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V. U.S. Interventions in the Muslim and So-Called Third World

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V. U.S. Interventions in the Muslim and So-Called Third World

Similar patterns of communist and non-communist nationalist resistance to the U.S. agenda appeared throughout what the west liked to call the Third World. Ho Chi Minh turned toward communism as a direct result of having lived under French capitalism, as predatory and parasitic a system in their colonies as has ever existed under the rubric of any “ism,” and because when he looked to American aid at the Versailles peace conference in 1919 he was shown the door, as he would be in 1945-1946 when he appealed to President Truman for recognition of Vietnamese independence. Moreover, the Vietnamese revolution was impelled primarily by nationalism not communism. Ho was never Stalin’s or Mao’s stooge. Had Washington followed the advice of its agents who lived with the Viet Minh during World War II, and recognized Vietnamese independence, that nation would have been a loyal ally in southeast Asia, communist or not, and the terrible tragedy of the Vietnam War could have been avoided. Vietnam could have been a much safer locus of American trade than it is even now.

Throughout the former European empires the real problem for Washington was de-colonization. Sometimes the movements were communist but often not. Nationalism and the movement toward “non-alignment” were equal threats, though anti-communism provided the ideological cover for Washington’s global military response to any and all emerging movements that might frustrate the overall goal of a unitary, integrated American-managed world-system.

Thus in the name of anti-communism the newly minted Central Intelligence Agency, violating the congressional mandate that had created it, and domestic and international law as well, overthrew the parliamentary government in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954. In that year Vietnam was divided, supposedly temporarily, in order to allow nationwide elections but, since the CIA knew that Ho Chi Minh would easily win, the division was really to buy time to prevent Ho from achieving his movement’s goal of independence and national unity. In fact Washington moved to prevent national elections agreed to by all great powers, except the U.S., in the Geneva Accords of 1954, and in contravention of them “invented” a new state, South Vietnam, and then pretended that it was the choice of a majority of Vietnamese.

Throughout the 1950s the U.S. also intervened covertly to thwart the rise of Arab and Muslim secular nationalism, particularly Nasserism, whom the CIA tried to assassinate because he nationalized the Suez Canal, as well as Qassim in Iraq for doing the same to that nations’s oil industry. The strategy of attempting to overthrow governments that stood in the way of American corporate dominance of key national industries in the Muslim world backfired by creating a vacuum into which Islamic fundamentalism flowed, in what the CIA today calls “blowback.”

In 1961 the CIA worked covertly to overthrow the popularly elected government of Patrice Luumumba in the Congo, and Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, and Castro in Cuba in the same year which pushed him even closer to the Soviets and led to the nearly apocalyptic missile crisis in 1962, In 1963 JFK auithorized the overthrow of the government of Ngo Dinh Diem, which the U.S. had originally installed, aided the military overthrow of an elected government in Brazil in 1964, succeeded in overthrowing Sukarno in Indonesia in 1965, and invaded Vietnam in March, and the Dominican Republic in April of that year, assisted in the right-wing overthrow of the constitutional government of Greece in 1967, and aided generals in Chile, only one of two democracies in Latin America, to overthrow the legitimately elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973.

Despite efforts in the mid-1970s by Congress to rein in such activities on the part of American intelligence agencies this pattern continued in Africa, and in Central America during the 1980s, and on up to the present day, a full decade after the fall of communism. New enemies appeared as soon as the old ones departed.

The origin of the current crises in Afghanistan and Iraq can be traced back to the division of the former Turkish empire and the takeover of Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan by Britain and France after World War I, but once the U.S. displaced the old empires it too turned to intervention throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

Forgotten today is the fact that the very first profits American oil companies derived from the Middle East came from Iraq. After World War II Washington succeeded in supplanting Britain as the dominant power in the region. In 1955 the Eisenhower Administration agreed to anchor the Baghdad Pact, an informal alliance of the U.S., Great Britain, and the four, then western-dominated, nations of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Pakistan. In 1957, the Eisenhower Doctrine formalized the agreement by declaring Washington's intent to arm these nations and defend the region against "outside aggression." Though couched in anti-Soviet rhetoric, the U.S. was really responding to the rising tide of Arab and Muslim nationalism, and efforts by such regimes to throw off western dominance by seeking closer relations with the USSR.

