The Washington Axis of Evil
International Socialist Review, March / April
President Bush used his January State of the Union address
to serve notice on the world: Get in line with the USA or face
the worst the Pentagon can dish out. Appearing before Congress
two months after the most powerful military in the world routed
the ragtag Taliban government, Bush played the role of Caesar
surveying his empire.
"I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will
not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States
of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes
to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons,"
Into the role of "world's most dangerous regimes"
Bush cast Iraq, Iran, and North Korea-the "axis of evil."
Never mind that these regimes share little in common with one
another, or that they have gross domestic products smaller than
the Pentagon budget. Two of them- North Korea and Iran-were even
seeking rapprochement with the West until Bush rode into Washington.
None of that matters to Bush. Just as the Pentagon used these
countries-under their former title of "rogue nations"-to
justify maintaining a Cold War-sized military after the Cold War,
Bush is using them today to justify Star Wars, permanent war,
and the huge boosts in military spending that go along with them.
Bush sold the war in Afghanistan as an extended police action
intended to "bring to justice" those responsible for
September 11. Of course, Bush hadn't the slightest concern with
justice. So soon after the war started, Bush's goals shifted to
uprooting the Taliban government and installing a friendly regime
in its place. With that mission accomplished-though fighting continues
between U.S.-led forces and "remnants" of al-Qaeda and
the Taliban-Bush and Co. stopped talking about Osama bin Laden
and began looking for other locations to bring their "war
U.S. "advisers" have already landed in the Philippines.
Supposedly, the U.S. military is helping the Philippine government
to root out Abu Sayyaf, a gang of a few dozen kidnappers on the
remote island of Basilan. But as New York Times columnist Nicholas
Kristof explained, "The real aim of the American mission
is political: to demonstrate momentum in the war on terror, deploy
troops in a country where they are welcome, show the flag in Southeast
Asia, and find an enemy that can be quickly beaten." With
its sights on establishing a stronger foothold in the entire Southeast
Asian region, the U.S. has also begun to link Abu Sayyaf with
Islamic radicals in Indonesia, not coincidentally the most strategically
placed archipelago in the area, as far as U.S. interests are concerned.
The Philippines expedition is only the warm-up act for the
main event-the plan for "regime change" in Iraq. With
the administration's so-called dove, Secretary of State Colin
Powell, signed on to the plan, it is only a matter of time before
the administration makes its move to oust Iraq's president, Saddam
Hussein. The current plan calls for the U.S. to provoke a crisis
over Iraq's refusal to readmit U.S. weapons inspectors, leaving
the U.S. with only one option-to overthrow Saddam. Vice President
Dick Cheney embarked on a March tour of the Middle East to line
up support for the attack.
Bush's threats against Iraq have brought a chorus of criticism
from America's European allies, who condemn the administration
for its "unilateralism" and disregard for other countries'
interests. As military action nears, most of these critics will
get on board the American bandwagon- or remain silent. Bush and
Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, will hold an April summit
conference to plan the attack, according to the London Guardian
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest believe they can sell
just about any Pentagon boondoggle or imperial adventure abroad
by claiming it as part of the "war on terrorism." Within
the space of a few months, Bush has junked his campaign rhetoric
about U.S. "humility" and asserted a unilateral U.S.
right to intervene and to overthrow governments anywhere he decides.
His evangelical preacher's claptrap about fighting "evil"
merely covers a naked assertion of U.S. economic, political, and
military hegemony over the world.
In Colombia, Bush's saber rattling and pressure from the Pentagon
gave President Andres Pastrana the opening he wanted to end the
"peace process" and launch a war to wipe out guerrilla
forces. U.S. aid-including almost $100 million and U.S. troops
to guard a strategic oil pipeline- pushed Pastrana along. Now
the U.S. doesn't even uphold the pretense that the war in Colombia
was about stopping drugs-and it is looking into ways to increase
military support for Colombia's government even further.
Some U.S. commentators have slammed Bush for adopting the
permanent war as his version of President Clinton's "permanent
campaign." They note that an invasion of Iraq would likely
coincide with the fall's midterm elections.
More than simply Bush and Republican Party reelection dreams
are at work here. Under the cover of the "war on terrorism,"
the U.S. has advanced the geopolitical agenda of the most ideological
proponents of U.S. military domination of the world. The U.S.
has gained the right to base troops in Central Asian republics,
which it has sought since these countries broke from the Soviet
empire in the early 1990s. From these bases, the U.S. will be
able to project military firepower to gain control over the region's
huge oil and gas reserves. U.S. troops are inserted directly into
a region where proponents of U.S. imperialism believe the most
likely challenger to America's self-proclaimed role as the lone
superpower will come.
In pursuit of these goals, the Bush administration has also
recently announced plans (for the time being, without opposition
from Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin) to send hundreds
of military "advisers" to Georgia-a former Soviet republic-supposedly
to quell that country's al-Qaeda-linked terrorist threat. But
as the Chicago Tribune explained, Washington is using the war
on terror as a pretext to pursue other goals:
Georgia is a prime objective in the post-Cold War struggle
between Russia and the United States for influence in the Caspian
Sea region. Georgia is pushing itself as the perfect route for
a series of pipelines that would carry oil and gas from new fields
opening across the region. U.S. officials strongly support Georgia's
bid, largely because it would allow the pipelines to skirt Iran
and Russia but still get the petroleum to Turkey and then on into
Bush is trying to use "terrorism" today the way
that Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, and others used "communism"
during the Cold War-as the all-purpose ideological justification
for U.S. imperial designs. At home, it has meant keeping up the
"permanent war" atmosphere, including creating a Dr.
Strangelove-style "shadow" government, complete with
its own underground cave complex.
Yet this U.S. government isn't merely interested in "containing"
its enemies. It wants to be able to impose the American ruling
class's program on the world. "Missile defense" isn't
about shooting down North Korean missiles that don't even have
the power to make it into U.S. airspace. It's about eliminating
the nuclear deterrents of other challengers (read Russia and China)
so that the U.S. can get its way.
This is the Pentagon's doctrine of "full spectrum dominance,"
as enunciated in Joint vision 2020, the public document laying
out the U.S. military's plan for the 21st century:
Full spectrum dominance implies that U.S. forces are able
to conduct prompt, sustained, and synchronized operations with
combinations of forces tailored to specific situations and with
access to and freedom to operate in all domains - space, sea,
land, air, and information. Additionally, given the global nature
of our interests and obligations, the United States must maintain
its overseas presence forces and the ability to rapidly project
power worldwide in order to achieve full spectrum dominance.
These dreams come with a huge price tag. Bush's proposed 2003
budget will boost military spending beyond $400 billion-a level
not seen since Ronald Reagan's military build-up at the height
of the Cold War. With Democrats bowing and scraping before the
"wartime" president, it's likely that Congress could
push the military budget above Bush's request. Besides the people
who might feel the effects of this horrible arsenal one day, the
biggest losers in this Pentagon porkfest will be ordinary Americans.
Money for schools, Medicare prescription drugs, and aid to the
unemployed will take a backseat to the Pentagon.
Bush's plans not only menace billions of people around the
world. They will continue to provide the pretext for raiding social
spending and shredding civil liberties at home. That's why it's
more important than ever to rebuild an antiwar opposition in the