13 July 2003
‘At present the United States faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible.’ — Project for the New American Century
‘[O]n the pretext of entering into a new ‘war on terror,’ the Bush administration successfully secured unlimited war powers, free from Congressional accountability. This has established an open-ended militarisation of foreign policy in which any country can be targeted at will on the pretext of harbouring terrorists.’ – The War on Freedom: How and Why America was Attacked, September 11th, 2001 By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
If 9/11 had not happened, it would have been necessary to invent it. And the history of the last 150 years is full of convenient inventions that have justified invasions, occupations, subversions and the overthrow of sovereign states by the US in order to pursue its economic/political objectives. Objectives laid down in latter part of the 19th century in the Monroe Doctrine.
Let us for a moment, consider the idea that at the very least, the US knew about 9/11 in advance and acquiesced to it once it saw it coming. It is neither too far fetched nor out of keeping with imperialist stratagems. If one thinks of history as a ‘conspiracy of the powerful’ then 9/11 was indeed, a conspiracy. But such a conception is an invention, an invention of the powerful to shroud the real workings of the dominant culture, in this case, big capital and its corresponding political class, and the dominant forces within them.
In considering, let’s say, the last 50 years of US history, the trajectory has a been consistent one of achieving global hegemony. The path has not been smooth but the US has operated ruthlessly in the pursuit of this goal. Driven by forces that it barely comprehends, yet possessed of the tools of control, it hurtles toward the future, essentially out of control. Of course, there are a vast range of forces opposed to it and the 20th century has been shaped by the struggle between the US desire to achieve its objective and those opposed to it.
And now, with no country or institution strong enough to curb its power, the real intentions of US imperialism are revealed for what they are. Indeed, the US power elite, drunk on its success of ‘winning’ the Cold Waris brazen in its assertion that the 21st century is the ‘American Century.’
Since the end of the Cold War, a series of events have unfolded, each presaging a US imperium flexing its muscles as it exerted its new, unbounded power to shape the ‘new world order’ in its favour. The opening shot was the Gulf War of 1990 but the groundwork for it was laid down decades earlier.
‘[In] 1953, the British and American governments initiated a joint Anglo-American plan for the covert overthrow of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, the Prime Minister of Iran. The plan called Operation AJAX with Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA Mideast Agent in charge (a grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and a distant cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt). ‘So this is how we will get rid of the madman Mossadeq in Iran’ announced John Foster Dulles to a group of top Washington policy makers in June 1953.’
Predictably, the overthrow of Mossadegh was about oil and Iran’s strategic position on the south-eastern border of the Soviet Union. With the Shah restored to the throne, Iran’s role as an anti-Soviet ally and friend of Anglo- US oil corporations could be relied upon, that is, until 1979 when the Shah was overthrown and fled to the United States.
Throughout this period, the issue of defeating the Soviet Union’s expanding influence, oil and the preservation of Israel were the central planks of US foreign policy in the Middle East. The series of coups and counter-coups in Iraq that followed the overthrow of pro-western King Faysal in 1958 were part of the larger fight against the Arab independence movements that followed WWII. Initially led by the UK, the US, as the rising power, assumed leadership of the West’s continued fight to own the oil and counter Soviet influence in the region, especially after the Suez debacle of 1956 left the UK the loser.
A central element of US strategy has been the tactic of playing both ends against the middle, as it did during the Iran-Iraq war, content to let both sides exhaust each other in what the US hoped would be a never-ending war of attrition:
‘During its alliance with the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, Iraq had active programs producing chemical and biological weapons, and researching and working towards production of a nuclear weapon. These programs were actively and knowingly supported by U.S. corporations and the U.S. government, as revealed in 1994 House Banking Committee hearings. Those hearings revealed, among other things, that the American Type Culture Collection, a company outside of Washington DC, had provided Iraq with the seed stock for biological weapons agents including anthrax, botulinum, e-coli and many more, under license by the U.S. Commerce Department.
And although it’s been erased from the public memory, the hundreds of thousands of pages and dozens of CDs that Iraq submitted to the UN Security Council in December 2002 as part of its declaration of compliance, and which were promptly hijacked by the US contained the following:
‘A leak in the German newspaper die Tageszeitung of some of the 8,000 pages that Washington deleted from Iraq’s December 7, 2002, arms declaration provided further information. The deleted sections documented 24 U.S. corporations, 55 U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations, and a number of U.S. government agencies that provided parts, material, training and other assistance to Iraq’s chemical, biological, missile, and nuclear weapons programs throughout the 1970s and 80s, some continuing till the end of 1990. The U.S. corporations include Honeywell, Rockwell, Hewlett Packard, Dupont, Eastman Kodak, Bechtel, and more. U.S. government Departments of Energy, Commerce, Defense and Agriculture, as well as federal laboratories at Sandia, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore, were also involved.
