Obama Fulfilling the Neocon Dream?
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, in your latest piece, you wrote about the Project for New American Century or PNAC, and started talking about neocon, neoconservative, foreign policy as it relates to the Obama administration. Explain.
GLENN GREENWALD: There was this speech that General Wesley Clark gave in 2007 to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in which he recounted meetings that he had at the Pentagon with people with whom he had close relationships — meetings he had at the Pentagon with people with whom he had close relationships in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and he talked about how, as he had done before, that he was told within a week or two after 9/11 that the Pentagon intended to attack Iraq even though no one thought that they were involved in the 9/11 attack. And he described an incident where he went back to the Pentagon a few weeks after he was told this, in October and November of 2001, and he asked his source, well, it looks like we’re going to attack Afghanistan, you told me we were going to attack Iraq. Are we still going to attack Iraq? And the source told him, oh, General, it’s actually much worse than this.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to play the clip of Wesley Clark.
GLENN GREENWALD: OK, good.
AMY GOODMAN: That was General Wesley Clark. Glenn Greenwald, the significance of what he said?
GLENN GREENWALD: So, that seems like a fairly radical plan, and he’s talking about, what he calls, this neocon cabal that had implemented this extremist militaristic vision justified on the basis of 9/11. He actually goes on to describe how Paul Wolfowitz, ten years earlier, was talking about these things well before 9/11. But, what struck me in listening to that video just a couple of days ago is that if you go down that list of Seven countries that he said the neocons had planned to basically change the governments of, you pretty much see that vision, despite the perception that we have a Democratic president and therefore the neoconservative movement is powerless, is pretty much being fulfilled. I mean, the governments of Iraq and Libya and Lebanon, three of those countries, have been changed, including Libya this year by military force. You then look at Somalia and Sudan where the Obama administration in Somalia has, according to The Washington Post just this weekend, massively escalated it’s proxy fighting and drone attacks, we’re involved in trying to subvert and control Somalia in all sorts of ways. We have a modest deployment to the south part of Sudan. But, that’s another country where we’re now militarily active and trying to control. And then the most important countries on that list, Iran and Syria, are clearly the target of all sorts of covert regime change efforts on the part of the United States and Israel. That is clearly the goal the U.S. government has adopted for itself, is to get rid of the Iranian laws and the Assad regime in Syria. And so, if you look at what Clark described in a way that he intended to be very frightening an extremist, that the neocons wanted to do in these seven countries, it seems pretty clear to me that although we may not be doing it with as much of an overt war as the neocons would like, it’s just a slightly more subtle and different means of achieving the same end.
AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of the drone strikes and fitting it in with the Project for a New American Century, what’s happened Pakistan now, Pakistan saying the U.S. has to clear out of a base that is believed to be being used by the United States to launch drone strikes, but drone strikes not only in Pakistan?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, this is what’s so amazing to me. If you look back at what the Congress did in the wake of 9/11 when it enacted the authorization to use military force, if you look at that authorization, it’s incredibly narrow, as it turns out. If you go and actually read it, it says the President is authorized to use military force against those who perpetrated the 9/11 attack and those countries who harbored those individuals. That’s it, that’s the only authorized use of military force. Well, here we are more than a decade later, and there was an article in The Washington Post from a week ago where U.S. officials anonymously are saying that, in essence, Al Qaeda, the group that perpetrated the 9/11 attack according to the government, is now dead. There’s only two leaders left they say in that entire region. It already rendered "effectively inoperable". There is no more Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan or Pakistan according to the U.S. government. The group that perpetrated 9/11, according to it is no longer even existing. And yet, here we are engaged in extraordinarily broad military efforts, constantly escalating in numerous parts of the world. There’s six different countries in which the U.S. is actively using drones; in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, against groups that didn’t even exist at the time that 9/11 was perpetrated. And constantly, what you find is we are killing all sorts of civilians. There was just a story, a horrible story from four days ago where a U.S. air-strike in Afghanistan slaughtered an entire family of children, six children between the ages of 4 and 12. What we’re doing in essence is not only going way beyond what we were supposed to be doing when the Congress authorized military force, but what we’re really doing is we’re constantly manufacturing the causes of our war. Everywhere we go, every time we kill Pakistani troops or kill children in Yemen or in Afghanistan, we’re generating more and more anti-American sentiment and violence, and therefore, guaranteeing we will always have more people to fight.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Glenn Greenwald. Constitutional law attorney, political blogger for Salon.com.
Wes Clark and the Neocon Dream
Clark said the aim of this plot was this: “They wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control.” He then recounted a conversation he had had ten years earlier with Paul Wolfowitz — back in 1991 — in which the then-number-3-Pentagon-official, after criticizing Bush 41 for not toppling Saddam, told Clark: “But one thing we did learn [from the Persian Gulf War] is that we can use our military in the region – in the Middle East – and the Soviets won’t stop us. And we’ve got about 5 or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet regimes – Syria, Iran [sic], Iraq – before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.” Clark said he was shocked by Wolfowitz’s desires because, as Clark put it: “the purpose of the military is to start wars and change governments? It’s not to deter conflicts?”
The current turmoil in the Middle East is driven largely by popular revolts, not by neocon shenanigans. Still, in the aftermath of military-caused regime change in Iraq and Libya (the latter leading to this and this), with concerted regime change efforts now underway aimed at Syria and Iran, with active and escalating proxy fighting in Somalia, with a modest military deployment to South Sudan, and the active use of drones in six — count ‘em: six — different Muslim countries, it is worth asking whether the neocon dream as laid out by Clark is dead or is being actively pursued and fulfilled, albeit with means more subtle and multilateral than full-on military invasions (it’s worth remembering that neocons specialized in dressing up their wars in humanitarian packaging: Saddam’s rape rooms! Gassed his own people!). As Jonathan Schwarz (or, as he would be called by establishment newspapers: “a person familiar with Jon Schwarz’s thinking on the subject who asked not to be identified”) put it about the supposedly contentious national security factions:
The difference between seven and four overt wars isn’t non-existent or unimportant, of course, but it’s a question of means. The neocon end as Clark reported them — regime change in those seven countries — seems as vibrant as ever. It’s just striking to listen to Clark describe those 7 countries in which the neocons plotted to have regime change back in 2001, and then compare that to what the U.S. Government did and continues to do since then with regard to those precise countries.