In Defense of the Bush Doctrine

Title:                      In Defense of the Bush Doctrine

Author:                  Robert G. Kaufman

Kaufman, Robert G. (2008). In Defense of the Bush Doctrine. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky.

LOC:       2008273275

E902 .K385 2008

Date Posted:      March 30, 2013

The title of this monograph concisely predicts what the reader will find between the covers[1]. Posed in scholarly language, the book describes and argues for an American grand strategy based on a concept the author calls “moral democratic realism.” He compares this concept to the “major alternative schools of foreign policy” that characterize the criticism aimed at Pres. George W. Bush’s foreign policy—primarily the administration’s approach to the global war on terrorism (GWOT) and Iraq in particular. However, Kaufman does not restrict his analysis to the Bush approach to foreign policy and merely answer current criticism about the GWOT. He gives readers an enlightening look at the Bush Doctrine through a broader historical lens, which encompasses US foreign policy since the founding of our nation and then extends his analysis to our ongoing and future policy around the globe.

A political scientist specializing in American foreign policy, national security, international relations, and various aspects of American politics, Dr. Kaufman is widely published and has impressive academic credentials. Currently an adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation, he has taught at the Naval War College, Colgate University, and the University of Vermont. Kaufman makes the case for the Bush Doctrine and its proper conformity to moral democratic realism based on two premises. The first is that the basic purpose of American foreign policy has remained the same throughout our history—“to assure the integrity and vitality of a free society ‘founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual’.” The second is that “prudence” ought to serve as the standard for judging American grand strategy. Throughout the book, he consistently goes back to these premises as he compares and contrasts different schools of thought.

His method for defending the Bush Doctrine lies in separating foreign policy thought into generalized academic categories—“isolationism, realism, and liberal multilateralism.” Kaufman uses the first half of the book to describe the broader historical context of American foreign policy and different theories of others. Rather than dismiss the isolationism advocated by contemporary critics like Pat Buchanan, he tackles the isolationists’ reasoning head on. He also critiques the neorealism of thinkers such as Kenneth Waltz or Stephen Walt and the classical realism of Hans Morgenthau and Henry Kissinger. Finally, he discusses the liberal multilateralism championed by Charles Kupchan and John Ikenberry and embraced by many Democratic politicians such as Senator John Kerry (D-MA). The remaining half describes moral democratic realism and examines that concept in light of the “endgame of the cold war” as well as the ongoing war on terrorism and the US approach to foreign policy in other important arenas such as Korea.

While supporters of the Bush Doctrine may agree with Kaufman’s premise and conclusions, his defense sometimes seems like an attack against other viewpoints rather than a balanced analysis. The book may come across as too partisan, especially for Bush opponents at-large. I say this for two reasons.

First is his tendency to simplify—almost stereotypically—arguments from other viewpoints to fit them into “schools of thought.” He often reduces an impressively large and diverse bibliography by picking out references that support his critique and rarely giving credit or consideration to points that may be of value elsewhere in the works from which he quotes. For example, in his first two chapters, he focuses on the classic national instruments of power, such as the use of force and economics, without even mentioning Joseph Nye’s concept of “soft power” until discarding its value in any circumstance, saying it is not effective in all cases. Second, in some sections, he seems to contradict his own arguments when criticizing someone else’s. For instance, in discrediting the neo­realist preference for containment of Saddam instead of using force, Kaufman speculates that it would have been harder for bin Laden to gain support if we had eliminated Saddam in the first Gulf War and left no foreign troops in Saudi Arabia; but only two pages later, he argues that bin Laden and the Islamists fight for a universal Islamic empire across the world and their cause has little to do with US Middle Eastern policy and international behavior.

Although the book often comes across as political (which should be expected), I recommend it for those interested in military strategy and policy. Robert Kaufman does an excellent job examining the national decision-making environment which so frequently calls for the employment of our air, space, and cyberspace capabilities.

In The Beginning

Title:                      In The Beginning

Author:                  Chaim Potok

Potok, Chaim (1975). In The Beginning. New York: Knopf

LOC:       75008238

PZ4.P86 In

Date Posted:      March 30, 2013

A conservative Christian, from Michigan writes: “My one and only meeting with Dr. Potok occurred in 1975, while I was one of two goyim attending Jacob Hiatt Institute in Jerusalem, a study center maintained by Brandeis University. I was fascinated by his talk, and went out and bought My Name is Asher Lev and devoured it. Interestingly, Dr. Potok’s visit coincided with classes on Biblical History taught by Dr. Chaim Tadmor from Hebrew U, which interested me so much in scientific Biblical criticism that I added a religion major when I got back to my college, and immersed myself in that discipline.”

In the Beginning is likely the most honest of Dr. Potok’s books. The main character, David Lurie, is forced to confront both his growing awareness of scientific Biblical criticism, and its value, and the insistence of the world around him that he is rejecting all that they hold dear. He is given a choice between truth and isolation, or the society of those he holds dear and ignoring that truth. In the end, Dr. Potok’s picture of “watering the roots” of religious faith is a powerful image, especially for someone who understands exactly what the book is talking about. I am engaging in that same reflection, writing a blog on Spies of the Bible

The book is longer than the three preceding it, and more complex; but its issues are more easily understood by even a non-Jewish audience. It is a valuable and significant read; and one in which I gradually understood that Potok, like so many others, actually writes for the “dysfunctional” among us, those who feel isolated by family issues, substance abuse or tragedy, and yet somehow feel that we have some belief, talent or substance that we can say the world does not recognize, but that allows us to hold off the feeling of insignificance – that the more we are opposed, the more we think we are actually special. In the hands of demagogues or opportunists, this results in conspiracy theories, like Chariots of the Gods, or even well-written and attractive, yet completely fictional and inaccurate, stuff like The Da Vinci Code. In the hands of Ann Coulter or Ted Rall, this encourages paranoid isolation from rational discourse on both the left and the right. In the hands of Potok, this is none of the above, but a compelling examination of the human spirit.