A major front-page article in the Washington Post (December 30, 2002) further documented U.S. support for Iraq’s WMD programs, especially the chemical program, including trade in weapons and other military goods. The article also detailed the active involvement of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, then a special envoy of President Reagan to Iraq, in reestablishing full diplomatic relations and improving trade and other economic ties that bolstered Washington’s military support of Iraq.
Other Republican insiders were involved in shady deals that helped build Iraq’s WMDs. In 1989, news broke of a secret $4 billion loan made to Iraq by a U.S. branch of Banca Nazionale del Lavoro ( BNL) of Italy, which at the time employed Henry Kissinger on its Consulting Board for International Policy. Congressman Henry Gonzalez, chair of the banking committee, also noted that an executive of Kissinger Associates met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in June 1989 at a meeting in which the Iraqi leader apparently expressed interest in expanding commercial relations with the U.S. ‘Many Kissinger Associates clients received U.S. export licenses for exports to Iraq. Several were also the beneficiaries of BNL loans to Iraq,’ Congressman Gonzalez wrote in a letter to then-President Bush (senior). Iraq also used the BNL loans to attempt to buy difficult-to-manufacture nuclear weapons components. [my emph. WB]’ http://www.ips-dc.org/ iraq/primer4.htm
But with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989-90, the entire balance of power shifted in the Middle East in the US’s favour. It was time to ‘test the waters’ and what better place to do it than in Iraq:
‘Saddam Hussein – As you know, for years now I have made every effort to reach a settlement on our dispute with Kuwait. There is to be a meeting in two days; I am prepared to give negotiations only this one more brief chance. (pause) When we (the Iraqis) meet (with the Kuwaitis) and we see there is hope, then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not accept death.
U.S. Ambassador Glaspie – What solutions would be acceptable?
Saddam Hussein – If we could keep the whole of the Shatt al Arab- our strategic goal in our war with Iran- we will make concessions. But, if we are forced to choose between keeping half of the Shatt and the whole of Iraq then we will give up all of the Shatt to defend our claims on Kuwait to keep the whole of Iraq in the shape we wish it to be. (pause) What is the United States’ opinion on this?
U.S. Ambassador Glaspie – We have no opinion on your Arab- Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960’s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America. (Saddam smiles)’ http://www.stanford.edu/group/wais/iraq_andambassaprilglaspie22303.html
The following day, State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutweiler was asked by journalists:
Q: ‘Has the United States sent any type of diplomatic message to the Iraqis about putting 30,000 troops on the border with Kuwait? Has there been any type of protest communicated from the United States government?’
A: ‘I’m entirely unaware of any such protest.’
On July 31st, two days before the Iraqi invasion, John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, testified to Congress that the ‘United States has no commitment to defend Kuwait and the U.S. has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq.” http://www.geocities.com/iraqinfo/index.html?page=/iraqinfo/gulfwar/setup/saddamglaspie.html
Janus-faced statements that the US were later to refute. But Kuwait had long been a bone of contention ever since it had been created by the British out of a province that the Iraqis had long claimed as part of Iraq (See especially the New York Times piece of September 23, 1990, http://www.chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/glaspie.html).
For some time, the Iraqis had been complaining that Kuwaiti-based oil companies had been utilising lateral drilling techniques under the border between Kuwait and Iraq and stealing Iraqi oil. Without defending Iraqi actions in invading Kuwait, it’s clear that the invasion gave the USA pretext for flexing its muscles in the Middle East and as a means of gauging Russian reactions to the US’s eastward push.
Eight days after this meeting between Hussein and Ambassador Glaspie, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The initial US response to the invasion was, to put it mildly, amazing when it countered by saying effectively that they (the US) didn’t think Saddam meant all of Kuwait, just the disputed border region! Of course, in order to justify Desert Storm it was necessary to bury Glaspie’s interviews and in the run-up to the Gulf War, the media conveniently forgot about Glaspie and the undertaking given by Secretary of State James Baker, not to interfere.
The about-turn performed by the US over the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait reflected the changing circumstances. Was it planned? Was Glaspie a dupe of her own government? It hardly matters does it. What it does illustrate is the two-faced attitude of the US in its dealings with the world and given the subsequent events leading up to 9/11, is it any wonder that questions have been raised about what the US government knew and when it knew it? And in the light of the ‘revelations’ now flooding out about the reasons for the invasion being inventions, and which threatens to undermine the ‘coalition of the willing’, it is even more important that the hypocrisy of the USUK position over Iraq and other ‘rogue states’ be exposed.