In 1958 the British-installed Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in a military coup comprised of nationalist and pan-Arabist officers led by General Abdul Karim Qassim, who announced his intent to nationalize Iraqi oil, established relations with the Soviets, and set up an informal coalition of oil-producing states that would ultimately evolve into the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. At that time, Allen Dulles, chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, cited the situation in Iraq as "the most dangerous in the world today."

The CIA then began to cultivate relationships within the Iraqi Ba'ath party, known to be violently opposed to Qassim. Saddam Hussein, at that time a youthful Ba'athist, attempted to assassinate Qassim with the assistance of the CIA, thereby initiating the agency’s decades long on-again-off-again romance with Hussein in his rise to power through the ranks of the Ba'ath until he became president of Iraq in 1979, when his first act was to murder all of his presumed opponents.

Islamic fundamentalism in its present form came into existence as a protest against European meddling and westernization among the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and it received a mighty boost when the U.S. re-installed the hated Shah in Iran by overthrowing the parliamentary government of Premier Mossadegh in 1953. The Shah’s regime brutally suppressed traditional Shiite Muslims with a secret police force trained by the CIA, and promoted western style modernization. It even went so far in the mid-1970s as to allow the army to fire on Shiite women demonstrating to wear the banned chador, or Islamic headdress, killing dozens and thereby setting off the firestorm that ultimately led to the Islamic Revolution of 1978.

To contain the spread of Shiite fundamentalism Washington found it expedient to curry favor with Saddam Hussein of neighboring Iraq (whom it had assisted to power in the first place), encouraging him to go to war with Iran, and providing him with much military hardware and other forms of support. Donald Rumsfeld, then President Reagan’s special envoy, even met with the dictator in 1983 and gave him a warm handshake and the go-ahead. When Saddam used chemicals provided him by American, and European companies to make poison gas and then used this banned product on Iranians and Kurds within Iraq itself, the international community condemned this savage crime and attempted to impose sanctions against him, but the first Bush Administration refused to join in and worked to protect his regime right up until he crossed his erstwhile patron by invading Kuwait in 1990.

Cynical propaganda was employed to win the American public’s support for war with Iraq in 1990, most especially the unproven assertion that Saddam intended to invade Saudi Arabia and by annexing the world’s largest source of oil make Iraq the master of Mideast petroleum. Such ploys also included the impersonation of a Kuwaiti nurse by the Kuwaiti ambassador’s daughter who claimed before television cameras to have seen Iraqi troops slaughtering infants in their cribs when she hadn’t even been in Kuwait during the invasion. This grotesque and mendacious publicity stunt was orchestrated by the public relations firm Hill and Knowlton, a firm with deep connections to the current administration. When Iraqi troops committed genuine atrocities in Iran and against Iraqi Kurds these received virtually no notice in the American media, at least not until later after Saddam had been demonized.

Iraq was driven from Kuwait easily. Rather than overthrow Saddam at that time the first Bush Administration realized that the untimely removal of Saddam would quickly lead to the disintegration of Iraq and quite likely to a Shiite takeover of much of the nation, while the Kurds would opt for independence, thereby inflaming Turkey’s, Iran’s and Syria’s Kurds. The entire Middle East would have been destabilized.

The Bush Administration would have preferred Saddamism without Saddam but in the absence of a strongman they could trust they settled for the devil they knew, one whose brutality could be counted upon to keep Iraq intact. The result was twelve more years of Saddam’s brutality for Iraq.

When a United Nations team visited Iraq immediately following the Gulf War it found its infrastructure, including water systems, sewage systems, electricity grids, and hospitals in an “apocalyptic condition,” devastation induced by the American bombing. Once one of the more developed of Third World nations Iraq collapsed suddenly into one of the poorest. Defense Intelligence Agency documents show that U.S. military planners knew clearly that the destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure would lead inexorably to mass epidemics of extremely serious diseases that in the absence of any Iraqi capability to treat them would lead to widespread death and suffering. The conclusion is inescapable. Washington wanted mass civilian deaths and casualties. Why? Undoubtedly to send a clear message and savage example to others in the region who might contest Washington’s interests

In short order Washington imposed a comprehensive sanctions regime that led over the next few years to the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five. The Clinton Administration, in a bid to undermine criticism, appeared to soften the sanctions through the “oil for food” program. However, it was utterly predictable that Saddam would sabotage it by keeping oil revenues to reward his closest allies (and corrupt UN officials) and allowing ordinary Iraqis quite literally to starve. The UN itself, which pretended that it was the initiator of the sanctions, released reports indicating that the effects on the Iraqi people contravened the UN Charter and the Geneva Convention. The toll being taken on ordinary Iraqis was so terrible, the UN estimated 1.7 million Iraqi civilian deaths as a result of sanctions, that the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN, Dennis Halliday, and many other top officials, resigned in protest saying:

the policy of economic sanctions is totally bankrupt. We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and as terrifying as that.