Beyond the Iraq War

Title:                      Beyond the Iraq War

Author:                  Michael Heazle

Heazle, Michael;(2006) and Iyantul Islam. Beyond the Iraq War: The Promises, Pitfalls, And Perils of External Interventionism. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

LOC:       2006005891

E183.8.I57 B49 2006

Date Posted:      March 29, 2013

This book takes a look at the circumstances under which invading Iraq, and any other country, would have been most effective versus how the US handled the invasion. It examines the cost-benefit relationship for the decision, and the fallout once the decision has been made.

Kevin Rudd[1], writing in the foreword to the book says, “The main lesson from the Iraq experience so far has been the enormous costs of military intervention. The effects of a doctrine of interventionism on both the target country and the international political environment in general are profound and far-reaching. As a test case, Iraq has demonstrated a clear need for both the costs and benefits and the circumstances under which intervention should occur to be much better defined and understood. Careful evaluation of the thinking and goals behind the Iraq intervention, the difficulties it faces, and its status as a “test case” for dealing with conventional and non-conventional threats alike is required. This volume on the promises and perils of interventionism, therefore, is both timely and significant.”

This book critically analyses the topic of US-led external interventions in the affairs of developing countries by using one of the most contested experiments of modern times, namely, the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. The March 2003 invasion of Iraq has so far failed to deliver the benefits and outcomes its supporters anticipated, prompting international discussion as to whether the promises of externally-led nation-building (as an attempt to mould rogue states in a democratic, market-friendly fashion) are outweighed by the kinds of pitfalls and perils of intervention that have come to characterize the Iraq experience. This book identifies and addresses the major issues emerging from the current debate including the evolution of external interventionism as an idea, an explanation of what went wrong in post-Saddam Iraq and why the Iraq experiment is flawed by the Bush administration’s refusal to address long standing political and historical grievances among Muslims as part of the “War on Terror”. The contributors assess the troubled relationship between Islam and the West, the prospects for democracy in the Middle East, foreign policy debates in the US, and how economics and politics are juxtaposed in a highly contentious manner in any project of externally-driven nation-building.

Beyond the Iraq War brings together scholars and practitioners in an attempt to move beyond the polemical dimensions of the existing debate and provide a balanced analysis of what the Iraq enterprise can tell us about the brand of external interventionism espoused by the Bush administration and also the lessons it holds for any future interventions into the affairs of states. It combines a mix of disciplines, most notably international relations and economics as well as theory and empirical evidence. The book is written in a non-technical, but rigorous, manner in order to make complex and diverse issues accessible to the general reader.

This fascinating and scholarly work will appeal to academics and scholars in the fields of political economics, political science and international relations. Policymakers, journalists and media commentators will also find this work to be of great interest and value.

[1] Michael Rudd has been MP, Australian Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security

Nixon, Kissinger, and Allende

Title:                      Nixon, Kissinger, and Allende

Author:                  Lubna Z. Qureshi

Qureshi, Lubna Z. (2009). Nixon, Kissinger, and Allende: U.S. Involvement in the 1973 Coup in Chile. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books

LOC:       2008032326

F3100 .Q74 2009

Date Posted:      March 29, 2013

Salvador Allende Gossens[1] (using Salvador Allende as his official name) was elected president of Chile by a narrow majority in 1970. He attempted to transform the country into a socialist economy, but his disastrous measures led to widespread discontent that was supported by a CIA program ordered by President Richard Nixon. The CIA supported a military coup led by Gen. Augusto Prinochet in September 1973, which resulted in the death of Allende in the Presidential Palace.

Later Director of Central Intelligence, Richard Helms, was to plead nolo contendere on a charge of perjury when he testified to Congress that the CIA had not plotted to bring down the Allende government in Chile. Caught in the dilemma of whether to protect the Agency’s secrets or give misleading sworn evidence to an open session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held to approve his appointment as Nixon’s ambassador to Tehran, Helms opted for less than the full truth.

Reviewed by Howard A. Doughty in College Quarterly (Spring 2011, Vol. 14 No. 2)[2]

Americans are understandably fixated on an event that, as their corporate news media never tire of reminding us, “changed the world.” The date of September 11 has become riveted on boiler plate history. It recalls the beginning of the “War on Terror” in the unanticipated and “unprovoked” attack by an international criminal organization on American soil. It heralded the “War on Terror.” It signified a global mentality of “them and us.” Although President George W. Bush was not quite up to the standard of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who declared that December 7, 1941 was a day that “will live in infamy,” he at least managed to summarize his attitudes toward his enemies: “You’re either with us,” he declared, “or you’re with the terrorists.” Three more-or-less declared wars and innumerable covert actions later, with incalculable damage done to friends and foes alike, the legacy of September 11, 2001 continues. Domestically, what Gore Vidal has quite properly called the “shredding of the Bill of Rights” has undermined American democracy. Abroad, an immediate outpouring of compassion and support for the USA has been frittered away. The consequences of al-Qaeda’s attack have been more successful than Osama bin Laden could have imagined.

For Americans, September 11 was a pivotal moment in modern history. After September 11, the world would never be the same. I am not so sure. I do not doubt that the emotional effect of the television footage of the collapse of the World Trade Center was monstrous. I am acutely aware of how this led to indifference and even hostility to the Rule of Law in the USA and to the devastation of whole countries in the Middle East. Yet, I regard the focus on September 11 through a distorted American lens to be at least a little misleading. Elsewhere, what happened was the intensification of a well-established pattern. Some even question why the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan, to say nothing of the millions of others that have been destroyed in the periphery of empire have counted and continue to count for so little in the leadership, the media and the popular culture of the wealthy liberal democracies. Some might even dare to say that if singular events are to be highlighted and distinguished from enduring patterns, then September 11 might be the right day, but 2001 was not the right year. They might ask that we pay attention to another one: September 11, 1973. It was important in the evolution of the American Empire. It was especially important in that long-standing hinterland of American power, Latin America.

