constrained by a persistent desire among Americans to remain the premier global power while also demonstrating a growing reluctance to bear the costs of being a global gendarmerie... The "Mayo Clinic" role envisages America atop a hierarchy in which the members of a cooperative system assume complementary roles that match their roles to interests and capabilities.' 21

The August/September 2002 issue of Policy Review contained an article on 'How America Should Lead', co-authored by Klaus Becher of the Institute, which in September released a study cited by 'hawks' as evidence of the threat posed by Saddam. The article warned that 'Outside the US, a feeling of dependence combined with uncertainty over the motivations of American power breeds reservations and resistance. It can be difficult even for well-intentioned foreign leaders, operating within their own political systems, to guarantee full-scale allegiance. For the US, the question is how best to use and preserve its near-hegemonic power; for others, how to deal with a degree of US dominance that is reminiscent, on a global level, of America's role within the West after 1945... The time has come to pivot the international system from one that served the interests of the United States and the vast majority of other states well in the post-World War II environment to one that will perpetuate and advance American interests into the next American-led Century. It is manifestly in the US interest to attract and bind other states into voluntarily supporting this international agenda.' 22

A'very dirty business'

The track record of some of the 'hawks' shows a willingness to go to extreme measures to enforce their world view and calls their judgement into question.

For example, when Dick Cheney was a vice-presidential candidate, he continued to defend his decision in 1986, when he was in the House of Representatives, to vote against the release of Nelson Mandela, since 'the ANC was then viewed as a terrorist organization' 23.

The level of violence used by the Indonesian dictatorship under General Suharto [sometimes spelled Soeharto] that seized power in 1965 shocked many people throughout the world. In Amnesty International's words, 'Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed, their mutilated corpses sometimes left in public places to rot; prisoners, both political and criminal, have been routinely tortured and ill-treated, some so severely that they died or suffered permanent injury; thousands of people have been imprisoned following show trials solely for their peaceful political or religious views.' 24 East Timor was occupied in 1975 and a third or more of its population wiped out through violence and disease. Yet Indonesia was seen by some Western governments as a key strategic obstacle to communists gaining influence in the region; moreover, oil was discovered in the Timor Gap. 25 There was strong US backing for the regime, including the supply of large quantities of armaments. A record $300 million plus arms sales were approved in 1986, including an initial batch of F-16 fighter planes 26 - the year Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, began a three-year stint as US ambassador to Indonesia. 27 He remained a staunch supporter, testifying to a House of Representatives sub-committee in 1997 that 'Any balanced judgement of the situation in Indonesia today, including the very important and sensitive issue of human rights, needs to take account of the significant progress that Indonesia has already made and needs to acknowledge that much of this progress has to be credited to the strong and remarkable leadership of President Soeharto. The list of accomplishments is long... I believe that Indonesia needs to achieve greater political openness if it is to sustain and capitalize on the enormous economic progress it has achieved... I should add that I would not be comfortable with this view if I did not feel it was shared by the great majority of Indonesians I knew. Obvious though it seems, we should remember that it is their country that we are talking about and they should determine its future... There is a complex balance between the desire for change and the desire for stability in Indonesia that Americans, who are able to take stability for granted, have difficulty understanding.' 28 As East Timorese seeking independence were massacred by pro-Indonesian militias, 29 he continued to oppose bans on arms sales.30

Military assistance is also a problematic area in Donald Rumsfeld's past, amidst renewed interest in what is sometimes known as 'Iraqgate'. When Saddam Hussein went to war against Iran, where the US-backed Shah had been overthrown, Iraq was treated as a strategic ally and assistance discreetly offered. Military useful technology was transferred, and billions of dollars funnelled through the Atlanta branch of an Italian bank. 31 Despite the gassing of civilians by the Iraqi regime, materials sold up to March 1992 included anthrax, VX nerve gas and botulism, though after the Gulf War huge stocks were destroyed. 32 Special envoy Rumsfeld met Saddam and the Iraqi foreign minister in Baghdad in 1983. He explained to senior officials that the use of poison gas against Iranian forces 'inhibited' normal relations between the two countries, but ongoing assistance was pledged. The support provided included military intelligence, strategic operational advice and assistance in obtaining arms. 33

Wide publicity in the USA about what had been taking place in Latin America and elsewhere, and the repercussions at home, helped to create a backlash against the more dubious methods used supposedly to bolster US interests internationally. It became clear that many covert operations, including CIA backing for far-right paramilitary forces, not only led to brutal and illegal activities overseas but also caused damage within the USA.34 Secret documents which came to light, and revelations such as those of former senior CIA officer John Stockwell 35 caused large sections of the public to question what was being done in their name.

The US ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, John Dimitri Negroponte, knew of numerous instances of murder and torture by an intelligence unit trained by the CIA, and many abuses were reported by the Honduran press, yet the truth was suppressed and annual human rights reports prepared which deliberately misled Congress. This was later exposed in the Baltimore Sun36 and confirmed by declassified documents. 37 Likewise, despite being alerted by the US ambassador to Guatemala to a spate of killings and abductions, Elliott Abrams - at that time Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights - and two colleagues reported to Congress that human rights there had improved and called for a resumption of security assistance. 38 Extensive US support was provided to guerrillas seeking to overthrow the leftwing Nicaraguan government; 'Contra' tactics included killing civilians and forced conscription. In 1986, after Nicaraguan harbours were mined, the World Court found the USA in breach of international law; 39 a CIA manual advising Contras to 'neutralise' officials such as judges was also deemed illegal. 40 In 1988, Congress rejected a request for further military aid to the Contras - but this was not the end of the story, as the Iran-Contra scandal followed. In a final report of the independent counsel for Iran/Contra matters, Lawrence E Walsh, appointed by the US government, he concluded that both the sales of arms to Iran and the funding of Contra activities with some of the proceeds were illegal and that the policies behind these activities had top-level government support. 'When these operations ended, the exposure of the Iran/contra affair generated a new round of illegality. Beginning with the testimony of Elliott Abrams and others... senior Reagan Administration officials engaged in a concerted effort to deceive Congress and the public.' Among those convicted were national security adviser John M Poindexter 'on five felony counts of conspiracy, false statements, destruction and removal of records and obstruction of Congress. The Court of Appeals reversed his conviction in November 1991 on the immunized testimony issue' and Abrams, who 'Pleaded guilty October 7, 1991, to two misdemeanor charges of withholding information from Congress about secret government efforts to support the Nicaraguan contra rebels during a ban on such aid', though he was later pardoned 41 by George HW Bush. It might have seemed that this chapter in history had been closed, and such methods ruled out in future. So there was some dismay in and outside the USA when George W Bush appointed Negroponte, who became Ambassador to the United Nations and Abrams.

