Sunday, August 5, 2012

Assassination Nation: From the Phoenix Program to Predator Drones

Go To Original

"A broad-gauged program of targeted assassination has now displaced counterinsurgency as the prevailing expression of the American way of war."

–Andrew Bacevich [1]

This spring the US drone killing program has come out of the closet. Attorney General Eric Holder publicly defended the drone killing of an American citizen [2], while Obama’s counter terrorism czar John Brennan publicly explained and justified the target killing program [3]. And a New York Times article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane chronicled Obama’s personal role in vetting a secret “Kill List.” [4]

This striking new transparency, the official acknowledgment for the first time of a broad-based US assassination and targeted killing program, has resulted from the unprecedented and controversial visibility of drone warfare. Drones now make news every day, and those of us who have been protesting their use for years have heightened their visibility in the public eye, forcing official acknowledgment and fostering worldwide scrutiny. This new scrutiny focuses not only on drone use but also, and perhaps more importantly, on the targeted killing itself – and the “kill lists” that make them possible.

This new exposure has set off a firestorm of reaction around the globe. Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism told Democracy Now! “The kill list got really heavy coverage … newspapers have all expressed significant concern about the existence of the kill list, the idea of this level of executive power.” [5] A Washington Post editorial noted that “No president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.” [6] Becker and Shane of the Times pronounced Obama’s role “without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war …” [7] And former president Jimmy Carter insisted, in a recent editorial in The New York Times, “We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these [drone] attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.” [8]


In fact, US assassination and targeted killing, with presidential approval, has been going on covertly for at least half a century. Ironically, all this drone killing now offers us a new opportunity: to pry open the Pandora’s box hiding long-held secrets of covert US assassination and targeted killing, and to expose them to the light of day. What we would find is that the only things new in the latest, more publicized revelations about kill lists and assassinations are the use of drones, the president’s hands-on approach in vetting targets, and the global scope of the drone killing.

Those of us in the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones, Code Pink and other groups protesting US drones for years have correctly focused on the use of drones as illegal, immoral and strategically counterproductive. We have abhorred the schizophrenic ease of remote killing, the uniquely frightening horror of a drone strike, and the unavoidable (even intentional) killing of countless civilian “terrorist suspects” in “signature strikes.” We have also warned of the proliferation of drones in countries around the globe and of their procurement by US police forces and border patrols, for surveillance and “non-lethal” targeting.

But drones are not the only, or even the most important, concern. It’s the targeted killing itself, past and present. In this article I start to unravel what the latest demands for transparency should lead us to investigate fully: the fifty year history of US assassination and targeted killing that has resulted, quite directly, in the present moment. Those who are mortified by the latest revelations of Obama’s kill list have much to learn from a more comprehensive, historical perspective on US killing around the globe. Who knows: Perhaps someone in Congress might even be prodded to do what Senators Fulbright and Church did in years past: hold hearings on this continuing execration taking place in our name. Until then, what follows is an introduction to this ongoing horror story.

Section 1 of this article briefly reviews the lethal history of the US Phoenix Program in Vietnam, the original source of subsequent US counter terrorist tactics and strategies. Section 2 revisits briefly the well-worn history of US kill lists and assassinations in Latin American countries, followed by the somewhat less-well-known history of US kill lists and assassinations in countries on other continents. Section 3 traces the direct legacy of Phoenix, even its explicit resurrection by the key architects of the US targeted killing programs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in a growing number of “countries we are not at war with.”

One point of clarification and definition. It is well known that in recent history the US has orchestrated assassination attempts, both successful and unsuccessful, on major world leaders. Examples include: Lumumba under Eisenhower, Castro and Diem under Kennedy, Gaddhafi under Reagan, Saddam Hussein under Bush, and Allende under Nixon. [9] The term “assassination” is typically restricted to such killings of political leaders, and President Ford’s executive order banning assassination applies only to the assassination of foreign heads of state. [10] The focus of this article is different. Here we discuss the US-generated kill lists used over the last half century, under direct presidential authority, for the targeted killing of thousands of civilians suspected of being or harboring terrorists/insurgents, from Vietnam to Guatemala, from Indonesia to Iraq, right up to the present day.

The Phoenix Program

The US Phoenix Program was a secret, large scale counter terrorist effort in Vietnam. Developed in 1967 by the CIA, the Phoenix Program, called Phung Hoang by the Vietnamese, aimed a concerted effort to “neutralize” the Vietcong Infrastructure (VCI) consisting of South Vietnamese civilians suspected of supporting North Vietnamese or Viet Cong soldiers. The euphemism “neutralize” meant to kill or detain indefinitely. Then CIA Director William Colby, while insisting in 1971 Congressional hearings that “the Phoenix program is not a program of assassination,” nonetheless conceded that Phoenix operations killed over 20,000 people between 1967 and 1972. [11]

Phoenix targeted civilians, not soldiers. Operations were carried out by “hunter-killer teams” consisting both of US Green Berets and Navy Seals and by South Vietnamese Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs), units of mercenaries set up for assassination and “counter terror.” A Newsweek article in January 1970 described Phoenix as “a highly secret and unconventional operation that counters VC terror with terror of its own.” [12] Robert Kaiser of the Washington Post reported Phoenix being called “an instrument of mass political murder…sort of Vietnamese Murder Inc.,” designed to terrorize the civilian population into submission.” [13]

Until 1970 the computerized VCI blacklist was a unilateral American operation. After the devastating 1968 Tet offensive, South Vietnamese President Thieu declared: “The VCI must be eliminated…and will be defeated by the Phoenix program.” [14] Phoenix became a ruthless “bounty hunting” program to eliminate the opposition. [15] The US and South Vietnamese created a list of tens of thousands of suspects for assassination. These names were centralized and distributed to Phoenix coordinators. From 1965-68 U.S. and Saigon intelligence services maintained an active list of Viet Cong cadre marked for assassination. The program for 1969 called for “neutralizing” 1800 a month.

The VCI blacklist became corrupted by officers inserting their personal enemies’ names to get even. Due process was nonexistent. Names supplied by anonymous informers showed up on blacklists. [16] CIA Director Colby admitted in 1971 that the blacklists had been “inaccurate.” [17] Few senior VCI leaders were caught in the Phoenix net. Instead its victims were typically innocent civilians. A Pentagon-contract study found that, between 1970 and 1971, ninety-seven per cent of the Vietcong targeted by the Phoenix Program were of negligible importance. [18] By 1973, Phoenix generated 300,000 political prisoners in South Vietnam. Military operations such as My Lai used Phoenix intelligence; in fact, the My Lai massacre, hardly an isolated incident, was itself a Phoenix operation. [19]

Apologists have offered rationales for Phoenix that sound eerily similar to those used to defend current drone attacks. Phoenix was typically referred to as a “scalpel” replacing the “bludgeon” of search and destroy, aerial bombardment or artillery barrages. Alternatively, it was called a precision “rifle shot rather than a shotgun approach to target key political leaders … and activists in VCI.” [20] Military historian Dale Andrade explains, “Both SEALS and PRUs killed many VCI guerrillas – that was war. They also inevitably killed innocent civilians – that was regrettable….but [Phoenix] operations were much more discerning than the massive affairs launched by conventional …forces. That fact was often lost in the rhetoric of assassination and murder …”[21]

Phoenix was created, organized, and funded by the CIA. Quotas were set by Americans. Informers were paid with US funds. The national system of identifying suspects, the elaboration of numerical goals and their use as measures of merit, was designed and funded by Americans. One former US Phoenix soldier conceded, “It was “heinous,” far worse than the things attributed to it.” [22]

Kill Lists from Phoenix to Latin America

The US intelligence community formalized the lessons of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam by commissioning Project X, the Army’s top-secret program for transmitting Vietnam’s lessons to South America. [23] By the mid-1970s, the Project X materials were going to armies all over the world. These were textbooks for global counterinsurgency and terror warfare. These included a murder manual, “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare,” which openly instructed in the assassination of public officials, and was distributed to the Nicaraguan Contras. Another manual, “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual,” was used widely in Honduran counterrorism efforts.

