The Thing We Don't Talk About
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Thursday 23 June 2005
With the revelation of the secret Downing Street Minutes, which exposed the fact that George Bush and Tony Blair had decided to invade Iraq in April of 2002, a heated debate has blown through media, congressional and activist circles. The decision to go to war in Iraq was made before any public debate was initiated, before the United Nations was brought into the conversation, confirming that Bush's blather about wanting peace and leaving war as the last resort was just that: blather.
So why did we go?
It had been suspected, and has now been confirmed by the Minutes, that Bush took us to war on false pretenses and by way of a whole constellation of lies and exaggerations. First it was the weapons of mass destruction that were not there. Then it was connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda that did not exist. Finally, it became about bringing freedom and democracy to the region, which has emphatically not happened.
Threaded through the discussion was the belief that Bush and his petroleum-company allies lusted after Iraq's oil. There was also the idea that Bush wanted Saddam's head because of the "unfinished business" left by his father in 1991. Some whispered that Iraq had intended to change the monetary basis of its petroleum dealings from the dollar to the Euro, an action that would have spelled financial disaster for the boys in Houston. Finally, many believed Bush ramped up a war push in order to give Republicans a flag-waving platform to run on in the 2002 midterms.
All of these were on the table as reasons for an invasion, though most of them were not included in public debate. Yet the real reasons behind this war, the real reasons for many of our military actions over the years, were never discussed. As with almost everything we deal with today in the foreign policy realm, the real reasons we invaded Iraq harken back to World War II and the Cold War.
When the United States jumped into World War II, President Roosevelt ordered the American economy be put on a wartime footing. This was a sound decision: the country had to speed its industrial capabilities up to a sprint in order to manufacture a huge fighting army out of whole cloth. The action was successful beyond measure. The economy was invigorated, the war was won, and in the process the military/industrial complex, so named by President Eisenhower, was established as a power player in the American economy.
In 1947, President Harry Truman put forth the Truman Doctrine, a broad policy of foreign intervention to combat the feared spread of Communism around the world. The Doctrine was essentially created by a small band of men like Paul Nitze, who were the precursors of what we now call neo-conservatives. Nitze, it should be noted, was the mentor of Paul Wolfowitz, who went on to be the mentor of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
The establishment of the Truman Doctrine, the establishment of the "permanent crisis" that was the Cold War, required that the American economy remain on a wartime footing. There it has remained to this day, despite the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the threat of a global communist takeover. Ten thousand books have been written on this subject, on the impact of our wartime economic footing upon domestic policy, the environment, global affairs and politics. In the end, however, the fact that our economy is set on a wartime footing means one simple thing.
We need wars.
Without wars, the economy flakes and falls apart. Without wars, the trillions of dollars spent on weapons systems, military preparedness and a planetary army would dry up, dealing a death blow to the economy as currently constituted. Without wars or the threat of wars, the populace is not so easily controlled and manipulated.
Let us be clear, however. When I say "we," I do not refer to your average working man and woman on the street. The man running the shoe store or the woman managing the bar does not need war to remain economically viable. The "we" I speak of is that overwhelmingly wealthy and powerful few who have wired their fortunes into the manufacture of weapons, the plumbing of oil, and the collection of spoils through political largesse.
These are the people who need war. They need it to pile up the contracts from the Pentagon, to enrich the banking institutions that protect them, to pay the lawyers who defend them, to pay the lobbyists who sustain them, to purchase the politicians who champion them, and to buy up the media that hides them from sight.
Yet though this group is small in number, they are "we," for they are our leaders and our myth-makers. They have convinced the majority of this population that war is a necessity. They create the premises for combat and invasion, they convince and cajole and, when necessary, frighten us into line. All too often, almost every time, we buy into the fictions they manufacture, thus sustaining the "permanent crisis" mentality and the need for war after war after war.
The economic need for war creates the required excuses for war. The "permanent crisis" of the Cold War motivated the United States to support the Shah in Iran, a decision that led to the Islamic Revolution and the establishment of Iran as a permanent enemy. The Cold War motivated us to support Saddam Hussein financially and militarily as a bulwark against Iran. The Cold War motivated us to establish the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia to ensure a steady supply of oil. The Cold War motivated us to support Osama bin Laden and the so-called "Jihadists" in Afghanistan in their fight against the Soviet invaders.
Now, we prepare to invade Iran. We have invaded Iraq for the second time in 15 years. We will never invade Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that this nation's vast wealth and Wahabbist extremists make it the birthing bed of international terrorism. We lost two towers in New York City at the hands of a group that we created in the 1980s to fight the Soviets. Put plainly, the "permanent crisis" of the Cold War created a cycle of military self-justification. We build enemies with arms and money, and then we destroy them with arms and money, thus keeping our wartime economy afloat.
The Cold War ended more than ten years ago, but we still need war, and we need that "permanent crisis" to continue the cycle of military self-justification. If a legitimate war is not available, we will create one because we have to. We have our new "permanent crisis," which we call the War on Terror, another turn of the cycle created by an attack that our foreign policy and war-justifications of the last 50 years made almost inevitable.
We need wars. That's why we are in Iraq. This invasion and occupation of that nation has given our economy the war it needs, and has also created the justification for future wars by creating legions of enemies in the Mideast and around the world. Our wartime economy will tolerate no less.
Talking about Bush's lies regarding weapons of mass destruction, or about bringing democracy to the region, or about the dollar-to-Euro transfer, or about the midterm elections, is window-dressing. We invaded Iraq because we had to. This is the elephant in the room, the foreign policy reality nobody talks about.
If you want peace, work to change the underpinnings of our economy. Until that change is made, there will always be wars, invasions, and lies to brings such things about. It is what it is.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.