To many people, the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks reinforced the need to avoid supporting ruthless paramilitary forces or regimes which might later attack the USA (like the Islamic extremist movement earlier nurtured as a counterweight to communism) or alienate people to an extent that anti-US hostility is fostered (like some of the Gulf States). Others drew the opposite conclusion. For example in National Review, to which John Hillen is a contributing editor, he argued that the 'war' on terrorism should involve 'a sustained, relentless, ruthless campaign against a nebulous enemy. To do this, we must resurrect a set of American capabilities the US has not used effectively in a long time: We need to get back in the business of the Cold War, when the CIA would throw dirty money into political campaigns in France and Italy, supporting Scumbag A against Scumbag B because Scumbag B was more dangerous, and put into place extermination campaigns like Operation Phoenix in South Vietnam. This is the kind of warfare that the Church Committee in the 1970s and then the Boland Amendment and various anti-contra measures in the 1980s made impossible for the US government to undertake. In short, this is a down-and-dirty war... Now the presumption has to be that the government agencies are in the right - even when engaging in very dirty business with very nefarious agents. The burden of proof for government wrongdoing has to be extremely low; we have to have a much higher tolerance for mistakes, for bad things leaking out, e.g. a US anti-Bin Laden client turning out to be as bad or worse than Bin Laden.' 42

There was heated debate within as well as outside the USA about the civil liberties implications of some of the measures brought in by the government, and whether these were in line with the constitution and the nation's core values. The appointment of Poindexter in February 2002 to head a new Information Awareness Office 43 did not reassure doubters. When the President's press secretary Ari Fleischer was questioned about the appointment of a man 'associated with the dark side of Iran Contra scandal' who 'told Colonel North to lie', Fleischer explained that 'The President thinks that Admiral Poindexter has served our nation very well.' 44

At the Heritage Foundation on 6 May 2002, Bolton claimed that 'The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort' and that 'Castro has repeatedly denounced the US war on terrorism', claims which were quickly refuted by specialists. 45 Former US President Jimmy Carter, visiting Cuba, was offered 'free and complete access' to inspect scientific research centres. 46 When Colin Powell was questioned, he stated that 'We didn't say that it actually had such weapons, but it has the capacity and the capability to conduct such research' 47 (presumably the case for any country where major pharmaceutical research is conducted). Some of the movement made internationally over the decades to set aside old Cold War hostilities and tactics has been reversed at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

2. Dealing with unfinished business

Tying up 'loose ends'

'Hawks' such as Wolfowitz and Perle have long been angry that the USA did not finish off Saddam after driving his soldiers out of Kuwait. 48

Wolfowitz, known for his tenacity, 49 testified before the House National Security Committee in 1998, 'To be fair, the best opportunity to deal with Saddam Hussein was in the immediate aftermath of the US victory in the Gulf War. As an official in the Bush administration, I believed then and I believe now that it was a mistake not to have paid more attention to the Saudis and other friends in the region who told us at the time that it was important to deal with Saddam Hussein. However, to be fair to President Bush, he had enormous difficulty convincing Congress to go to war for the more limited goal of forcing Iraqi forces out of Kuwait and it is difficult, and sometimes dangerous, to hastily change your military goals in the wake of an unexpected success. Moreover, it was wrong but not unreasonable to suppose that Saddam Hussein would not last long after a military defeat of the magnitude that Iraq suffered.' 50

The fact that the current US President is the son of the US President at that time has been widely commented on. Certainly an attempt to overthrow or kill Saddam would underline a clear distinction between George Bush Jr and George Bush Sr.

Larry Kudlow, a consultant and frequent commentator on financial matters in the media, who served on the Bush-Cheney transition advisory committee 51, commented that 'To be sure, the greatest mistake Papa Bush ever made was leaving Saddam Hussein in place. Weakened or not, he is still there - and Americans have never liked loose ends. With weapons of mass destruction at his disposal, and through his financing of terrorism worldwide, Saddam is a dangerous loose end.' 52

3. Benefiting business

Elevating the stock market through the 'shock therapy' of war

In the same article, Kudlow noted that the stock market was slumping and asked, 'Could it be that a lack of decisive follow-through in the global war on terrorism is the single biggest problem facing the stock market and the nation today? I believe it is... Decisive shock therapy to revive the American spirit would surely come with a US invasion of Iraq... The shock therapy of decisive war will elevate the stock market by a couple-thousand points. We will know that our businesses will stay open, that our families will be safe, and that our future will be unlimited. The world will be righted in this life-and-death struggle to preserve our values and our civilization.'

The 'West's access to oil' and 'putting downward pressure on oil prices'

The economic issue which is most widely mentioned in connection with Iraq is oil.

The recent Enron scandal brought under the spotlight the close ties between many members of the current US government and major oil companies. George W Bush and Dick Cheney both have backgrounds in the oil industry, which was a major contributor to the Republican election campaign, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice spent a decade on the board of oil giant Chevron and several other cabinet members have energy industry links. 53

According to the US Energy Information Administration in September 2001, 'Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes the possible construction of oil and natural gas export pipelines through Afghanistan, which was under serious consideration in the mid-1990s. The idea has since been undermined by Afghanistan's instability.' 54 Indeed in 1997 Khalilzad, then a consultant to Unocal, was conducting risk assessments on the proposed Afghanistan pipeline. 55 The Energy Information Administration has also stated that 'Iraq holds more than 112 billion barrels of oil - the world's second largest proven reserves. Iraq also contains 1110 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.' 56 'With one-fourth of the world's proven oil reserves, Saudi Arabia is likely to remain the world's largest oil producer for the foreseeable future. During the first 10 months of 2001, Saudi Arabia supplied the United States with 1.6 million barrels per day of crude oil, or 18% of US crude oil imports during that period.' 57 'Iran is OPEC's second largest oil producer and holds 9% of the world's oil reserves and 15% of its natural gas reserves...Aside from acting as a transit center for other countries' oil and natural gas exports from the Caspian Sea, Iran has potentially significant Caspian reserves of its own.' 58 There were various options for Caspian Sea oil and natural gas export routes in June 2000 - to China, via Georgia, via Iran to the Persian Gulf or Turkey, to Pakistan via Afghanistan, to Russia, trans-Caspian routes (other than to Iran or Russia) and to Turkey; 'The United States has supported trans-Caspian routes for Central Asian oil and gas as an alternative to pipelines passing through Iran. The US Trade and Development Agency funded a $750,000 feasibility study conducted by Enron for a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan, and another feasibility study was also completed by Unocal.' In addition, a declaration supporting a route through the Turkish port of Ceyhan was signed in 1998 'by the governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan, with Turkmenistan abstaining. The United States has also backed this route.' 59

