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Jim March 14th 04 07:16 PM

(OT) Gotta be more interesting than the anti-OT thread {The EmpireBackfires }
The first anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq has arrived. By
now, we were told by the Bush administration before the war, the
flower-throwing celebrations of our troops' arrival would have long
ended; their numbers would have been reduced to the low tens of
thousands, if not to zero; Iraq's large stores of weapons of mass
destruction would have been found and dismantled; the institutions of
democracy would be flourishing; Kurd and Shiite and Sunni would be
working happily together in a federal system; the economy, now
privatized, would be taking off; other peoples of the Middle East,
thrilled and awed, so to speak, by the beautiful scenes in Iraq, would
be dismantling their own tyrannical regimes. Instead, 549 American
soldiers and uncounted thousands of Iraqis, military and civilian, have
died; some $125 billion has been expended; no weapons of mass
destruction have been found; the economy is a disaster; electricity and
water are sometime things; America's former well-wishers, the Shiites,
are impatient with the occupation; terrorist bombs are taking a heavy
toll; and Iraq as a whole, far from being a model for anything, is a
cautionary lesson in the folly of imperial rule in the twenty-first
century. And yet all this is only part of the cost of the decision to
invade and occupy Iraq. To weigh the full cost, one must look not just
at the war itself but away from it, at the progress of the larger policy
it served, at things that have been done elsewhere—some far from Iraq or
deep in the past—and, perhaps above all, at things that have been left

Nuclear Fingerprints

While American troops were dying in Baghdad and Falluja and Samarra,
Buhary Syed Abu Tahir, a Sri Lankan businessman, was busy making
centrifuge parts in Malaysia and selling them to Libya and Iran and
possibly other countries. The centrifuges are used for producing
bomb-grade uranium. Tahir's project was part of a network set up by
Abdul Qadeer Khan, the "father" of the Pakistani atomic bomb. This
particular father stole most of the makings of his nuclear offspring
from companies in Europe, where he worked during the 1980s. In the
1990s, the thief became a middleman—a fence—immensely enriching himself
in the process. In fairness to Khan, we should add that almost everyone
who has been involved in developing atomic bombs since 1945 has been
either a thief or a borrower. Stalin purloined a bomb design from the
United States, courtesy of the German scientist Klaus Fuchs, who worked
on the Manhattan Project. China got help from Russia until the
Sino-Soviet split put an end to it. Pakistan got secret help from China
in the early 1970s. And now it turns out that Khan, among many, many
other Pakistanis, almost certainly including the highest members of the
government, has been helping Libya, Iran, North Korea and probably
others obtain the bomb. That's apparently how Chinese designs—some still
in Chinese—were found in Libya when its quixotic leader, Muammar
Qaddafi, recently agreed to surrender his country's nuclear program to
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The rest of the designs
were in English.

Were Klaus Fuchs's fingerprints on them? Only figuratively, because they
were "copies of copies of copies," an official said. But such is the
nature of proliferation. It is mainly a transfer of information from one
mind to another. Copying is all there is to it. Sometimes, a bit of
hardware needs to be transferred, which is where Tahir came in. Indeed,
at least seven countries are already known to have been involved in the
Pakistani effort, which Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, called
a "Wal-Mart" of nuclear technology and an American official called
"one-stop shopping" for nuclear weapons. Khan even printed a brochure
with his picture on it listing all the components of nuclear weapons
that bomb-hungry customers could buy from him. "What Pakistan has done,"
the expert on nuclear proliferation George Perkovich, of the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace, has rightly said, "is the most
threatening activity of proliferation in history. It's impossible to
overstate how damaging this is."

Another word for this process of copying would be globalization.
Proliferation is merely globalization of weapons of mass destruction.
The kinship of the two is illustrated by other details of Tahir's story.
The Sri Lankan first wanted to build his centrifuges in Turkey, but then
decided that Malaysia had certain advantages. It had recently been
seeking to make itself into a convenient place for Muslims from all over
the world to do high-tech business. Controls were lax, as befits an
export platform. "It's easy, quick, efficient. Do your business and
disappear fast, in and out," Karim Raslan, a Malaysian columnist and
social commentator, recently told Alan Sipress of The Washington Post.
Probably that was why extreme Islamist organizations, including Al Qaeda
operatives, had often chosen to meet there. Global terrorism is a kind
of globalization, too. The linkup of such terrorism and the world market
for nuclear weapons is a specter that haunts the world of the
twenty-first century.

