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Bush’s Itinerary

former CIA analyst

If he were a thinking person, George W. Bush might today be increasingly concerned that any positive legacy he had ever hoped for was slipping into oblivion. Many observers have long understood that Bush’s first target for solidifying U.S. global domination has been the Middle East rather than East Asia or any other area. By now it should be evident even to him that U.S. imperial dreams are already disintegrating into the dust of Iraq.

But Bush by nature is disinclined to think any problem through with care, and glories instead in his chosen image of macho, frontier-American decisiveness — a “decisiveness” that unfortunately looks much like common stubbornness because it is not buttressed by a rigorously curious or honest intellect. This self-chosen image rather than facts determines Bush’s policies when it comes to war and peace, and he still clings to the goal of “transforming” unfriendly nations of the Middle East into neocolonial territories of the U.S. Specifically, despite the continuing drain of Iraq on U.S. resources, he has given no sign of moderating his desire for quick regime change in both Iran and Syria.

The point that should be made here is not new, but it deserves constant reemphasis: Bush now believes the most important objective of his foreign policy, to be accomplished well before his time as president comes to an end, is to oust the regimes of both Iran and Syria, using as much violence as he finds necessary.

Bush almost certainly accepts that U.S. domination of these two countries (in addition to Iraq) can be either direct or indirect through puppet governments, but he wants that domination to be as permanent as anything can ever be in history. Once that is accomplished, the rest of the Middle East, including those wretchedly inconvenient Palestinians, should accept defeat and fall into line with Washington’s policies. If he tips over all these dominoes, Bush believes, he can leave the White House with a solid legacy. He, his party, and his successor as Republican president would also, in this imagined future, acquire greater, more lasting support from those sectors of the U.S. electorate to which he caters — the military-industrial complex, the Jewish-American vote, and fundamentalist Christians, who would see such changes in the Middle East as welcome victories in the global clash that they expect between Christianity and Islam. The Democrats, either seeking support from the same groups or not standing up to them effectively, would become more irrelevant than ever.

The question we should be asking about this scenario is not whether it can be successful. It can be, or at least appear to be, for some unpredictable length of time that will end only when a majority of the U.S. electorate comes to oppose the scenario. The overwhelming military strength of the U.S., combined with the lesser (but also overwhelming in the Middle Eastern context) military strength of Israel, really does make at least an apparent, temporary victory for the U.S. seem inevitable if the two nations are willing to use their strength. Over the longer run, of course, the resulting Middle East “empire” will doubtless collapse of its own weight as perpetual insurgencies, heavier casualties, reduced benefits to average people here at home, and expanding complexities in U.S. relations with other areas combine finally to drain electoral support. But that is definitely long run.

The real question, therefore, is whether those in the U.S. who already oppose Bush’s imperial policy can mobilize enough political opposition fast enough to prevent the administration, while it remains in office, from carrying out the scenario outlined above. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. are betting that we cannot.

Let’s look for a moment at the latest evidence of Bush’s long-lasting support for his scenario. In his nationally broadcast speech at the FBI Academy on July 11, 2005, Bush said, near the conclusion of his talk:

“The success of democracy in Iraq is sending forth the news from Damascus to Teheran that freedom can be the future . . . .

“There will be tough fighting ahead; there will be difficult moments along the path to victory. . . . The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve. This isn’t going to happen on my watch. America and its allies will continue to act decisively, and the cause of freedom will prevail.”

More than a year and a half earlier, on November 6, 2003, Bush spoke to the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. At that time, he said:

“Iraqi democracy will succeed — and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran, that freedom can be the future . . . .

“Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. . . . This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. . . . The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country.”

Maybe the speechwriter was tired and could think of no new words, but Bush certainly wanted to threaten Damascus and Teheran with a fate similar to Baghdad’s, and to re-issue the identical threat some twenty months later. Bush’s glorification of the decisive makes it unwise to assume that the threat is idle, or that much time will pass before he, or Ariel Sharon, tries to make the threat reality.

It would be an error to assume that the U.S. is too tied down in Iraq, or that Israel is too heavily engaged with its Gaza disengagement ploy, for either to move against Iran or Syria right now. Both nations’ air or naval forces are lightly engaged at present, and their leaders might assume that they would not, initially at least, need heavy ground forces for Iran or Syria. In both cases, the leaders also pride themselves on taking risks and surprising alleged enemies, so that’s another factor suggesting that we not be optimistic about avoiding the likelihood of new, major hostilities in the Middle East for the near future. In addition, political controversies in both the U.S. and Israel might even encourage either government to see the present time as propitious for a military distraction in Iran or Syria. The distraction might appear to be useful in papering over embarrassing political situations and generating more support for Bush and Sharon.

Time is running out for those of us who do not want more U.S. wars, or more killings, more maimings, more empire-building, more occupations, more global injustice, more flouting of human rights, more fake democracy, more wealth for a few, more poverty for many, more weapons and profits for weapons-makers, more lies from the media, more ignorance among consumers of the media. And finally, time is also running out for those of us who do not want more power concentrated in an “establishment” whose organization few of us can even describe, although it has made servants of almost all of us.

In short, the black, red, and blue button a friend gave us a while back has it right. It says, “The REVOLUTION begins now.”

Let’s make it peaceful, but let’s make it happen.

BILL CHRISTISON was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis. He is a contributor to Imperial Crusades, CounterPunch’s new history of the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. He can be reached at: christison@counterpunch.org.

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