A report by Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in 1999 stated that 'Iran is a nation that is still deeply in the process of revolutionary change... Whatever happens, Iran will have vast strategic importance... Iraq's is one of the most troubled and repressive states in the world. It has vast oil resources and great potential wealth, but it is a nation that has been in continuous crisis for the past decade...Iraq must be regarded as a major military threat to the security of the world's supply of oil exports.' 60 A Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum by Research fellow James Phillips in March 2000 noted that 'The recent rise in world oil prices orchestrated by a revived Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has caught oil consumers off guard. Many were surprised that OPEC, which had floundered since the 1986 collapse of oil prices, had regained its production discipline and ability to push up world oil prices. Even more surprising was the close cooperation between OPEC's traditional archrivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran... Washington should take the long view and seek to increase domestic oil production by opening up promising areas, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge... The United States must also restore its credibility in the Persian Gulf by demonstrating that it is serious about overthrowing Saddam Hussein, not just containing him. For seven years, the Clinton Administration has failed to provide adequate support for the Iraqi opposition. Passively keeping Saddam "in his box" only strengthens the emerging Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, enhances OPEC solidarity, and allows international pressure to build for lifting economic sanctions against Iraq that could ease oil prices by permitting an expansion of Iraqi oil exports. This would strengthen Saddam Hussein and fuel an Iraqi military buildup that ultimately could provoke another Persian Gulf crisis that would severely threaten US energy security and trigger even higher oil prices.' 61

It has been suggested that, following the overthrow of the previous regime in Afghanistan, interest by energy companies in the route previously dismissed by Unocal may resume, but that the US government's emphasis has shifted to a Eurasian pipeline taking oil from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan, through Georgia to Ceyhan in Turkey, backed by Chevron and some other oil firms: Colin Powell and his supporters want to keep Pakistan stable and leave the Afghan option open, while the 'hawks' favour the Eurasian route and are not worried about chaos and war in the Middle East. 62

There is indeed a serious chance of destabilisation across the Middle East, according to commentators such as Robert Mabro, Director of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. 'There is no doubt that Saddam's demise will cause much relief not only to all Kuwaitis, given their sufferings during the 1990 invasion, but to most Iraqis who have endured so much oppression for so long. The risks, however, are that a heavy handed military operation will kill many innocent people, cause much destruction, and political chaos. The weapons of mass destruction pose no threat outside Iraq so long as Saddam is confident about his survival. He knows that their use will induce immediate and devastating retaliation. His main objective is survival as ruler of Iraq, and he will avoid courses of action that inevitably cause his immediate demise. The risk is that Saddam will be induced to use these weapons if he finds himself caught with his back against the wall, with no hope of escape and nothing more to lose. It would be tragically ironical indeed if an operation meant to remove the danger posed by these weapons causes them to be used. Let us assume however that the USA will intervene militarily, and let us speculate about the implications for oil. We need to keep in mind three important facts throughout this analysis. First, Iraq is a major oil produced and can become a leading one in the world if major investments are undertaken to bring its considerable natural reserves on stream. Secondly, powerful US lobbies want to undermine Saudi Arabia's leading role in the world petroleum market and reduce its share of world exports. For this reason, they are promoting oil developments in West Africa, suggesting to Nigeria that it should leave OPEC, encouraging Russian private oil companies to maximise production, and are pinning great hopes on the Caspian. They also hope that President Chavez of Venezuela will be overthrown and replaced by a government willing to maximise oil production. More importantly in this context, they would like to install a friendly regime in Iraq who will open the doors to foreign oil companies, increase oil output and contribute to this strategy of diversification. Thirdly, the US objectives regarding an intervention in Iraq are not limited to the removal of President Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction. If successful, the USA will acquire both a military and a political base in the heart of the Middle East... The immediate effect of any intervention will inevitably be an interruption of oil supplies from Iraq. The impact on oil prices will depend however on a number of circumstances... If the military intervention succeeds in putting in place a regime that is on the one hand friendly to the USA and on the other hand united and peaceful, the Iraqi upstream oil sector will be open to foreign oil companies, with the lion's share of contracts going perhaps to American companies. Oil production will grow significantly after a time lag... Sooner or later the new Iraqi government will want to co-operate with other producers to restore prices to preferred levels... A more likely scenario is one in which the military intervention causes domestic political chaos in Iraq... There will be no growth in oil output; even worse Iraqi oil production may fall below current levels. The most troublesome scenario is one in which the US intervention destabilises politically the whole region. The probability of this happening, low in the short term, is much higher over the long period.' 63

But pro-war journalists and think-tanks tend to be optimistic about the economic and political effects of an attack of Iraq, though they have varying scenarios of what the end result would be for people in the Middle East. According to Lowry, 'Iraq's Baath regime will be totalitarian and expansionist, Saddam or no. Accordingly, the solution to the Iraqi problem needs to go deeper than a random assassination. It must destroy the Baathist regime root and branch. At the very least, Iraq should be allowed to be dismembered by its perpetually warring factions, or, ideally, invaded and occupied by the American military and made into a protectorate... The entire effort would represent a return to an enlightened paternalism toward the Third World, premised on the idea that the Arabs have failed miserably at self-government and need to start anew... It would guarantee the West's access to oil, and perhaps help break up OPEC (the ill-gotten gains from which fund repressive dictators and, indirectly, terrorists). And it would be a nice economic benefit to the United States.' 64 To Irwin Stelzer, Senior Fellow and Director of Regulatory Studies for the Hudson Institute, a newspaper columnist who makes frequent TV appearances and has been described as the most influential lobbyists in Britain, 65 even if war triggered further terrorist attacks or the overthrow of the Saudi Arabian government, the economic and military might of the USA and the resilience of its city dwellers could overcome such problems. 'In America, the president's opponents, looking for a defensible basis on which to make a stand against military action, are now citing the costs of antagonizing Saddam Hussein. Oil prices will rise, triggering a recession in an already fragile world economy. Retaliatory strikes by terrorists will permanently cripple the cities of America and its allies.' On the contrary, 'at current levels of around $30 per barrel, prices already contain something like an $8 "war premium". So when Bush gives the military the go-ahead to arrange regime change in Iraq, any further increase should be short-lived, especially if the Saudis keep their word and tap their immediately available excess capacity to make up for any cutbacks in the amount of oil now flowing from Iraq. There is a danger, of course, that an attempt by the Saudi regime to honour its pledge will trigger an uprising by the many Saudi followers of Osama bin Laden, in which case oil prices will indeed shoot up, and remain high until non-Arab countries begin pumping more oil, something that will take a not inconsiderable amount of time. Unless, of course, America intervenes to keep the Saudi fields in friendly hands, which would be the most likely outcome of any move by America's enemies to take over that 25 percent of the world's oil reserves. Remember Kuwait: Bush the elder sent half-a-million men to war to make sure that its much smaller reserves did not fall into the hands of an American enemy. Bush the younger would do no less. And in the longer run, an Iraq open to Western investment would add several million barrels a day to world supplies, putting downward pressure on oil prices. Which brings us to the possible permanent economic effect of any terrorist attack on New York, London, or Sydney. The destruction of the World Trade Center is estimated to have cost the New York City economy some $95 billion. That ain't chicken feed, as any New Yorker will tell you. But it is offset by about $21 billion in federal aid and $70 billion in likely insurance payments. Besides, the loss is the equivalent of only two months worth of the goods and services produced in the city... The cities Saddam and bin Laden think they can obliterate will be around long after these destroyers are gone. And commuters will be driving to them in cars fueled with gasoline at prices unaffected by the fleeting presence of these thugs on the world stage.' 66

Offering arms contractors 'a return on their investment'