The War and Its Aims

But aren't we supposed to be talking about the Iraq war on this
anniversary of its launch? We are, but wars have aims, and the declared
aim of this one was to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction. In his State of the Union address in January 2002, the
President articulated the threat he would soon carry out in Iraq: "The
United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous
regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."
Later, he said we didn't want the next warning to be "a mushroom cloud."
Indeed, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
Secretary of State Colin Powell explicitly ruled out every other
justification for the war. Asked about the other reasons, he said, "The
President has not linked authority to go to war to any of those
elements." When Sen. John Kerry explained his vote for the resolution
authorizing the war, he cited the Powell testimony. Thus not only Bush
but also the man likely to be his Democratic challenger in this year's
election justified war solely in the name of nonproliferation.

Proliferation, however, is not, as the president seemed to think, just a
rogue state or two seeking weapons of mass destruction; it is the entire
half-century-long process of globalization that stretches from Klaus
Fuchs's espionage to Tahir's nuclear arms bazaar and beyond. The war was
a failure in its own terms because weapons of mass destruction were
absent in Iraq; the war policy failed because they were present and
spreading in Pakistan. For Bush's warning of a mushroom cloud over an
American city, though false with respect to Iraq, was indisputably
well-founded in regard to Pakistan's nuclear one-stop-shopping: The next
warning stemming from this kind of failure could indeed be a mushroom cloud.

The questions that now cry out to be answered are, Why did the United
States, standing in the midst of the Pakistani nuclear Wal-Mart, its
shelves groaning with, among other things, centrifuge parts, uranium
hexafluoride (supplied, we now know, to Libya) and helpful bomb-assembly
manuals in a variety of languages, rush out of the premises to vainly
ransack the empty warehouse of Iraq? What sort of nonproliferation
policy could lead to actions like these? How did the Bush
administration, in the name of protecting the country from nuclear
danger, wind up leaving it wide open to nuclear danger?

In answering these questions, it would be reassuring, in a way, to
report that the basic facts were discovered only after the war, but the
truth is otherwise. In the case of Iraq, it's now abundantly clear that
some combination of deception, self-deception and outright fraud (the
exact proportions of each are still under investigation) led to the
manufacture of a gross and avoidable falsehood. In the months before the
war, most of the governments of the world strenuously urged the United
States not to go to war on the basis of the flimsy and unconvincing
evidence it was offering. In the case of Pakistan, the question of how
much the administration knew before the war has scarcely been asked, yet
we know that the most serious breach—the proliferation to North
Korea—was reported and publicized before the war.

It's important to recall the chronology of the Korean aspect of
Pakistan's proliferation. In January 2003 Seymour Hersh reported in The
New Yorker that Pakistan had given North Korea extensive help with its
nuclear program, including its launch of a uranium enrichment process.
In return, North Korea was sending guided missiles to Pakistan. In June
2002, Hersh revealed, the CIA had sent the White House a report on these
developments. On Oct. 4, 2002, Assistant Secretary of State for East
Asia and Pacific Affairs James Kelly confronted the North Koreans with
the CIA information, and, according to Kelly, North Korea's First Vice
Foreign Minister, Kang Suk Ju, startled him by responding, "Of course we
have a nuclear program." (Since then, the North Koreans have
unconvincingly denied the existence of the uranium enrichment program.)

Bush of course had already named the Pyongyang government as a member of
the "axis of evil." It had long been the policy of the United States
that nuclearization of North Korea was intolerable. However, the
administration said nothing of the North Korean events to the Congress
or the public. North Korea, which now had openly embarked on nuclear
armament, and was even threatening to use nuclear weapons, was more
dangerous than Saddam's Iraq. Why tackle the lesser problem in Iraq, the
members of Congress would have had to ask themselves, while ignoring the
greater in North Korea? On Oct. 10, a week after the Kelly visit, the
House of Representatives passed the Iraq resolution, and the next day
the Senate followed suit. Only five days later, on Oct. 16, did Bush's
National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, reveal what was happening
in North Korea.