Ever since 1775, when the as-yet undeclared United States of America attempted to conquer Québec, America has had a generally consistent policy in the Western hemisphere. Although it started small by undertaking genocidal attacks on aboriginal peoples and twice sought and failed to capture Canada, it has been the increasingly robust aim of the USA to dominate North, Central and South America. Important markers on this path include the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803, the acquisition of Florida from Spain in 1819, the annexation of Texas in 1845, the Oregon Treaty, in which the United Kingdom surrendered the “Pacific Northwest” in 1846, the Mexican-American War in 1848, the annexation of California in 1850, the purchase of Alaska in 1867, the resolution of the Alaska “panhandle” dispute in 1903 as well as various invasions and “covert actions” in support of military coups against democratically elected leaders and ongoing backing for cruel dictatorships throughout Central and South America. Add to this the control of vast portions of national economies and the diplomatic imperative of the “Monroe Doctrine,” and it becomes clear that the USA has regarded all of the Americas and the sovereign states within them as its exclusive region of influence.

The language in which political, military and economic hegemony has been explained and justified has always been of the high-minded sort. It was America’s expressed intent to promote representative democracy and free market economies in these benighted lands. If, sometimes, deals had to be made with shady characters to ensure the development of market economies (dominated by American corporations) and to protect allegedly backward people from the temptations of socialism, communism or free labor unions by “temporarily” withholding the right to free speech, political parties and fair elections, that was said to be the immediate price of ultimate progress.

Meanwhile, US corporate and government officials sniggered off the record that these were mainly merely “banana republics” filled with admittedly corrupt landowners and generals, but also with ignorant peasants who could not yet be trusted to exercise the right to vote responsibly. Stability and security were, after all, more important than liberty, which the US believed was likely to degrade into license.

This pattern persisted throughout the 19th and the 20th centuries. It has even been maintained in the 21st as the illegal overthrow of democratically elected governments in Haiti in 2004 and in Honduras in 2009, both with at least tacit American approval, attest. Efforts to subvert other governments, notably those of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and Hugo Chavez[3] in Venezuela continue, as does the 50-year economic blockade of Cuba.

Sometimes dramatic examples of these activities win a moment’s notice in the US and world media. The horrific events in Chile on and following September 11, 1973 for instance, were so disturbing that Hollywood made a “controversial” film about the coup in 1982. It starred Jack Lemmon and Cissy Spacek. It was called Missing. It did not probe US involvement very deeply, nor did it focus on the abduction, torture and murder of at least 20,000 Chileans. In order to keep the interest of US audiences, it mainly concerned the disappearance of a single young American and the desperate and unsuccessful efforts of wife and father to find him amidst the carnage. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

In 1980, other ghastly actions grabbed the headlines for a day or two. For instance, the assassination of Roman Catholic Archbishop Óscar Romero and the subsequent rape and murder of American nuns by US-backed forces in El Salvador caused a ripple of consternation. So did the illegal funding of the right-wing “Contras” in Nicaragua. That became something of an issue mainly because the US administration under President Ronald Reagan illegally (by America’s own laws) sold arms to its alleged enemy, Iran, for use against America’s then-ally Iraq then ruled by Saddam Hussein. It’s complicated!

Amid all the calumny and confusion, at least a part of this horrendous set of connected stories has now been illuminated. For those who have let the memory of the death of Dr. Salvador Allende slip, or who never knew about or noticed it before, Lubna Qureshi has performed a good service. It is, after all, important to remember our history, and I say “our” advisedly, for the US depended throughout on the implicit consent of its allies. If the recollection of the past doesn’t save us from repeating it, at least it will deprive us of the excuse of ignorance. Instead of denying complicity, we will be compelled to say: “Here we go again!”

The facts of the matter are not in serious dispute. American companies from Anaconda Mines to PepsiCo (owner of the Frito-Lay corn chip mascot, “the Frito Bandito” and friend of right-wing newspaper El Mercurio) were all involved in the effort to overthrow Allende. Coca-Cola, by the way, had already done its part, along with the infamous United Fruit Company (later Chiquita Brands International—hence the term “banana republic”) in Guatemala nineteen years earlier when President Jacobo Arbenz was forcibly deposed. So, of course, was the Central Intelligence Agency (this story has many subplots).

The question that has never been satisfactorily answered is this: “Why?”

Why is it that the USA engaged in such systematic behavior dedicated to undermining and overthrowing democratically elected government? Canadian Ambassador Andrew Ross, in cables to Ottawa during the blood-letting, touted the routine line that this was a desperate measure that was required by desperate times. He joined the chorus saying that Allende was some sort of communist and that the military had undertaken the “thankless” task of freeing the country. The only problem was that the country had elected Allende in a democratic ballot on two consecutive occasions. Where was the lack of freedom?

Of course, it could be argued that the USA (and Canada and others) were in the grip of an anti-communist hysteria that left judgment impaired. It could also be said that imperial powers maintain their hegemony by crushing anything that looks like opposition or resistance, regardless of ideology.

Qureshi helps sort out the mess and provides some provocative answers. She begins by paying homage to those who have helped to uncover the details of the role played by archivists and journalists including Christopher Hitchens, who was plainly on the right (or is that the left?) side when he began investigating how US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger helped engineer the coup. Kissinger, of course, had just won the Nobel Peace Prize in that same year in a daring display of Scandinavian humor almost as bizarre as Barack Obama’s award in 2009. Obama would go on to announce the maintenance of the US system of “rendition” (contracting out torture) and ramp up the military misadventure in Afghanistan/Pakistan. So it goes.