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an upturn was noted in the security market, from airport screening equipment to communications technology. Analysts suggested that the major winners would be defense contractors already familiar with the complexities of government contracting. 67 The prospect of war would have a major impact on the arms industry. In a question-and-answer session in December 2001, Rumsfeld was asked about his meeting with technology executives in the wake of the attacks, he pointed to the role of Defence Department spending in past technological advances and said, 'It used to be an advantage to be connected with the [Pentagon], because there would be technology transfer that would benefit the private sector. We've just got to find ways to get connected with the [tech] sector.' When questioned about how the defence industry could be kept healthy if the advice of a Rand Institute study to invest more in R&D; and low-rate production instead of more profitable long-term production were to be put into practice, he replied 'Good question. A lot of the people who deal with the [Defense Dept] are simply not getting a return on their investment. So we have to find a way. If we're going to benefit through interaction with the private sector, the private sector has to be able to say to an investor that they've got a return that's better than nothing.' 68

The close links of many in the US government with the arms industry ensures a particular sensitivity to its concerns. Many senior figures in government have been executives, consultants or board members of major arms contractors and vice versa. Six of the seven members of Rumsfeld's Senior Executive Council - Wolfowitz, Pentagon Controller Dov Zakheim, Secretary of the Air Force James Roche, Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, Secretary of the Army Thomas White and Pentagon acquisition chief Pete Aldridge - had been executives or paid consultants to defence contractors before joining the Bush administration. Lynne Cheney, wife of the Vice President, previously served on the board of Lockheed Martin, the largest US defense contractor, which had Pentagon contracts worth nearly $30 billion in financial years 2000 and 2001 alone, Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs Otto Reich was a paid lobbyist, for the firm, and both the Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael Jackson were Lockheed Martin Vice Presidents. Feith and Libby have been paid consultants or advisory board members for Northrop Grumman, now the USA's third largest defence contractor. Arms firms are also major political donors: ten major nuclear weapons and missile defence contractors made $8.6 million in political contributions in 1999/2000, with over 60% of this going to Republican candidates. 69

Several senior officials have in the past invested substantially in this industry. For example, according to official filed personal financial disclosure forms for 2001, Douglas Feith had AT&T; stock in the $500,001-1,000,000 bracket, Senior Adviser to the President Karl Rove had Boeing stock and General Electric stock each of $100,001-250,000, Undersecretary of Defense Richard Armitage had Electronic Data Systems stock of $250,001-500,000 and General Electric stock of $500,001-1,000,000, Donald Rumsfeld had General Electric stock of $100,001-250,000 and Colin Powell had $1,000,001-5,000,000 in General Dynamics stock. 70

4. Military innovation

A 'Revolution in Military Affairs'

In addition to the economic significance of the arms industry, developments in military strategy and technology have their own momentum. Major developments such as the so-called 'Revolution in Military Affairs' (RMA) can capture the imagination of researchers, policy-makers and sections of the public, and it may be difficult to resist the impetus to utilise these when international tensions rise.

In 2001, the Bush administration appointed unconventional military thinker Andrew W Marshall, head of the Pentagon's internal think-tank, to carry out a review of the US military. Then 79, he was said to be the only Pentagon official who had taken part in the entire Cold War. In the early 1980s, concerned that the Soviet Union was drifting into crisis and might attack, he urged an updating of US nuclear defenses; partly as a result, about $9 billion was spent on strengthening bunkers for US leaders and building mobile communications units for them. When these fears did not materialise, he switched his attention to China, organising war games involving US-Chinese confrontations. He had little influence with the Clinton administration, and the military establishment was largely resistant to the drastic changes he was proposing, but the election of George W Bush brought him back to prominence. 71

In the theory developed by Marshall while Director of Net Assessment at the Pentagon, there have periodically been radical changes in the nature and conduct of war. In combined-systems revolutions, while technological advances are necessary, overall success lies in the 'fit' among military systems, operational concepts, doctrinal notions and organizational adaptations. The Gulf War involved a trial of new technology and ways of operating: a revolution in military affairs may be underway in which long-range precision strikes and information warfare may play an important part. 72 He and his followers, known among their colleagues as the Jedi Knights, believe that the armed forces should no longer be deployed on the basis of a couple of 'theatres of war' where fighting is likely to occur, but should be able to respond instantly to an attack which may come from any quarter, probably using advanced missiles, computers, chemical or biological weapons. More conventional strategists have cast doubt on the practicality of the new approach and questioned the effect on morale. 73

While there have been major advances in military technology in recent decades, reliable precision targeting remains out of reach. In October 2001, when questioned about risks to civilians in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said, 'We clearly are being sensitive about collateral damage, and recognizing that it can cause a problem with the feeling about what's taking place... weapons are not perfect. Our weaponry, probably the best is probably 85-90 percent reliable' 74 - implying that 10-15% or more of weaponry, however sophisticated, will not function properly or hit somewhere other than the target.

Influencing 'outcomes of future conflicts without risking US casualties'

A chapter on information warfare concepts in a book edited by Khalilzad, Marshall and John P White suggests that information warfare can be defined as the process of protecting one's own sources of battlefield information and, at the same time, seeking to deny, degrade, corrupt or destroy the enemy's sources. It includes operational security, electronic warfare, psychological operations, deception, physical attack on information processes and information attack on information processes. 75

There was a furore in the USA and abroad in February 2002 when it emerged that an 'Office of Strategic Influence' had been set up to influence the public and decision-makers overseas, and that tactics it was considering included planting disinformation in the non-US media and sending email messages to journalists and foreign leaders without revealing that these came from the Pentagon. To help the new office, the Pentagon had hired the Rendon Group for about $100,000 a month; this consulting firm had done extensive work for the Central Intelligence Agency, Kuwait royal family and Iraqi National Congress. 76 Rumsfeld claimed that the Office of Strategic Influence would not lie to the public, 77 but within a week said that 'the office has been so clearly damaged...it could not function effectively. So it's being closed down... there's lot's of things that we have to do, and we will do those things. We'll just do them in a different office.' 78

The setting up at around the same time of the Information Awareness Office under John Poindexter to monitor phone calls and emails in the USA to counter attacks, along with an Information Exploitation Office focusing on the rest of the world, 79 also perhaps indicates the importance now attached to information warfare in its different forms.