Use of the Project X material was temporarily suspended by Congress and the Carter administration for probable human rights violations, but the program was restored by the Reagan administration in 1982. By the mid-1980s, according to one detailed history, “counterguerrilla operations in Colombia and Central America would thus bear an eerie but explicable resemblance to South Vietnam.” [24]

What follows is a brief sketch of the widespread application of US-promulgated Phoenix-derived reigns of terror, kill lists, and death squads throughout Latin America and beyond. Much of this is familiar territory to many activists and scholars, and is merely the tip of the iceberg, but it merits review as a backdrop for the current context of kill lists and targeted assassination. [25]


The U.S. Army’s School of Americas (SOA), started in 1946, trained mass murderers and orchestrated coups in Peru, Panama, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. The SOA trained more than 61,000 Latin American officers implicated in widespread slaughter of civilian populations across Latin America. From 1966-1976 the SOA trained hundreds of Latin American officers in Phoenix-derived methods. Between 1989-1991 the SOA issued almost 700 copies of Project X handbooks to at least ten Latin American countries, including Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Honduras. In 2001, SOA was renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC), but peace activists know it as School of Assassins. [26]

The CIA trained assassination groups such as Halcones in Mexico, the Mano Blanca in Guatemala, and the Escuadron de la Muerte in Brazil. In South America, in 1970-79, Operation Condor, the code-name for collection, exchange and storage of intelligence, was established among intelligence services in South America to eradicate Marxist activities. Operation Condor promoted joint operations including assassination against targets in member countries. In Central America, the CIA-supported death toll under the Reagan presidency alone exceeded 150,000. The CIA set up Ansesal and other networks of terror in El Salvador, Guatemala (Ansegat) and pre-Sandinista Nicaragua (Ansenic).

Honduran death squads were active through the 1980s, the most infamous of which was Battalion 3–16, which assassinated hundreds of people, including teachers, politicians, and union leaders. Battalion 316 received substantial CIA support and training, and at least 19 members graduated from the School of the Americas.

In Colombia, about 20,000 people were killed since 1986 and much of U.S. aid for counternarcotics was diverted to what Amnesty International labeled “one of the worst killing fields.” The US State Department also supported the Colombian army in creating a database of subversives, terrorists and drug dealers.

In Bolivia, Amnesty International reported that from 1966-68 between 3,000 and 8,000 people were killed by death squads. The CIA supplied names of U.S. and other foreign missionaries and progressive priests.

In Ecuador, the CIA maintained what was called the lynx list, aka the subversive control watch list of the most important left-wing activists to arrest. In Uruguay. Every CIA station maintained a subversive control watch list of most important left wing activists. From 1970-72 the CIA helped set up the Department of Information and Intelligence (DII), which served as a cover for death squads, and also co-ordinated meetings between Brazilian and Uruguayan death squads.

In Nicaragua, the US provided illegal funds to the Contras, and Marine intelligence helped maintain a list of civilians marked for assassination when Contra forces entered the country.

In Chile, 1970-73, CIA-created unions organized CIA-financed strikes leading to Allende’s overthrow and subsequent suicide. By late 1971 the CIA was involved in the preparation of lists of nearly 20,000 middle-level leaders of people’s organizations, scheduled to be assassinated after the Pinochet coup.

In Haiti, U.S. officials with CIA backgrounds in Phoenix-like program activities coordinated with the Ton-Ton Macoute, “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s private death squad, responsible for killing at least 3,000 people.

For over thirty years the US military and the CIA helped organize, train, and fund death squad activity in El Salvador. From 1980-93, at least 63,000 Salvadoran civilians were killed, mostly by the government directly supported by the U.S. The CIA routinely supplied ANSESAL, the security forces, and the general staff with electronic, photographic, and personal surveillance of suspected dissidents and Salvadorans abroad who were later assassinated by death squads. US militray involvement in El Salvador allowed “the lessons learned in Vietnam to be put into practice … assisting an allied country in counterinsurgency operations.” [27]

In Guatemala, as early as 1954, the U.S. Ambassador, after the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the Arbenz government, gave to the new Armas government lists of radical opponents to be assassinated. Years later, throughout Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, Washington continuously to supported the Guatemalan military’s excesses against civilians, which killed 200,000 people.

US Assassination Programs Exported to Other Countries

In Indonesia, 1965-66, the US embassy and the CIA provided the Indonesian military with lists of the names of PKI militants, which were used by Suharto to crush the PKI regime. This resulted in “one of the worst episodes of mass murder of the twentieth century,” with estimates as high as one million deaths. [28]

In Thailand, in 1976, the new junta used CIA-trained forces to crush student demonstrators during coup; two right-wing terrorist squads suspected for assassinations tied directly to CIA operations.

In Iran, the CIA launched a coup installing the shah in power and helped establish the lethal secret police unit SAVAK. [29] The CIA and SAVAK then exchanged intelligence, including information and arrest lists on the communist Tudeh party. Years later, in 1983, the CIA gave the Khomeni government a list of USSR KGB agents and collaborators operating in Iran, which the Khomeni regime used to execute 200 suspects and close down the communist Tudeh party.

In the Philippines, in 1986, Reagan increased CIA involvement in Philippine counterinsurgency operations, carried out by more than 50 death squads. In 2001, before 9/11, the Bush administration sent a unit of SOF to the Philippines “to help train Philippine counter terrorist forces fighting against Muslim separatists” within groups like Abu Sayyaf. After 9/11 US-Filipino cooperation was stepped up and the ongoing separatist conflict was cast, to the benefit of both sides, as “the second front in the war on terror.”[30] In Feb, 2012, a US drone strike targeting leaders of Abu Sayyaf and other separatist groups killed 15 people, the first use of killer drones in Southeast Asia. [31]

A “global Phoenix Program”: drone targets worldwide

“A global Phoenix program … would provide a useful start point” for “a new strategic approach to the Global War on Terrorism.”

–David Kilcullen [32]


Despite the US-perpetrated counter terrorist slaughter in Latin America and elsewhere in the 1970s-1990s, the US Special Forces debacle in Mogadishu in 1993, popularized in the film Black Hawk Down, severely impacted US willingness to use Special Forces in counter terrorist missions for the next decade. But then, after 9/11, things changed drastically. On September 17, 2001, President Bush signed a secret Presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to create paramilitary teams to hunt, capture, detain, or kill designated terrorists almost anywhere in the world. The pressure from the White House, in particular from Vice-President Dick Cheney, was intense, and in the scramble, a search of the C.I.A.’s archives turned up – the Phoenix Program. [33]

In July , 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent an order for a plan to make sure that special forces could be authorized to use lethal force ‘in minutes and hours, not days and weeks.’” [34] Rumsfeld prompted Bush to authorize the military to “find and finish” terrorist targets. Here he was referring to “the F3EA targeting cycle” used in anti-infrastructure operations by Special Operations Forces. F3EA, an abbreviation of find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, utilizes comprehensive intelligence to “find a target amidst civilian clutter and fix his exact location . . . . enabling surgical finish operations … to catch a fleeting target.” [35]

Lt General William (Jerry) Boykin, Delta commander in Mogadishu, deputy undersecretary for Defense for Intelligence and a key planner of the Special Forces offensive in Iraq, announced, “We’re going after these people. Killing or capturing them … doing what the Phoenix program was designed to do, without all the secrecy.” [36]

Back in 1963, the CIA had supplied lists of communists to the Baath party coup so that communists could be rounded up and eliminated. [37] Now, forty years later, it was the Baathists’ turn to be rounded up by Special Forces and CIA and executed. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military notoriously developed a set of playing cards to help troops identify the most-wanted members of Saddam Hussein‘s government, mostly high-ranking Baath Party members. Less well-known was the secret targeted killing of thousands of Baathist civilians by US Special Forces.

