The Mega-Lie Called the "War
on Terror": A Masterpiece of Propaganda
by Richard W. Behan
The fraudulence of the "War on Terror"
is clearly revealed by looking at the pattern of actions that
preceded and followed its launch.
"If you tell a lie big enough and
keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can
shield the people from the political, economic and/or military
consequences of the lie ... The truth is the mortal enemy of the
lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of
the state." --Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda in
Nazi Germany, 1933-1945
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the administration
of George W. Bush has told and repeated a lie that is "big
enough" to confirm Joseph Goebbels' testimony. It is a mega-lie,
and the American people have come to believe it. It is the "War
The Bush administration endlessly recites
its mantra of deceit:
The War on Terror was launched in response
to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It is intended to
enhance our national security at home and to spread democracy
in the Middle East.
This is the struggle of our lifetime;
we are defending our way of life from an enemy intent on destroying
our freedoms. We must fight the enemy in the Middle East, or we
will fight him in our cities.
This is classic propaganda. In Goebbels'
terms, it is the "state" speaking its lie, but the political,
economic, and military consequences of the Bush administration
lie are coming into view, and they are all catastrophic. If truth
is the enemy of both the lie and George Bush's "state,"
then the American people need to know the truth.
The military incursions into Afghanistan
and Iraq were not done in retaliation for 9/11. The Bush administration
had them clearly in mind upon taking office, and they were set
in motion as early as Feb. 3, 2001. That was seven months prior
to the attacks on the Trade Towers and the Pentagon, and the objectives
of the wars had nothing to do with terrorism.
This is beyond dispute. The mainstream
press has ignored the story, but the administration's congenital
belligerence is fully documented in book-length treatments and
in the limitless information pool of the internet. (See my earlier
work, for example.)
Invading a sovereign nation unprovoked,
however, directly violates the charter of the United Nations.
It is an international crime. Before the Bush administration could
attack either Afghanistan or Iraq, it would need a politically
and diplomatically credible reason for doing so.
The terrorist violence of Sept. 11, 2001,
provided a spectacular opportunity. In the cacophony of outrage
and confusion, the administration could conceal its intentions,
disguise the true nature of its premeditated wars, and launch
them. The opportunity was exploited in a heartbeat.
Within hours of the attacks, President
Bush declared the United States " would take the fight directly
to the terrorists," and " he announced to the world
the United States would make no distinction between the terrorists
and the states that harbor them." Thus the "War on Terror"
The fraudulence of the "War on Terror,"
however, is clearly revealed in the pattern of subsequent facts:
0. In Afghanistan the state was overthrown
instead of apprehending the terrorist. Offers by the Taliban to
surrender Osama bin Laden were ignored, and he remains at large
to this day.
0. In Iraq, when the United States invaded, there were no al Qaeda
terrorists at all.
0. Both states have been supplied with puppet governments, and
both are dotted with permanent U.S. military bases in strategic
proximity to their hydrocarbon assets.
0. The U.S. embassy nearing completion in Baghdad is comprised
of 21 multistory buildings on 104 acres of land. It will house
5,500 diplomats, staff and families. It is ten times larger than
any other U.S. embassy in the world, but we have yet to be told
0. A 2006 National Intelligence Estimate shows the war in Iraq
has exacerbated, not diminished, the threat of terrorism since
9/11. If the "War on Terror" is not a deception, it
is a disastrously counterproductive failure.
0. Today two American and two British oil companies are poised
to claim immense profits from 81 percent of Iraq's undeveloped
crude oil reserves. They cannot proceed, however, until the Iraqi
Parliament enacts a statute known as the "hydrocarbon framework
0. The features of postwar oil policy so heavily favoring the
oil companies were crafted by the Bush administration State Department
in 2002, a year before the invasion.
Drafting of the law itself was begun during
Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority, with the invited
participation of a number of major oil companies. The law was
written in English and translated into Arabic only when it was
due for Iraqi approval.
