APRIL 3, 2003

Norman Mailer, Dark Matter, Tar Baby & The History of Iraq

In summary:

I - The History of Iraq

II - A Speech by Norman Mailer

III - Why We Are Losing Our Great War - The Parables of Uncle Remus and David vs Goliath

IV - Dark Matter


I - The History of Iraq
For those interested in a detailed history of the country of Iraq (Mesopotamia) from about 4000 BC to present:
History of Iraq

Here are some key dates:

4000 BC - Known as Birthplace of Civilization - inventions of cereal agriculture and first writing cuniform.
3700 BC - Matriarchal society. Origin of the Banking system. Math system based on the number 60, currently the basis of Time in the modern world. Suspected location of the Garden of Eden, Noah lived 100 miles southeast and birthplace of Abraham, Patriarch of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions.
1750 BC - King Hammurabi - founder of the system of codifying laws - Hammurabi Code -'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'.
600 BC - Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, built just south of Baghdad.
650 AD - Arab conquest..
1258 AD - Mongol Invasion.
1541 AD - Ottoman Empire (Turks)
1920 AD - British Administration - becomes a Kingdom and a British Mandate.
1936 AD - First military coup d'etat.
1941 AD - Alliance with Nazi Germany. British invasion and pro-British govt installed.
1948 AD - War with Israel. 100,000 Iraqi Jews emigrate to Israel.
1959 AD -. Failed assassination and Coup attempt against leader Brigadier Qassem (Young Saddam Hussein amongst the assassination squad.)
1979 AD - Saddam Hussein succeeds to power.
1980 AD - Iran-Iraq War begins (lasts 8 years). No territory gained or lost by either side but estimates of 1 million people killed.
1988 AD - Ceasefire UN Resolution 598.
1990 AD - Iraq invades Kuwait.
1991 AD - Operation Desert Storm .
2002 AD - President Bush calls Iraq part of 'Axis of Evil'. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 passed.
2003 AD - US led coalition attack on Iraq. Peace in Iraq very soon after
( Well . . one can dream, can't one?)

II - Speech by Norman Mailer

On March 7th, NORMAN MAILER was invited to speak as part of the Medallion Speaker Series
for the Commonwealth Club of California's 100th Anniversary, tackling the question:

What do you see as the most significant challenge confronting humanity in the 21st century, and what should be done about it?

I have enclosed a link where you can read the speech in text and where you can listen to Mailer deliver his address 'live' -including a question and answer period.

Personally, in the past, I have objected to Mailer's pugnacious and bullying attitude, from the old school of loudmouth/braggart poets that I detest. However, old age seems to have mellowed him better than a Wolf Blass Black Label - he has a great sense of humour now and he is focusing his frustration much better. He's also been married 28 years; albeit, for the sixth time (must be a slower learner) - so he's a bit more decent in his attitude regarding women
This talk is lucid, entertaining and enlightening from one of the best journalist/writers in the world. Here's a short excerpt:

" At the root of flag conservatism is not madness, but an undisclosed logic. While I am hardly in accord, it is, nonetheless, logical if you accept its premises. From a militant Christian point of view, America is close to rotten. The entertainment media are loose. Bare belly-buttons pop onto every TV screen, as open in their statement as wild animals' eyes. The kids are getting to the point where they can't read, but they sure can screw. So one perk for the White House, should America become an international military machine huge enough to conquer all adversaries, is that American sexual freedom, all that gay, feminist, lesbian, transvestite hullabaloo, will be seen as too much of a luxury and will be put back into the closet again. Commitment, patriotism, and dedication will become all-pervasive national values once more (with all the hypocrisy attendant). Once we become a twenty-first-century embodiment of the old Roman Empire, moral reform can stride right back into the picture. The military is obviously more puritanical than the entertainment media. Soldiers are, of course, crazier than any average man when in and out of combat, but the overhead command is a major everyday pressure on soldiers and could become a species of most powerful censor over civilian life. " Speech

The Commonwealth Club of California is America's oldest and largest public affairs forum, honouring leaders who have positively shaped our era, debating great ideas and issues, ranging across the fields of culture, politics, business, media and science.

Now 80, Norman Mailer, is indisputably an icon of American Literature. He has written 32 books, ranging from his first novel, The Naked and the Dead, in 1948 to his just released The Spooky Art, a book about writing. He has twice been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, for The Armies of the Night (1968) and The Executioner's Song (1979). Other books include: An American Dream, Marilyn, and Oswald's Tale.

Mailer co-founded the Village Voice in 1955. He has also directed 4 films and written 10 screenplays. He was jailed in 1967 for his role in demonstrations against the Vietnam War and ran for mayor of New York twice. He continues to be outspoken on such subjects as writing, politics, aging and technology.


The Parables of Uncle Remus and David vs Goliath
Explained in Two Tales and One Ancient Principle

William Pennell Rock, MLitt (Cantab.), PhD

What author writes with the fervent hope that he is mistaken? Yet this
is the position I find myself in. These are desperate times. Who am I
to speak out? An American who is a patriot of the planet. Flag waving
Americans are thrilled as their networks broadcast the advance of our
massive armory across the earth, like the glittering hi tech imperial
armies of Star Wars. Outside of this country, however, persons of true
spirit and discernment consider it a catastrophe. Our Superpower has
declared a War on Terrorism, and we are losing it. Will Americans wake
up in time to the depth of their responsibility for the course of events
and for their own fate? I seriously doubt it. Our situation is tragic,
but because we are also its perpetrators, it is ridiculous and comical.
In describing this tragicomedy through two tales and analyzing it in
terms of an ancient principle, I do not wish to seem precious or
simplistic, nor do I mean any disrespect for the massive suffering that
is being generated. My purpose is to bring to bear some basic
wisdom--easy access to fundamental moral and spiritual intuition--which
is being overridden in our blind rush toward disaster.

Tar Baby
The first tale comes straight out of the American heartland and the
wisdom of Uncle Remus. Brer Rabbit has a mortal enemy, the wily Brer
Fox. To entrap this feisty hero, Brer Fox hatches a plan to fashion a
life size doll out of tar, which he fits out real smart with a hat. He
sets Tar Baby out on the road and hides, snickering, in the brush
nearby. Sure enough, Brer Rabbit comes sauntering along 'klippety
klop, klippety klop, sassy as a jaybird.'. He shouts a friendly greeting
to Tar Baby, but when he finds him unresponsive to his advances, he
becomes insistent, growing more annoyed, until he finally wallops him.
When his fist gets caught up in the tar, he gets real angry and hauls
off with the other fist, which also sticks into the tar. As his rage
grows he just keeps getting more caught up, to the point where he bops
the disintegrating icon with his head, completely entrapping himself in
the sticky black mess. At this point Brer Fox saunters forth out of
the brush, looking "just as innocent as a mockingbird. ' Howdy Brer
Rabbit,' says he, ' you look sorta stuck up this mornin' and then he
rolls on the ground and laughs and laughs, til he can,t laugh any
more. Now our hero is completely in his power.