Seymour Hersh wrote in 2003 that “The Bush Administration authorized a major escalation of the Special Forces covert war in Iraq. … Its highest priority [being] the neutralization of the Baathist insurgents, by capture or assassination. [38] A former C.I.A. station chief described the strategy: “The only way we can win is to go unconventional. We’re going to have to play their game. Guerrilla versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism. We’ve got to scare the Iraqis into submission.” [39] The US even hired thousands of contract killers previously responsible for US-sponsored extra-judicial killings and death squad activity in Latin America. The operation—called “preëmptive manhunting” by one Pentagon adviser—had, according to Hersh, “the potential to turn into another Phoenix Program.” [40]

Global Phoenix

In 2009, the Office of the Secretary of Defense sponsored a paper by the National Defense Research Institute entitled “The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency.” The paper notes, “The persistent insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan have generated fresh interest among military officers, policymakers, and civilian analysts in the history of counterinsurgency. The Phoenix Program in Vietnam—the U.S. effort to improve intelligence coordination and operations aimed at identifying and dismantling the communist underground—is the subject of much renewed attention.” [41]

The paper continues, “As the United States and its allies shift their focus to Afghanistan and weigh counterinsurgency alternatives for that country, decisionmakers would be wise to consider how Phoenix-style approaches might serve to pry open Taliban and Al-Qaeda black boxes.” [42]

Two key architects of the current Phoenix-style global counterinsurgency efforts by the US are David Kilcullen and Michael Vickers. David Kilcullen has been counterinsurgency advisor to two former Middle East commanders, General Stanley McChrystal (formerly head of Special Operations) and General David Petraeus, now CIA Director. Michael G. Vickers, made famous in the book and film Charlie Wilson’s War about the CIA’s anti-Soviet Afghan campaign of the 1980s, is currently Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, wielding such vast authority over the US war on terror that, according to a Washington Post profile, Pentagon colleagues refer to as his “take-over-the-world-plan.” [43]

Kilcullen wrote in a much-quoted 2004 paper entitled “Countering Global Insurgency” that “Counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have reawakened official and analytical interest in the Phoenix Program.” He proposed that “a global Phoenix program … would provide a useful start point” for “a new strategic approach to the Global War on Terrorism,” one which would focus on “interdicting links … between jihad theatres, denying sanctuary areas, … isolating Islamists from local populations and … disrupting inputs” from others. [44]

Vickers issued a Phoenix-style directive in December 2008 to “develop capabilities for extending U.S. reach into denied areas and uncertain environments by operating with and through indigenous foreign forces or by conducting low visibility operations.” “It’s not just the Middle East. It’s not just the developing world. It’s not just non-democratic countries – it’s a global problem. Threats can emanate from Denmark, the United Kingdom, you name it.” [45] According to a Washington Post profile, “the most critical aspect of Vicker’s plan targeting al-Qaeda-affiliated networks around the world involves US Special Forces working through foreign partners to uproot and fight terrorism.” [46] US military and Special Operations forces would “pay indigenous fighters and paramilitaries who work with them in gathering intelligence, hunting terrorists, fomenting guerrilla warfare or putting down an insurgency.” [47]

Pentagon colleagues have said of Vickers, “he tends to think like a gangster.” [48] Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell revealed that getting Bin Laden in Pakistan was Vicker’s “baby,” and “more than anyone else in the department, he drove the issue.” [49] 2011 New York Times Vickers summarizes his strategy this: “You make a deal with the devil to defeat another devil.”[50] “I just want to kill those guys.” [51] A 2011 Such is the megalomaniacal mission underlying the US global war on terror, its kill lists and worldwide program of targeted assassination.

Killer Drones Revisited

Engaging in any assassination blurs the line between the good guys and the bad.” It is also “a proclamation of weakness and an admission of failure.”

–John Jacob Nutter, The CIA’s Black Ops [52]

The purpose of this article is to reframe the current attention on killer drones and Obama’s “kill list” within an historical perspective. The goal here is not to discourage the escalating protest against killer drones or against Obama’s targeted assassination program around the globe. As stated at the outset, the unprecedented visibility of these nefarious activities and of the outraged public response to them is precisely what is needed at this time. This heightened awareness also affords a perfect opportunity to revisit the extraordinary history of US assassination and targeted killing that has led directly and explicitly to these activities.

Focus on the drones alone will not be sufficient. For even the major counter terrorist mastermind David Kilcullen himself, an avid proponent of the global targeted killing program, has argued against the use of drones. In a 2009 New York Times editorial he argues that “The goal should be to isolate extremists from their communities; [they] must be defeated by indigenous forces…Drone strikes make this harder, not easier.” He adds, “The use of drones displays every characteristic of a tactic – or, more accurately, a piece of technology – substituting for a strategy, [with minimal understanding] of the tribal dynamics of the local population. This creates public outrage and a desire for revenge.” [53]

Scholar Maria Ryan, in a 2011 article entitled “War in Countries We Are Not at War With,” writes: “In 2006 the Pentagon announced that it had sent small teams of Special Operations troops to US embassies to gather intelligence on terrorism in Africa, South East Asia and South America…There is, then, a covert side to the Global War on Terrorism that is not visible and not currently knowable in the absence of whistleblowers, leaks, or things gone wrong.” [54]

The heightened public attention paid to drone killing might very well, in time, lead to some welcome success in curtailing their use. But too narrow a focus on the US deployment of Predator and Reaper drones might also distract us from other forms of Phoenix-derived targeted killing still being perpetrated globally – and covertly – by our Assassination Nation.


1 Andrew Bacevich, “Uncle Sam, Global Gangster” Feb 19, 2012

2 Eric Holder, speech at Northwestern University March 1, 2012

3 John Brennan, speech at Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, May 1, 2012

4 Jo Becker and Scott Shane New York Times 5/29/12 “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will”

5 Chris Woods, interview with Democracy Now! June 5, 2012

6 Michael Gerson, “America’s Remote-controlled War on Terror,” The Washington Post May 3, 2012

7 Becker and Shane, Secret Kill List”

8 Jimmy Carter “A Cruel and Unusual Record,”The New York Times, June 25, 2012

9 John Jacob Nutter,The CIA’s Black Ops, Prometheus Books 2000, p152

10 Nutter,The CIA’s Black Ops, p.145

11 John Prados, Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby, Oxford University Press, 2003, p235ff

12 Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program. William Morrow & Co., 1990, p313

13 Valentine, p 315

14 Prados, p 224

15 Valentine, p309

16 Valentine, p13

17 Prados, p 235

18 Jane Mayer, The Black Sites: A Rare look inside the CIA’s Secret Interrogation Program,” The New Yorker August 13, 2007

19 Valentine, p13ff

20 Valentine, p346

21 Dale Andrade, Ashes to Ashes: The Phoenix Program and the Vietnam War. Lexington Books, 1990, p.175

22 Valentine, p 310

23 Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture Metropolitan Books, 2006, p 86

24 McCoy, p 71

25 Unless otherwise noted, the following information comes from the comprehensive “CIA Death Squad Timeline” by Ralph McGehee

26 Mary Turck, “School of Assassins,” Common Dreams Nov 18, 2003

27 Michael Smith, Killer Elite, St Martin’s Press, 2006, p 49

28 Prados, p 155-157

29 McCoy 74

30 Maria Ryan, “’War in Countries We Are Not at War With’: The War on Terror on the Periphery from Bush to Obama” International Politics, v.48 (2011)

31 Deadly Drone Strike on Muslims in the Southern Philippines March 5, 2012

32 David Kilcullen, “Countering Global Insurgency” Journal of Strategic Studies, 2004

33 Mayer, “Black Sites”

34 Smith, p230-232

35 William Rosenau & Austin Long, “The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency,” National Defense Research Institute, RAND Corp, 2009

36 Smith, p 273

37 McGehee, “CIA Death Squad Timeline”

38 Seymour Hersh, “Moving Targets: Will the counter-insurgency plan in Iraq repeat the mistakes of Vietnam?” The New Yorker Dec. 15, 2003

39 Hersh, “Moving Targets”

40 Hersh, “Moving Targets”

41 Rosenau and Long

42 Rosenau and Long

43 Profile of Michael G. Vickers, Washington Post

44 Kilcullen, 2004

45 Ann Scott Tyson, “Sorry Charlie, This is Michael Vickers’s War,” Washington Post, Dec 28, 2007

46 Profile of Michael G. Vickers

47 Tyson, 2007

48 Elisabeth Bumiller, “Soldier, Thinker, Hunter, Spy: Drawing a Bead on Al Qaeda” New York Times, Sept 4, 2011

49 Bumiller

50 Bumiller

51 Bumiller

52 Nutter, p 149

53 David Kilcullen and Andrew McDonald Exum “Death from Above, Outrage Down Below.” New York Times May 17, 2009

54 Ryan, 2011

Roots Of The Neo-Con Junta

Go To Original

In this essay I will argue that commonalties in early academic life and early political employment led to the creation of a core group of thinkers who have an inordinate amount of power and influence in the current administration of George W. Bush.