0. President Bush made passage of the
hydrocarbon law a mandatory "benchmark" when he announced
the troop surge in January of 2007.
When it took office, the Bush administration
brushed aside warnings about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Their
anxiety to attack both Afghanistan and Iraq was based on other
The Iraqi war was conceived in 1992, during
the first Bush administration, in a 46-page document entitled
Draft Defense Planning Guidance.
The document advocated the concept of
preemptive war to assure the military and diplomatic dominance
of the world by the United States. It asserted the need for "
access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil."
It warned of " proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
And it spoke of " threats to U.S. citizens from terrorism."
It was the template for today's war in Iraq.
The Draft Defense Planning Guidance
was signed by the secretary of defense, Richard Cheney. It was
prepared by three top staffers: Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis "Scooter"
Libby and Zalmay Khalilzad-all of whom would fill high-level positions
in the administration of George W. Bush, nine years in the future.
In proposing global dominance and preemptive
war, it was a radical departure from the traditional U.S. policy
of multilateral realism, and it was an early statement of the
emerging ideology of "neoconservatism."
The document was too extreme. President
George H.W. Bush publicly denounced it and immediately retracted
it. Many in his administration referred to its authors as "the
But the ideology survived. Five years
later William Kristol and Robert Kagan created a neoconservative
organization to advocate preemptive war and U.S. global dominion
to achieve, in their words, a "benevolent global hegemony."
It was called the Project for the New American Century, quickly
abbreviated as PNAC. Among the founding members were Richard Cheney,
Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Zalmay Khalilzad,
Donald Rumsfeld and Jeb Bush.
In a letter to President Clinton on Jan.
26, 1998, the Project for the New American Century once more urged
the military overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime.
President Clinton ignored the letter,
apparently viewing this iteration of the proposal as no less crazy
than the original.
As the presidential campaign of 2000 drew
to a close, the PNAC produced yet another proposal for U.S. world
dominion, preemptive war and the invasion of Iraq. It was a document
called "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces,
and Resources For a New Century" (PDF).
Weeks later, in January of 2001, 29 members
of the Project for the New American Century joined the administration
of George W. Bush. Their ideology of world dominion and preemptive
war would dominate the Bush administration's foreign and defense
Within 10 days of his inauguration, President
Bush convened his National Security Council. The PNAC people triumphed
when the invasion of Iraq was placed at the top of the agenda
for Mideast foreign policy. Reconciling the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, long the top priority, was dropped from consideration.
The neoconservative dream of invading
Iraq was a tragic anachronism, an ideological fantasy of retrograde
imperialism. A related and far more pragmatic reason for the invasion,
however, would surface soon.
No administration in memory had been more
closely aligned with the oil industry. President Bush and Vice
President Cheney were intimately tied to it, and so was National
Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. So were eight cabinet secretaries
and 32 other high-level appointees.
By early February, Vice President Cheney's
"Energy Task Force" was at work. Federal agency people
were joined by executives and lobbyists from the Enron, Exxon-Mobil,
Conoco-Phillips, Shell and BP America corporations.
Soon the task force was poring over detailed
maps of the Iraqi oil fields, pipelines, tanker terminals, refineries
and the undeveloped oil exploration blocks. It studied two pages
of "foreign suitors for Iraqi oil field contracts" --
foreign companies negotiating with Saddam Hussein's regime, none
of which was a major American or British oil company.
The intent to invade Iraq and the keen
interest in Iraqi oil would soon converge in a top secret memo
of Feb. 3, 2001, from a "high level National Security Council
official." The memo: " directed the NSC staff to cooperate
fully with the Energy Task Force as it considered the 'melding'
of two seemingly unrelated areas of policy: 'the review of operational
policies toward rogue states' such as Iraq and 'actions regarding
the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.'"
As early as Feb. 3, 2001, the Bush administration
was committed to invading Iraq, with the oil fields clearly in
The terrorist attacks on Washington and
New York were still seven months in the future.