The tales of Uncle Remus were brought to us in glorious Technicolor in
the famous Disney classic, Song of the South. Brer Rabbit embodies the
spunk and vigor of the fifties American hero, flush from the idealistic
victories of World War II--the kind embodied in the movies of Ronald
Reagan. Cowboy Bush has now adopted this pose, which the majority of
Americans, disoriented by alarming new realities, find comforting.
Tranquilizing would probably be more apt. Consider Brer Rabbit's basic
modus operandi. If folks don't do what you want or what you think they
should do, just whop 'em up side the head. Brer Rabbit believes that
force works...war works. So does Bush and Company, fat cats who sit in
big offices and enjoy the visceral high of wielding force, but have
never experienced the abject horror of war. They have convinced the
majority of Americans to believe, with Brer Rabbit, in this archaic
reflex of force. The one restraining exception in this cadre of stupid
white men has been Colin Powell, the only real man of war in the group,
who sees force strictly as a measure of last resort. One senses the
wisdom of Uncle Remus, who gets the whole picture of force and its
consequences. Unfortunately, however, Powell is foremost a soldier, and
a soldier always follows orders from the chief. There are two dimensions
of this belief in force. The first is that it is effective to follow
the aggressive impulse to apply physical force. We should take heed from
the daily spectacle of macho Israelis and desperate Palestinian youths
who share faith in this primitive impulse. There certainly is an effect,
but only in the short term and at the physical level. In the realms of
the heart and the spirit, ultimately more determinative, it is
completely counterproductive. In fact, the fable shows that the use of
violence just catches the perpetrator up more and more in a cycle that
ultimately returns upon his own head. Furthermore, ever since we
invented weapons of mass destruction, physical force ain,t what it used
to be. This broadens the fallacy of the second belief -- the effectiveness
of war. Except for the ones that have been bought off, world leaders do
not in any way support the Bush war effort, (with the exception of Bush
Buddy, callow Blair, who is too young to remember.) What these leaders
know is that if you look at the whole picture--the devastation, the
hideous suffering and death, the infrastructure reduced to rubble, the
political upheaval, and the chaotic but fateful way that violence
spirals into more violence--you understand that it is not an option. Up
to this point, victims of American force have been only tangentially
aligned with al-Qaeda. After this war of aggression upon Iraq, they
will all be lined up behind bin Laden, dead or alive. For further
wisdom from Uncle Remus, let us return to our tale. Brer Rabbit was
always outsmarting the shifty and unscrupulous Brer Fox, a kind of
praeter Saddam Hussein. But the fox had his secret weapon: Tar Baby.
While a happy shift in fortunes in a further episode of this tale may
provide a glimmer of hope, the pertinent lesson has to do with how Brer
Rabbit got himself trapped in such a tarry mess in the first place. It
has to do with our addiction to oil. Bush failed to garner support for
his war on Saddam Hussein, because most of the world outside of America
has been on to the fact that the good guy/bad guy rhetoric has been
basically a pretext. After all, there are enough unscrupulous dictators
in the world fiddling with instruments of mass destruction to justify
war on every continent. (Persons of discernment should be grateful to
the pipsqueak in North Korea for exposing this inconsistency.) No, the
substantial advance against Iraq has had to do with this black goo,
which is at once vital and deadly. The objective: control Tar Baby. Let
us be clear about the larger picture. Our addiction to this energy
source is destroying the atmosphere of our planetary home. We are
dependent upon it, but we do not need to be. The technology of
alternative energy sources is already sufficient to replace this mess.
What is required is bold vision and the enormous expense of retooling
the infrastructure to these new energy sources, starting with America.
It would take the kind of energetic visioning we are putting into our
warring, plus a substantial chunk of our military budget to pay for such
a change. If we did not have to control the world sources of oil,
however, we could probably afford it. This way we would free ourselves
from our dependency upon oil and from our leaders, smarmy hidden agenda
to control the oil producing areas, primary among which is Iraq. This is
a bold, but entirely workable strategy that also addresses the more
fundamental problem of the planetary toxicity of this energy source. In
actuality, our leaders are in even greater peril than Brer Rabbit, and
the situation is considerably racier. With all of their personal
fortunes and political commitments to the oil industry, they are also in
bed with Tar baby. (These are the moral leaders chosen in reaction to
Clinton,s indiscretions.) Where there is so much addictive passion and
greed, a violent lovers, quarrel is bound to ensue. The government
throws our money at military domination as a strategy to control the
planetary oil sources. (HOT STOCK TIP!! All Oil Companies associated
with the Bush Family and Cheney.) For all the righteous rhetoric, the
powers of Europe, Asia, and the United Nations are on to this ludicrous
charade. Because we,re the big boy on the block, some of the leaders
are willing to go along, but we have no real moral allies among them.

The oil rich Middle Eastern countries are deeply unstable. Most of them
were arbitrarily created after the First World War by the British Empire
to serve its oil interests. The people of the consequent nations know
that their governments are in bed with our leaders. The collective
resentment of all who do not directly benefit from this infamy enflames
all the other, deeper discontents. With each incursion into the Tar
Baby Middle East in the hypocritical name of democracy, we become more
and more entangled in the mess of reinforcing oppressive anti-democratic
regimes. The tide of mendacity and injustice will simply be too great.
Each blow that falls on Tar Baby is destined to increase our
entanglement in the mess of oil and the mounting archaic rage of the
dispossessed sons of Mohammed. We will end up like Brer Rabbit,
entangled in this gooey mess by our need for control, our addiction to
this energy source, our own stupid aggression and the fierce spiraling
vengeance of the rest of the world.

David and Goliath
The second tale goes to the Hebraic roots of our Christian culture. One
of the great inspirational stories in the Old Testament is David and
Goliath. Way back in the Bronze Age, the ragtag armies of Israel were
under siege by superior forces of the infidel Philistines, whose great
weapon was Goliath. This giant was nine feet tall. He wore ' a helmet of
bronze, a two hundred pound coat of mail, bronze leggings, and he
carried a bronze javelin several inches thick, tipped with a twenty five
pound iron spearhead. His armor bearer walked ahead of him carrying a
huge shield.' Hurling arrogant insults at the paltry soldiers of
Israel, the invincible giant challenged any among them to come forward
and do battle with him. The Israelites turned and fled in fright. A
fresh faced shepherd boy from Bethlehem, young David, destined to become
the great, if horny King of Israel, stepped forward to take on this
challenge. It seemed inconceivable. Yet, inspired by the righteousness
of God, David, armed only with his shepherd's staff and sling, shouted,
'You come to me with a sword and spear, but I come to you in the name of
God. The Lord does not need weapons to fulfill his will.' One
well-aimed stone to the forehead of the giant knocked Goliath
senseless. The invincible one fell to the ground, and the red-cheeked
boy beheaded him.