Qureshi then provides a more than serviceable historical account of US-Chilean relations over the past two centuries, recalling that Chile was for many years among the most prosperous and certainly the most consistently democratic nation in South America. It was also the repository of vast natural resources, not the least of which was copper which, we should remember, was a precious resource during the Vietnam conflict—a matter that must have been on the collective mind of President Nixon, Kissinger and the entire military-industrial complex.

From the outset of the Allende candidacy for the presidency in 1970, Washington took heroic steps to ensure his defeat and when, against their fervent hopes, he was elected, then a series of “dirty tricks” were put in play to ensure his failure. Under pressure from the US and Chile’s own elite, Allende called a second election and ran a second time. He won, and thus he sealed his own fate. His violent overthrow and death came (lest we forget) on September 11, 1973.

After the overthrow led by General Augusto Pinochet, a campaign of terror killed many of Allende’s followers as well as liberals, socialists, trade unionists, artists, students  and democratic-minded citizens. Many more fled the country. They were replaced by US advisors—impressively economists from the University of Chicago—who saw Chile as an excellent laboratory for testing their theories of “free market capitalism,” sans free speech, labor unions, social welfare programs and other customs and institutions that have made liberal democratic regimes with mixed economies liveable. Dictatorship and gross inequality followed, all to the merry jingle of the cash register and the accumulation of capital in the hands of the already wealthy. It was Milton Friedman’s dream come true.

Qureshi pulls no punches. She directly blames Nixon and Kissinger for the death of Allende, electoral freedom and social democracy in Chile. Her analysis differs from some of the standard explanations of US imperialism in interesting ways.

The United States and its allies have an unseemly history of hostility to democracy abroad that seems to conflict with their expressed political principles and their stated purpose in engaging in military and diplomatic action abroad. Not only in Latin America, but in Africa, Asia and occasionally in Europe (for instance, in Spain, Portugal and Greece), it has openly and clandestinely supported dictatorships. The explanation has generally been that the “friendly tyrants” had to be propped up and aspirant democratic leaders put down lest worse should befall. The ogres of “international communism” and, now, “terrorism” have been trotted out explain otherwise hideous behavior. By these lights, American foreign policy could be interpreted as an almost unfathomable and ongoing exercise in error—a product of a collective mental disorder of sorts that could be corrected if ever the American people were to be brought to their senses. The underlying motivational structure, the sincerity of America’s commitment to a genuinely free and democratic world would not need to be questioned; only systematic misperceptions and collective paranoia would have to be addressed. The situation, while serious, would be salvageable.

Lubna Qureshi is not so sure. She rejects the notion that Nixon and his associates were sincerely concerned with, for example, the “communist menace.” It was a good cover story. That was all. What was uppermost in the minds of American decision makers was the economic domination of the American “imperium.” Allende’s threat (briefly fulfilled) to nationalize the copper industry and thereby “rob” US corporations of their rather indecent profit margins was far more salient that any worry about the tawdry thinking of the campasenos.

If, she says, there was any concern about the political direction of Latin America, it certainly did not involve much authentic fear of the Soviet Union. Instead, Qureshi acknowledges mainly the disquiet that might flow from a successful egalitarian, democratic government. The general attitude of Washington toward its southern neighbors was one of contemptuous dismissal, an attitude that could quickly change if any Latin American nation could sustain free elections and provide a measure of equitable prosperity for its citizens, necessarily at the expense of the USA.

The chief question about Qureshi’s view is raised by Tanya Harmer. Even granting that the United States and the Soviet Union came to an accommodation following the very scary Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, did the US not regard Cuba, with or without Soviet encouragement, as a potential leader of insurrection in South America? “From today’s perspective,” she acknowledges, “it seems ‘inconceivable’ that the island of Cuba could have ever posed a threat to U.S. security … but that was not how policymakers like Nixon saw it.” From my own limited experience in Cuba in 1973 and 1974, as well as from my distant observations of actions such as the US invasions from the Dominican Republic in 1965, to poor little Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989 and other mischief-making, it was plain even then that the American agenda was driven more by profit than mere ideology. The pertinent effects for the citizens of the variously affected countries may not matter much. Especially for those in the worst of circumstances, torture and death are torture and death regardless of what was going on in the minds of those with the steel cables and automatic rifles; nonetheless it may be of more than antiquarian importance to determine whether the US was more obsessed with mythology or with money.

Critics following Harmer may also dispute the crucial role that Qureshi gives to Allende’s nationalization policies, stating that the formulation of a policy on Chile by the US National Security Council in 1970 did not discuss the question specifically. Again, I am inclined to see the matter in broader terms. The possibility of any successful center-leftist or democratic socialist government would have been seen as a threat to America’s economic interests regardless of the specific measures being contemplated. Salvador Allende campaigned and won on a democratic socialist platform. The only question was how far he would go; and, to the US, any measurable distance was likely to be too far.

In any case, economic motivations were plainly at the root of the US intervention. Ideological or even tactical political schemes to counter some reproduction of Che Guevara-style romanticism may emerge proactively to soften up potential criticism or retroactively to justify past acts. At the core, however, there is a general imperial strategy and the desire to maintain control of resources, investment opportunities and markets. Harmon is correct to say that a struggle over “ideas, credibility, visions for the future [was] in full swing.” The question of whether that was the main play or merely the supporting rhetorical chorus can be put in some context if we examine other elements of the US imperial dream.

In South-East Asia, three successive American presidents, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush encouraged the genocidal Pol Pot against the Vietnamese for purely tactical reasons. In the alternative, in 1972, President Richard Nixon began to make a friend of China—previously no worse than second on the list of “godless communists” set to take over the world. Democratic ideals plainly played no role in these endeavours. In the case of Chilean democracy, economic advantage was at risk. In the case of China, massive economic gains were to be made. The US seems to have succeeded in both cases. Foreign ownership of Chile’s resources remain pretty much intact, and China is now fertile ground for Walmart, to say nothing of being the United States’ primary banker.