I will argue that the philosophical genesis stems from the writings and teachings of Leo Strauss, furthered by the writings and teachings of Alan Bloom, and the writings and influence of Irving Kristol.

I will argue that the strategic military thought stems directly from the writings and teachings of Albert Wohlstetter, Herman Kahn, and Democratic senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson.

I will argue that there is a direct connection between the followers of Straussian thought and Wohlstetter’s belief in next-generation warfare.

I will conclude with a projection for future conflict based on current US Military doctrine and theory.

In this section I will analyse the basis of Leo Strauss’s teachings while he was a professor of political philosophy at the University of Chicago.

Leo Strauss came to the United States via England as an émigré from Nazi Germany.

In the early 1950’s he published his arguably most famous work, "Natural Right and History."

In it Strauss says: " The best regime is that in which the best men habitually rule, or aristocracy. Goodness is, if not identical with wisdom, at any rate dependent on wisdom: the best regime would seem to be the rule of the wise, In fact, wisdom appeared to the classics as that title to rule which is highest according to nature. It would be absurd to hamper the free flow of wisdom by any regulations; hence the rule of the wise must be absolute rule, It would be equally absurd to hamper the free flow of wisdom by consideration of the unwise wishes of the unwise; hence the wise rulers ought not to be responsible to the unwise subjects. To make the rule of the wise dependent on election by the unwise or consent of the unwise would mean to subject what is by nature higher to control by what is by nature lower, i.e., to act against nature."

He goes on to admit that such a governance by the wise is impracticable outside of a tyranny, but that there is room for an intellectual class to influence the rulers who have been elected by the "unwise masses".

It seems to be an easy matter therefore to select the most popular candidate for leadership, and if the right conditions are in evidence, then the candidate can become the leader.

The basic and obvious argument of "Natural Right and History" is that there are two ways of doing things. One way is the old way, the way things have always been done (History), the other way is the natural way. The natural way is without history, or human imposed concepts of "right and wrong", or of "justice" (Natural Right).

Critics of Strauss argue that Strauss set out to create a model for a tyranny of the wise. These critics say that Strauss separated society into three groups; the majority are the "unwise", the minority are the "wise", and then the "gentlemen", those elected to positions of trust and power by the "unwise masses."

Once the "gentlemen" are in office, the "wise" may then set to work on the actual governance of the masses. The greatest threat to the "wise" is that their essentially good work will be uncovered by the "unwise", and as the "unwise" are by their very nature suspicious of wisdom, will seek to unseat their natural superiors.

Therefore it is always necessary for the "wise" to rule from the shadows. The "wise", as the natural elite, will do what is of the ultimate "good" for society. This may mean that certain "noble lies" are told to the "unwise masses" in order to secure their consent. Once that consent is obtained, any level of tyrannical power can be wielded to further the aims of the "wise".

Following on the direct teachings of Strauss several Straussian intellectuals continued on from Strauss’s original work. Key among them is Alan Bloom, who published in 1987 the famous work entitled "The Closing of the American Mind."

While certain elements of Straussian thought has appeal, there remains a constant throughout. That is of an underlying fear that liberalism and humanism makes for lassitude and weakness. The Straussian fear is that into this vacuum of amoral-liberalism can slip totalitarianism and tyranny.

What then is their prescription? The events of 911 provided the greatest enabler for Straussian principles. Firstly, a trans-societal wake-up call. A unifying moment that spanned all segments of the population. Then, in that moment of dire fear and uncertainty, at that moment when all good citizens want to be told what to do, comes the message, "You are either with us, or with the terrorists." The message is clear and simple and is repeated ad nauseum: "These are evil doers." "They hate America, because America is free." "This is an Axis of Evil."

Then what is needed is an inward looking fear. The PATRIOT Act is hurriedly rushed through Congress. There must be terrorists everywhere. The enemy within.

This follows the Straussian belief that the "unwise masses" will sink further and further into an animal like torpor unless they are given a dose of fear, and a focus for their rage. This will transform them. It will lift their spirits. It will elevate their lives.

The next stage is war. "If," think the "unwise masses", "America is the global superpower, capable of defeating all adversaries, then why not relax and enjoy life?" No, say the Straussians, that is anathema. What is called for is perpetual war. With constant enemies ever wanting to tear down the United States. A declaration of war, not against a particular state, or even a particular group, because that would define the war as having specific objectives. Instead the war is on terror. As Zbigniew Brezinski so ably pointed out, that is comparable to saying that during World War Two, we weren’t fighting Nazi Germany, we were fighting Blitzkrieg. It’s nonsensical. It does however fit in nicely with the Straussian formula. Keeping the message simple, and if necessary, somewhat blurred, in order to cast a wide net.

The Straussian cabal within the Bush Administration have been variously referred to by their critics as "The Crazies", "The Vulcans", and "The Bombers". Ray McGovern, a senior CIA officer in the administration of the first President Bush, spoke with British journalist John Pilger in the documentary "Breaking the Silence" about the crazies. "The same people who are running US policy now are people that the President’s father kept at arm’s length. They were referred to in the circles in which I moved when I was briefing at the top intelligence and policy levels, they were referred to as the Crazies. ... You talk about the Crazies and everyone knew who they were; Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith."

Due to their small numerical size the Straussians, by necessity, form an inward looking and narcissistic fantasy about the rightness of their cause, and the justness of their motives. The fact that they are known to be outsiders probably helps the group to define themselves even better, and forces the inward gaze ever stronger. Therefore any reinforcement for their ideas can only come from other members of the group. This type of "group-think" or narcissistic delusion is a fatal flaw which when applied to other systems in which human experience and outward observation of data are critical, such as piloting a commercial air-liner, can spell the difference between life and death. There are many such instances wherein a commercial passenger jet has crashed due to human error, and analyses of the cockpit voice recorder shows that well before the moment when a crash was imminent, the flight crew began ignoring outside information, such as data readouts, or even visual inspections for wing ice or terrain markers, and instead entered into a narcissistic delusional fantasy in which the flight crew began to turn ever more inwards in their beliefs, bolstered by constant mutual support, that the situation was under control, and that they could get out of trouble. This kind of tunnel vision is common in times of critical stress. Instead of focussing the mind on the external world, the view turns inwards and rejects incoming information because it does not fit with prior expectations or decisions.

Tunnel vision of this kind can have the tragic consequence of the loss of several hundred lives in the case of a passenger jet crashing due to pilot error.

When these same principles are applied to a group of policy makers at the highest levels of government within the world’s only super-power, the potential for major catastrophe on a global scale becomes possible.

The influence of the RAND Men.

The Rand Corporation is a civilian think-tank paid for by the USAF. It came into being after World War Two and throughout the Cold War created the systems-analysis paradigm which has influenced strategic military thought within the United States Defense establishment.

The advent of the Nuclear weapon called for an immediate understanding of what the bomb meant for the future of not only military conflict, but the future of the planet.

A new generation of thinkers were needed to construct a new generation of strategies and tactics to best control the nuclear genie.

Known as the Whiz-kids these new thinkers set to work on game theory and statistical analysis to project possible scenarios in which nuclear weapons could be used to bring about a survivable victory.

The thinking of the Whiz kids was apocalyptic to the average person on the street, but obviously, to not think about the tactics and strategies of Nuclear War would have been suicidal.

The three most famous names to come out of Rand during the early years of Nuclear strategy were Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, and Albert Wohlstetter.

In tune with the thinkers at Rand was General Curtis LeMay of the USAF. Famous for his accelerated adoption of new tactics during the Second World War LeMay was also responsible for incinerating hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in the terror raids on Tokyo and other major civilian centres.

The Whiz Kids used complex and, some have even said, arcane mathematical methods to construct models for Nuclear combat. There was such a coldness to their thought that when Stanley Kubrick set about scripting a drama on the threat of an accidental nuclear attack on the Soviet Union he couldn’t help laughing at the bizarre banality with which these thinkers set about planning the destruction of tens of millions of lives. In the end Kubrick decided to make "Dr. Strangelove", the blackest black comedy ever filmed. The title character of Strangelove is most likely a polymorphic composite of Werner Von Braun, Albert Wohlstetter, Herman Kahn, and Curtis LeMay.

Albert Wohlstetter was born in the United States and became a leading figure at the Rand Corporation.