To comprehend the relevance of this story, we have to perform a feat
inconceivable to flag waving Americans--to imagine that in the greater
picture (that regarded by most of the rest of the world) we ourselves
may be the bad guys. I realize that to suggest such a thing in God's
country is heretical to say the least, but to make any sense at all of
the miasma of our unfolding fate, we may find ourselves called upon to
rise to this odious, but more objective view. This possibility having
been opened, please indulge one more bit of heresy. Have you ever taken
a good look at bin Laden? That is, when his photographs have not been
retouched to suggest the embodiment of evil. In his traditional white
dress and geffiah framing his noble features and prominent nose, he
looks (but for some little rifle held in his fine hands) like central
casting for a fifties Jesus. This bin Laden is no impoverished
discontent, smoldering with resentment at our luxuriant freedoms; on the
contrary, he is a man of surpassing wealth to whom all the richness of
Western life has been offered on a golden platter. The awful truth is
that he is a renunciate of passionate moral and spiritual conviction,
who, with one bold stroke, brought down the giant towers of Mammon,
throwing the entire world of bottom line profit motive into complete
disorientation. Since 9/11 bin Laden, designated the evil enemy actually
responsible for our national catastrophe, is nowhere to be found. For
all of Bush's twanging rhetoric and the gross superiority of our
military prowess, he miraculously eludes the Superpower. The greatest
danger, however, would be that we should find him or kill him. In fact,
what could we possibly do to him that would not elevate his messianic
status to the state of divinity, his martyrdom rallying inspiration for
the counter force-- sympathizers with the battered dispossessed of
Palestine, freaked out Iraqis, moral discontents with the plastic
American hegemony, impoverished losers in the Globalization system. In
fact, our massive armory, designed for technological and military
ascendancy over other sovereign states, is practically irrelevant as far
as the real adversary is concerned. Yes, in a spectacle compared in
Parliament by one British Lord to watching the World Heavyweight
Champion beating up on a disturbed child, it did rout the regime of the
Taliban in Afghanistan (killing incidentally far more innocents than the
9/11 attacks). The Taliban, however, like the armies of Israel, just
dispersed into the hills. There they hide under different names,
regrouping to continue the next phase of the war on Satan. Even
strategically, the massive armory is irrelevant, because the terrorists
will never engage it directly. On the contrary, the major terrorist
attacks will always be directed where that force is not looking, as has
been the case in New York, Washington, and Bali. We are a giant flailing
about in disorientation--a war here, a war there. The actual situation
is even worse. The deployment of our massive armory is more than
irrelevant; it is counterproductive. Wherever it is used, it breeds
more anger and antagonism than it can possibly dispel. In fact, its
deployment only feeds the hatred of the traumatized victims and
survivors of our military might. This gross irrelevance constitutes what
is probably the gravest danger to the American agenda. We should take
heed. Fearless David, infused with a relentless faith in God, brings
down the unbeatable giant with one true, well-placed shot. It is the
strength of this phenomenon of integrity versus mass that created
America in the first place: a ragtag bunch of passionate patriots was
able to defeat the massive military machine of the British Crown.
America has already suffered defeat through this phenomenon in Vietnam.
Our vastly superior armed forces, whose leaders trumped up a
geopolitical war to fight the paper tiger of communism, were vanquished
by the inexorable passion for national self-determination on the part of
the Vietnamese people. We should expect the same vehemence from the
Iraqi people, as we demolish their national integrity. Look at
America,s great epic, Star Wars. Every American child knows that it is
precisely this kind of integrity on the part of a few righteous warriors
on a desert planet that destroys the hi-tech forces of the Universal
Empire. The massive defense masks the greatest weakness: our inordinate
and sentimental valuation of life. The seminal fear of all is the fear
of death. The dedicated terrorist, committed to martyrdom out of his
devotion to God, becomes a formidable enemy of a culture preoccupied
with its own power and drugged on sex, movie stars and sentimental
trivia. Righteousness of conscience is a greater power than hi-tech
might. Like David fighting Goliath, it strikes not to destroy, but to
disorient. The disorientation undermines the very massive complexity of
the behemoth and its system, a weakness in its own right. Eventually it
collapses of its own weight and inherent contradictions. In fact the
very massiveness of the giant is a distinct disadvantage. Disoriented
by the true shot, the giant is distracted as he flails about trying to
apply his massive force, thereby exposing his weaknesses at every turn.
The greatest weakness is the true tragedy of the present situation. The
absorbing spectacle of our Texan cowboy naming his axis of evil and
moving upon it in massive aggression is effectively a distraction from
the greatest threat of all: the ecological juggernaut of unconscious
technological development fueled by oil, hurtling with ever increasing
volition towards rendering the field of battle, the planet itself,
uninhabitable. Weapons of Mass Destruction, indeed.

Hubris and Nemesis
A deeper level of analysis of these tales and of our
tragedy takes us back beyond the relative comfort of Good and Evil to
the Greek roots of our culture. The Greeks understood our human reality,
the Kosmos, to be mercilessly self-regulating. From the highest
perspective, it is about balance and equilibrium. Any tendency that
leads away from this equilibrium automatically sets up a compensatory
force that brings the tendency back upon itself, thus reestablishing the
balance. Observing the intransigence of this law convinced the Greeks
that reality is divine. Our Greek ancestors observed the dynamic of this
equilibrium in the law of hubris and nemesis.
Hubris is always an excess of self-confidence, small scale, like the feckless arrogance of
Brer Rabbit or big scale, like the massive bravado of Goliath. Hubris,
seen by the Greeks as arrogance before the gods, defies the divine
equilibrium and pushes one tendency to such an extreme that it creates,
out of nowhere, nemesis: the inevitable counter tendency in which the
violated equilibrium re-establishes itself. In this sense, Brer Rabbit
creates Brer Fox, just as Goliath creates David. There is no hi-tech way
of fixing this. Humans are not the authors of this compensatory
tendency. Because it is prior to them, they are entirely subject to
it. Force, the unfortunate, but understandable reflex of excessive
self-confidence, just intensifies the excess. No amount of force can
counter nemesis, because it has a power as inexorable as a physical law.
Humans who use their power to commit and enforce their hubris always
fortify nemesis and suffer from it. Human beings have to learn to live
in harmony with this equilibrium; otherwise there is hell to pay. This
is what tragedy is all about.

The hubris of the Bush administration in its arrogant disregard for the
wisdom of the world is but the tip of the iceberg. The White Man has
committed hubris on many levels: the first relatively recent, but based
on others that are far more fundamental. The recent hubris is
geopolitical economics.