Incidentally, since 1990, Chileans have made a substantial effort to overcome the “democratic deficit” incurred by General Pinochet; nonetheless, the ever-powerful newspaper, El Mercurio remains influential as does PepsiCo. So, the Pepsi Music Festival held in Santiago on 3 April, 2009 was closed by the mock-rock group KISS. There is evidently a long way to go.

Returning to the question of anti-democratic initiatives in imperial defense strategy, it would be misleading to ignore the fact that, in suppressing Latin American democracies and supporting dictatorships, the US has not acted alone. Indigenous dictators like Pinochet, local comprador capitalists, drug lords, as well as common and garden variety thugs have always been happy to play secondary and sometimes even leading roles. What’s more, the US has been perfectly happy to allow democratic governments to thrive wherever they have not posed a clear and present (or even a putative and potential) danger to American economic interests. Friendly relations, however, are conditional upon policy compliance. In some cases this goes no further than offering election strategy advice to preferred candidates for office (as President Kennedy did for the incoming Prime Minister Pearson and against outgoing Prime Minister Diefenbaker in Canada in 1963); in other cases, however, the interventions have more serious and, indeed, lethal.

Whatever one’s conclusions, two overriding thoughts remain. First, the United States is now at least temporarily distracted from Latin America because of its continuing adventures in the Middle East; but, it is not totally distracted, nor will it be distracted forever. Meanwhile, many Latin American countries have taken measurable steps to the left, and are enjoying noticeable improvements in democratic governance and human rights as well as greater economic prosperity and social justice as a result. What will happen when the US again focuses its attention on the remaining heritage of “manifest destiny”? Second, how is it best to understand American thought and action with respect to its still dominant but increasingly precarious standing in economic, technological, political and military status in the world?

As a messianic and immense technological empire that is faltering but by no means fallen, how are we to interpret the past and anticipate the future as it continues (as it will) to engage foreign countries where it perceives an external threat? Is its mantra of freedom to be taken at all seriously and, if so, what must be done to engage it in realistic dialogue. Or, is its motivation little more than callous cash advantage, in which case there is no need to pay attention to its justificatory rhetoric and every requirement to assess what will provide it with material advantage. Is Chile the model of future intervention in Latin America? Or has the USA learned something from its earlier mistakes including the lesson that regional stability even in the absence of American hegemony may be an advantage that the United States has frequently failed to win through hostile means.

Meanwhile, each country within America’s overlapping spheres of influence will do well to perform the necessary calculations, for there is no doubt that US decision makers are doing precisely that.

[1] West, Nigel (2006). Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press

[2] Howard A. Doughty teaches political economy and globalization at Seneca College. He can be reached at

[3] The US never succeeded in removing Chavez. He foiled US plots by having the temerity to die in 2013.

Scott Report

Title:                      Scott Report

Author:                  Sir Richard Scott

Scott, Richard (1996). Return to An Address Of The Honourable The House of Commons Dated 15th February 1996 for The Report of The Inquiry into The Export of Defence Equipment And Dual-Use Goods to Iraq And Related Prosecutions (5 Vol.) London: HMSO

LOC:       96203602

KD373.M38 S37 1996

Date Posted:      March 27, 2013

The Scott Report was a judicial inquiry commissioned in 1992 after reports of arms sales in the 1980s to Iraq by British companies surfaced. The report was conducted by Sir Richard Scott, then a Lord Justice of Appeal. It was published in 1996. Much of the report was secret.


In the late 1980s, Matrix Churchill, a British (Coventry) aerospace quality machine tools manufacturer, that had been bought by the Iraqi government, and was exporting machines used in weapons manufacture to Iraq. According to the International Atomic Energy Authority, its products later found in Iraq, were among the highest quality of their kind in the world. They were “dual use” machines that “could” be used to manufacture weapons parts. Such exports are subject to government control, and Matrix Churchill had the appropriate government permissions, following a 1988 relaxation of export controls. Crucially, however, this relaxation had not been announced to parliament – indeed, when asked in parliament whether controls had been relaxed, the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry replied incorrectly that they had not.

Matrix Churchill was contacted by HM Customs and Excise, under suspicion of exporting arms components to Iraq without permission. They had this permission but this was denied by the government, in line with the most recently announced policy on the matter. Matrix Churchill’s directors were therefore prosecuted in 1991 by Customs and Excise for breaching export controls.

The trial did not go well for the government—public interest immunity certificates obtained by the government to suppress some critical evidence (supposedly on grounds of national security) were quickly overturned by the trial judge, forcing the documents to be handed over to the defense. The trial eventually collapsed when former minister Alan Clark admitted he had been “economical with the actuality” in answer to parliamentary questions over export licenses to Iraq.

The Report

The Scott Report represents possibly the most exhaustive study produced to that date of the individual responsibility of ministers to Parliament. Scott comments on the difficulty of extracting from departments the required documents (some 130,000 of them in all) and notes how Customs and Excise could not find out what Ministry of Defence export policy was, and how intelligence reports were not passed on to those who needed to know. The Economist commented that “Sir Richard exposed an excessively secretive government machine, riddled with incompetence, slippery with the truth and willing to mislead Parliament”. The report characterized the nature of the government as:

The main objectives of governments are the implementation of their policies and the discomfiture of opposition; they do not submit with enthusiasm to the restraints of accountability—governments are little disposed to volunteer information that may expose them to criticism…. The enforcement of accountability depends largely on the ability of Parliament to prize information from governments which are inclined to be defensively secretive where they are most vulnerable to challenge.