The issue in Afghanistan was the strategically
valuable location for a pipeline to connect the immense oil and
gas resources of the Caspian Basin to the richest markets. Whoever
built the pipeline would control the Basin, and in the 1990s the
contest to build it was spirited.
American interests in the region were
promoted by an organization called the Foreign Oil Companies Group.
Among its most active members were Henry Kissinger, a former secretary
of state but now an advisor to the Unocal Corp.; Alexander Haig,
another former secretary of state but now a lobbyist for Turkmenistan;
and Richard Cheney, a former secretary of defense, but now the
CEO of the Halliburton Corp.
Late in 1996, however, the Bridas Corp.
of Argentina finally signed contracts with the Taliban and with
Gen. Dostum of the Northern Alliance to build the pipeline.
One American company in particular, Unocal,
found that intolerable and fought back vigorously, hiring a number
of consultants in addition to Kissinger: Hamid Karzai, Richard
Armitage, and Zalmay Khalilzad. (Armitage and Khalilzad would
join the George W. Bush administration in 2001.)
Unocal wooed Taliban officials at its
headquarters in Texas and in Washington, D.C., seeking to have
the Bridas contract voided, but the Taliban refused. Finally,
in February of 1998, John J. Maresca, a Unocal vice president,
asked in a congressional hearing to have the Taliban replaced
by a more stable regime.
The Clinton administration, having recently
refused the PNAC request to invade Iraq, was not any more interested
in a military overthrow of the Taliban. President Clinton did,
however, shoot a few cruise missiles into Afghanistan, after the
al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa. And he issued
an executive order forbidding further trade transactions with
Maresca was thus twice disappointed: The
Taliban would not be replaced very soon, and Unocal would have
to cease its pleadings with the regime.
Unocal's prospects rocketed when George
W. Bush entered the White House, and the Project for the New American
Century ideology of global dominance took hold.
The Bush administration itself took up
active negotiations with the Taliban in January of 2001, seeking
secure access to the Caspian Basin for American companies. The
Enron Corp. also was eyeing a pipeline to feed its proposed power
plant in India.) The administration offered a package of foreign
aid as an inducement, and the parties met in Washington, Berlin
and Islamabad. The Bridas contract might still be voided.
But the Taliban would not yield.
Anticipating this in the spring of 2001,
the State Department had sought and gained the concurrence of
India and Pakistan to take military action if necessary. The PNAC
people were not timid about using force.
At the final meeting with the Taliban,
on Aug. 2, 2001, State Department negotiator Christine Rocca,
clarified the options: "Either you accept our offer of a
carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs."
With the futility of negotiations apparent, "President Bush
promptly informed Pakistan and India the U.S. would launch a military
mission into Afghanistan before the end of October."
This was five weeks before the events
Sept. 11, 2001
A tectonic groundswell of skepticism,
doubt and suspicion has emerged about the Bush administration's
official explanation of 9/11. Some claim the administration orchestrated
the attacks. Others see complicity. Still others find criminal
negligence. The cases they make are neither extreme nor trivial.
Whatever the truth about 9/11, the Bush
administration now had a fortuitous, spectacular opportunity to
proceed with its premeditated attacks.
The administration would have to play
its hand skillfully, however.
Other nations have suffered criminal acts
of terrorism, but there is no precedent for conflating the terrorists
with the states that harbor them, declaring a "war"
and seeking with military force to overthrow a sovereign government.
Victimized nations have always relied successfully on international
law enforcement and police action to bring terrorists to justice.
But the Bush administration needed more
than this. War plans were in the files. They needed to justify
invasions. Only by targeting the "harboring states,"
as well as the terrorists, did they stand a chance of doing so.
The administration played its hand brilliantly.