The age of colonialism has intensified and become planetary through
American led corporate globalization, or market imperialism, fortified
as it is by America,s military might. You will not find this reported by
CNN or any other organ of the other American media, as they are the
broadcast intelligence and self-congratulation of this imperialism. In
the last decade things were looking very good for the intoxicated
winners on the stock market, so good that no one in this country noticed
the general trend, unfettered by yucky Communism, of an ever-widening
gap between the winners and the losers in our glorious global game.
Recently, however, the appalling spectacle of our own disappearing
wealth has given pause to notice that the cadre of winners is becoming
smaller and smaller. It will soon comprise only a few
multi-millionaires in Washington and a handful of CEOs reaping vast
profits by making their godlike decisions in super skyscrapers. The
system of globalized economy is in fact market totalitarianism producing
an ever-growing infestation of poverty and dispossession around the
globe. There are countless examples of this that you will not see
reported on any American network. When the corporate authorities
recently stopped importing coffee from El Salvador, there was massive
starvation. (Did you see anything about that on CNN?) We assume we are
the good guys because (up until now) we have not been into naked
military expansionism like the Romans or the Nazis, but in our
intoxicated stupor, we overlooked the rampant victimization of the
systemic violence inherent in market totalitarianism. The system itself
is violent. With awful justification, the losers in this game hate it.
The rule of a handful of fat CEOs is only theoretical. It will not go
that far. We do not have to look back to the Greeks to understand how
this works: we can look to Karl Marx, who had his own understanding of
hubris and nemesis. Unfortunately Marx has been discredited. His
proposed solutions to economic imbalance were screwed up in the
Twentieth Century by the tempting hubris of totalitarianism: his
analyses of the dynamics at play however were right on. He demonstrated
the physics of exploiter and exploited, and showed how such economic
imbalance inevitably produces violent historical adjustment. Bottom
line: you exploit in the short term, you pay in the long run. But Marx
was looking at the relatively contained Nineteenth Century phenomenon
consequent upon the industrialization of Europe. In the present world
this imbalance has reached staggering proportions. The hubris is
massive and planetary, and its inherent instability is manifesting in
every way.

The present world crisis is the activation out of the soil of things as
it were, out of the core of the dispossessed, the nemesis. Consider the
most significant terrorist targets and contemplate their meaning: the
gravity defying assertiveness of the Twin Towers of Mammon, the seat of
military might in Washington, and the den of exotic Western pleasure in
Bali. These are the tokens of our hubris. Bin Laden is the prophet of
our nemesis.

In the light of these considerations, the strategy for dealing with the
present situation through military force is ludicrous. In its rigid
support of exploitation and ever widening persecution and destruction of
the exploited, force is irrelevant and profoundly counterproductive. To
date, terrorist attacks have only been thwarted by a combination of
sensitive infiltration and Intelligence work. But this is just a more
subtle use of force. Ultimately, it too will prove ineffective, unless
it is backed up by a concerted international effort led by America to
redress the terrible imbalance between exploiter and exploited in
corporate globalization, with a concerted eye to forms that serve local
communities, the common good, the well being of humanity, and the course
of circumstances that threaten our true home.

Things always ended happily in the Fifties. In a follow up episode in
Uncle Remus, saga, Brer Rabbit has the last word by tricking Brer Fox
into throwing him into the briar patch, which is his true home, his
'laughing place'. Would that we could be thrown back into the nature
that is our true home.

But this is unlikely to happen. The present hubris of economic
totalitarianism is rooted in another more fundamental, archaic, and
systemic one: the arrogance of the White Man over nature. Over the last
centuries, with the approbation of humanism, He has dominated the earth
and its peoples. This is the hubris of Christian culture. In the
arrogant conviction that it is the one true religion, and the
unfortunate fusion of bottom line profit motive with the name of the
Champion of Unconditional Love, our ancestors explored, colonized,
dominated, plundered and destroyed the cultures of the earth, whose
indigenous wisdom was rooted in delicate participation with this earth.
This rapacious arrogance is in turn rooted in the Christian belief that
Man is superior over all of creation, and that because spirit is good
and flesh is bad, Man has necessary dominion over gross earth and its
progeny. Instead of inspiring true responsibility, this belief has
entitled Him to satisfy His greed through the vicious exploitation of
its resources and peoples, and to rape the intrinsic balance of the
biosphere to satisfy His greedy ends. In His superior hegemony and in
the name of progress, He has inspired the deracinated cultures of the
world to do the same. Now the cowboy, when he is not preoccupied with
making war, is busy satisfying his corporate bedfellows by rolling back
our feeble attempts to control the tide of greedy infamy against our
planetary home. All of this constitutes the hubris of the White Man, the
most monumental in human history, the nemesis of which is finally
revealing itself in the horror of plague, overpopulation, planetary
destruction and terrorism so desperate it has no fear of death.

This is why we are losing our Great War. We have only ourselves to

William Pennell Rock is a therapist and philosopher living in Northern California and working all over the world. (See: This article is copyrighted, but permission is granted for reprint or posting for non-commercial ends in print, email, or web media, so long as this credit is attached. (The author would also like to be informed via email at

IV - Dark Matter

William R. Polk is a director of the W.P. Carey Foundation. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford, he taught Middle Eastern politics and history and the Arabic language at Harvard University until President Kennedy appointed him a Member of the Policy Planning Council of the U.S. Department of State. He was in charge of planning American policy for most of the Islamic world until 1965 when he became professor of history at the University of Chicago and founded its Middle Eastern Studies Center. Later he also became president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. Among his many books are The United States and the Arab World; The Elusive Peace: The Middle East in the Twentieth Century; Neighbors and Strangers: The Fundamentals of Foreign Affairs; Polk's Folly, An American Family History and The Birth of America.


Like most concerned people, I have spent a large chunk of my waking hours in recent months trying to understand how and why we have arrived on the brink of war. In my quest I have been stimulated and guided by years spent as a historian and analyst of international affairs including four years in one of the most privileged places in the American government. Yet these advantages have not enabled me satisfactorily to resolve the ambiguities. Here I explain why and then offer a different interpretation.


First, what is the crisis? In my experience in government and in my reading of history, it was nearly always possible to answer that question "objectively" or logically. In the Cuba Missile Crisis, we felt that the stationing of Russian nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba not only posed a new threat to the continental United States but would also "destabilize" the world balance of power. We determined not to allow these changes to occur. True, we were reacting in part emotionally and even asymmetrically: we had far more nuclear-armed missiles placed close to the Soviet Union, some right on the frontier in Turkey, than the Russians intended to put in Cuba. But, we argued, ours were already in place and so the balance of power had already adjusted to them whereas the introduction of missiles into Cuba was new and therefore unbalancing. Unsaid, of course, was our assumption that what we did was right and what the Russians were doing was wrong. Yet, overall, there was a logic to our actions and the Russians accepted it. They concluded that Cuba was in our orbit and we recognized that our having missiles in Turkey was provocative. So we struck a deal. We both removed them.

As I have tried to add up the factors in Iraq, in part with the Cuban Missile Crisis in mind, they just do not compute. Compare the two situations: Russia had a sophisticated population of about 250 million living on a vast land mass and led by an experienced government, able to field a huge army equipped with full arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. If Russia threatened, the threat would be real.

In contrast, Iraq is a small country, two-thirds the size of Texas, but with a useable area (that is, minus the desert which takes up 3/4ths of the land) about the same size as West Virginia. The population numbers about 23 million, but, like the land, much of it is "unusable" by the government. Roughly a quarter are Kurds who are guided by a different culture, aspire to independence and live in what is virtually an autonomous state. Nearly half the total Iraqi population are Shi'a Muslims who are strongly influenced by Persian culture and who are viewed with suspicion by the Sunni Muslim government. What is left, the "Iraq" now in our gun sights, amounts to less than the population of Massachusetts, roughly five million.