In 1999, 70 members of Congress appealed to President Clinton to lift the sanctions and end what they termed “infanticide masquerading as policy.”

Later, when asked about the deaths of so many Iraqi children Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, declared that she thought it was “worth the price” on American national television and earned the bitterness of much of the Islamic world.

Even before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 President Carter declared that the Soviets were threatening the entire region, and he therefore enunciated his own version of American foreign policy doctrine by asserting:

Any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

The CIA had been working with the Pakistani Interservices Intelligence Agency (ISI) to recruit approximately 50,000 Islamic mujahideen (including Osama bin Laden) from across the Muslim world to enter that nation to undermine its pro-Soviet regime. These Islamists committed acts of terror against civilians, including blowing up buildings and aircraft in Afghanistan and in neighboring Soviet republics. No American officials called them terrorists then. Instead they applied the Orwellian appellation “freedom fighters.”

President Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, put matters baldly:

We didn’t push the Russians to intervene but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.” On the day the Soviet Army entered Afghanistan Brzezinski exulted: “Now we can give the USSR its Vietnam War.” 58

Later, when it became apparent that the mujahideen had turned against their American benefactors, Brzezinski was asked whether he regretted having brought anti-American terrorists into existence. His answer was stark:

What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred up Muslims or the liberation of central Europe and the end of the Cold War?
Stirred up Muslims indeed! The Taliban soon after gave safe haven to bin Laden and he then used Afghanistan as a base to launch a wave of terrorist attacks against U.S. targets, most particularly the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

The evidence is clear that plans to attack Iraq had been formulated in the Bush White House prior to the events of 9-11. Just nine days following the attacks key members of the Defense Policy Board, many of whom had served in the Bush I and Reagan administrations, wrote an open letter to George W. Bush arguing:

Even if evidence does not directly link Iraq to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.

Well before Bush was even “elected” a radical plan to exert global hegemony had been put forth by a group calling itself the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), the main elements of which have been put into motion, and which constitute the most comprehensive revision of American foreign policy since NSC-68, and resembles nothing so much as the aggressive posture undertaken by Washington at the turn of the last century. Indeed, the Bush Administration’s current objectives far surpass the Cold War blueprint in scope and the national resources that will be necessary to secure them.

According to PNAC the primary goal of U.S. policy must be to prevent the rise of any power that could challenge U.S. supremacy. That includes the economic and military potential of the European Union as well as the former communist giants. PNAC’s military goals stress the ability of the U.S. to act alone and to conduct “pre-emptive” attacks on various “enemies,” without recourse to the United Nations. These are the essential tenets of the so-called “Bush Doctrine.”

In 1992 Paul Wolfowitz, then Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, objected to the outcome of the first Gulf War, wherein Saddam Hussein was allowed to remain in power. Wolfowitz drafted a Defense Policy Guidance document calling for continued intervention throughout the region to “access vital raw materials, especially Persian Gulf oil.” Rejected by the first Bush Administration as too “radical” the document nevertheless became the template for PNAC.

In 1998 18 prominent “neo-conservatives, including Wolfowitz, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, James Woolsey, and Richard Perle wrote President Clinton calling for the immediate removal of Saddam Hussein and the implementation of much of Wolfowitz’s original plan. Again this proposal was rejected.

But upon George W. Bush’s ascension to the presidency via judicial fiat most among this neo-conservative coterie became prominent members of his administration or otherwise advised it. In 2000 PNAC published its extensive and comprehensive blueprint for the radical revision of U.S. policy and strategy toward the larger world, and the total reorganization of U.S. armed forces, effectively rejecting multilateral cooperation in favor of what amounted to a call for unilateral global hegemony by the world’s only superpower.

The proposal called for entirely new missions for U.S. forces, including a dominant nuclear capability and new types of nuclear weapons, sufficient combat forces to fight and win multiple major wars at once, and “constabulary” forces to supplant the United Nations. The plan also foresaw “a network of ‘deployment bases’ or ‘forward operating bases’ to increase the reach of current and future forces.” The report itself complained that the process of accomplishing this transformation was “likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event-like a new Pearl Harbor.”