In short, from June 2002, when the CIA delivered its report to the White
House, until Oct. 16—the period in which the nation's decision to go to
war in Iraq was made—the administration knowingly withheld the news
about North Korea and its Pakistan connection from the public. Even
after the vote, Secretary of State Colin Powell strangely insisted that
the North Korean situation was "not a crisis" but only "a difficulty."
Nevertheless, he extracted a pledge from Pakistan's president, Pervez
Musharraf, that the nuclear technology shipments to North Korea would
stop. (They did not.) In March, information was circulating that both
Pakistan and North Korea were helping Iran to develop atomic weapons.
(The North Korean and Iranian crises are of course still brewing.)

In sum, the glaring contradiction between the policy of "regime change"
for already disarmed Iraq and regime-support for proliferating Pakistan
was not a postwar discovery; it was fully visible before the war. The
Nation enjoys no access to intelligence files, yet in an article arguing
the case against the war, this author was able to comment that an
"objective ranking of nuclear proliferators in order of menace" would
put "Pakistan first," North Korea second, Iran third and Iraq only
fourth—and to note the curiosity that "the Bush administration ranks
them, of course, in exactly the reverse order, placing Iraq, which it
plans to attack, first, and Pakistan, which it befriends and coddles,
nowhere on the list." Was nonproliferation, then, as irrelevant to the
administration's aims in Iraq as catching terrorists? Or was protecting
the nation and the world against weapons of mass destruction merely
deployed as a smokescreen to conceal other purposes? And if so, what
were they?

A New Leviathan

The answers seem to lie in the larger architecture of the Bush foreign
policy, or Bush Doctrine. Its aim, which many have properly called
imperial, is to establish lasting American hegemony over the entire
globe, and its ultimate means is to overthrow regimes of which the
United States disapproves, pre-emptively if necessary. The Bush Doctrine
indeed represents more than a revolution in American policy; if
successful, it would amount to an overturn of the existing international
order. In the new, imperial order, the United States would be first
among nations, and force would be first among its means of domination.
Other, weaker nations would be invited to take their place in shifting
coalitions to support goals of America's choosing. The United States
would be so strong, the President has suggested, that other countries
would simply drop out of the business of military competition, "thereby
making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and
limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." Much as, in
the early modern period, when nation-states were being born, absolutist
kings, the masters of overwhelming military force within their
countries, in effect said, "There is now a new thing called a nation; a
nation must be orderly; we kings, we sovereigns, will assert a monopoly
over the use of force, and thus supply that order," so now the United
States seemed to be saying, "There now is a thing called globalization;
the global sphere must be orderly; we, the sole superpower, will
monopolize force throughout the globe, and thus supply international order."

And so, even as the Bush administration proclaimed U.S. military
superiority, it pulled the country out of the world's major peaceful
initiatives to deal with global problems—withdrawing from the Kyoto
Protocol to check global warming and from the International Criminal
Court, and sabotaging a protocol that would have given teeth to the
biological weapons convention. When the U.N. Security Council would not
agree to American decisions on war and peace, it became "irrelevant";
when NATO allies balked, they became "old Europe." Admittedly, these
existing international treaties and institutions were not a full-fledged
cooperative system; rather, they were promising foundations for such a
system. In any case, the administration wanted none of it.