Powered by oil, Iraq had become by 1990 the most progressive and modern state in the Middle East other than Turkey and Israel. Per capita income then reached about $2,000 which enabled a large and thriving middle class to come into being. Today, after a decade of depression created by the economic sanctions (imposed on August 6, 1990), gross national product has collapsed and the middle class has been reduced to poverty. In industry, in the army and even in Baghdad's taxis, the results are evident: to keep some machinery working, old equipment has been cannibalised. Few new pieces of equipment could be imported. The result, obviously, is a rapid run-down of numbers, capacity and performance.


While the real power of a nation-state is only superficially a question of the size and modernity of its military force, one must it into account. So what do we get? The army is smaller than in 1990-1991, numbering today about 400,000, but, like the land and population, much of it is of little value. The loyalty or at least the élan of about 80% of the troops is questionable; its equipment is both worn and now largely obsolete or at best obsolescent; it does not have the command-and-control capabilities that make armies like ours, the Russians, the Israelis and a few others superior; and, finally, it has no long-range capability: it cannot move men and equipment over distances more than a few hundred miles; it has virtually no air force; the few missiles it still has are short range, able to reach only a hundred miles or so. In short, it has nothing dangerous that can reach anywhere near America.
Moreover, unlike the Soviet Union at the time of the Cuba Missile Crisis, Iraq is not only isolated but is surrounded by countries stronger than it. Iran has a much larger population, is vastly richer and can field a far larger army; Turkey has Europe's second largest army (after Russia) and is equipped and trained to NATO standards; Israel has one of the most powerful armies in the world and has a full arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons which it has announced that it is willing to use. It nearly did use nuclear weapons against Syria and there is evidence that, at least once, in February and March 2001, it did use the toxic chemical weapons it manufactures at Nes Ziona. Certainly it would use them against Iraq, if it perceived an Iraqi threat.

Does Iraq have an ace in the hole, that is, weapons of mass destruction? So much attention has been focused and so much fear generated by this topic that we lose sight of the realities. The realities are not impressive. Everyone agrees that Iraq does not now have, and never had, nuclear weapons. Building nuclear weapons requires not only the money and technical skills that Iraq did have but also both a sizable industrial plant and space for testing.

We can see the importance of the mix of these prerequisites in other situations: Germany could not develop atomic weapons during the Second World War because it had no suitable place to make or test them. With the help of France, Israel could do the preliminary work at Dimona in the southern desert, but, in the vital testing period, it had to ally itself with South Africa. France tested in the Algerian desert; similarly, America, India, Pakistan and China used their deserts. Where Korea will test its weapons is not yet evident. But the crucial factor is that Iraq has been steadily, virtually hourly, under observation for the last ten years and could import nothing and certainly could test nothing without us and others learning of it.

I am not, of course, the only one to evaluate these facts. Others have recognized that they do not accord with the fears now driving public opinion. So attempts have been made "by persons unknown" to augment them or simply to manufacture new "evidence."

A few weeks ago, the fact that Iraq imported special aluminium tubes, thought to be intended for nuclear weapons manufacturing, was taken as the "smoking gun." Then as that episode was shown not to be meaningful, another was floated.

This fraud was elaborate and highly dangerous. As reported by the head of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) to the UN Security Council, some organization, presumably a government organization having access to sophisticated techniques, forged a set of documents designed to show that Iraq had sought to import uranium from Niger. The documents were examined by the US and British governments which turned them over to the UN inspectors. When UN experts examined them, they concluded that the documents were bogus.

What is disturbing is that the British and American experts almost certainly knew that the documents were not genuine. Why did they, by turning them over without comment, lend credence to them? Did they know their provenance? Did they have a hand in their manufacture? This classic example of espionage "dirty tricks" fits the American Constitutional definition of a "high crime" since it could have been, and may still be, the trigger that sets off the American invasion of Iraq. As citizens of a democracy, we deserve to have been told both that the story was a fake and also who concocted it.

Turning now to biological weapons, we do not need to be scared into buying duct tape; what we need is a rational evaluation of the danger. I admit to being somewhat out of date, but when I was in our government I was "cleared" for information on these weapons. While a few refinements have been made since I was fully briefed, the basics have not changed. They are the following: biological weapons are more terrifying than lethal. Relative to other weapons, few people have ever been hurt by them and few are likely to be hurt. They are difficult to use, much less "efficient" than comparable quantities of explosives and highly limited in their impact. Given the choice of weapons, a rational enemy would not pick them except, as I say, for their psychological effect. This is why the government should not scare the public, as it has been doing, but should inform it while carrying out such programs as will reduce or eliminate the danger.

Does Iraq have biological weapons? And if it does can it use them? Will it hand them over to independent terrorist organizations? I think the short answer is no.

While it is true that Iraq did have them ­ in fact got seed stocks along with the industrial equipment to "weaponize" them from America and Britain ­ biological weapons, like bread on a supermarket shelf, grow stale and lose their effectiveness. What Iraq had was destroyed along with the equipment needed to make new batches. Any that was hidden would now be useless. Moreover, we have ample means to ensure that no new stock or equipment has been imported.

Suppose the many inspectors we and others have sent to Iraq are wrong and that Iraq does have some biological weapons left over and miraculously kept fresh, can it use them? Theoretically, yes, but note that when it really did have them, in the 1990-1991 war, it did not use them. Why? Because it knew that if it did, all stops would have been pulled and we (or Israel) would have demolished the whole country. That is to say, Iraq was "contained" by what Albert Wohlstetter (the mentor of Paul Wolfowitz) termed "the delicate balance of terror." Containment, we learned in half a century of confrontation with the USSR, worked.
Moreover, to be useful, such weapons must be delivered. In delivery systems, considerable technological advances have probably been made since 1991, but to my knowledge, well over 90% of viruses are destroyed if they are dropped from aircraft. So vast quantities must be transported to cause significant results.

Iraq does not have delivery capability except in two categories: first, months ago, when we began to threaten to invade and topple his government, Saddam Husain could have pre-positioned biological materials abroad, perhaps in ordinary shipping containers. But such materials would have begun to deteriorate from the day they were packed up and months or years later would not work. The government should tell this fact to the public rather than scaring it.

Second, if it has them, Iraq could use biological weapons in its own country. So, if there is a danger of their use, it is to invading troops. Obviously, the best way to avoid this danger is not to invade.