Wohlstetter is portrayed as having been a renaissance man who enjoyed throwing sophisticated dinner parties for a wide variety of friends from poets to mathematicians.

In the hey-day of the Rand Corporation Wohlstetter penned his most famous work, "The Delicate Balance of Terror." He set out to explore the gathering threat posed by Soviet nuclear weapon delivery systems.

He posited that a credible second strike potential by the United States would offset any sneak attack by the Soviet Union to completely knock out the US in a massive first strike.

Wohlstetter was a forward thinker, and looked to a future American defense posture armed with more sophisticated and accurate weapons that would eliminate the need for nuclear weapons with ever increasing yields. The development of the Hydrogen bomb, a project pushed by Edward Teller, but decried by Robert Oppenheimer, was a weapon so massive in its destructive capacity that it was a puzzlement to strategists and tacticians on what to do with it. Added to which was it’s enormous physical size which required a larger vehicle to transport it to target.

Wohlstetter began thinking that if a weapon could be delivered with pin-point accuracy onto the target, the payload could actually be relatively small.

The 1960’s saw the Cold War at it’s peak. The decade began with the Cuban Missile Crisis and ended with the Soviet Occupation of Czechoslovakia. The United States had put a man on the moon, but was bogged down in Viet Nam.

The focus of the Cold War since May 9th 1945 had been on Western Europe. Massive Soviet and NATO military forces faced each other down across the plains of Germany. This was where western military planners expected that World War Three would begin. The Soviets with a massive numerical superiority of manpower and armored fighting vehicles could simply flood Western Europe in a matter of a few days. To counter this perceived threat the NATO allies had prepared a nuclear response should the Soviet invasion succeed.

The stalemate in the West did not stop the Cold War getting hot in the East. First there was Korea, where nuclear weapons could have been used, but weren’t, and then Viet Nam where again nuclear weapons were considered, but rejected.

If the United States was to fight wars, and win them, it would be necessary to rethink the nuclear strategy.

Wohlstetter left Rand in 1961 and went to teach at the University of Chicago. One of his students would be a young Paul Wolfowitz.

How did the neocons begin their rise to power?

As a teenager Richard Perle fell under the spell of Albert Wohlstetter. Perle had been invited home by his classmate, Wohlstetter’s daughter. Poolside at the Wohlstetter home Perle read Wohlstetter’s famous argument for a credible second-strike deterrence, "The Delicate Balance of Terror".

After completing his undergraduate degree Perle found his way to Washington where he met a youthful Paul Wolfowitz. The pair had been asked by Albert Wohlstetter to help the Democrat senator from Washington State, Henry "Scoop" Jackson. Jackson was a Democrat senator from Washington State. He served in the congress for forty years until his untimely death in 1983. He was profoundly anti-Communist and pro-Israel. He believed in a strong American military, and the development of new weapon systems to fight the new kinds of wars that the United States was starting to lose.

Perle and Wolfowitz had to come up with a series of charts to illustrate the feasibility of a ballistic missile defence system that was coming under attack by other senators. Wolfowitz later recalled that the reason "Scoop" won the debate was because the charts he presented were larger than those of his critics. Score the first win for the Wolfowitz Perle duo.

Perle would spend almost a decade working for Jackson, and during that time fell under the scrutiny of the FBI as being suspected of having slipped secrets to Israeli agents.

In 1972 Perle was the key drafter of an important piece of legislation called the Jackson-Vannik amendment which was intended to pressure the Soviet Union into allowing more freedom to émigrés, specifically Jewish émigrés wishing to go to Israel.

Jackson is remembered as a staunch supporter of the environment, a man who pushed for more park lands and nature preserves in the United States. To his critics he was nicknamed "The Senator from Boeing." "Scoop" Jackson believed in a strong and muscular American defense posture. He supported the war in Viet Nam, and after a visit to Israel, became a staunch supporter of Israel’s need to field a strong military.

To his critics Jackson responded, "I am not a hawk or a dove. I just want to make sure my country isn’t a pigeon."

By cutting their teeth with "Scoop", both Perle and Wolfowitz learned the inner workings of the corridors of power in Washington. As the seventies dragged on the two men became increasingly disillusioned with the approach the Democrats were taking on the Soviet Union. Talk of détente with the Soviets was not the Wohlstetter approach, nor the Jackson approach.

During the Ford administration the threat of Nuclear war with the USSR continued to be shouted loud and clear by such organizations as The Committee on the Present Danger. In response to the alarm being raised by the CPD the White House and CIA under George H. Bush came up with an in-house, but civilian led investigation into the threat posed by the USSR. The investigation was split into three "B Teams". Each team was to examine specific areas of the Soviet threat.

Most attention was paid to the B Team of Paul Wolfowitz. His group came up with the most alarming predictions. As an example, they predicted that the Soviet Navy had developed an anti-acoustic submarine. The fact that the US Navy had no information about this secret weapon was used by the Wolfowitz B Team to point to how successful this silent sub was.

The B Team reports were so damning that Ford and his efforts at détente were driven from the White House. Carter would fare no better.

To the hawks détente was seen as appeasement. To men like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz there were only two choices; Containment or Rollback. Containment meant keeping the monster in the box. The risk remained, and the risk could even grow. It also required a great deal of power and money to keep the monster in the box.

The only other option was Rollback. That is; push the Soviets to the brink. The question that obviously follows is, "The brink of what?" To the hawks it could be conventional war, limited nuclear war, even full scale nuclear war. The B Team reports and the CPD made the case that the USSR was developing a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons, and was getting ready to use them. As long as the United States remained focussed on détente the Soviets grew stronger and America grew weaker.

The fear of an all out attack by the Soviet Union catapulted Ronald Reagan into the White House.

In actuality the Soviet Union’s economy had started shrinking as early as the mid nineteen sixties. As for the supposed missile gap that greatly favoured the Soviets, there was a missile gap, but it was the United States which had the overwhelming superiority. One of the contributing factors to the failure of the Soviet Union was its perceived need to match the arms build-up of the US. Ultimately, the cost of the arms race would bankrupt the USSR and turn the United States into one of the largest debtor nations on the planet.

In the Reagan administration the neo-conservatives had their first taste of true power. The president was notoriously disengaged from the practical matters of running the country which gave the neo-conservatives the free room to expand their political ideas into working foreign policy. More and more private individuals found jobs within the administration, meaning that they were free from any congressional oversight or investigation. The Iran-Contra scandal was the largest exposé of secret dealings within the Reagan Administration, but throughout the eighties there were allegations involving Israeli agents being slipped sensitive or secret material by either Perle or Wolfowitz. The "Blue-and-White Menace" came to a head with the arrest of Jonathon Pollard on charges of espionage. Pollard is still in prison, despite reviews by successive presidents, who have denied him freedom.

During the Reagan years Richard Perle earned his nickname, "The Prince of Darkness" for his determination to bully the Soviet Union into collapse. Along with the other neocons he saw that the Soviet menace was continuing to spread its "evil empire" across the globe, and even into America’s own backyard. The secret wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador brought nothing but death and misery to millions of people throughout Central America.

Another feature of the Reagan years was the unprecedented peace time build up of the US military. The defense budget skyrocketed. Pentagon watch dog Chuck Spinney was on the cover of Time magazine for his whistleblowing on massive pork barrel overspending by the Pentagon.

During the administration of the first George Bush Perle and Wolfowitz rose ever higher. Wolfowitz was under-secretary for defense, and together with Perle had brought into the fold a young lawyer with a strong Zionist background, Douglas Feith.

George H. Bush began the idea of regime change in Panama. Then Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. After being a client of the United States for over a decade Saddam was now painted as an evil dictator.

Operation Desert Storm saw the neocon military machine go into action. And it was effective. The infamous Highway of Death massacre caused General Colin Powell to urge the President to immediately stop the war. The coalition that had been assembled to drive Iraq from Kuwait had succeeded in it’s goal. To push on to Baghdad would be gratuitous, and the coalition would collapse.

The order was given to halt.

Although Saddam’s military had taken a considerable mauling at the hands of the American led coalition, Iraq’s toughest and best equipped units, such as the Republican Guard, were left unscathed. Added to which a duplicitous arrangement with the victorious allies allowed the Iraqi air force to continue flights of its attack helicopters. Concurrently Bush 41 was reviewing intelligence data that indicated Saddam’s regime was near collapse. If a popular uprising was generated it could sweep the Ba’athists from power. Bush supported the call for revolution in Iraq. As we all know, the Shia in the south, and the Kurds in the north took the American urging at face value, and did rise up, only to be slaughtered by Saddam’s attack helicopters and Republican Guard. The attempted revolution was a total failure.