Scott identified three main areas of democratic concern. First, the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939 was emergency legislation passed at the outbreak of the Second World War. It allowed the government to issue regulations which were not subject to resolutions in Parliament, for the duration of the emergency, which would make it a criminal offence to export particular goods to particular countries. While the Act should have been lapsed in 1945, it remained in force, and had been modified in 1990 so as to become part of the Import and Export Control Act 1990.

The second area was the failure of ministerial accountability; the principle that “for every action of a servant of the crown a minister is answerable to Parliament”.

The third area was that of Public Interest Immunity certificates, which had been issued during the Matrix Churchill trial. As a result of these certificates, innocent men were in danger of being sent to prison, because the government would not allow the defense counsel to see the documents that would exonerate their clients. While some of these contained potentially sensitive intelligence material, many were simply internal communications: the certificates were intended to protect the Ministers and civil servants who had written the communications, rather than the public interest. Scott states:

The government is entirely frank in its desire to continue using ‘class’ claims in order to protect communications between ministers and civil servants from disclosure in litigation. One argument put forward is that, unless these communications are protected, the necessary candour between ministers and civil servants will suffer. I have to say that I regard this ‘candour’ argument as unacceptable.


The publication of the report was seen by many as the nadir of the 1990s Conservative governments of the UK. Prior to the report’s publication, those ministers who were criticised were given the opportunity to comment and request revisions. The 1,806 page report was published, along with a press pack which included a few relatively positive extracts from the report presented as if representative of the entire report, at 3:30pm. Given a then largely pro-government press, this proved effective at stalling an extensive analysis in the media.

The report had to be debated in parliament. Ministers criticized in the report were given advanced access to the report and briefed extensively on how to defend themselves against the report’s criticisms. In contrast, according to senior Labour MP Robin Cook, the opposition was given just two hours to read the million-plus words, during which scrutiny they were supervised and prevented from making copies of the report. Finally, the Prime Minister, John Major, stated that a vote against the Government would be in effect a vote of no confidence, ensuring that Conservative MPs would not vote against, while a vote for was a vote exonerating the Government of any wrongdoing. Robin Cook worked with a team of researchers to scrutinize the report, and delivered “what was regarded as a bravura performance”. Nonetheless, the Government won the vote 320-319.

Betrayed – The Real Story

Title:                      Betrayed – The Real Story

Author:                  David Leigh

Leigh, David (1993) and Richard Norton-Taylor. Betrayed: The Real Story of the Matrix-Churchill Trial. London: Bloomsbury

LOC:       96160612

KD 373 M37 L44 1993

Date Posted:      March 27, 2013

This is the Preface from Betrayed The Real Story of the Matrix Churchill Trial, re-typed by Clarion directly from a printed copy of the book.

Britain secretly helped to arm Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The facts about this were concealed until the Matrix Churchill trial took place. The trial began at the Old Bailey before a jury on 12 October 1992. The three defendants, accused of illegally exporting munitions machinery to Baghdad, had been charged twenty months earlier, in February 1991. But extraordinary delays had stopped their case from being heard in public until well after the general election of April 1992 which confirmed John Major—victor of the Gulf War against Iraq—in office. The eventual trial of the three men was scheduled to last until Christmas. But four weeks later after a memorable cross-examination of Alan Clark, a former minister of the Crown, it abruptly halted. The prosecutor of the charge brought by HM Customs had not even finished presenting his case: but the jury was discharged and the three defendants in the dock formally acquitted. That afternoon’s splash front page in the London Evening Standard accurately conveyed a sense of the storm that was about to break: ‘”IRAQI ARMS DEAL TRIAL COLLAPSES. Three cleared as ex-Minister’s evidence is called inconsistent.”

Alan Moses, QC for HM Customs, told the judge that the Crown could no longer continue with the case because Alan Clark’s evidence under oath was “inconsistent” with what he had originally told Customs investigators in a witness statement. Clark’s testimony had been elicited by Geoffrey Robertson QC, counsel for the main defendant, with the help of a stack of Whitehall documents of the type normally kept secret in Britain—briefings prepared by top officials for Ministers; records of meetings of those Ministers; and, most secret and unprecedented of all, records from Britain’s two intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6. John Major’s Cabinet Ministers had signed orders concealing all this information from the court—Ministerial orders eventually overturned by the judge. Intelligence officers, as well as senior civil servants and government Ministers, were forced to come to the Old Bailey to testify.

The outcome of the case caused a political crisis. Quite how big that crisis is has so far been concealed, because the Prime Minister felt he had no alternative but to bow immediately to opposition demands for a judicial inquiry into the biggest scandal of the Conservative administration. Lord Justice Scott, a senior High Court judge, has been authorised to conduct an inquiry which begins later this year. His terms of reference enable him to sit in private to investigate the circumstances in which Britain secretly armed Iraq.

It was the extraordinary history of the Matrix Churchill trial which brought to light what happened. The conduct of the case was a legal tour de force. Government Ministers have been since all too anxious to muddy the waters—claiming the outcome of the case had nothing to do with the secret Whitehall files. They also said that Ministers never tried to suppress the truth. This book simply documents what happened and what facts really have emerged. They make startling, and sometimes bizarre, reading.

There has never before been such authentic and detailed material available about the operations of the British secret services and their influence on Whitehall—right down to verbatim copies of their own agents’ reports and their internal memoranda. Was the chief defendant betrayed by MI6? Was the foreign Secretary betrayed by his colleagues? And were the victims of Saddam Hussein betrayed by the British government? HM Customs’ determination to investigate and prosecute the defendants did not succeed in convicting them. But it did surgically slice open the underbelly of government, to reveal corruption within. Had the trial occurred earlier, it would have been much more difficult for John Major and the Conservative Party to win the last general election. It remains to be seen how much effect it will have on the next one.