What about turning them over to some terrorist organization? As has frequently been pointed out by senior officials of both the FBI and the CIA, great pressure has been brought to bear on both organizations by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, NSC director Condoleezza Rice, NSC deputy director Stephen J. Hadley and others to prove a link between Iraq and the al-Qaida organization. Despite attempts to find one, no link has emerged. As one FBI official told The New York Times (February 2, 2002), "We've been looking at this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's there." Attempts have been made "by persons unknown" to manufacture links, but one by one they have fallen apart in the hands of the reporters. The most famous was the alleged meeting in Prague of an Iraqi intelligence agent with Muhammad Atta (one of the men implicated in the World Trade Center attack). This was touted as the "smoking gun" that would justify an attack on Iraq. After investigating it on the spot, President Vaclav Havel called President Bush to warm him that the information was spurious. And CIA Director George Tenet confirmed his message.

As various commentators have remarked, the Bush administration is the most secretive in our history ­ as one observer said, "its instinct is to release nothing;" Vice President Dick Cheney refused even to allow the Congress access to the records of his energy task force; and even the Department of Agriculture and the Environment Protection Agency, for the first time, were given power to stamp documents secret. In what it reveals, the administration exhibits a frightening habit of playing fast and loose with facts.

Annoyed by the lack of "responsiveness" of the CIA and even of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to what the administration wants to show, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided to set up a new and separate intelligence office under Undersecretary Douglas Feith, who is a strong advocate of attacking Iraq. Presumably, Rumsfeld thought, an in-house agency would be responsive where independent agencies would not be. This move violates the cardinal rule of intelligence evaluation, that it must be independent if it is to be accurate.

What one learns in evaluating intelligence is that most events have a certain logic; sometimes, of course, governments act irrationally or out of character, but analysts are enjoined to exercise extra care and to demand clear proof when they suspect an abnormal act. Such an act would be cooperation between an authoritarian state and a non-governmental group. So we should ask, what is the Iraqi government likely to do with Islamic Fundamentalists (Arabic:mutasalafin).

Start with what we know. What we know is that Usama bin Ladin has consistently attacked Saddam Husain as an infidel (Arabic:kafir) which is the strongest denunciation a Muslim can use and which proclaims that the person can be legally assassinated. Bin Ladin even offered to organize a military unit to attack Iraq in 1990. On his side, Saddam has done all the things that the Fundamentalists hate: he has liberated women, even put them in the army, secularized the state and society and attacked the most conservative Muslim leadership in the country, that of the Shi'is. It would take a major transformation of both men and their teams for them to find common cause.

What might common cause be? Obviously, hostility to America. So far it has not happened, and it would be unlikely except in extreme circumstances. If Saddam were in imminent danger of losing his life, I can imagine him doing virtually anything including embracing Bin Ladin's organization. And Bin Ladin? For him, as I have been pointing out for months, nothing could be better than a war between Iraq and America since it will almost certainly provide a new source of recruits to al-Qaida and the many similar organizations that will spring up from its ruins. To defend Islam against what he sees as an American crusade, an emotionally-charged word President Bush himself injudiciously used, Bin Ladin would presumably even work with an infidel or, preferably, with the angry fellow-countrymen of a dead infidel.

The two critical points here are that short of war, cooperation between Iraq and any terrorist organization is unlikely and so far none has been shown to exist. It follows, obviously, that pushing Saddam and Bin Ladin together in fear of us is not smart. Predictably, wounded, angry and humiliated in a war with us, Iraqis as a whole, not just the government, may come to support activities we will see as terrorism but which they will see as patriotism.

What about chemical weapons? They are easier to store than biological or nuclear weapons. Does Iraq have them? The Bush administration tells us that it has. The proof, it says, has been provided by defectors. The star witness was Lt. General Husain Kamil, a son-in-law of Saddam Husain who was executed for treason after he defected in 1995. While abroad, he was extensively interviewed by the CIA and other security agencies. Both Secretary of State Collin Powell and Deputy NSC Director Stephen Hadley told us that General Kamil said that the Iraqis had hid them. In fact, as recently released U.S. Government documents prove, he said exactly the opposite: he said "that after the Gulf War, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them."

Secretary Powell was sent to the Security Council with what President Bush called conclusive evidence on how Saddam Husain was hiding prohibited weapons and was working with terrorist organizations. Despite high-tech staging, the evidence fell apart upon examination. Worse and more amateurish, the contribution of the British, supposedly from the famous Secret Intelligence organization, 007 James Bond's MI-6, actually was plagiarized from old copies of Jane's weapons reports and from a paper written by an American of Shi'i Muslim background from Baltimore who had never been in Iraq. Ibrahim al-Marashi, then a student at the Monterey (California) Institute of International Studies, later published his paper in an Israeli magazine. This pathetic mishmash, apparently the best that could be cobbled together, was characterized by Secretary Powell, who allowed his usual good manners to overcome his good intelligence, as "fine."

As citizens of a free society, we deserve more from our paid civil servants. Without access to the facts, we cannot possibly perform adequately our duties as citizens. If Iraq poses a threat to the United States, it certainly has not been demonstrated.


Yet we are being rushed into a war that may --

1. throw our society (and much of the rest of the industrial world) into a depression. In the first week of March, the Congressional Budget Office wrote down its estimates for the coming decade from a revenue surplus of $5.6 trillion to a deficit of $1.8 trillion; Other estimates predict at least twice that deficit; the shortfall for 2003 is expected to be driven by the war to about $400 billion;
2. cause further hardships for poorer Americans as the unemployment rate rises. Since 2001 nearly 2 million jobs have been lost.
3. force a cut-back in social welfare (unemployment benefits, support for schools, etc.). State schools (and even jails) are being forced to cut budgets. In Texas, for example, school financing has already hit a 50 year low and is expected to go lower; some states are even being forced to release prisoners because they cannot afford to keep them in jail;
4. put further pressure on public health where 75 million Americans are already without insurance;
5. jeopardize retirement safeguards among the middle class through the loss of savings when companies go bankrupt as financing becomes increasingly expensive and consumer spending falls. Fear of the consequences already, before any hostile action has actually taken place, has led to a drastic fall in the index most people regard as the test of the health of the economy, the stock market. The Dow Jones Average has fallen from 11,522 on January 3, 2001 to 7,552 today or down about one third.
6. accentuate or bring about deep and bitter splits and cause profound confusion and fear within our own society;
7. lead our government to alter, in some cases radically, traditional American concepts of law (as with imprisonment of resident suspects in harsh conditions without access to counsel and in some cases torture or killing of men we are legally required to treat as prisoners of war ); a draft of to-be-proposed legislation entitled "the Domestic Security Enhancement Act" of January 9, 2003, would allow the Attorney General to strip Americans deemed threats to our "national defense, foreign policy or economic interests" of their citizenship and deport or incarcerate them without review;
8. separate America from what President Eisenhower, quoting Thomas Jefferson, called "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind." As I write, it appears that even America's closest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is close to "jumping ship" for fear of losing his party and Parliament. Such allies as the Bush administration can count upon are either bribed with billions of dollars (like Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Egypt) or driven by local agendas which are not necessarily conducive to American national interests (Turkey against the Kurds and Israel against the Palestinians) or subject to irresistible diplomatic or commercial pressures. Some of the new allies are countries the American government hardly noticed in previous times. NATO, so patiently built over decades, is in shambles and the European Community, which many of us sought to help come into being over the last half century, is fractured, perhaps fatally. And even in America's closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, both public and government opposition to American policy is now palpable.
9. fail to learn from the past. It was Secretary of State, then chief of the U.S. General Staff, Colin Powell who in 1992 in an article in Foreign Affairs underlined the lesson America should have learned from the Gulf War. "The Gulf War," he wrote, "was a limited-objective war. If it had not been, we would be ruling Baghdad today at unpardonable expense in terms of money, lives lost and ruined regional relationships." Yet, today, the Bush administration has announced plans that will incur all three of these costs.