This moment was frozen in time for men like Wolfowitz and Perle. The opportunity to dispose of Saddam had come, and was now gone.

After the Gulf War Paul Wolfowitz drafted a standard Defense Planning Guidance document for the upcoming fiscal year of 1992 to be given to the Pentagon and Defense Establishment. The DPG is a memo of sorts that outlines future potentialities for military influence. It’s a horoscope for soldiers and military contractors. It lets them know where the administration is leaning as far as foreign policy, and that is reflected in the kinds of weapons systems that will be needed to defend American interests domestically and abroad.

The DPG 1992 was leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post by anonymous sources with the Pentagon. It immediately created a storm of controversy.

The document, which appeared only as excerpts in both newspapers, was seen by many observers, as a frighteningly aggressive platform for American global hegemonic ambitions. It bluntly outlined the argument for the United States to, in all but name, become the planetary ruling state.

Supporters of the document’s intentions would see nothing wrong with simply stating what is already fact. The Cold War had ended, the Soviet Union had collapsed, and the United States had emerged as the dominant economic, military, and cultural force on the planet. Why not acknowledge that fact? Acknowledgement would lead to a greater understanding that America’s role in determining the fate of international affairs was a matter of incredible responsibility.

Noblesse oblige. It is the responsibility of the king to take care of his subjects.

Unfortunately, not too many people outwardly agreed with this bold new assertion of American supremacy. Everyone likes a winner, but everyone also dislikes having it rubbed in their faces.

Consequently, the Defense Secreatry Richard Cheney had his under-secretary Wolfowitz rewrite the offending document and tone down the global imperium language.

Domestic support for the Persian Gulf War had remained high, but coming into the election cycle the American people were dissatisfied with the domestic economy and overwhelmingly voted for a new direction. William Jefferson Clinton became the 42nd president of the United States, and the neo-conservatives were banished to the wilderness.

The ostracism these once all powerful policy makers faced did not dampen their burning fires of desire to topple Saddam Hussein. Over the next eight years the neo-conservative movement would grow and coalesce into a strong multi-faceted chorus of voices calling for the liberation of Iraq.

It is important to remember that although the neo-conservative agenda seems to have many supporters, it is actually a very small and closely knit community, almost tribal in formation.

Inter-marriage between the neo-conservatives is common practice.

The neo-cons formed many political action committees to lobby the Clinton administration to take a tougher position on Iraq. Always the names were the same who’s who of neo-con leaders.

James Woolsey was let go as CIA chief over scandals involving Israel and China. Woolsey then became a leading proponent for regime change in Iraq.

In 1996 Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David and Meyrav Wurmser wrote the now famous brief for Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." The document called for the removal of Saddam Hussein as the key to bringing Israel security in the Middle East. The ouster of Saddam would create a strategic hinge to isolate Syria and Iran.

Meanwhile, Albert Wohlstetter, who now spent as much time in Israel as he did in the United States, had met Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile who had studied mathematics at MIT, run a bank in Jordan, and had been sentenced in absentia by the Jordanian government for massive fraud.

Some estimates put Chalabi’s personal wealth at $90 million. Most of it siphoned off from the failed Petra Bank in Jordan.

Wohlstetter introduced Chalabi to Perle in the mid-nineties and the penny dropped. Here was a fellow tailor-made for the job of "new president of Iraq". Chalabi would later be described by four-star general Anthony Zinni as one of the mob of "silk-suited rolex-wearing crowd from London" who knew nothing about Iraq, and in turn Iraq knew nothing about them.

Chalabi was, though, for the neo-cons, heaven sent. He was paraded about Washington as the clear successor to Saddam Hussein. He was to be the poster child for the Iraq Liberation Movement.

In 1998 a new political entity emerged in Washington, housed in offices rented from the American Enterprise Institute. This was the darkly Orwellian "Project for a New American Century." It featured the usual who’s who of neo-con thinkers. Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey and so on. They called on the Clinton administration to take a tougher stand on Iraq. And they also proposed a tough new American defense posture in the world. It was shades of the infamous Defense Planning Guidance 1992 which had been leaked to the press, and had caused such a furore at the time.

The ideological underpinnings of the Project for a New American Century are a little unclear. If the essential message is taken at face value, then that message could be stated as: "America, as the world’s economic engine, and as the sole global super-power, is in a unique position to transform the world, for the betterment of all peoples."

On the surface this goal sounds most noble and intriguing. Why not remake the world in America’s image? There are lots of people around the world living lives of truly horrifying poverty, oppression and suffering. Why not help them to aspire to greater things? Freedom, liberty, democracy, these are not America’s gift, this is God’s gift to the world.

If this is the plan, the stated objective, then how to go about it? Obviously one route to follow would be within the framework of the United Nations. Full support for UN led initiatives in fighting the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS. Bringing food aid and clean drinking water to starving areas of Africa and Asia. There could be ways within the IMF and World Bank to rearrange the debt load of third world nations who are facing economic collapse through tariffs and dumping by American agri-producers.

Why not spend more money on aid than on defense, for just one year?

If the goal is to foster and encourage democratic change in some of the worlds most impoverished and therefore usually despotic countries, then why not offer a hand-up? As former US ambassador to Iraq Ed Peck put it on CNN, democracy grows from within, it’s not something that can be forced down peoples throats.

No doubt such an approach would have been heralded by the world community as a truly new and wonderful American solution to many of the world’s ills.

I would argue that in the three years of the Bush regime we have seen the opposite of any of these ideas.

So, where is the disconnect?

I argue that some of it comes from Straussian thought, that justifies "noble lies" in order to advance agendas that some, if not most, of the populous would perceive as wholly unjust and unfair.

To paraphrase Straussian thought; if I say to a man who has vote, "Give me your vote so that I may enslave you", that man is unlikely to want to give you his vote. If, on the other hand, you merely say, "Give me your vote", you can get his vote, and you can enslave him later.

The argument I advance suggests that the surface declarations of the neo-cons are merely a ruse for gaining the consent of the American people in order that the true secret neo-con agenda may go forward.

This obviously smacks of conspiracy. As Gore Vidal said on CNBC, "One can’t call it a conspiracy, because then one must believe in flying-saucers, so I’ll call it a coincidence."

During the presidential campaign of 2000 then Governor Bush stated that American foreign policy would not be to get involved in nation building. He wasn’t going to use American power to go around the world changing things. And that helped get him elected.

Once in office several things happened quite rapidly before the attacks of 911.

Firstly, Clinton’s outgoing terrorism czar, Richard Clarke made sure that he passed on to Bush’s National Security Advisor Condolleeza Rice the complete dossier on Al Qa’ida and Usama Bin Laden. The Clinton Administration was very concerned with Al Qa’ida and despite half-hearted efforts to either assassinate or capture Bin Laden, the Democrats had failed to win support form the Pentagon or the CIA.

The Clinton approach tended towards unsupported missile strikes against supposed high-value targets, such as the medicine factory in the Sudan, which Clinton’s NSA Sandy Berger staunchly affirmed was a chemical weapons facility.

By choosing to limit US response to terrorist action by retaliatory terror strikes only inflamed Moslem sentiment against the United States, and certainly must have reinforced ideas that Al Qa’ida was untouchable, and that the United States was unwilling, after the failed Somalia mission, to commit troops to potentially deadly overseas adventures.

Next, and over the following nine months, the United States began tearing up several international treaties, such as the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Although some critics saw the Bush administration to be adrift when it came to foreign policy in the first nine months of 2001, others saw a new America taking shape. An America that was more of a "go-it-alone" player in International relations. This was of great concern to major Western Allies, who had grown to trust and respect the Clinton Administration’s more co-operative view on issues of foreign economic and defence policy.

To people who had read the Project for the New American Century’s blue print for a forward leaning US military posture titled "Rebuilding America’s Defences" it was all going according to plan. And much of it espoused the same values of the Wolfowitz drafted Defense Planning Guidance from 1992.

It also warned of the dangers that a new Pearl Harbor could create, if the defense of the US wasn’t significantly modernized.