Then on September 11, 2001 that catalyzing event occurred and within hours members of the Bush Administration were scrambling to take the most advantage of the “opportunities” that the tragic attacks afforded. As national Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice put matters:

An earthquake of the magnitude of 9-11 can shift the tectonic plates of international politicsthe international system has been in flux since the collapse of Soviet power...this is a period of not just of grave danger but of enormous opportunityto create a new balance of power that favored freedom.

PNAC released a letter arguing that “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.”

In his State of the Union address of January 2002 Bush accused Iraq as part of an “axis of evil” that included Saddam Hussein’s bitter enemy, Iran, and North Korea, and declared that the U.S. was ready for “pre-emptive action.” Bush stated flatly that Iraq had 500 tons of chemical weapons, including Sarin and mustard gas, 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin and 30,000 prohibited warheads, many of which Saddam was said to be willing to give to terrorist groups. He also asserted that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger for its proscribed nuclear weapons program.

On February 4, 2003 the chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, announced that there was no evidence of Iraqi mobile bio-weapons labs, no other WMD production, and no evidence of links to Al Quaeda. The very next day, in a dramatic speech to the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin Powell made a total of 29 claims about Iraq’s ties to terrorists, its weapons programs, various violations of UN requirements, and the claim that Saddam had “the wherewithal to develop smallpox.”

The following month the U.S. launched all-out war on Iraq. Since then not a single claim made by the Bush Administration has been substantiated. On October 2, seven months after the occupation of Iraq, CIA weapons expert David Kay told congressional intelligence committees that “We have not yet found stocks of weapons,” and today claims to have been misled by the Bush Administration, as does Secretary of State Colin Powell.

In December 2003 a 600 page joint report issued by both congressional intelligence committees on the intelligence failures in the wake of the events of 9-11 cited dozens of nations where Al Quaeda had received aid or haven. Conspicuously absent from the list was Iraq.67 Both the 9-11 Commission and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on intelligence prewar assessments issued in the summer of 2004 have emphasized that no such connection existed.

The Bush Administration’s claims have been false all along. Saddam’s regime, cruel and despotic as it was, posed no threat to the United States, or to its neighbors and had no links to terrorism, though the assault on Iraq’s Muslims has now made that nation a new recruiting ground for Al Quaeda, evidence for which the press reports every day. The crucial question remains: what were the real reasons for this war?

White House and Pentagon strategic planning documents closely follow the PNAC template. The real aim is to be found there. Massive re-organization of the U.S. military, new weapons, including “bunker-buster” nukes, strategic bases (“lily pads” in military parlance) in the Middle East from which to carry out proposed operations against other nations, especially Iran and Syria which have been threatened in much the same way as Iraq, and to assert firm control over the region’s oil reserves. Having destroyed Iraq’s sophisticated infrastructure in both the first Gulf War and the current one, the administration also envisions the reconstruction of that devastated nation, at American taxpayer expense, and on terms that will prove highly profitable to strategically positioned private American corporations, especially the ones that have contributed most to the Bush re-election campaign. The Center for Public Integrity recently reported that over half of the Defense Department’s budget now goes to private contractors and the top ten, consisting of well known giants like General Dynamics, General Electric, Northrup Grumman and the Carlysle Group, receive nearly forty-percent of that total-vested interests in a permanent state of war/emergency if ever there were.

As the 21st Century opens the United States finds itself at war in two countries, with troops stationed in 130 other nations, and another major crisis with Iran brewing. In the case of Iraq the early public optimism following in the wake of the rapid removal of Saddam has given way to diminishing support for the continued occupation as a mounting insurgency in that country continues to take the lives of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians every day. Although the Bush administration continues to insist that it is motivated by democratic, humanitarian and security concerns that seems belied by the fact that the first places occupied and defended by U.S. troops as they took Iraqi territory were the oil facilities and banks and not the hospitals, electric power plants so vital to the well-being of ordinary Iraqis, and the museums containing the most ancient artifacts reflecting the history of western civilization. Recent polls indicate that the majority of Iraqis see the American forces as occupiers and not liberators, evidence for which is perceived in the handpicked Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Alawi, with two decades of CIA connections behind him, sweetheart multi-billion-dollar contracts that have been awarded without bid to the administration’s closest corporate allies, and statements indicating that Iraq’s oil resources are to be privatized and sold to the highest bidders who undoubtedly will be mostly American.

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