What kind of lunacy is going on in Washington?
Hatred of U.S. foreign policies intensifies day by day in much of the world, but the present administration is not even examining the possibility of changing those policies to allay the hatred and reduce the likelihood of future terrorism.
Instead, the response of the Bush administration is to dig in its heels, militarize the nation beyond rationality, move toward preemptive warfare as a first-choice instrument of national policy, and, with more arrogance than ever, label as “evil” a variety of nations and groups that oppose U.S. policies. With the alleged aim of enhancing internal security, it is taking the first steps down a path that could easily convert the government itself into a dictatorship–a dictatorship to be administered primarily by the Defense Department and another monstrous bureaucracy to be set up in a Department of Homeland Security–a new body with the potential of becoming a combined MVD and KGB (the huge internal security and intelligence agencies of the former Soviet Union). To top it off, Bush, flanked before the TV cameras by Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condoleeza Rice, his entire top foreign-policy team except for behind-the-scenes manipulator Cheney, has peremptorily demanded the removal of an elected foreign leader, Yasir Arafat.
Part of what the Bush administration is trying to accomplish through this frantic activity is to distract us from the government’s most alarming intelligence failure in 60 years, from the early failures in its “war on terrorism,” and from widening evidence of the personal involvement of some individuals at very high levels of the administration in an Enron debacle that Bush wants to bury. More importantly, this activity demonstrates once again that Bush and his associates/handlers have no intention whatever of considering changes in the foreign policies that caused the terrorism in the first place and that continue to intensify hatred of the U.S.
Certainly some differences exist within the Bush administration in the degree of willingness to consider changes in foreign policies, but so far they don’t amount to much. Vice President Cheney and other foreign-policy formulators in the White House, the NSC staff, and the Pentagon show no inclination to change any policy as a way of reducing global hatreds against the United States. Secretary of State Powell and his advisors seem a little more receptive to change, but Powell is clearly reluctant to force a confrontation on the issue. Bush himself is by no means neutral in this internecine struggle. He leans strongly toward the side of Cheney, the NSC, and the Pentagon (as well as his political advisors like Karl Rove, and his comrade-in-arms Ariel Sharon, Israel’s Prime Minister). The only factor restraining him from throwing his full support to these people is probably his own desire to avoid a messy confrontation with Powell, who after all still has something of an independent political base in the U.S. But, to repeat, at the moment no grounds exist for believing–or hoping–that Powell would ever allow a policy disagreement with Bush to become a confrontation.
All of this means that no changes in U.S. foreign policies will occur in coming months unless some powerful new pressure intervenes to influence the administration. Given its disdain for foreign governments and its belief that it is pretty much all-powerful, any new pressures from abroad, at least for the near future, are likely to have little effect.
New pressures from inside the U.S., however, could be considerably more effective. The strongest motivating force in the Bush administration’s actions these days is probably the desire to strengthen the Republican Party’s position in Congress this fall, followed immediately by the hope of winning an untarnished nationwide majority in Bush’s own reelection effort in 2004. Similarly, the strongest motivations behind actions of House and Senate candidates right now are probably their desires to win this fall. Right now, then, is the time for a maximum effort to exert political influence by all of us who believe that the U.S. should change its internal security, military, and above all foreign policies.
Nothing but clear evidence that voters in this country are turning against current U.S. policies associated with the so-called war on terrorism will bring about changes that many of us think are necessary. So we need to start a campaign to influence voters to support new policies. Many of us who agree that Bush’s policies are wrong will have different emphases and will not have identical views on what changes are most important. That’s okay. We have to start somewhere, and the important thing is to start NOW. Otherwise the perpetual and preemptive Bush-Cheney wars will be upon us before we know it, and Attorney General Ashcroft’s destruction of individual freedoms will gradually flood over all of us and drown much that is good in our society and culture.
The task is not impossible. Those of us who give public talks on these issues, or participate in radio interviews or talk shows, know there are many people out there with beliefs like ours, and many more who are willing to change their minds when faced with facts. It is difficult to believe that the present poll numbers showing 70 percent or higher support for Bush’s foreign policies are immutable. In fact, support for those policies is probably quite shallow. One sign of this is that new books now being published that criticize U.S. foreign policies since September 11 are selling very well.
For those who think the exercise is doomed because votes in the U.S. are rarely influenced by foreign policies, we should emphasize that the stringent and even unconstitutional internal security policies that now affect us all are directly related to and caused by the foreign policies we are talking about. All the lobbies powerful in U.S. politics–lobbies for Israel, arms manufacturers, energy conglomerates, or any others you want to name–cannot prevent us forever from influencing the policies of this benighted administration. We should bring as much influence to bear as possible on the 2002 congressional elections, never forgetting that the combined targets of G.W. Bush and yet another congressional election will require an even greater effort in 2004.