In addition to psychological operations (PSYOPS), there are other major psychological dimensions of conflict, according to a chapter by Stephen T Hosmer in the book co-edited by Khalilzad, White and Marshall. Usually each side conducts a psychological battle to affect the perceptions of leaders, military forces and civilians so that they will act in a particular manner. In wartime, combat produces the most important psychological effects. US experience has shown that air attacks on strategic targets tended not to turn enemy civilians against their governments. Attempts to influence enemy leaders to end wars by threatening an ever-increasing destruction of 'military and military-related civilian strategic targets' had proved more successful, for example when Japanese cities were firebombed and Hiroshima and Nagasaki destroyed by nuclear weapons. One drawback faced by the US government is the limited tolerance of the public for US casualties. However, advanced technological systems can enable US forces to identify and kill enemy targets wherever they are and reduce the threat to US combat personnel. And 'improvements in the US capability to provide intelligence support to friendly indigenous troops or third-country intervention forces without a large US ground presence should increase US options for influencing the outcomes of future conflicts without risking US casualties.' 80

This role proposed for US allies, which may involve high casualties, has caused some unease. 'Do US policy-makers now envisage their forces remaining dislocated from the potential bloody battlefield?' asked Gerrard Quille in an International Security Information Service Briefing on the RMA and the UK. 'Instead will the US facilitate allied forces in the field, using its command and control systems backed up by long-range surgical strikes, whilst the less technologically endowed allies role up their sleeves and engage the adversary in the battle-zone? In other words, the US playing an anaesthetic role with its allies doing the close-up and/or clean-up operations? Allies are unlikely to regard such a division of labour as politically acceptable.' 81 But in September 2002, when UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was asked whether he agreed with the assessment of a member of former President Lyndon Johnson's cabinet that Britain had to pay a 'blood price' to preserve its relationship with Washington, he answered, 'Yes... They need to know: when the shooting starts are you prepared to be there?' 82

To 'employ strategic nuclear forces coercively' and strengthen 'national security'

In October 2001, when asked whether the use of tactical nuclear weapons against the caves where the Taliban were sheltering, suggested by Congressman Steve Buyer, was ruled out, Rumsfeld said, 'I don't rule out anything, but my answer very simply is, we are not having a problem in dealing with those tunnels in terms of the ordinance.' 83 This marked the major shift that was taking place in US policy from regarding nuclear weapons as a deterrent to nuclear attack by another state, hopefully never to be used, to treating them as one of a range of alternatives to be considered for battlefield use.

Rumsfeld had for some time been a supporter of the Center for Security Policy, which strongly advocated investing in the development of a National Missile Defense (NMD) system (widely known as 'Star Wars'), when he was appointed by Congress to chair a Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States. By applying a worst case scenario, for instance the transfer of a complete ballistic missile to a nation such as North Korea by China, he reached the conclusion in 1998 that such an attack could happen in the next few years, a possibility previously ruled out by US intelligence. 84 NMD is part of a 'New Triad' to the development of which the Pentagon is now committed - offensive strike weapons (nuclear and non-nuclear), strategic defenses and a revitalised defence infrastructure. Billions of dollars are being spent on the research, production and infrastructure involved.

The Center for Security Policy was set up in 1988, and received funding from wealthy rightwingers such as the Coors family and Richard M Scaife as well as corporate donors such as Boeing, General Atomics, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and other weapons contractors. The election of George W Bush meant that the policies it had advocated now had a substantial chance of being put into practice. Over twenty of its close associates or advisory council members now held government positions, including Feith; JD Crouch, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security Policy; Robert Joseph, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs for Proliferation Strategy, Counter-Proliferation and Homeland Defense; Perle; Roche; and Zakheim. Several members of the Center's advisory council or board of directors were also on the board of directors of the National Institute of Public Policy. Its Chief Executive Officer, Keith Payne, had in 1980 co-authored with Colin S Gray an article entitled 'Victory is Possible', which urged the US military to make plans for fighting and winning a nuclear war: 'The West needs to devise ways in which it can employ strategic nuclear forces coercively , while minimizing the potentially paralyzing impact of self-deterrence.' In January 2001, the National Institute for Public Policy published a report, Rationale and Requirements for US Nuclear Forces and Arms Control, prepared by a study group including Stephen Cambone, now a special assistant to Rumsfeld; Stephen Hadley, Deputy National Security Adviser, and Joseph. Several members, in government after Bush came to power, were involved in conducting a Nuclear Posture Review. 85

Its secret report, presented to Congress in January 2002, said that the Pentagon should be prepared to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria; . Such weapons could be used in three types of situations: against targets able to sustain non-nuclear attack; in retaliation for attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; or 'in the event of surprising military developments'. War between Arab nations and Israel or between China and Taiwan were among the scenarios where the USA should be prepared to launch a nuclear attack. While conventional nuclear weapons caused destruction on such a large scale that they were 'self-deterring', potential enemies of the USA would be more likely to believe that smaller, tactical nuclear weapons could be used against them 86 (sometimes known as 'mini-nukes'). The revelation in 2002 that the anthrax sent through the post was identical in its DNA sequence to a strain found at the Fort Detrick US military laboratory 87 caused some embarrassment and cast a spotlight on the government's biological weapons programme. It has been suggested that a rogue scientist who had worked for the US government or one of its contractors took some of the deadly bacteria and used it to mount a campaign of terror.

The US government's biological warfare programme goes back decades, though it was chemical weapons that were used on a large scale, in Vietnam. There was a public backlash, intensified by an accidental involving nerve gas during tests in Utah and army plans for transporting the weapons through the USA. The President at the time, Richard Nixon, declared that US biological weapons stocks would be destroyed and that such weapons would never be used, and the government announced that offensive use of herbicides such as Agent Orange would end. An international 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention prohibiting use, production and stockpiling was agreed. There were times when international consensus seemed under strain, such as when the Reagan administration accused the Soviet Union of spreading mycotoxins in a 'yellow rain' in Afghanistan, Laos and Cambodia; this story gained wide media coverage, though it later turned out that the yellow substance was bee faeces. Citing the claim that the Soviet Union had taken the lead in chemical and biological warfare, the US government resumed testing of biological agents and ended the moratorium on chemical weapons production, though later the US and Soviet Union pledged to stop producing chemical weapons. 88

Douglas Feith and JD Crouch have been strong critics of arms control treaties such as the Chemical Weapons Convention: in Crouch's view, 'The first and only true test of arms control agreements is whether they contribute to the national security of the United States of America' and 'The United States is abandoning, with the CWC, one of the most effective deterrents to chemical use against itself and its allies: the right to an extant and mature offensive chemical weapons program.' 89 In July 2001 the USA rejected a Composite Protocol aimed at strengthening the BTWC. 90

In 2002 it emerged that US Navy and Air Force biotechnology laboratories were proposing the development of offensive (not dual use) biological weapons. 91

Given the widely-publicised claims that the USA is under serious imminent threat from weapons of mass destruction, the US public appears be more tolerant than it would otherwise be of military developments which at one time would have caused widespread unease at home as well as abroad. Innovators are being given the freedom to research a range of ideas, the military and its contractors supplied with the resources to make these operational. As increasingly sophisticated military technology available and new doctrines of warfare become available, the armed forces may find themselves under pressure to apply these in practical situations, especially if more conventional approaches are not working or involve heavy American casualties.

5. Gaining electoral advantage

Letting people 'know, before the elections, where their representatives stand'

After George W Bush demanded at the United Nations that arms inspectors should be instantly readmitted, Saddam's apparent capitulation seems to have come as something of a surprise. It was widely suggested that the reliability of his apparent agreement should at least be tested before an attack is considered. Yet the US President at once denounced the offer to allow UN inspectors to continue their work as a sham, and asked for speedy agreement by Congress to back him when he started the war.