Once sworn into office the new Bush Administration began to take shape.

Key posts within the administration were given to the hawks from the American Enterprise Institute and the Project for a New American Century. The list reads like the all-star neo-con team.

Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, Daniel Pipes and on and on.

Later, Bush would address the American Enterprise Institute and thank them for letting him borrow "twenty of their top minds."

The neocons have taken Wohlstetter’s ideas of precision weapons and wedded it with Straussian ideology and "Scoop" Jackson’s aggressive defence posturing.

In toto they have created an American foreign policy devoid of one essential ingredient; humanity. The neo-cons Perle and Wolfowitz have built not only the reason for war, but war itself.

In December 2001 President Bush announced that the United States would exit from the 1972 ABM treaty, signalling to the world that no longer would the United States be prepared to base its national defense security on out dated treaties or the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Now a completely unproven Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense is being built to defend the American homeland from what exactly? Another 911? Missile defense has never made any sense, not from any logical view point. Any thesis supporting missile defense must argue that the defense interceptors can target their opponents, can launch quickly, and then can intercept their opponents successfully. As Bernard Brodie pointed out in 1946, when it comes to stopping incoming nuclear weapons, a 99% success rate isn’t good enough. If the enemy is able to jam the electronics of the launch vehicles they won’t know where to go. If the enemy launches decoy missiles the interceptors will be wasted. If the enemy puts an A-bomb in a container and loads it on a commercial cargo ship, well.

The international solidarity that the United States reaped as a result of 911 helped the US in its plan to invade Afghanistan. But world opinion quickly shifted when the Bush administration, led by the Crazies, decided to go after Saddam Hussein.

Can world opinion keep Bush from winning a second term in Washington? Heaven alone can help us if he does.


In this section I will speculate on near future force structure and posture.

Based on current Defense Department estimates the United States will not see any major competitors until the years 2015-2020. This window of opportunity for developing force projection and securing basing rights in critical areas is of paramount interest. Also, maintaining this advantage over potential competitors will require much focus and diligence.

In regards to force components the emphasis today is on tomorrow. A world in which the United States can project force via the concept of Full Spectrum Dominance means that United States tactical ground forces needs to be lighter, faster, and more lethal.

In the near term; potential adversaries to the United States still field Cold War era weapons, strategy, and tactics. It will be a chief mission of the Defense Department to stay ahead of new developments in these three key areas. As demonstrated in Afghanistan accurate weapons and Special Operations Forces (SOF) worked with allies to shatter the opposition and bring on a rapid victory for US and allied forces.

In Iraq a heavier force was fielded partly because the Pentagon was reluctant to embrace in totality the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA).

RMA supporters believe that force structure needs to be recomposed in order to better exploit the rapid technological developments in weapon accuracy.

One key element to RMA practice can be found in the theories of Manoeuvre Warfare.

MW can be traced back to the theories of B.H. Liddel-Hart who envisioned a land-air battle system in the UK during the inter-war period. His vision of a lightning fast strike force became known as lightning warfare. The British rejected his ideas, but Germany did not. Liddel-Hart’s theories were to be ever remembered as Blitzkrieg (Lightning War).

Current notions of Manoeuvre Warfare call for a rapidly shifting battlefield, in which the dominant aggressor seeks to quickly define the shape of the battlefield to his advantage, and then to sow chaos and panic throughout the opposition forces. It is a system not based on attrition, but on suddenness of attack, accuracy of attack, and swift movement. The key goal is to unbalance the enemy, and once he has become unbalanced, he must be kept off balance until his will, or his capability to resist, has been destroyed.

The end of the Cold War saw the end of set-piece battle scenarios as the predominant theory dominating modern tactical and strategic thought. The only exception currently to this model would be North Korea. North Korea is a prime example of a cold war mentality that relies on massive manpower and armor. In the view of RMA supporters this is archaic thinking, and would be doomed to sudden and total failure should violent military action begin.

The other key area of interest is in Next Generation Warfare or Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) also known as "Asymmetric Warfare."

As previously stated the US sees no serious state actors opposing the US militarily for another ten years. However, there is a rising awareness that non-state actors are playing an ever larger role in violent armed conflict internationally, inter-regionally, and in domestic affairs within foreign nations. The Defense Department is creating new ways to think about 4GW and how to face this real 21st Century threat.

Non-state actors traditionally do not wear uniforms, or adhere to accepted rules on the practice of warfare. They are most likely disaffected citizens who have been motivated by some leadership elite to take up arms against a perceived threat.

In the case of Rwanda, ordinary people, once sufficiently motivated, were willing to turn on their neighbours, and with what ever weapons were at hand, brutally murder them in massive numbers.

4GW supporters believe that in approaching situations like Rwanda in the future it will be necessary for the military leadership to not be solely focussed on violent military action as a solution to these conflicts. Rather an analysis of all the elements contributing to the conflict must come first. Once the essential elements contributing to the conflict have been identified, then those specific causes can be focussed on with a goal to resolving or removing the problem. In the case of Rwanda, much of the propaganda that was inciting the genocide came from a few government controlled radio stations. If those stations had been taken off the air the potential was there to defuse the situation.

The Pentagon is aware that future conflicts may not be ideological or political in nature. The recent report released by the Pentagon said that future wars will be fought for sheer survival. As the worlds human population increases, and valuable resources diminish, there will be more conflict in those regions where competition for limited resources is highest. The chief concern is over the availability of fresh drinking water.

Another development in both RMA and 4GW is in the area of unmanned combat vehicles.

The recent DARPA sponsored race in the United States is part of the overall objective of fielding such vehicles within ten years.

The most dangerous environment for a war fighter is in urban combat. This is an environment where air supremacy is voided, heavy armor cannot enter, and the war fighter is basically alone and surrounded by countless enemies. The experience of Blackhawk Down reveals that in a built-up urban environment it is difficult for the war fighter to navigate, it is difficult to communicate, it is difficult to define friend from foe, and it is extremely difficult to minimise risk.

The development of unmanned fighting vehicles will give the US the ability to penetrate the urban environment with inviolability.

4GW advocates point out that mega-cities are the potential battlegrounds of the future, and to be able to operate constabulary, peace-keeping, and humanitarian efforts will be the chief missions for the United States Armed Forces.

The neocons have seen their plans succeed in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is however one key element missing. Victory. If war can be defined as the use of violence to impose ones will on another, then the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are far from over.

Although the war planning, staging, and fighting components of both conflicts went very well there is a lack of post-conflict follow-through to complete the mission.

Three years after the US invasion of Afghanistan the US is still mounting massive operations to defeat remnants of the Taliban and al Qa’ida. War fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan is extremely challenging. Classified after-action reports detail the myriad concerns field commanders have for their troops in such a remote and inhospitable environment. The troops morale is a key factor. It must be kept high. The men need clean clothes, hot showers, and warm meals on a regular basis. They need to be able to receive and send mail to their loved ones, and they need to feel connected to the outside world.

Working, living and fighting at extreme altitudes also poses significant risks to war fighters and considerations have to be made for the health and mental alertness of the troops in these situations. Hypothermia, frostbite, animal and insect bites are things to be on guard against. A slack mental attitude allows the enemy to capitalise on his ability to endure as a weapon.

American forces in Iraq are dying one by one every day. The recent rotation of reservists and guardsmen into Iraq will only add to the misery. These reservists have been called "bullet traps" by seasoned veterans. Iraq was obviously never a threat to the United States. The reasons for war were based on getting Iraqi oil sales back onto the US dollar, moving US forces out of Saudi Arabia, and being able to scoop up the rebuilding of Iraq’s crumbled oil industry before the UN pulled the sanctions.

The people of Iraq hate being occupied by an alien army. Nothing the Americans can do will ever be able to impose their will on the Iraqis.

Force Strength and the Draft

Much has been written about the current force levels within the US military. Almost three million war fighters are employed in the defense of the United States. They are deployed in 135 countries. Is the force too small? Currently there are over 100,000 war fighters in Iraq. However the war fighting phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom is long over. What are these soldiers doing there? If they are being trained for future attacks against Syria and Iran that is one thing, but if they are being wasted in peace-keeping operations they may potentially lose their ability to remain focussed on their primary task as war fighters. It may be necessary for the United States military to consider the creation of mission specific constabulary battalions, whose assignment would be to act as peace-keepers. This idea stems from the notion that soldiers create destruction, and police prevent destruction. They are different mind sets requiring different training and different approaches to civil order.