It compared the terrorist attacks immediately to Pearl Harbor,
and in the smoke and rage of 9/11 the comparison was superficially
attractive. But Pearl Harbor was the violent expression of hostile
intent by a formidably armed nation, and it introduced four years
of full-scale land, sea and airborne combat. 9/11 was al Qaeda's
violent expression of hostility: 19 fanatics armed with box cutters.
Yes, extraordinary destruction and loss of life, but the physical
security of our entire nation was simply not at stake.
Though the comparison was specious, the
"War on Terror" was born, and it has proven to be an
exquisite smokescreen. But labeling the preplanned invasions as
a "War on Terror" was the mega-lie, dwarfing all the
untruths that followed. The mega-lie would be the centerpiece
of a masterful propaganda blitz that continues to this day.
On Oct. 7, 2001, the carpet of bombs is
unleashed over Afghanistan.
Soon, with the Taliban overthrown, the
Bush administration installed Hamid Karzai as head of an interim
government. Karzai had been a Unocal consultant.
The first ambassador to Karzai's government
was John J. Maresca, a vice president of Unocal.
The next ambassador to Afghanistan was
Zalmay Khalilzad, another Unocal consultant.
Four months after the carpet of bombs,
President Karzai and President Musharraf of Pakistan signed an
agreement for a new pipeline. The Bridas contract was moot. The
way was open for Unocal.
In February of 2003 an oil industry trade
journal reported the Bush administration was ready to finance
the pipeline across Afghanistan and to protect it with a permanent
military presence. Osama bin Laden remained at large.
The mega-lie, the fabricated "War
on Terror" was an easy sell in the Afghanistan adventure.
The shock of 9/11 was immense, Osama bin Laden was operating from
Afghanistan and the "state," the Taliban, was at least
sympathetic to his organization. And the signature secrecy of
the Bush Administration had kept from public view its eight months
of negotiating with the Taliban. The first premeditated war was
Selling the Iraq invasion to the American
people and to the Congress would be far more difficult.
With the Trade Towers and the Pentagon
still smoldering, President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
ordered their staffs to find Saddam Hussein's complicity in the
attacks. Of course they could not, so there would need to be a
sustained and persuasive selling job -- a professionally orchestrated
campaign of propaganda.
Soon after 9/11, fear-mongering propagandizing
became the modus operandi of the Bush Administration. It
began in earnest with the president's "axis of evil"
State of the Union address in 2002, full of terrorism and fear.
"The United States of America," the president said,
"will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten
us with the world's most destructive weapons."
No regime anywhere was in fact threatening
anyone with anything, but Bush appointed a 10-person "White
House Iraq Group" in August of 2002. Chaired by Karl Rove,
its members were trusted partisans and communications experts
skilled in perception management. Their role was explicitly to
market the need to invade Iraq. The group operated in strict secrecy,
sifting intelligence, writing position papers and speeches, creating
"talking points," planning strategy and timing, and
feeding information to the media. This was the nerve center, where
the campaign of propaganda was orchestrated and promulgated.
The group chose to trumpet nearly exclusively
the most frightening threat-nuclear weapons. Rice soon introduced
the litany of the smoking gun and the mushroom cloud, Cheney said
hundreds of thousands of Americans might die, and Bush claimed
Saddam was "six months away from developing a weapon."
In the 2003 State of the Union address,
President Bush uttered the infamous "sixteen words":
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently
sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." This
was typical of White House Iraq Group work: The CIA knew and had
said the information was bogus.
The propaganda campaign was ultimately
successful, not least because of the axiomatic trust American
people extend to their presidents: Nobody could have anticipated
the range, intensity and magnitude of the expertly crafted deception.
And the campaign was aided by a compliant mainstream press that
swallowed and regurgitated the talking points.
The Congress was persuaded sufficiently
to authorize the use of military force. The American people were
persuaded sufficiently to accept the war and to send Mr. Bush
to the White House for a second term. But no other war in the
country's history had to be so consciously and comprehensively
Much of the deception, distortion and
lies was eventually exposed. The link between Saddam Hussein and
al Qaeda, the weapons of mass destruction, the aluminum tubes,
the mobile laboratories, the yellowcake from Niger: none of it
true. Only the mega-lie, the "War on Terror," survives.
