It was not “faulty intelligence,”as Jeb Bush claims, that led to the war in Iraq. He knows better. His brother’s Administration meant to invade Iraq from its first days in office, and Jeb Bush was prominent among those demanding it.
“Faulty intelligence” is a facade and a fraud. America was taken deliberately into war by a fanatic group obsessed with democratizing the world by force—the force of U.S. military supremacy. The group was called the Project for the New American Century. Dozens of PNAC members–Vice President Richard Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for example—dominated the Administration of George W. Bush in setting foreign and defense policy, and leading the nation to war as a result.
Jeb Bush was a founding member of the Project for the New American Century.
The genesis of the Iraqi war—and the PNAC ideology—was a 1992 Defense Department document, Draft Defense Planning Guidance,written by Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, and Zalmay Khalilzad at the direction of Richard Cheney, then Secretary of Defense. It advocated the economic and military domination of the world by the United States, using pre-emptive war if necessary, and noted the strategic importance of Persian Gulf oil for achieving this. The objective was global dominion, unabashed imperialism, and Iraq was in the crosshairs.
Even in some quarters of the Administration however, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Libby, and Khalilzad were seen as extremists; the President, Jeb Bush’s father, rejected their draft.
In 1997 neoconservatives William Kristol and Robert Kagan organized the Project for the New American Century, inviting the founding members to sign a Statement of Principles. It was essentially a condensed paraphrase of the discredited Draft Defense Planning Guidance, recasting and advocating the vision of global dominion through an invincible military.
This is not surprising: among the founders of the PNAC are the four original proponents of the vision—Richard Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, and Zalmay Khalilzad. Donald Rumsfeld was also a founding member, and so was Jeb Bush.
The Project for the New American Century quickly became a notable force in American public affairs. Soon after its founding the PNAC sent two letters, first to President Clinton and then another to the Congress, insisting on the forcible removal of Saddam Hussein.
But the letters were futile, the demand denied. Neither the President nor the Congress was willing to violate the charter of the United Nations by invading a sovereign nation without provocation. Doing so is an international crime.
The PNAC was frustrated, accordingly, but not defeated.
As the Bush/Gore presidential election approached in late 2000, the group tried again, this time with a detailed study of national defense posture and policy. Gambling on a Bush victory, they thought they might yet prevail, but only if they were prepared with a written, detailed agenda. The study project was professional and comprehensive, with two co-chairman, a staff writer, and 29 participants. Its final report, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for A New Century, once more mirrored the vision of world dominion in the Draft Defense Planning Guidance, but presented far more detailed analyses of military capabilities and opportunities.
The persistence of the global dominion theme was not surprising, because familiar names popped up again. According to a newspaper report in 2002, Rebuilding America’s Defenses was “drawn up” for five prominent members of the Project for the New American Century: Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, and Jeb Bush.
The PNAC won its gamble. After a legal, lengthy, and some thought dubious battle over recounts, the electoral votes of Florida were awarded to George Bush, which put him in the White House. PNAC founder Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida at the time.
Twenty nine members of the Project for the New American Century joined the new Administration of George W. Bush. Sixteen of them filled positions at the highest levels: Founder Dick Cheney was Vice President; Founder Lewis Libby was Cheney’s Chief of Staff; Founder Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense; Founder Paul Wolfowitz was Rumsfeld’s Chief of Staff; Founder Zalmay Khalilzad was the “President’s Special Envoy.” Most of the rest were deputy or assistant secretaries in the Departments of State and Defense: Steven Cambone, Peter Rodman, Dov Zakheim, Abram Shulsky, Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Richard Armitage, Paula Dobriansky, John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, and Robert Zoellick.
Rebuilding America’s Defenses, the PNAC document,became the strategic blueprint for the foreign and defense policies of the new Administration.
On January 30 President Bush convened his National Security Council. It was a triumph for the Project for the New American Century. Its strategic blueprintguided the discussion and predetermined the decision reached: the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was placed at the top of the foreign policy agenda. The long-standing priority for the Middle East—reconciling the Iraeli-Palestinian conflict—was abandoned.
The Bush Administration was formally committed to the invasion of Iraq ten days after taking office.
