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The Tough Talkers

The Belligerent Ghost of PNAC

by WILLIAM MANSON

In early January 1998, aware of the soon-to-break story about the Clinton/Lewinsky trysts, the Project for a New American Century saw its “window of opportunism.”  On January 16—the day before the story appeared in the press—PNAC publicized their “open letter” to President Clinton urging him to consider military action against the Iraq regime of Saddam Hussein, who was again alleged to be evading UN inspections and stockpiling tons of lethal WMDs.  By early February, Clinton, desperate to divert attention from his pathetic scandal, gave a speech to the nation enumerating in considerable detail the danger posed by these alleged stockpiles (sarin, anthrax, etc.).

The neoconservative PNAC (1997-2006) had been co-founded by Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution (yes, regrettably, maniacal imperialists do indeed belong in an “institution”).  Bruce Jackson, highly politically-connected VP of Lockheed, was a PNAC project director.  (He would later write the 2000 “foreign policy” platform of the Republican Party).  Those who signed on to its founding included the now-infamous MIC promoters Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz.

1. Their primary purpose: augmenting unipolar, U.S. global hegemony, through “regime change”–especially targeting nations in which State-socialist public-ownership still included coveted assets such as oil fields, utilities, communications companies, etc. (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Venezuela, to name a few).  As in the aftermath of the fallen U.S.S.R., formerly public assets could be bought cheaply, becoming a goldmine of investment privatization.

2. Their propaganda (“marketing”): threat-inflation (dangerous WMDs, imminent genocide, etc.).  Despicably unmentioned was the ongoing genocide—termed as such by Denis Halliday, the UNHRA chief in Iraq who resigned in protest—due to the harsh, U.S.-backed, UN sanctions.

3. Their secondary purpose: use threat-inflation to rapidly build up, once again, U.S. “defense” spending, thereby benefiting both their war-profiteering patrons and themselves (adept as they were at avoiding any appearances of “conflict-of-interest”).

At least since WWII, the “revolving door” between the DoD (Pentagon officials and generals) and the big weapons contractors had been unashamedly mutually profitable.  Somewhat later, the U.S. State Department too would be almost entirely co-opted by the U.S. war industry and its related industries (oil, etc.).  As one random example: top former Bush State Department official Stephen Hadley, vocal advocate for bombing Syria, reputedly has considerable stock in Raytheon (Tomahawk missiles).  Right now, Victoria Nuland—former Cheney associate and wife of PNAC co-founder Kagan—is the currently (belligerent) Assistant Secretary of State for Eurasian affairs.

Madeleine Albright grotesquely dominated U.S. “diplomacy” in the late 1990s. One could speculate that because as a small child she lived through the Nazi bombings of London (1940-41)—wailing sirens, sudden panics, hiding in bomb shelters–she has exhibited a lifelong, cortisol-primed, hyper-vigilant bellicosity.  Despite her brazen admission–on CBS’ “Sixty Minutes” (1996)—that deliberately killing a half-million Iraqi children through the sanctions had been “worth it,” she was soon promoted to be Secretary of State.  Infamously, she would soon declare that, even if Saddam fully complied with the UN inspections requirements, the sanctions would continue (March 26, 1997).  Her authoritarian, sanctimonious bullying—of Kofi Annan, Colin Powell, the UN Security Council, even NATO (Serbia bombing)—got results.

By October 1998, Congress overwhelmingly passed the so-called Iraq Liberation Act.  (Shortly thereafter, and unsurprisingly, Saddam temporarily denied the re-entry of UNSCOM inspectors back into Iraq; given the unbending U.S. policy, what did he have to gain?)  In December 1998, Clinton, caught up in congressional impeachment hearings, created a diversion by bombing Iraq for four days.  The rest—after Bush’s “election” and then 9-11–is (shameful, murderous) “history.”

Hillary Clinton, evidently a devoted acolyte of Albright’s, presents another disturbing profile.  Repeatedly and publicly humiliated by her husband’s chronic philandering, HRC could, as a hurt and betrayed wife, have divorced her husband.  But that would have severed a political partnership which could still yield more fame, power, and wealth.  One can only speculate that, filled with repressed rage, HRC has sought to “displace” her vengefulness onto conveniently distant “enemies” (Iraqis, Iranians, Syrians, etc.).  In recent years, she has been outspoken in her advocacy of bombing and other military “interventions.” (Upon viewing Gaddafi’s grisly murder, she laughed: “We came, we saw, he died.”)  Some psychoanalysts have used the term “reparative re-enactment”: having attained power, a once-traumatized and humiliated person may find some healing closure—as a victorious aggressor.  What seems disastrously absent—in the cases of Albright, Clinton, and other belligerents like McCain (tortured in Vietnam)—is any real self-awareness of their underlying motivations.

Of course, bombing may yield other, non-psychological dividends.  As other political analysts have noted: first, destroy a nation’s infrastructure, deposing an “uncooperative” (even if elected) president in the process; after installing a new president (former World Bank official Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan?), force the new government to take out World Bank/IMF loans, using the public-owned assets as collateral; and bring in U.S.-based corporations like Bechtel and KBR to “rebuild”).

That brings us back to Victoria Nuland.  It is symptomatic of Obama’s diplomatic incoherence and detachment that she, a PNAC and Cheney “imperial acolyte,” remains in a State position of critical (even fateful) importance.  Not unlike Hitler—who, surprised by his easy conquest of Poland and France—became overly emboldened—the U.S. State/”Defense”/CIA have now rolled over half-a-dozen countries in the past decade or so.  Their strategy in the Ukraine bears some resemblance to the Kosovo/Serbia machinations of the late 1990s—and unmistakably shows signs of well-worn CIA tactics (fomenting ethnic-nationalist insurgencies, etc.).

Nuland herself exhibits the same adolescent “tough talk” which has somehow become fashionable, even among “diplomats” (“Fuck the EU.”)  (I was reminded of George Clooney’s idiotic remark, in his third-rate, colonialist, Hawaiian-based movie “The Descendants”: “Fuck paradise.”)  Again, I’m tempted to speculate about “overcompensation”: like her above-mentioned predecessors, Nuland proves her “toughness”–in the hardball world of male power-politics and cutthroat “diplomacy”—by advocating even more aggressive, reckless policies than her male counterparts would.  The possible consequences—in the ongoing confrontation with Russia–are not pleasant to contemplate.

William Manson, a psychoanalytic anthropologist,  formerly taught social science at Rutgers and Columbia universities. He is the author of The Psychodynamics of Culture (Greenwood Press).