Former CIA analyst
Editors’ Note: The following talk in Santa Fe, NM was given on February 12, 2005. Bill was one of three speakers, and his wife Kathy was another. (An article including her talk will be forthcoming.) The event, organized by the Santa Fe Chapter of Veterans for Peace, was an evening of talks and discussion along with videos, pictures, and graphics displays on “Palestine/Israel: Human Rights and Policy Perspectives.”
We’ve already mentioned that Kathy and I have helped to rebuild Palestinian houses. These were houses destroyed by the Israeli government — acts of destruction to which our own government in Washington never raised any objection. Helping to rebuild them was our small act of rebellion, on the ground in Palestine, against Israeli and U.S. policies. I’d like now to connect this small act to our broader and even more rebellious views on U.S. foreign policies in general.
To keep the discussion on the Israel-Palestine issue, the first point I want to make is that practically all U.S. foreign policies — including those that concern areas other than Palestine — are very significantly affected by U.S. actions and policies on Palestine itself. I believe it is a fact that a majority of the six and a half billion people in the world today literally hate most major U.S. foreign policies and that, while there are a number of reasons behind this hatred, one of the important reasons is the past 80 to 100 years of U.S. actions with respect to Palestine. When Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali were recently in town, Chomsky commented that five years ago much of the world regarded the United States as a rogue state and the greatest threat to their existence. He then went on to say: “Since then, the situation has become far worse. It’s now not much of the world . . . but most of the world. . . . George Bush has . . . succeeded in a few years in making the United States the most feared and often hated country in the world.” Tariq Ali later made it clear that he agreed.
This is a tragedy. The U.S. government seems to be deliberately enmeshing itself ever more deeply in international crises of its own making, particularly in the Middle East. President Bush will almost certainly continue aggressive policies resulting in even more hatred against the United States. New wars are likely, and the U.S. will probably be the aggressor.
Let’s take a minute and ask ourselves precisely what are these policies that the U.S. seems bent on pursuing and that I believe should be changed if we want to see any peace and stability in the world in years to come? The U.S. policy to dominate global oil markets is an obvious one. The U.S. drive for empire and global political domination is another. Then there are the immoral wars against “terrorism” as self-servingly defined by Washington and its allies. There are also the policies of killing thousands of innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq that the U.S. refuses even to count; as well as the policies implementing the injustices of a U.S. version of economic globalization that has widened the gap between rich and poor in many nations. And then too there are the ever-expanding and wasteful military expenditures of the U.S.; more new American military bases almost everywhere; the continuing U.S. support for authoritarian governments in the Arab world, Central Asia, and elsewhere; and the new nuclear weapons that a blatantly hypocritical U.S. government wants to produce while futilely trying at the same time to prevent unfriendly nations and non-state entities from obtaining nukes, and while Washington adamantly refuses to negotiate seriously on reducing and eliminating our own nukes. That’s a pretty long list. But please note: neither democracy, nor freedom for the rest of the world, nor concern for human rights is among these real policies of the U.S.
Please note also — despite Israeli and U.S. governmental propaganda to the contrary, something else needs to be on this list: that is, Washington’s massive support for the Israeli government’s policies toward Palestine, and the U.S.-Israeli special relationship. These are key U.S. policies in encouraging the U.S. to wage aggressive war against Iraq and soon perhaps Iran, but they are also key U.S. policies that encourage future terrorism against the U.S. and its allies. Furthermore, it is known throughout the world that the U.S. has acquiesced for decades in Israel’s obtaining and expanding its own nuclear weapons, while at the same time the U.S. is trying to stop other nations, particularly in the Middle East, from doing the same. Controversial though the subject of the Israeli-U.S. relationship may be, it is important that we face it directly.
Specifically, what we need to debate most seriously is the one U.S. policy goal that above all else needs changing — empire-building and global domination, first and foremost in the Middle East and Central Asia. And that will bring us back once again, and very shortly, to the Israeli-U.S. relationship.
Ending the current drive of the U.S. for greater empire and domination would be the best possible way to improve the chances for future peace in the world and to reduce the global hatred of the U.S. that seems to be intensifying everywhere. I believe most strongly that it will NOT be possible to reduce this global hatred except by changing U.S. foreign policies from top to bottom. Today the U.S. government, largely controlled by an elite of corporate and military-industrial interests that are opposed to meaningful democracy, is actually damaging the security of the United States as well as the entire world.
The policies we should work to change include all the various means employed by the U.S. to extend and strengthen its global domination. Specifically, we should end right now the occupation of Iraq, give up any control over events there, and pay the full price for having the U.N. take over the problem. Then we should forego our veto power in the Security Council on any question involving Iraq. Next, we should eliminate any and all plans for military action against, and future domination of, Iran, Syria, other areas of the Middle East, and other parts of the globe that we wish to dominate, like North Korea. We should also drastically cut the ever-rising military expenditures of the U.S., the rising military presence of the U.S. in many parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, and we should end the pursuit of a “made in the USA” version of economic globalization that many peoples of the world see as a weapon in our drive for global political domination.