Here are three suggestions of key points we should emphasize. Let’s see more proposals from others. We should probably concentrate on only a few topics, ones on which it is most important to gain support among voters for changes in U.S. internal security, military, and foreign policies.
ONE: We should oppose establishment of a Department of Homeland Security. We should in addition press for immediate congressional revisions of the USA Patriot Act, to abrogate all provisions therein that the ACLU opposes.
As already mentioned, a new Department of Homeland Security would automatically contain within itself the potential of becoming a combined MVD and KGB. Even the Soviets avoided that error, out of a desire to prevent establishment of a power center capable of threatening the supreme dictator of the moment. While President Bush has so far given lip service in opposition to the inclusion of internal security and foreign intelligence functions in the new organization, pressures to do so from within his administration will surely develop, and such pressures from elements in the congress are already evident. Since Bush and his top advisors backed away from their earlier and oft-expressed opposition to the very creation of a powerful Homeland Security Department, it’s not hard to believe they could flip-flop as well on combining internal security and foreign intelligence functions. To do so would bring the citizens and legal residents of this country even closer to losing the remnants of political democracy that they so far retain. Would covert intelligence operations against American citizens be more widely allowed if the secretary of this new, extremely powerful department could give direct orders to both CIA covert operatives and FBI agents? Could congressional oversight over such a department be effective?
Given other flip-flops of this administration, particularly on the Israel-Palestine issue (Arafat must stay becomes Arafat must go), we can have little confidence that no more course reversals will occur on this new department. But even without changes, the department will probably have more power over the daily lives of many people–particularly immigrants–than any other arm of the government, except for the armed services, which have full power over military personnel. Imagine how the powers of this department might be expanded by executive order rather than legislation if major new terrorist actions occur within the U.S. after its creation. Or if for any reason a new era of witch hunts emerges similar to the McCarthy years of the 1950s. Many fear that such a development is possible, and they are right to be fearful. We should make a maximum effort to abort this new department before it is born.
Most people don’t know enough yet to have a firm opinion on a Department of Homeland Security. That gives an immediate campaign against it a better chance of victory. So let’s go out and slay this dragon.
We should not be distracted in this fight by arguments that many of the functions slated for transfer should logically be in a new department rather than where they are now. The Secret Service, for example, is now in the Treasury Department–with no logic at all. But it seems to have done its job pretty well from its pad at Treasury. Having a more logical place to put it might please a few pedants, but as a significant reason for a new cabinet-level department, it flunks. The same can be said for several other functions that are slated for transfer to Homeland Security.
TWO. We should urge U.S. voters to oppose the Bush administration’s drive for global hegemony and domination. The Bush approach of “what we say goes” increases worldwide hatreds of the U.S., and in no way benefits a majority of Americans.
The U.S. has markedly accelerated its pursuit of global political domination and its own version of big-corporation economic globalization since the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago. The benefits of this domination accrue almost exclusively to the corporate structure that really runs this country and its military and governmental supporters, who provide security for the corporate structure and encourage its further expansion around the world. Average wage earners in the U.S. receive few if any benefits, and some are actually hurt.
The Bush administration today is militarizing the United States to an unprecedented degree in comparison with other nations. Four months ago, an editorial in the New York Times on March 3 put it bluntly: “If Congress cranks up the Pentagon’s budget as much as President Bush would like, the United States will soon be spending more on defense than all the other countries of the world combined.” These military expenditures will clearly increase the pressure to cut spending on domestic problems such as poverty and healthcare, and also make it harder for the U.S. to help alleviate global poverty. This administration will tell us that we must reduce other spending because we are at war. The true cause, however, and we should emphasize this fact to voters, is the pursuit of global domination by the United States. This ultimate goal of U.S. foreign policy is neither necessary nor desirable, and it will not in the end be worth the cost, either in terms of money or in terms of domestic needs that will be sacrificed.
In response to arguments that Bush’s foreign policies are not so extreme as suggested above, you should urge that people look at a speech he gave on June 1, 2002 to the West Point graduating class. In this speech, he explicitly stated that “America has and intends to keep military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.” This is as explicit a statement as you will ever see that the U.S. plans to dominate all other nations and be the policeman of the world.