The third-time-is-charmed, perhaps. President George H.W. Bush rejected the Draft Defense Planning Guidance. President Clinton rejected a belligerent letter seeking the invasion of Iraq. The PNAC tried once more, with the defense study “drawn up” for Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Libby, and Jeb Bush and delivered to the new Administration of Jeb Bush’s brother. With it they finally won the day.
Attacking Iraq was the first but not the only oil war to be scheduled for the Middle East in the early days of the Bush Administration. Not long after the NSC meeting a decision was finalized and planning was underway for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan as well. The proximate beneficiary was an American oil company seeking control of the Caspian Basin’s colossal resources, but the endeavor also fit perfectly into the PNAC vision of world dominion.
These commitments, to invade two sovereign nations, were in place long before the horrific events of September 11, 2001. When that day arrived, the White House seized immediately the public relations opportunity it provided. 9/11 became in a heartbeat the spectacular cause celebre to provoke the scheduled wars, and far more importantly to cloak their intent and premeditation.
The “global war on terror” was born—in fraudulence. And for years to come the people of the Project for the New American Century—including Jeb Bush, governing in Florida—dissembled, calling it a righteous, just, even glorious enterprise.
An offer for “the unconditional surrender of [Osama] bin Laden” was waiting on the presidential desk when George Bush was inaugurated on January 20, 2001. The Clinton Administration extracted the offer from the Taliban in November of 2000, after the al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole. To avoid a retaliatory bombing of Afghanistan the Taliban offered up bin Laden’s head.
The new Bush Administration, however, sent a letter to the Taliban asking to delay the handover of bin Laden until February. This bizarre, seemingly derelict decision would be explained by events still to take place as the Administration plunged ahead, driven by the strategic blueprint of the Project for the New American Century.
The Bush Administration soon undertook its own negotiations with the Taliban, on a separate issue: an exclusive right-of-way for a geostrategic pipeline across Afghanistan, to access and control the epic hydrocarbon resources of the Caspian Basin. The Taliban had granted such a right-of-way to the Bridas Corporation of Argentina, but the Bush Administration wanted it reassigned to America’s Unocal Corporation instead. In exchange, the Administration would provide a package of foreign aid. The negotiators met three times, in Washington, Berlin, and Islamabad, but the Taliban would not agree. Reports in the British press surfaced later of a covert statement by the Bush Administration in mid-July: “…military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October.” And at the final meeting, on August 2, 2001, State Department negotiator Christine Rocca issued the Administration’s ultimatum: “Accept our offer of a carpet of gold or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.”
In the course of the pipeline talks, the Taliban’s surrender of Osama bin Laden was twice more postponed by the Bush Administration, and then on September 11 bin Laden struck again: the trade towers fell and the Pentagon smoldered.
Both President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld were frantic to launch the planned attack on Iraq, and ordered subordinates to find a reason for doing so: some—any–connection between bin Laden and Saddam Hussein would do.
But none could be found, so soon, on October 7 and right on schedule, the carpet of bombs was delivered as promised to the sovereign nation of Afghanistan.
The Project for the New American Century was no doubt disappointed, but registered no complaint. Indeed its architects, William Kristol and Robert Kagan three weeks later on October 29 wrote, “Nor do we doubt the vital importance of victory in Afghanistan—a victory defined by the unequivocal destruction of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden.”
They might have written differently had they known the Bush Administration—four days after the trauma of 9/11—once more refused custody of Osama bin Laden. Meeting with State Department negotiators in Quetta, Pakistan on September 15, the Taliban sweetened their offer of surrendering bin Laden. Now they would also shut down his bases and training camps. The White House rejected this proposal, too.
Ever the ideologues, Kristol and Kagan failed to understand, in urging bin Laden’s “unequivocal destruction,” the strategic necessity of keeping him alive and free.
Accepting custody would have brought bin Laden quickly to justice, but the White House could not countenance the turnover. To secure the pipeline for Unocal and to protect it, the Administration needed to invade Afghanistan and to build a strategic chain of military bases, precisely superimposed on the pipeline’s prospective route. (This was soon underway.) But all this had to be seen as “war on terror,” and for that the Administration needed a credible terrorist roaming in Afghanistan, not one in custody. Refusing the surrender of Osama bin Laden could now be understood.