We should also slash rather than expand the money we spend on intelligence and covert actions. Since September 11, these activities have made up a growing proportion of total U.S. global policies. Should not questions be raised by Americans themselves about the ignoble image of the U.S. this trend presents to the world? Do we lack so much confidence in our own diplomatic and overt policies — our alleged support for democracy, for example — that we have to rely increasingly on covert actions to implement them? Should not the use of covert actions by the U.S. be cut rather than increased? Don’t such actions usually wind up being a cause rather than a cure of more terrorism against us? Yet more and more covert activity is what the groups now running the U.S want. Why?
And last but not least — in fact this issue I’m about to raise is extraordinarily important even though it is also a tough, tough one to deal with — I think all of us who want more peace in the world should work to weaken and discredit the alliance between the Bush administration and the religious fundamentalist Christian right in this country. I for one want more separation of church and state in the U.S. rather than less. I do not want to see a strengthening of any views that regard Christianity or Judaism as a “better” religion than Islam or Buddhism or any other religion. I also do not want to see any beliefs such as those known today as “Christian Zionism” achieve any influence over U.S. foreign policies. The entire issue of religion and politics needs much more intense discussion that we can give it tonight. Many moderate churches are already involved in such discussions, and we should encourage more discussions. This is one area where I think change could come sooner than we think. I hope so.
But aside from this religious issue, I know that many of my suggestions will sound like pie-in-the-sky to some of you — utterly impossible to implement. It is necessary, however, that we sweep into the dustbin every one of the foreign policies I’ve talked about. These are policies that have been pursued for many years, with maximum intensity under the Bush administration, but with almost equal intensity at least since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bipolar world in the early 1990s. These policies of global domination are not supported by just the Republican Party or just the Democratic Party. They are the policies of the wealthy and anti-democratic corporate groups that dominate both of our major political parties.
The fact that only 5 percent of the world’s population resides in the U.S. means that we simply cannot dominate the rest of the world for long. The very effort of the U.S. to seek global domination is anti-democratic in the eyes of most of the world’s peoples, who do not want to be dominated by the U.S. In addition, the drive for global domination will over time impoverish many average people here in the U.S., who see their hopes for better healthcare and education, and for lifetime living wages, fading farther and farther into a future they will never live to see. Yet once again, this is what the groups now ruling the U.S. seem to want.
To put it bluntly, U.S. foreign policies for far too long have been simply immoral, and the U.S. has been responsible for allowing, encouraging, and enabling far too much torture and far too many deaths, deaths totaling in the millions — in areas from Indochina to East Timor in the Far East; to Chile and Haiti and Central America in our own hemisphere; to the Balkans, Turkey, and South Africa; to Palestine; to Lebanon; to Iran, and now to Afghanistan and Iraq. Global hatred of the U.S. is not the “hatred of our freedoms” that George Bush touts, but a very legitimate hatred of actions and policies that are predatory and murderous. The new U.S doctrine of preemptive war simply makes it all worse.
Let’s take another look now at how the special status of Israel in U.S. politics relates to the U.S. drive for global domination. After decades of growing ties between the two countries, Israel is now so closely linked to the United States in concrete ways that it is actually a part of the U.S. military-industrial complex. Israel sells military equipment, with our knowledge, to countries to which the U.S. is restricted by law from selling — for instance, to China. So many arms and types of arms are produced in the U.S. for Israel that it has become quite easy for Israel’s lobbyists in Washington to go to individual congressmen and point out to them how many jobs in a given district depend on this arms industry and on not withholding arms from Israel. In this way, Israel becomes a direct factor in pressing the U.S. to continue its drive for empire and global domination, in expanding the U.S. military-industrial complex, and in keeping congressmen and other politicians in office — politicians who serve first and foremost the ruling elite of the country.
Those of us who live here in New Mexico should be particularly concerned about this issue. In the National Laboratories of Los Alamos and Sandia, we have in our own back yard two very important pieces of the U.S. military-industrial complex, major contributors to U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities. Are there any links between these National Labs and Israel’s nuclear weapons programs? Do the labs contribute in any way to Israel’s nuclear programs, or Israel to U.S. programs? Are there any exchanges among nuclear specialists of the two nations? Or joint programs? Is it in the best interest of the world that the United States, very possibly encouraged by Israel, is expanding its nuclear weapons programs at this time? It seems to me these are appropriate questions to be asking our political leaders, especially when our own government is threatening the nuclear programs of certain other governments, which are quite appalled at the hypocrisy they believe they see in these U.S. actions.
My time’s up, and I’m going to stop right here. Thank you
BILL CHRISTISON was director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis. He has written extensively in recent years on the problems of U.S. foreign policy. He can be reached at: email@example.com