The neocon agenda and the so-called Bush Doctrine have called for the United States to be able to fight and win multiple simultaneous wars. Specifically in Iraq and North Korea.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has scoffed at suggestions that the US military is presently over-stretched.

His critics point to the controversial stop-loss orders which prevent service personnel from retiring from the service at the end of their contracts. Many service personnel have had their tours extended by months, some indefinitely. The cost on the families of service members is high. And for reservists and guard personnel who have given up their regular jobs or small businesses to serve it is extremely difficult.

The only other option to an all volunteer force is a draft. Supporters of the all volunteer force point to the numbers and say that there is no need for a draft, all the recruitment goals are being met. Critics of current recruitment methods highlight the methods used by the military to highlight the benefits of service, such as travel, adventure, and education, while downplaying the obvious risk factors associated with joining the military. Other recruiting practices have been criticised for being to intrusive; bordering on the stalking of eligible high school students, and badgering them to "sign on the line" in order for the individual recruiters to maintain their quotas.

Neocon Dreams and the Real World

When the Whiz Kids at Rand were developing their complex models for fighting and winning nuclear war they left out one key ingredient from their calculations; the enemy. Prior to the think-tank boffins who turned war into an abstract science, strategists had relied more on human intelligence than on mere numbers. The ancient maxim of "Know thine enemy" was the key principle in war fighting. From troop strengths to cultural eccentricities every bit of information about the enemy was a weapon to be used against him.

The Vietnam war showed how the models of the Whiz Kids could quickly go awry when based only on systems-analysis and game theory. The belief was that if the United States pounded North Vietnam with the Rolling Thunder campaign the North would quickly see that the US could very easily move on to targeting Hanoi and other cities.

The theory held that the North would "get the message" and seek terms. Instead the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong continued their attacks on the South. They overcame the American strategy by ignoring it. Not only was this a shock to the war planners at the Pentagon, but it also revealed a major failure to fully understand the enemy.

If, as I have suggested, the neocon agenda rests more upon perpetual war than it does on "freedom, democracy and liberty", then it really doesn’t matter if the United States succeeds in its overseas adventures. As stated immediately after 911 by Donald Rumsfeld, this was to be a different kind of war, to be fought on many fronts, and over a long period of time.

The complete vision, as espoused by the Godfather of the Neocon movement Irving Kristol, is for the United States to enter a fascist renaissance of Nationalism, religion, and "a return to old fashioned values."

This paradigm is seen by many people to be currently unfolding.

Patriotism has been conflated with blind obedience. The rise of the religious right is seen as a great boon to supporters of "family values." And the never-ending war is championed as a Spartan dedication to a higher purpose. That this deep moral conviction will lift the United States out of its animal like torpor and elevate it above all nations. This is fascism in all it’s hideous reality.

These are the keys to a prison of our making. And we risk locking ourselves into this prison if we do not see that this agenda is not for the betterment of American society. It is merely an experiment in Social Darwinism being carried out by a handful of miserable failed intellectuals.

Fanciful Speculation

In conclusion I wish to speculate on the cause of the September 11th attacks.

Most of the facts are in. The Taliban came to Texas in 1997 to meet with Unocal to talk about pipelines. The Clinton administration launched missile attacks against al Qa’ida training camps in Afghanistan.

In 2000 the 911 hijackers began arriving in the United States to begin training, with their paymasters in the ISI keeping the money flowing. FBI and other US agents who reported on the activities of the 911 hijackers in the months before the attacks had their reports ignored.

Warnings from the intelligence services of many countries told the US that a major attack was planned, codenamed, "The Big Wedding." On the day of 911 all the neocons were at work in Washington. Except for Bush who was in Florida, and Powell (not a neocon) out of the way in Peru.

The attacks were compared with Pearl Harbor, a sneak attack. A declaration of war. But as all historians know, Pearl Harbor was not a sneak attack. It was allowed to take place in order to drag America into World War Two. The Roosevelt White House had intercepts of over 40 transmissions that clearly showed that the Japanese fleet was on its way to Pearl Harbor. The information was not passed on to the commanders in the field.

When 911 is treated like a crime, an investigator must look for motive, opportunity, and potential for gain.

Al Qa’ida as a criminal enterprise had never before, and has not since, been able to manage more than truck and car bombings. The level of planning and the sophistication of the 911 attacks indicates a higher level of planning and thought. Al Qa’ida’s motives are clear enough. They hate the US administration. Not the people necessarily. But what group had put into writing the threat of a new Pearl Harbor? Who stood to gain the most from a catastrophic attack on the US as a pretext to launch into action all their terrible plans for global and domestic dominance? What group created the Office of Special Plans and the faked intelligence about Iraq’s supposed WMD? And what group, with their inside connections to the Likud regime in Israel, and business interests in the Oil and Defense Establishment, stands to personally gain from the chaos they have sewn?


In the course of writing this essay I have ventured into the areas of nuclear deterrence which created so much of the framework and tension of the Cold War. The argument by many critics of the current Bush Doctrine is that the "Islamic Peril" is a concoction meant to replace the "Red Menace". After all, without the threat, there is no need for a massive armaments industry.

In the last twenty-four hours (March 18 2004) the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell on a visit to South Asia has announced that Pakistan is to be given special nation status, which will allow the US to provide Pakistan with modern military hardware and training. Simultaneously, the Pakistan military is currently "encircling a top Al Qa’ida figure" somewhere.

The linkage between the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, and the Taliban, al Qa’ida, and 911 is conclusive. In recent months the news has emerged that the top level nuclear weapons expert in Pakistan was selling bomb secrets to third nations. General Musharraf is no friend of democracy or liberty. He came to power in a coup d’etat five years ago and maintains a strangle hold on power.

How can it be that Pakistan is rewarded for this behaviour?

Participate in Democracy. Vote this November.

Selected Bibliography

A Geo-Strategy for Eurasia – Zbigniew Brzenski (Foreign Affairs 1997)

Speech delivered by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski on Oct. 28 at New American Strategies for Security and Peace, a conference co-sponsored by the Prospect in Washington, D.C. 2003

Team B: The trillion dollar experiment – Anne Hessing Cahn (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) 1993

Defense Strategy for the 1990’s: The regional defense strategy – Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney 1993

Leo Strauss and the American Right S. Drury 1997

Scoop Jackson proteges shaping Bush’s foreign policy – Alex Fryer (The Seattle Times, 2004)

Keeping the U.S. First; Pentagon Would Preclude a Rival Superpower BYLINE: Barton Gellman, Washington Post Staff Writer The Washington Post March 11, 1992, Wednesday, Final Edition

(Yale University on-line archives)

Selective Intelligence by Seymour M. Hersh The New Yorker May 2003

Operation Enduring Freedom: Tactics, Techniques and Procedures Handbook No 02-8

- Colonel Michael A. Hiemstra Center for Army Lessons Learned

Neocons: The men behind the curtain – Khurram Husain (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 2003)

The New Pentagon Papers – Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski ( March 2004)

Oil barons court Taliban in Texas By Caroline Lees International News Electronic Telegraph Sunday 14 December 1997 Issue 934

An Alternative Strategy for the War on Terrorism – Laurent Murawiec (The Hudson Institute) 2002

The U.S. Must Strike at Saddam Hussein by Richard Perle New York Times December 28, 2001

Testimony before the House International Relations Committee By Richard Perle 2002

Why the West Must Strike First against Saddam Hussein by Richard Perle Daily Telegraph August 9, 2002 Benador Associates website, at

Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and its implications for United States National Security – Peter Schwartz Doug Randall The Pentagon 2003

The Contemporary Operational Environment (COE) © 1998 - 2003 All rights Reserved.,

Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq - Danny Postel 2003

Natural Right and History - L. Strauss (Univeristy of Chicago) 1953

Military Threats and Security Challenges Through 2015 - Vice Admiral Thomas R. Wilson

Director, Defense Intelligence Agency Statement for the Record

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence 2 February 2000

The Delicate Balance of Terror - A. Wohlstetter (Rand Corporation 1958)

Statement before the House National Security Committee - Paul Wolfowitz 1998 (available at the Project for the New American Century Website)

Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson Distinguished Service Award Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs) 2002 The Pentagon