The New Crusade

Title:                      The New Crusade

Author:                  Rahul Mahajan

Mahajan, Rahul (2002). The New Crusade: America’s War on Terrorism. New York: Monthly Review Press

LOC:       2002005061

HV6432 .M34 2002

Date Posted:      March 24, 2013

Reviewed by E. Wayne Ross

Civic-minded political culture is an endangered species in the United States. The apathetic, cynical, and disconnected electorate is often pointed to as the best evidence of the decline of participatory democracy. But the state of the electorate is really more a symptom than a cause. The heart of the problem is the incredible shrinking spectrum of political debate.

In a 1994 interview, Noam Chomsky, an MIT linguistics professor and political activist, illustrated the shriveled state of political perspective in the US with his comment that, “When you read John Dewey today, or Thomas Jefferson [the two leading philosophers of democracy in US history], their work sounds like that of some crazed Marxist lunatic.”

There is no doubt that the heinous attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 transformed US and global politics in many ways. But genuine participatory democracy—long a victim of domestic policies aimed at creating consumers rather than communities, shopping malls rather than libraries—is now further constrained by policies that value “security” over freedoms and a news media so narrowly focused on elite interests that it reduces the capacity for the rest of us to rule our lives in democratic fashion. And globally, US foreign policy continues to undermine democracy, quash human rights and serve the interested of the wealthy few.

Digging beneath the superficial media representations of the war on terror and the recent history of US foreign policy, The New Crusade examines the myths that surround the war on terrorism and the ways they are used to benefit a small elite (at home and abroad). In the tradition of Chomsky’s Necessary Illusions and Manufacturing Consent, Mahajan demonstrates how accepted accounts of the causes of the US military intervention in Afghanistan, the conduct of the war, and its consequences have been systematically distorted and explores the future directions of the war on terrorism.

Three basic questions are at the heart of this well-research and carefully argued polemic: (1) What measure of truth is there in the version of the events, causes, and consequences of the war on terror as conveyed by the US government and the mainstream media? (2) What is the larger historical context in which the war on terrorism can be understood and assessed? and (3) What can we expect to happen next, now that the military conquest of Afghanistan has been completed? Each of section of this slim book takes on one of these broad questions in a series short, jargon-free chapters.

The core of the book examines 19 “myths and realities” of the war on terrorism in assessing the “truth value” of the government and mainstream accounts. Here is a sampling of the myths that Mahajan critiques:

  • The 9-11 attacks constitute another Pearl Harbor. Mahajan argues that in some ways this analogy doesn’t go far enough (Pearl Harbor, a military base, was part of a colony annexed by the US; New York and Washington, DC are the economic and political centers of the US). In other ways, the analogy is overwrought(Japan was a state with a powerful economy and military with the means to dominate and exploit Southeast Asia; the perpetrators of the 9-11 attack were 19 men in a relatively small network with access modest resources). It’s not difficult to surmise, however,that the invocation of Pearl Harbor was a way to galvanize the nation for perpetual war.
  • They “hate us for our freedom”. No, they hate us because we don’t know why they hate us, and because even now we don’t want to learn.
  • The attack on Afghanistan is an act of self-defense. Mahajan lays various elements of international law to demonstrate that that the criteria for self-defense are more stringent than generally represented. For military action to be self-defense, for example, there must be an imminent threat of attack, no timely alternatives, and targeted specifically at those who pose the threat. Excepting self-defense, the UN Charter does not authorize the use of force by any state against any other, nor has any Security Council resolution.
  • The US is engaged in multilateralism, diplomacy, and restraint. There is no broad international support for the entire US agenda. Instead, on any particular issue, countries that can be browbeaten into assisting are. Bush’s peremptory assured that Osama bin Laden would not be turned over through diplomatic channels. Mahajan argues that the Bush administration deliberately sought war, not peaceful resolution, a violation of the UN Charter and replication of the Clinton administration’s strategy in the Balkans that lead to the bombing of Serbia.
  • The war in Afghanistan is a humanitarian war. The truth is, according to Mahajan, that while the Taliban were in power the US greatly aggravated the existing humanitarian crisis, only allowing significant amounts of aid after the Taliban left. The main obstacle to getting aid into the country in the fall of 2001 was the US government—which pursued tactics suggestive of an attempt to impose starvation and suffering as a means of political coercion Humanitarian successes since then are largely due to international relief agencies, not the US.
  • There is no such thing as a surgical strike with regard to a US bombing campaign. Mahajan cites estimates that the number of civilians killed per bomb in Afghanistan is about four times that killed in Serbia, even though the proportion of “precision” weapons used in Afghanistan is twice as high.
  • The US is fighting for our security. Rather, Mahajan argues, there is a pattern of opportunistic invocation of security to sell policies that have nothing to do with security and sometimes clearly increase risks to security. For example, bombing Afghanistan (which was notable for an almost complete lack of anti-American sentiment) is widely understood as increasing the threat of terrorist attacks in the future. The Taliban and Osama bin Laden are “side effects” of previous CIA operations, which helped create, train, and arm the groups of militants that were involved in the September 11 attacks.