In short, there must be, somewhere, compelling reasons for a policy that has so many obvious disastrous consequences. The Bush administration's senior men are certainly not stupid. So we must ask, if not fear of Iraq's attacking the United States, which as I have shown has no rational basis, what could the motivation for such an obviously costly and perhaps ruinous policy be?


A prominent candidate, one widely discussed, is oil. The American economy now uses a high portion, roughly 30%, of the entire world's production of about 20 million barrels a day. Even during my time on the Policy Planning Council, "acquisition of oil on acceptable terms" figured as one of the four key objectives of American policy in the Middle East. Since then, American domestic reserves have virtually run out. Because the Bush administration has decided not to implement the standards set by the Tokyo Conference on the Environment and has also drastically cut back initiatives to develop alternative energy projects, acquisition of oil is a compelling objective.

Getting it should not involve a difficult policy decision: oil is always available on the international market because those lucky enough to have it cannot benefit from it unless they sell it. And, as more and more oil has been discovered, there appears to be no lack of desire to sell. We are unlikely to be without access to oil on regular commercial terms for the near future. Moreover, Middle Eastern oil supplies the Far East and Europe rather than America.

Also, given that it will probably cost more than $100 billion to seize Iraq (and its oil) and that the chief of the U.S. General Staff believes that upwards of 300,000 American soldiers will be required to hold it for perhaps ten years, seizing Iraqi oil, even if we just steal it, will certainly be far more expensive than buying it.

So why seek to control it? The main reasons are stability of price and assurance of supply. Should any one country dominate that major source, it could, at least theoretically, affect both supply and price. Were America, so the argument goes, so far only sotto voce, to control Middle Eastern oil, it could dominate the world market for the foreseeable future. It was for this reason that the US National Energy Policy Report of 2001 (the "Cheney Report") placed a high priority on control of Middle Eastern oil.

I find it difficult to credit the charge that those who have developed the Bush Doctrine are primarily interested in acquisition of Middle Eastern oil to enrich American companies. That seems too crass an objective. However, I have to admit that it is unfortunately true that some members of the administration have not been diffident in help given themselves, their friends and former companies. Halliburton, from which Vice President Cheney still receives between $100,000 and $1 million a year, has been given the inside track on coordinating and (if Iraq blows up the facilities) rebuilding the Iraqi oil industry.

The Russians maintain (The Guardian October 6, 2002) that America will declare all previous oil concessions, including those of the Russians void and that "US companies willtake the greatest share of those existing contracts an oil grab by Washington." In another context, plans and rumors on the oil industry would almost certainly be categorized as "smoking guns." Still, oil, whether for commercial benefit or strategic interest, is not sufficient, I believe, to account for the current policy.

It is not only oil, of course, that offers a major new market for American industry. If America launches the attack it has publicly announced, with thousands of missiles and bombs launched in the first days of the attack, the damage to roads, bridges, factories, water treatment plants, schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, etc. will be immense. Proposals for bids have been circulating for months among a select group of American companies. Particularly those headed by close supporters of the Administration (Halliburton, Bechtel and Fluor) are already getting ready to bid for contracts that are expected to run into billions of dollars. And, radiating outward, large economic opportunities beckon. Writing in The New Yorker (March 17, 2003), Seymour Hersh told of one bizarre episode involving Richard N. Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, and various American and Saudi financiers including the notorious arms merchant, Adnan Khashoggi, for what is expected to be a hundred million dollar contract in the security field.

If not oil and other economic opportunity, what else?

Much has been said about the ugliness of the Iraqi regime. It has gassed Kurdish dissidents, relocated Shi'a citizens whom it suspected of pro-Iranian sentiment and performed ghastly deeds of torture, rape and murder. Even at its least lethal, it is not attractive. As I witnessed in Baghdad recently, people are careful about what they say because they believe that an army of informers and secret police keep watch on them. And the massive public displays of Saddam's personality cult conjure the image of Stalin or Mao and reminds many of East Germany under Ulbricht.

But, we have not let such ugliness interfere with our relations with many other regimes or even, in former times, with Saddam. Donald Rumsfeld was in Baghdad to conclude a deal on the very day in March 1984 when the United Nations issued its report on Iraqi use of poison gas; that was not an unlucky coincidence -- Americans and the British had sold Iraq the means to make it. At the time of the Iraqi attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja, the first Bush administration was giving Iraq hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid including help to manufacture chemical and biological weapons. Nor was Iraq unique. We helped or looked the other way while other regimes have engaged in similar ugly activities. So, notions of civic decency cannot be a major reason for our displeasure.

If not fear, oil, commercial profit and anger at tyranny, not much remains. So, at last we come to what I have called "dark matter."


When astronomers similarly found that all they knew about the universe did not add up to the total they believed had to exist, they were driven to posit a new form of matter. It seemed on the very edge of scientific knowledge or even of logic: it was what they termed "dark matter." And dark matter, they have come to believe, is far more significant than all that we had previously observed. So, I have been driven to conclude, beyond what we all have been reading about and discussing, there is a hidden agenda, the political equivalent to dark matter, that dominates American policy toward Iraq.

In this hidden agenda, I find three elements that seem of particular importance: 1) a new strategic vision of American world dominance; 2) a messianic thrust of Christian Fundamentalism and (3) a relationship between Christian Fundamentalism and Israeli Zionism. I begin with the new vision of American world dominance.

1) The administration's National Security Strategy or as it is becoming known, "The Bush Doctrine," sets out a vision of a generally hostile world. Everywhere we look, we find enemies and we must attack them wherever they are and deny them sanctuary anywhere before they can harm us. Since America has "unparalleled military strength and great economic and political influenceAmerica will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed." That is, America will shift from its long-time policy of containment to preëmptive attack wherever it deems a threat to exist or be likely to emerge.

The Bush Doctrine is a radical departure not only from previous policy but derives from a new assessment of America's place in the world. For most of its history, America regarded itself as a nation apart from the world, protected by its oceans from foreign turmoil. Between the British attack in 1812 and the Japanese attack in 1941, it had comfortably assumed that it did not need be to a fortress because enemies could not reach it. Even during the Second World War, little attention was paid to defense of the mainland; the battle was taken to Europe and the Far East. Finally, during the Cold War, America built its major defenses abroad and sought to contain any threat far from its shores. It was this almost total inexperience with threats to their home territory that made the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon so stunning to the American public. Unlike most other peoples, Americans had never seen the hideous face of war.