Politicians in the rival Democratic Party have raised concerns about the Republican President's demand for a Congressional vote before the US midterm elections. Just before this, media headlines focused on problems in the US economy, scandals in major corporations and disagreements within the Bush administration on Iraq. Now the focus has shifted to preparations for military action, an area in which the Republicans are strong. According to the director of the Democrats' Senate campaign committee, Jim Jordan, 'It's absolutely clear that the administration has timed the Iraq public relations campaign to influence the midterm elections... and to distract the voting public from a failing economy and an unpopular Republican domestic agenda.' George W Bush's decision has been contrasted with that of his father, the President twelve years ago, when he postponed a vote on Iraq until after the midterm elections. The administration points out that Democrats themselves asked for a debate on war with Iraq, and critics say that this was an electoral blunder. Bush's political adviser Karl Rove had argued earlier in the year that the war on terrorism should be part of Republican campaigning, in mid-September White House aides encouraged candidates to emphasise national security and Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff, said that the administration delayed promotion of its Iraq policy because, 'from a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.' Tom Davis, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, stated that 'people are going to want to know, before the elections, where their representatives stand'. The President himself, rejecting the possibility of waiting for UN action, said, 'If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people - say, vote for me, and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I think I'm going to wait for somebody else to act.' Yet his aides indignantly rejected the notion that the timing had anything to do with domestic politics. 'Even the suggestion that the timing of something so serious could be done for political reasons is reprehensible,' said press secretary Fleischer, while another aide claimed that 'The idea that it's beneficial to ask fathers and mothers to put their sons and daughters in harm's way before an election is absurd.' 92

According to GOPUSA News, 'the president's job approval rating has risen in recent weeks, showing public support for the Administration's tough stance towards Iraq.' According to a mid-September CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, the President's approval rating was 70%, up from the mid-60s a month previously. 80% believed that the UN had not been tough enough on Iraq, echoing the sentiments expressed by George W Bush, and the majority favoured sending ground troops to the Persian Gulf, though they seemed on the whole indifferent on whether Saddam should be removed from power. 93% of respondents believed that the UN should, as Bush urged, give Iraq a deadline to comply with existing resolutions or face 'grave consequences'. But only half thought that the administration had done enough to explain to the American public why the US might take action against Saddam, 'suggesting that public sentiment was in front of its understanding of the issue.' 93

6. Supporting hardliners in Israel

'Israel can shape its strategic environment'

'For strategic security and diplomatic support, Israel has depended almost totally upon the United States. Since the establishment of the state in 1948, the United States has expressed its commitment to Israel's security and well-being and has devoted a considerable share of its world-wide economic and security assistance to Israel,' according to a Library of Congress Federal Research Division study completed in 1988. 94 'The military partnership between the United States and Israel was by 1988 a flourishing relationship that encompassed not only military assistance but also intelligence sharing, joint weapons research, and purchases of Israeli equipment by the United States armed forces.' 95

Within and outside Israel, moderates have been campaigning for many years to tackle the causes of ongoing conflict with Palestinians and reach a peaceful solution, including implementing United Nations resolutions, withdrawing from the territories occupied in 1967 and stopping illegal settlements, and halting the human rights violations that have inflamed tensions locally and isolated Israel internationally. Many Palestinian and other Arab leaders, on their part, have significantly backtracked on their earlier positions in the hope of achieving a durable peace and some measure of justice. But efforts on both sides have been strongly resisted by Israeli hardliners with powerful backing within the USA.

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, founded in 1976, has - alongside the Council for Security Policy and some other rightwing think-tanks - campaigned against moves towards compromise within Israel and a more even-handed position towards the Arab-Israeli conflict within the USA. For example, it is seeking to make out that Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat is not only responsible for the activities for the activities of Palestinian militants but also orchestrates this 'to protect Saddam' who 'is at the moment Arafat's only real financial supporter'. Before joining the government, Dick Cheney, John Bolton and Douglas Feith were on the board of advisors. Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, James Woolsey and Michael Ledeen (who served as a link with Israel in the Iran-Contra affair) remain, as do several retired military personnel closely linked with the arms industry. For example Admiral Leon Edney, Admiral David Jeremiah and Lieutenant General Charles May have been consultants or advisory board members for Northrop Grumman or its subsidiaries; it has sold ships to the Israeli navy, F-16 avionics and E-2C Hawkeye planes to the Israeli air force, and the Longbow radar system to the Israeli army. 96

In a 1996 report A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, published by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, Perle, Feith, David Wurmser (now at the State department) and others urged the incoming government of Binyamin Netanyahu to adopt a radically different policy from his predecessor. 'Israel has the opportunity to make a clean break; it can forge a peace process and strategy based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that rebuilds strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism... Early adoption of a bold, new perspective on peace and security is imperative for the new prime minister. While the previous government, and many abroad, may emphasize "land for peace" - which places Israel in the position of cultural, economic, political, diplomatic, and military retreat - the new government can promote Western values and traditions. Such an approach which will be well received in the United States, include "peace for peace," "peace through strength" and self reliance: the balance of power... An effective approach, and one with which Americans can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including by...

Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq - an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right... Israel's efforts to secure its streets may require hot pursuit into Palestinian-controlled areas, a justifiable practice with which Americans can sympathize... Israel has no obligations under the Oslo agreements if the PLO does not fulfill its obligations. If the PLO cannot comply with these minimal standards, then it can be neither a hope for the future nor a proper interlocutor for the present. To prepare for this, Israel may want to cultivate alternatives to Arafat's base of power... To anticipate US reactions and plan ways to maintain and constrain those reactions, Prime Minister Netanyahu can formulate the policies and stress themes he favors in language familiar to the American by tapping into themes of American administrations during the Cold War which apply well to Israel... As a senior Iraqi opposition leader said recently: "Israel must rejuvenate and revitalize its moral and intellectual leadership. It is an important - if not the most important - element in the history of the Middle East." Israel - proud, wealthy, solid, and strong - would be the basis of a truly new and peaceful Middle East' 97 (emphasis in original). The Bush administration offered a chance to try out the 'skittles theory' of the Middle East - that one ball aimed at Iraq could knock down several regimes. 98

Soon after 9/11, there were moves from sections of the US administration to try to persuade the Israeli government to hold back from extreme measures, in order not to wreck the international coalition which the US government was trying to build, or fuel criticism that it was applying double standards by enabling Israel to ignore the UN and violate international norms while condemning such behaviour by others. But such moves were vigorously resisted by pro-Israel campaigners, some of whom have been criticised for putting Israel's interests above those of the USA. On 3 April 2002 the Project for the New American Century wrote to George W Bush, 'with the memory of the terrorist attack of September 11 still seared in our minds and hearts, we Americans ought to be especially eager to show our solidarity in word and deed with a fellow victim of terrorist violence. No one should doubt that the United States and Israel share a common enemy. We are both targets of what you have correctly called an "Axis of Evil". Israel is targeted in part because it is our friend, and in part because it is an island of liberal, democratic principles - American principles - in a sea of tyranny, intolerance, and hatred. As Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has pointed out, Iran, Iraq and Syria are all engaged in "inspiring and financing a culture of political murder and suicide bombing" against Israel, just as they have aided campaigns of terrorism against the United States over the past two decades. You have declared war on international terrorism, Mr President. Israel is fighting the same war. This central truth has important implications for any Middle East Peace Process. For one spoke of the terrorist network consists of Yasser Arafat and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority... Israel's fight against terrorism is our fight. Israel's victory is an important part of our victory.' 99