For Mahajan the realities of the war on terrorism include:

  • The war is about power, not revenge. While the professed motivation of the war in Afghanistan is to get bin Laden, the most import reason for the war is imperial credibility. In order to maintain its status as the one, unilateralist, interventionist superpower the US government had to attack something. Secondly, a US-controlled client state in Afghanistan would give the US corporations great leverage over the oil and gas resources of the Caspian Basin. Mahajan convincing argues that this war is about the extension and maintenance of US government/corporate power, at home and abroad, every other motive is strictly secondary.
  • This is not a war on terrorism, rather it is a war fought against certain terrorists. The Northern Alliance, US allies in the war in Afghanistan, are as much terrorists as the Taliban and calls on the US by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan not to put the Northern Alliance in power went unheeded. Since the Northern Alliance starting taking over allegations of crimes against humanity have been rampant. Mahajan situates the US action in Afghanistan as part of a larger strategy of abetting state terrorism in Russia (against Chechen separatists); China (against Islamic fundamentalist and Ugir separatists); Pakistan (support for terrorists who are responsible for forcing the majority of the Hindu population to flee Kashmir); as well as the work of the School of the Americas in Latin American, Lebanese Phalangists, Haitian death squads, and Israeli state terrorism.
  • Restricting freedom in the defense of freedom. The real attack on freedom came from the Bush administration, particularly Attorney General John Ashcroft, who opportunistically rammed through an agenda based more on control and power than security. The USA PATRIOT Act abrogates fundamental civil liberties, allowing “roving wiretap”, “no-tell” searches and created a new category of crime—”domestic terrorism”—which is so broadly defined it could include acts such as throwing a rock through a window. As Mahajan notes, the USA PATRIOT Act extends the deprivation of basic rights of immigrants, which began in the Clinton administration, including the use of secret evidence in deportation hearing and extending to 7 days the length of time non-citizens can be held in custody without being charged with a crime. In combination with Bush’s executive order on the use of military tribunals the outlines of potential police state are evident.
  • The free press has reported for duty. Virtually all of the media’s coverage has reinforced the existing prejudices of the American public about antiwar views as well as antiwar protesters; paid little attention to the oil connection; and consistently attempted to minimize the human impact of the war on Afghanistan. Tony Burman, executive director of the CBC in Canada compared US and British television coverage this way: “It’s like watching two different wars. The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) has focused very much on the humanitarian issues in the region,” while the US networks have “almost exclusively” stuck to Pentagon briefings. Mahajan contends that because of the media’s reliance on “official sources” as the standard of newsworthiness, alternative points of view are routinely excluded. While government and corporate interests rarely attempt to overt control of journalists, they exert strong pressure toward self-censorship and encourage the acceptance of fundamental assumptions and parameters of those systems of power. As a result, despite the significant press freedoms in the US we have virtually no independent journalism. Despite the fact that the US is one of the freest societies in the world, our spectrum of political discourse is far more narrow than most of the world.

Mahajan makes a convincing case that as with other wars, the first casualty in the war on terrorism is the truth, or at least the whole truth. Perhaps more importantly Mahajan details the distinction between a “just cause” and a “just war.” The key issue, according to Mahajan is recognition that the problem of terrorist networks in neither a military matter nor solely a criminal one. It is, rather,a combined political and criminal matter that requires a solution that addresses both elements.Mahajan argues that this is precisely the time to address the underlying issues of global suffering and injustice, that it is time for “a grand bargain”—lifting the sanctions on Iraq, ending military support for Israel unless it withdraws to its pre-1967 borders; and demilitarizing Persian Gulf in exchange for the genuine support of the people of the work in ending the threat of al-Qaeda brand terrorism. Instead of winning over the people that share the same concerns but not the same worldview,Mahajan concludes that,

“the United States has chosen the most counterproductive thing possible, continuing as the arrogant, interventionist superpower and further victimizing some of the most wretched people on earth…In one of the most shameful spectacles in modern history, the richest and most powerful national on earth pounded one of the poorest, most desolate nations on earth for months while proclaiming its virtue to the world.”

In his account of the historical contexts of the war on terrorism, Mahajan deconstructs the elements of what he labels the “new white man’s burden,” that is justifying interventions on the grounds of protecting human rights or protecting “Third World” peoples from themselves. The war on terrorism, he argues has helped entrench US imperial ideology and taken the white man’s burden to a level that even Rudyard Kipling could not have imagined.Mahajan describes a massive economic assault lead by the US, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which has extracted the wealth from countries at the margins to increase the wealth, privilege, and control of First World elites.

Mahajan assess the “humanitarian intent” of US interventions in Iraq, where the US created conditions for disease (by destroying the country’s water supply) and then withheld treatment as tantamount to biological warfare. He goes on to examine the how the US is “making Africa safe for the AIDS virus” as it protects the profits of pharmaceutical companies; details the tragic results of “humanitarian” interventions in Somalia, Kosovo,Rwanda. The sad irony is that for most of us our “natural conclusion is that any talk of the United States as a brutal empire concerned with exploiting as much of the world as it can is sheer nonsense, and if we are to be blamed for anything it is for our naïve decency in a brutal world. “ Mahajan makes a compelling case that the more appropriate conclusion is that the US and the West must start showing humanitarian intent in situations it does not try to control if it wants to have any credibility.

The New Crusade concludes with a look at “new directions” in war on terrorism. Mahajan guides the reader through scenarios for the various candidates for military intervention in the perpetual war Bush has promised: the establishment of a US beachhead in Central Asia (from Afghanistan to Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgystan) to Somalia, the Philippines, Israel and Palestine, and, of course, Iraq. Mahajan describes a future that involves more frequent military interventions, fewer attempts to placate international sensibilities, and the ever-present excuse of protecting American security. Of course, there will be more appeals to Western cultural supremacy, arms proliferation, and increasing in military spending combined with a diminishment of democracy in the US—both in terms of the ability of individuals to affect decisions and in terms of the freedom of individuals to dissent from dominant institutions.

Mahajan leaves little doubt that that the biggest threat to the world comes from “rouge states” that demonstrate no regard for international law or the international community by waging numerous wars of aggression and targeting civilian infrastructure must be contained. Clearly, the most dangerous of these “rouge states” is the United States. The war on terrorism has placed the nation and its character on a proving ground, but Mahajan is surprisingly optimistic about the future possibilities. American values (e.g., individual rights, the rule of law, the right to self-determination, due process, etc.) are seen by some as a mere cloak for self-interest. But as Mahajan notes that these are values that have given hope to oppressed peoples around the world and, as history has proven, these are values that require an endless struggle to realize a better America.