On Feb. 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin
Powell addressed the Security Council, waving the vial of simulated
anthrax and claiming "there is no doubt in my mind"
Saddam Hussein was working to produce nuclear weapons.
But the Security Council, not so easily
propagandized, refused to authorize American force.
On March 14, 2003, President Bush met
in the Azores with Prime Ministers Blair of the United Kingdom
and Aznar of Spain. They abandoned the effort for U.N. authorization,
claimed the right to proceed without it and a week later launched
Four years of violence. Nearly 4,000 young
Americans dead. Seven times that many maimed. Hundreds of thousands
of Iraqis dead. Millions fleeing as refugees, their economy and
infrastructure in ruins. A raging civil war. Half a trillion dollars
Stopping the madness
And for what? Neither face of the war
has come remotely close to success. The "War on Terrorism"
has not suppressed terrorism but has encouraged it instead. The
premeditated war -- for ideological dreams of world dominion and
the pragmatic capture of hydrocarbon assets -- is a colossus of
The Afghan pipeline is a dead issue. As
the warlords and the poppy growers in Afghanistan thrive, and
as the Taliban regroups and regains dominance, the country tilts
ominously into chaos once more.
The Iraqi hydrocarbon law -- the clever
disguise for capturing the oil fields -- is fatally wounded, its
true purpose becoming more widely known. Organized resistance
is growing quickly, both in Iraq and in the United States. And
the factions who need to agree on the law are otherwise engaged
in killing each other.
The Iraqi war has not resulted, either,
in the global dominance sought by the Project for the New American
Century people, but in global repugnance for what their pathetic
ideology has wrought.
Clearly the involvement of the U.S. military
in the Mideast must cease. Pouring more lives and dollars into
the quagmire may keep alive the warped dreams of the Bush administration,
but those dreams are illegitimate, indeed criminal.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney
reject any alteration in their course. They ask instead for more
time, more money and even -- in threatening Iran -- for more targets.
There is no apparent way to the stop madness,
to end the hemorrhaging of blood and treasure, but to impeach
these men and, if found guilty, to remove them from office.
The integrity of the Constitution and
the rule of law are at stake as well, but the Congress continues
its indifference to impeachment, effectively condoning the administration's
behavior. Should this continue, thinking Americans will discard
the last crumbs of respect for the incumbent legislature -- polling
shows there's not much left -- and punish its members, Republican
and Democrat alike, in next year's election.
Impeachment will expose the fraudulence
of the "War on Terror" and liberate us from the pall
of fear the Bush administration has deliberately cast upon the
country. Both political parties will be free to speak the truth:
Terrorism is real and a cause for concern, but it is not a reason
for abject fear.
We need only compare the hazard of al
Qaeda to the threat posed by the Soviet Union at the height of
the Cold War. On the one hand is a wretched group of sad fanatics
-- perhaps 50,000 in all -- clever enough to commandeer airliners
with box cutters. On the other was a nation of 140 million people,
a powerful economy, a standing army of hundreds of divisions,
a formidable navy and air force and thousands of nuclear tipped
intercontinental missiles pre-aimed at American targets.
We were a vigilant but poised and confident
people then, not a nation commanded to cower in fear. We can and
must regain that strength and self-assurance.
Ending the nightmare will take far less
courage than the Bush people exhibited in beginning it. Taking
a nation to war on distortion, deception and lies is enormously
risky in many respects: in lives and in treasure, certainly, but
also in a nation's prestige abroad and in the trust and support
of its people. The Bush administration risked all this and more,
and it has lost.
We risk far less by embracing the truth
and acting on it. Our nation cherishes honesty: the fraudulence
must end. But Bush and Cheney have shown themselves incapable
of honesty, and we also cherish justice. They must be impeached.
on Terror page