Richard Perle, who until recently served on the Pentagon's Defense
Policy Board, seemed to speak for the administration in an article he
wrote for the Guardian the day after the Iraq war was launched. He
wrote, "The chatterbox on the Hudson [sic] will continue to bleat. What
will die is the fantasy of the U.N. as the foundation of a new world
order. As we sift the debris, it will be important to preserve, the
better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit
of safety through international law administered by international

In this larger plan to establish American hegemony, the Iraq war had an
indispensable role. If the world was to be orderly, then proliferation
must be stopped; if force was the solution to proliferation, then
pre-emption was necessary (to avoid that mushroom cloud); if pre-emption
was necessary, then regime change was necessary (so the offending
government could never build the banned weapons again); and if all this
was necessary, then Iraq was the one country in the world where it all
could be demonstrated. Neither North Korea nor Iran offered an
opportunity to teach these lessons—the first because it was capable of
responding with a major war, even nuclear war, and the second because
even the administration could see that U.S. invasion would be met with
fierce popular resistance. It's thus no accident that the peril of
weapons of mass destruction was the sole justification in the two legal
documents by which the administration sought to legitimize the war—HJ
Resolution 114 and Security Council Resolution 1441. Nor is it an
accident that the proliferation threat played the same role in the
domestic political campaign for the war—by forging the supposed link
between the "war on terror" and nuclear danger. In short, absent the new
idea that proliferation was best stopped by pre-emptive use of force,
the new American empire would have been unsalable, to the American
people or to Congress. Iraq was the foundation stone of the bid for
global empire.

The reliance on force over cooperation that was writ large in the
imperial plan was also writ small in the occupation of Iraq. How else to
understand the astonishing failure to make any preparation for the
political, military, policing and even technical challenges that would
face American forces? If a problem, large or small, had no military
solution, this administration seemed incapable of even seeing it. The
United States was as blind to the politics of Iraq as it was to the
politics of the world.

Thus we don't have to suppose that Bush officials were indifferent to
the spectacular dangers that Khan's network posed to the safety of the
United States and the world or that the Iraqi resistance would pose to
American forces. We only have to suppose that they were simply unable to
recognize facts they had failed to acknowledge in their overarching
vision of a new imperial order. In both cases, ideology trumped reality.

The same pattern is manifest on an even larger scale. Just now, the
peoples of the world have embarked, some willingly and some not, on an
arduous, wrenching, perilous, mind-exhaustingly complicated process of
learning how to live as one indivisibly connected species on our one
small, endangered planet. Seen in a certain light, the administration's
imperial bid, if successful, would amount to a kind of planetary coup
d'état, in which the world's dominant power takes charge of this process
by virtue of its almost freakishly superior military strength. Seen in
another, less dramatic light, the American imperial solution has
interposed a huge, unnecessary roadblock between the world and the
Himalayan mountain range of urgent tasks that it must accomplish no
matter who is in charge: saving the planet from overheating; inventing a
humane, just, orderly, democratic, accountable global economy;
redressing mounting global inequality and poverty; responding to human
rights emergencies, including genocide; and, of course, stopping
proliferation as well as rolling back the existing arsenals of nuclear
arms. None of these exigencies can be met as long as the world and its
greatest power are engaged in a wrestling match over how to proceed.

Does the world want to indict and prosecute crimes against humanity?
First, it must decide whether the International Criminal Court will do
the job or entrust it to unprosecutable American forces. Do we want to
reverse global warming and head off the extinction of the one-third of
the world's species that, according to a report published in Nature
magazine, are at risk in the next 50 years? First, the world's largest
polluter has to be drawn into the global talks. Do we want to save the
world from weapons of mass destruction? First, we have to decide whether
we want to do it together peacefully or permit the world's only
superpower to attempt it by force of arms.

No wonder, then, that the administration, as reported by Robert F.
Kennedy Jr. in these pages, has mounted an assault on the scientific
findings that confirm these dangers to the world [see "The Junk Science
of George W. Bush," March 8]. The United States' destructive
hyperactivity in Iraq cannot be disentangled from its neglect of global
warming. Here, too, ideology is the enemy of fact, and empire is the
nemesis of progress.

If the engine of a train suddenly goes off the rails, a wreck ensues.
Such is the war in Iraq, now one year old. At the same time, the train's
journey forward is canceled. Such is the current paralysis of the
international community. Only when the engine is back on the tracks and
starts in the right direction can either disaster be overcome. Only then
will everyone be able to even begin the return to the world's unfinished

This article first appeared in The Nation and is reprinted with permission.

Published: Mar 12 2004

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