It was to this new fear that the Bush doctrine spoke and from which the Bush administration gained its popularity. Since few living Americans remembered the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 60 years before, the terrorist attack on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 was a major turning point in American history.

In haste and panic, the Congress passed the "USA Patriot Act." That act gave the government unprecedented powers of arrest and detention. In most cases the courts backed up the new assumption of authority. Abroad, the government also immediately attacked the principal haven of the terrorists, Afghanistan, capturing or killing not only them but also members of the Afghan government and army. Then it shifted its aim from terrorists to a country that, as recounted above, had no discernible links to terrorism or to the attack on America, Iraq. The doctrine makes clear that Iraq need not be, and probably will not be, unique: other nations such as Iran (which is thought to be developing a nuclear capability) and North Korea (which already has one) have been categorized as "the axis of evil." Still others are thought to be far more likely than Iraq to have terrorist affiliations. These certainly include Pakistan, now considered an ally but thought to contain an estimated 11,000 Quranic schools, like those that turned out the Taliban soldiers, where perhaps three quarters of a million young men aspire to be Islamic militants. Similar groups operate in the Philippines where already at least 3,000 American soldiers are engaged. Nothing seems likely to prevent the implementation of a strategy, spelled out in the Bush Doctrine, that will take American troops all over the globe.
As I have spelled out in detail elsewhere, under the single rubric of "terrorist" are a variety of movements. Most are motivated by a thwarted desire for what America itself has long regarded as legitimate, the "self determination of peoples." Where such movements are repressed, governments have a vested interest in categorizing them as "terrorist" and so in winning American approval or subsidy. These include the Chinese in Tibet and Turkistan; the Russians in Chechenya; the Indians in Kashmir and the Israelis in Palestine. If America allies itself with repression of nations seeking self-determination, there can be no end to the "war on terrorism."

How did we embark on this road? While it is clear that the Bush Doctrine was given its legitimacy in American politics by the events of September 11, 2001, it did not spring fully blown from those events: rather, it was an adaptation of strategic planning that some of the key figures in the current Bush administration began to set out at least a decade earlier.

Already in 1992, Paul Wolfowitz (then and today a senior official of the Department of Defense) and Zalmay Khalilzad (who has played the key role in Afghanistan) drafted a "Defense Planning Guidance" document. In that document, they set out the notion that America's task was to prevent to any rival superpower from rising in any part of the world. Included in the list of potential dangerous powers were Russia, China, Japan and Germany.

In a statement of principles dated June 3, 1997, Wolfowitz and Khalilzad were joined by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush and Elliott Abrams among others in urging a new strategy, based on American military power, to remake the world in line with American "global responsibilities."

The group kept in being and in September 2000 emphasized its goal of "maintaining global US pre-eminence" against all possible rivals. This theme was picked up by George W. Bush when, as a candidate, he identified China as a "strategic competitor" and "espionage threat to our country." The program laid out a twenty-year plan to acquire what Bush termed "full spectrum dominance."

What Bush's team had in mind, however, represented such a radical departure from American tradition that only in the atmosphere generated by the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 could they have convinced Americans to implement it.

2) Who are the Americans who have so quickly become the political army led by the Bush administration and what motivates them? It is difficult for me to comprehend this hidden element because it falls completely outside of the parameters in which most Americans, and certainly I, have been trained to analyze international relations. For the first time in American affairs, our policies are being formed by a small but determined group leading a highly developed ideological movement. George Bush joined this group apparently for largely personal reasons but in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attack he could not have chosen a better political platform. It offered him a program to implement what he had already come to believe while still governor of Texas, that he has been "called" by God. As he told a friend, "I believe God wants me to run for president."

Belief in a divine mission to reorder the world dates back in America to the early Puritan movement and is, of course, far older. It caused Pope Urban II to preach the Crusades, King Louis VIII to attack the flourishing but heretical civilization of Provence and St. Dominic to initiate the Inquisition. Ironically, as viewed by Christians, it was also the inspiration for Muhammad's proclamation of Islam as well as the theocracy of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the jihad of Usama bin Ladin. True Believers have ever exercised a powerful command over politics.

Today, large numbers of Americans share a belief in the absolute rightness of their cause and therefore in the evil of the intent and actions of those who do not march to the same drum beat. Above all, this seems to typify the millions of Americans who belong to the Southern Baptist Convention, but it is by no means limited to them. Nearly half of all Americans, some 46%, described themselves in a recent Gallup poll as evangelical or born-again Christians. Shared views on such domestic issues is the teaching of science in schools, birth control, and the criminal justice system have welded the religious right into a strong movement at the head of which President Bush has placed himself.

This movement is being led, and willingly supports, what President Bush believes to be "the grand vision of God's Master Plan." It offers comfort to those who are astonished by the opposition to their policies: John admonishes, "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you." It even offers guidance on the war with Iraq. In his daily Bible sessions, the President surely would reflect on the vision shown to St. John the Divine of "the great whore" upon whose forehead was written "Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth" (Revelation, 17, 5) and was told that "with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all." (Revelation 19, 21). In Armageddon, the forces of evil were defeated foretelling American strategy on Iraq, "And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven"

3) Motivated by a literal interpretation of the Bible, particularly of the Old Testament, the American religious right has also reached out to embrace its birthplace, Israel. As former President Jimmy Carter pointed out, such people "are greatly influenced by their commitment to Israel based on eschatological, or final days, theology."

How does Iraq fit into this picture? The rationale was spelled out in June 1999 by Paul Wolfowitz in a speech at the Israeli-sponsored Washington Institute. There he said that with Saddam Husain's regime destroyed, the Palestinians would be forced to make peace on Israeli terms. As the American conservative leader, Patrick J. Buchanan, pointed out in The American Conservative (March 24, 2003) "a passionate attachment to Israel is a 'key tenet of neoconservatism.'"

However, the suggestion that Israel and its American Christian and Jewish supporters are involved in the administration's Middle Eastern policy making has drawn much-feared and politically-lethal charges of anti-Semitism. Campaigns against those opposing this policy have reached beyond public office to embrace also the American academic community. Buchanan goes on to decry the use of the charge of anti-Semitism "to nullify public discourse by smearing and intimidating foes and censoring and blacklisting them and any who would publish them. Neocoms [the "Neo-conservatives"] say we attack them because they are Jewish. We do not. We attack them because their warmongering threatens our country, even as it finds a reliable echo in [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon."

The danger in these moves is not just bitter divisiveness in the American community, bad as that would be, but also creating an atmosphere in which rational discussion of what is in the nation's best interest and what preserves the essential features of a free, open and democratic society will be difficult or, perhaps eventually, impossible.


In conclusion, President Bush has told us that Iraq is only the beginning. And foreign affairs is only a part of the radical transformation that will shape our lives. America has embarked upon a Crusade that can last into the indefinite future. We must ask ourselves, 'Are we ready for the ride?'


William R. Polk, March 17, 2003