As the future of Afghanistan unfolded, the ideology and the vision of the Project for the New American Century were never far from the most influential minds in the Bush Administration: they soon unleashed a full court press to justify invading Iraq. Controlling Persian Gulf oil was an imperative step toward global dominion.
Flashback: within two weeks of taking office in 2001, President Bush had appointed Vice President Cheney to chair a “National Energy Policy Development Group,” composed of federal agency people and oil industry executives. Almost immediately the Group was poring over maps of Iraqi oil fields, and it reported to the President in May of 2001: “The [Persian] Gulf will be a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy.” The true meaning of “primary focus” was foreshadowed in a candid but top secret National Security Council memorandum dated February 3, 2001: it spoke of “…actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.”
To mask this intent, the White House adopted a soothing rhetoric: the objective in attacking Iraq would be “regime change,” the removal of Saddam Hussein to preclude the use of his frightful weapons.
For two years the American people suffered a barrage of deception and 935 documented lies, as the Bush Administration continued “fitting the intelligence and the facts around the policy” in its frenzy to invade Iraq. The goal, the rationale, and much of the language was liturgic, straight from the Project for the New American Century.
Jeb Bush was a founding member of the PNAC. He played a prominent role in producing its strategic blueprint, Rebuilding America’s Defenses. Jeb Bush must have applauded his brother’s drumbeats for war.
The Iraqis were anxious to disclaim involvement in 9/11 and their possession of weapons of mass destruction. They offered increasingly reliable means of disproving both, all of which were refused. Finally Saddam Hussein himself volunteered early in 2003 to go into exile in either Egypt or Saudi Arabia. A facile means, certainly, of effecting “regime change,” this offer was summarily brushed aside.
The need to keep Saddam Hussein in place was identical to the situation with Osama bin Laden. Iraq was invaded to gain control of its oil, but to maintain the masquerades of a “war on terror” and “regime change” the White House needed Saddam in Baghdad, not in Egypt.
Beginning with the violence of “shock and awe” in March of 2003, George Bush’s preferred version of “regime change” was underway. Later on, the Administration installed a puppet government and invited U.S. and British oil companies to help write (in English) an Iraqi hydrocarbon law. It authorized a virtual fire sale of 81% of Iraq’s undeveloped oil fields to the companies, for a pittance. The draft law was translated it into Arabic, and then the White House pressured incessantly the Malaki government to enact it.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, overcoming Taliban resistance sufficiently (but by no means completely), the Administration installed Mr. Hamid Karzai, a native Afghani but also a former Unocal consultant, as president. Mr. John Maresca, a Unocal vice president, was dispatched as the first U.S. ambassador. His successor was Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad, Jeb Bush’s associate among the founders of the Project for the New American Century. Mr. Khalilzad had been a consultant for Unocal as well.
But events conspired against George Bush and the PNAC. There would be no control of Middle East oil, and there would be no world dominion.
After fourteen years of warfare Afghanistan is still too violent and politically unstable to attract capital investment in pipelines—the conditions the invasion was meant to rectify. The Taliban remains a formidable force, and the puppet government is riven with corruption and graft. The likelihood is beyond remote that anyone in Afghanistan will grant an exclusive pipeline right-of-way to an American oil company. And for the record, Unocal has long since disappeared, absorbed by Chevron/Texaco in 2007.
In Iraq the hydrocarbon law went nowhere, as intramural conflict arose between the government in Baghdad and the regional interests of the Kurds. Later, long after George Bush left office, the Iraqi Oil Ministry awarded “service contracts” to foreign oil companies. Yes, one British and two American oil companies were included, but they are barely visible among a flock of other companies from Malaysia, France, the Netherlands, Korea, Norway, Italy, Turkey, China, and Russia.
The premeditated, unprovoked wars of George W. Bush are probably unmatched in history for their tragic futility. They failed not because they devolved from “faulty intelligence,” as Jeb Bush wants the American people to believe. They failed because they were conceived in profound hubris, in an arrogant, sophomoric, anachronistic fantasy of imperialism, orchestrated and pursued by a cabal of delusional men and women. They called themselves the Project for the New American Century. Jeb Bush stood tall among them.
Richard W. Behan lives in Corvallis, Oregon.
Much of the history in this essay was distilled from the author’s dated (2008) 117-page electronic book, The Fraudulent War.