In television appearances and newspaper articles, they claimed that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority were part of the same infrastructure of terrorism as Al Q'aeda, the Oslo peace process was fundamentally flawed and even moderate Arab leaders were to blame for letting terrorism flourish. Television advertisements were broadcast associating Arafat with Saddam and bin Laden. On 15 April 2002, while the Israeli government under Ariel Sharon was defying Bush's demand that it withdraw from West Bank towns, Wolfowitz spoke at a pro-Israel rally at the Capitol. 100

There is concern in some quarters that, if there is war in the Middle East, Israel may get drawn in, a possibility that will be much increased if it launches an attack on an Iranian nuclear power plant being built at Bushehr. 101 The willingness of both some Islamic extremists and their opponents to engage in extreme violence, and the fact that Israel is equipped for nuclear 102 and probably chemical/biological 103 warfare, increase the risk of an accelerating conflict that could cause major loss of life and displacement, apart from economic damage and harm to international, inter-ethnic and inter-faith relations. Some 'hawks' would discount this as alarmist; for others, the prospect of war on a massive scale in the Middle East is not something to be feared but rather accepted as inevitable, even desirable. While the powerful pro-Israeli rightwing lobby in the USA is supported by some Jewish-Americans - and staunchly opposed by others 104 - its main popular support base is in the Christian right. 105

7. Crusades and rapture

A 'man of God is in the White House'

The 'Christian right' has in recent decades become a powerful force in US politics. While there have long been Christians with varying shades of opinion on religious and social matters, this movement has grown in influence over the Republican Party and the USA, arousing considerable opposition from many other Christians as well as people of other faiths and humanists.

The movement is in some ways diverse. While the majority of those involved are evangelical Protestants, some are not, and many evangelical Protestants have very different views. It has been suggested that its worldview rests on four cornerstones - the assumption that moral absolutes exist as surely as mathematical or geological absolutes, the assumption that beliefs about major matters such as the meaning of life inevitable affect how people act in their daily lives and vice versa, the assumption that the government's proper role is to cultivate virtue and not interfere with the natural workings of the market or workplace, and the assumption that all societies need to operate within the framework of common assumptions and the Western Jewish Christian tradition provides a bedrock for the USA. There is also a sense that Christian civilisation is under attack, especially from the mass media, schools that encourage students to believe that diverse views and lifestyles may be valid and lack of support for the 'traditional family'. 106 It should be noted that little weight is given to what others may regard as 'traditional' Christian values, such as love of neighbour, love of enemies, disdain for wealth and worldly power and abhorrence of violence and its trappings.

Though some sections of the Christian right focus on domestic issues that can bring conservatives of different racial and social groups together, such as the Promise Keepers, who believe more men should take control as heads of their households, others such as the Free Congress Foundation have been associated with overt racism and anti-Semitism and long taken an interest in international affairs, including active support for Chilean coup leader Augusto Pinochet, the Contras and RENAMO terrorists in Mozambique. It was founded by Paul Weyrich, a key leader of the movement, who also played an important part in setting up the Heritage Foundation. 107

In the run-up to the 1980 presidential elections, right-wing evangelicals established the Moral Majority, led by Jerry Falwell. This ended up backing Ronald Reagan, despite his lack of conventional religiosity, but was disappointed after he was elected by his unwillingness to prohibit abortion. In 1988, Pat Robertson made a credible attempt to win nomination as the Republican presidential candidate, then set about developing the Christian Coalition. 108 Through dedication and careful planning, his supporters took control of the California Republican Party and set about using similar tactics to take over other branches. A National Federation of Republican Assemblies was set up, with the support of rightwing leaders such as Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council and Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum. 109 Both Schlafly 110 and Bauer are among the leaders who have campaigned on foreign policy as well as domestic issues; popular causes include hostility to the United Nations and other international institutions, which are seen as compromising American sovereignty and economic interests and pursuing a liberal agenda on matters such as sexuality and protecting Christians from persecution or restrictions on missionary activity overseas. 111

For the 2000 presidential election, John Ashcroft was at one point the candidate favoured by key figures such as Weyrich and Tim LaHaye. 112 Another candidate who sought Christian right support was Texas governor George W Bush, who spoke at the extreme fundamentalist Bob Jones University in South Carolina and a meeting of the Council for National Policy, set up by LaHaye, who also co-founded the Moral Majority. 113 Bush, a Methodist who had been converted by evangelist Billy Graham, 114 was not known himself as an extreme ideologue of the Christian right but, after some lobbying, he appointed Ashcroft as Attorney General. Bush himself became 'the leader of the Christian right', according to Marshall Wittmann of the Hudson Institute, formerly with the Christian Coalition; he was able to speak in language familiar to large numbers of conservative churchgoers.

According to Bauer, 'There was already a great deal of identification with the president before 9/11 in the world of the Christian right, and the nature of this war is such that it's heightened the sense that a man of God is in the White House.' 115 Meanwhile the puritanical Ashcroft ran into trouble for measures widely regarded as undermining civil liberties, but showed little doubt that he was in the right, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee in late 2001, 'To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists.' 116

9/11 brought to the fore some of the militarism of sections of the Christian right, and hostility to Islam. Following a prayer service at the National Cathedral on 14 September 2001 Reverend Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, urged the government not to refrain form using all weapons in the coming fight, including weapons of mass destruction. 117 Franklin Graham, who had delivered the benediction at Bush's inauguration, later denounced Islam as 'wicked, violent and not of the same God', though the White House stressed that Bush 'views Islam as a religion that preaches peace'. 118 The past and incoming presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention later also verbally attacked Islam. There are about 16 million Southern Baptists in the USA. 119

Prominent among those on the Christian right who wish to remove the separation of church and state are the Reconstructionists. RJ Rushdoony, known as 'the father of Christian Reconstructionism', founded the Chalcedon Foundation, and taught that all aspects of society should come under Biblical law, including the death penalty for practising homosexuals, abortionists, heretics, blasphemers and even disobedient sons. He believed in theocracy: 'Supernatural Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies.' 120

Yet even some Reconstructionists believe that an attack on Iraq would be extreme and unjustified. An article in the Chalcedon Report in September 2002 by Timothy D Terrell, outside the specific time and place of the Israelite conquest of Canaan, war is only justified in self-defence or defence of another Christian nation. The reasons given for an attack - that Iraq has been harbouring terrorists from Al Q'aeda, and that Iraq has weapons of weapons of mass destruction that might be used against the USA, are questioned, since the Al Q'aeda members were revealed to be in the Kurd-controlled areas and evidence for the latter is shaky. He quoted the 16th-17th century Calvinist Phillipe du Plessis Mornay, ''There are many, who, hoping to advance their own ends, and encroach on others' rights, will readily embrace the part of the afflicted, and proclaim the lawfulness of it; but the hope of gain is the certain and only aim of their purposes.' 121 According to a paper written two years before, by Chalcedon's Executive Vice President P Andrew Sandlin, 'Godless, totalitarian regimes like those in Islamic nations, Iraq, and communist China can be gradually overcome by the methods Christians employed in overcoming the godless totalitarian regime known as the Roman Empire - self-government, personal godliness, covenant faithfulness, and patient perseverance under the lash of persecution. The Bible does not permit bombing missions, legalized murder, and the incineration of innocent civilians as an instrument to overturn the tyranny of evil regimes.' 122

But there are others on the Christian right who are less averse to war.