In the same speech, Bush said, “Our security will require all Americans to be ready for preemptive action.” He explicitly rejected the concepts of deterrence and containment, saying that deterrence “means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks,” and that containment “is not possible when unbalanced dictators can deliver weapons of mass destruction on missiles or provide them to terrorist allies.” A strategy espousing preemptive war is an integral part of the vast U.S. militarization now underway. We should urge voters not to abandon a policy that has worked for over 50 years, and to oppose this preemptive-war strategy with all their might. In fact, we should oppose ever initiating a war, because it is as immoral as terrorists killing noncombatants. Furthermore, unless and until the U.S. is willing to give up its own nuclear weapons, other nations and groups around the world will continue trying to obtain such weapons for themselves. Some of these efforts will be successful regardless of U.S. preemptive actions. We should support instead new multilateral negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement that would abolish all nuclear weapons, including those of the U.S.
THREE. We should urge the U.S. government to change its unjust policy of supporting and enabling Israel’s continuing occupation and colonization of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
A majority of people in almost all countries believe that U.S. policy on Israel and Palestine is unjust and one-sided in support of Israel. Many governments around the world are unwilling openly to oppose the U.S. on this issue, but they are aware of these majority views in their countries. In all Arab and Muslim nations, these views are completely dominant and will inevitably encourage more acts of terrorism against the United States.
We should clearly and unemotionally convey to friends and voters that we ourselves–not only most people in other nations–believe U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine has been unbalanced and unjust for many years.
Most people likely to support this will not need advice on the factual evidence to present to friends and potential voters. Just briefly give those facts about the injustice of U.S. policy that you are sure are true. Limit your comments specifically to the policies of the U.S. and Israel. If anyone charges you with anti-Semitism, state categorically that criticism of the policies of the Israeli or the American government is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-American. You should not avoid talking about your honest views because of a possible charge of anti-Semitism. The charge is spurious.
If anyone asks what you thought of Bush’s statement on June 24, in which he practically ordered Arafat to leave the scene, one answer would be to say that this is a perfect example of the bias in favor of Israel with which U.S. governmental policy has long treated the Israel-Palestine issue. Bush said exactly what Sharon wanted him to say and thereby strengthened his hand with Jewish voters in the U.S. It was by no means the statement of a neutral mediator.
In this same statement, Bush also blamed most recent problems in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on Palestinian terrorism. In fact, Israeli terrorism, both by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and by settler groups, has caused more killings of Palestinian non-combatants and children than Palestinian terrorism by suicide bombers has caused of Israeli non-combatants and children. And it is not the case that the Palestinians strike first, while the Israelis only retaliate. Both sides, with equal justification, can claim retaliation as the motive for their actions. Nor can the Israelis claim there is no “moral equivalence” between Palestinian suicide bombers who deliberately kill Israeli non-combatants, and the “accidental” or “collateral-damage” killings of Palestinian non-combatants resulting from Israeli military and settler actions. There is ample evidence, from reliable sources including Israel’s own media, that many Palestinian non-combatants are in fact deliberately killed by Israeli forces or settler vigilantes. There is complete moral equivalence between the two types of killings and the two types of terrorism. Both are equally inexcusable.
For those of us who believe U.S. policy on Israel and Palestine is indeed unjust and will increase the likelihood of terrorism against the U.S. and its allies, it is vital to highlight one specific point. More Americans need to understand that a suspension or at least drastic curtailment of U.S. aid is the most important single change that the U.S. government should make in its policy toward Israel. Each year congress and the president approve, with little debate, aid (grants, not loans) to Israel now officially totaling almost $3 billion, but when all price breaks and special benefits to Israel are added in, the total is nearer $5 billion annually. That aid makes it far easier than would otherwise be the case for Israel to maintain its occupation and continue to expand its colonization and settlement activities. It is the greatest single element of injustice in U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine, and Arabs who see U.S. aircraft and other weapons killing Palestinians on Al Jazeera TV are reminded almost every day that these weapons are part of the U.S. aid package.
We should urge each American voter this fall to question every single candidate for national office about his or her position on aid to Israel, and to make the answer a major factor in the voter’s choice of a candidate. It is no longer just a “single issue,” not important enough to determine one’s vote. It is now an absolutely critical issue, because it will be a major factor in determining whether future terrorism against the U.S. increases or gradually subsides. If all candidates in any electoral race refuse to support the suspension or major curtailment of aid to Israel, we should urge people not to vote for any of them, and to make their reasons public. It is that important.
Bill Christison joined the CIA in 1950, and served on the analysis side of the Agency for 28 years. From the early 1970s he served as National Intelligence Officer (principal adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence on certain areas) for, at various times, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Before he retired in 1979 he was Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit. His wife Kathy also worked in the CIA, retiring in 1979. Since then she has been mainly preoccupied by the issue of Palestine.