According to a report from the Charisma News Service, the newsletter of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College names Tim LaHaye as the most influential American evangelical leader of the past quarter-century. Among his achievements was pioneering and helping to popularise creationism - the notion that the world was literally created in seven days and that the theory of evolution is wrong, now taught in some American schools - and conveying 'pre-millennial' end-times teachings in a popular style through a series of 'Left Behind' novels. 123 So far 50 million of these books, co-written with Jerry B Jenkins, have been sold. 124

Dispensational premillenialism (or dispensationalism) is based on the belief that Christ will return to physically rule the world for a thousand years. It began in the nineteenth century. One common scenario is that all Christians will be 'raptured' - caught up in the air and taken to heaven, evil will then become very powerful and God will pour out judgements on humankind, the Antichrist will bring peace to the world for about three-and-a-half years, probably taking leadership of the European Union, and creating a world government and religion, he will then betray a peace treaty with Israel and persecute those who will not worship him for a similar period, finally Jesus Christ will come back with the raptured Church and reign for a thousand years, after which the world as we know it will end. The approach on which it is based has been criticised by other Christians for taking particular Bible verses out of context and insisting that they be fulfilled materially rather than spiritually, using far-fetched interpretations, failing to take seriously the experience of those for whom it was written and insisting on a futuristic reading, and creating discord and fear. Yet many are drawn to the teaching, which has been popularised to the extent that some people have little knowledge of alternative kinds of Christianity. 125

Now millions of dispensationalists in the USA believe that the crisis in the Middle East forewarns of the Apocalypse and that return of Jews to Israel and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount must take place before the rapture, apocalypse and return of Christ. An alliance has formed between them and pro-Israel hardliners, 126 and their views have been gaining ground. 36% of respondents to a Time/CNN poll in the USA in mid-2002 said that they supported Israel because of prophecies in the Bible which state the Jews must control Israel before Christ can return, 59% believe that the narrative in the Book of Revelation is going to come true and about 25% think that the Bible predicted the 9/11 terrorist attack. 127

Tim LaHaye wrote in an article in February 2000, 'My prediction for the next century is that even more people will meet their maker prematurely due to a wave of unequaled terrorism that is about to be unleashed this year...Our leaders only seem interested in using our billions in foreign aid to buy "peace in our time". But like Neville Chamberlain said sixty years ago when dealing with Hitler, it will only delay the inevitable.' 128 After 9/11, he wrote, 'The media would love to have us read into this tragic act of violence more than is really there. It is not an act of God... it is definitely nothing more than indications of the approaching "perilous times" which Paul predicted would come in the end times, and the "wars and rumors of war" our Lord characterised as "tribulation." But ever since Israel was recognized as a nation, we knew that such perilous times would come... While this planned disaster is not a sign of anything prophetically, it could well have prophetic significance in that it will trigger world events that will make possible the fulfillment of more specific prophecies... Hatred for Israel in the Muslim world could well soon reach a record pitch, if it has not already. It will soon stretch out to embrace the secular countries of the world (which mean most of them) who do not share our love for Israel or the Jews... No nation in history has ever been blessed like America. Were we to change our policy of humanitarianism to Israel, we would lose the blessing of God... Their enemies are our enemies.' 129

Many politicians on the Christian right are not dispensationalists, though some may be influenced by dispensationalist ideas, and many by Party members or votes who believe that end times are near. However at least one Republican leader appear to believe that the rapture could happen at any time - a plaque in Tom DeLay's Office reads, 'This could be the day'. 130 After 9/11, the House Majority Whip said, 'The international terror network is a cancer on the heart of freedom. Wickedness is upon us and our duty is obvious... in this struggle, America has an inherent advantage that is more than capable of defeating our adversaries. I'm speaking of the innate goodness of a nation that returns to God. I'm talking of the hope for a society living as children of light... Only the strength of faith will sustain us through what we must do. Only the firmness of mind and certainty of resolution in a good and Godly cause will guide us to victory.' 131

Conclusion

Powerful reasons have been advanced in the USA, Europe and elsewhere for not going to war, and the apparent willingness of the Iraqi government to readmit weapons inspectors has caused many people worldwide to question the rush towards armed conflict. Yet advocates of war in the Middle East - varied though they are in their background, motives and what they hope to achieve - wield considerable power. Many are senior members of the US government, prominent media personalities or behind-the-scenes power-brokers in the Republican Party; huge sums of money are available to them from millionaire supporters or major corporations, and many are in a position to make or break US politicians in the run-up to elections. What is more, President George W Bush has very publicly signalled his intention to stamp his authority on the world, and he may risk being damaged politically if he appears to back down - though, if there is a war that does not go to plan, his career and prestige may even more seriously affected.

However, just as the sequence of events that has led Iraq and possibly other Middle Eastern countries to the brink of large-scale war could not easily have been predicted, so too the future is uncertain. The objectives of some 'hawks' and the methods they are willing to use would not be acceptable to sizeable sections of the public worldwide, and there will be strong opposition from many quarters to launching an attack. The choices made by the international community now will have major consequences for people not only in Iraq and the other targeted countries but also throughout the world.

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124 Michelle Goldberg, Fundamentally unsound, Salon.com, 29 July 2002 (www.salon.com/books/feature/2002/07/29/left_behind/print.html)
125 Modern Premillennialism Critiqued (www.frimmin.com/faith/millpremill.html)
126 Michelle Goldberg, Antichrist politics, 25 May 2002 (www.smirkingchimp.com/article.php?sid=6681&mode;=nested)
127 Kim Painter, These ain't no end times, this ain't no foolin' around, theSpleen, 3 July 2002 (www.smirkingchimp.com/article.ohp?sid=7212)
128 Tim LaHaye, What to Expect Prophetically in the Year 2000 (www.timlahaye.com/about_ministry/index.php3?p=newsletter§ion;=PreTrib%20Newsletter)
129 Tim LaHaye, The Prophetic Significance of Sept 11, 2001 (www.timlahaye.com/about_ministry/index.php3?p=newsletter§ion;=PreTrib%20Newsletter)
130 Antichrist politics, previously cited
131 Tom DeLay, The Shield of Faith and the Fight for Freedom, 17 October 2001 (majoritywhip.house.gov/news.asp?FormMode=SingleSpeech)

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