George W. Bush and his Watergate
"Bush's famous speech of January 2002 where he described IUraq, Iran and North Korea as the axis of evil was written by David Frum, a neoconservative ally of Perle. The neoconservatives were the chief authors of Bush's war on terrorism since September 11, 2001.'
GEORGE W. BUSH AND HIS "WATERGATE" IN THE IRAQ WAR
By William Engdahl
[This article originally published in: Zeit-Fragen, June 28, 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.zeit-fragen.ch/ARCHIV/ZF_118d/INDEX.HTM.]
A carefully planned operation in the style of "Watergate" is in full swing against the re-election of George Bush. Restoring balance in American foreign- and military policy is the clear reason for this operation. Imbalance has existed since the Rumsfeld-Cheney group gave the neoconservative hawks nearly unlimited control over American military policy and foreign secret services. However this only points to a change in tome and method, not to a radical change in strategic priorities.
CIA director George Tenet, long a close friend of Bush, resigned suddenly on June 3, 2004 for "personal reasons", he said. The next day the acting leader of CIA operations planning, James Pavitt, also resigned. According to several reports from Washington, these resignations were connected with a series of scandals and accusations revealed against leading officials of the Bush administration including vice-president Cheney and possibly the president himself.
On June 7, only a few days after the resignation of Tenet, Time magazine published details of an Email from the Pentagon that entangles Cheney in the Pentagon's decision to make Halliburton, Cheney's former firm, the most important contractor for the reconstruction in Iraq. Other bids were not accepted. The deal has the value of $14 billion for the firm. The disclosures of Time condense the dark clouds and the blemish of corruption around the name Cheney.
On June 16, a group of former army officers and diplomats signed a public statement declaring that Bush's policy damaged the respect of the US in the world.
The controversy around the revelations of tortures by the American military in the Abu Ghraib prison is only one part of this "Watergate" scandal. The torture affair leads directly to the door of the Wolfowitz ally in the Pentagon, Douglas Feith, the under-secretary of state for defense policy who personally advocated the abolition of the Geneva Conventions for "terrorists" or anyone suspected by Washington of being a terrorist. Feith is the pivot of the parallel secret service operation of the civilian hawks in the Pentagon, the now dissolved "Office of Special Plans" that Bush fed with false secret service information about the danger of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that often ignored opposite insights of CIA analysts. Feith also was the leading representative of the line of the now discredited Ahmed Chalabi who claimed Iraqis would welcome the Americans as "democratic liberators". Therefore war and occupation would not require the enormous troop presence urged by the Pentagon generals.
The process of undermining the Bush presidency has been long underway without the general public. According to some well-informed circles, a coalition has formed against Bush led by the CIA and the traditional secret service circles threatened with reduced influence by Rumsfeld and the hawks - in favor of a stronger role of the military secret service controlled directly by the hawks.
The significance of the disclosures of the tortures in the Abu Ghraib prison is that the top ranks of the military in the Pentagon is now openly joining this conflict. Someone "leaked out" the embarrassing photos. Responsibility for the torture policy in Iraq leads directly to Feith and Wolfowitz who fought bitterly to pass the buck to the lower ranks of common soldiers. Up to now, this has not worked. Rather responsibility can be passed on to higher ranks of the military command. It is useful to remember that the CIA originally played the key role in the "Watergate" scandal that led to Nixon's forced resignation when he tried in 1973 to transgress his political limits. The group of unsatisfied military career generals is now led by former General Anthony Zinni, until recently Bush's special advisor for the Middle East and the commander of the central command that also includes the Middle East. Zinni gives interviews to everyone under the sun and voices caustic criticism of the deficient preparations for the Iraq war and goes so far to say that the "Iraq war is the wrong war at the wrong time".
The raid of the American military in the Baghdad house of the governing member and close ally of the neoconservatives, Achmid Chalabi, is a sign of the intensity of this conflict. Chalabi is the controversial exiled Shiite who last year at the end of the Iraq war was flown in with 800 cronies by the Wolfowitz Pentagon to form the marionette government of the hawks from the Pentagon. The lack of support for Chalabi in Iraq led to Chalabi's abrupt downgrading by the White House.
The State Department and the CIA, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, agreed last month and carried out this raid on Chalabi's house in Baghdad to find evidence of cooperation with the Iranian secret service. This raid was a heavy blow for the hawks in the Pentagon. It showed the intensity of the internal struggle for power between the hawks and the traditional military- and secret service circles. The former Iraqi oil minister Ibrahim Uloom and finance minister Kamil Galiani were both Chalabi's handpicked men. Both are not part of the new transition government.
Chalabi is not an unimportant figure. Before the war, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld provided Chalabi with most of the "evidence" for weapons of mass destruction from handpicked Iraqi deserters. Now Bush and certain hawks have turned against Chalabi to make him into a scapegoat and save the larger operation, an obvious trick typical for Rumsfeld and the hawks around Wolfowitz.
Shifting the balance in the Middle East in favor of Sharon's Israel policy was the second point on the agenda of the hawks after Iraq. Bush has held unchangingly to his one-sided and unparalleled support for Israel and Sharon even when Sharon was confronted in Israel with a criminal action and a revolt of his own party. Bush's support occurred entirely with view to his re-election and with the enormous influence of the Sharon network in certain American media (Fox News among others) and in politically active, fundamentalist Christian circles in America that on account of their highly developed organization have far more influence than their small number of members would suggest. According to estimates, 40% of American voters are influenced by Christian values in one way or another. Bush has oriented all of his political plans on this block.
The traditional American military- and secret service circles are clearly opposed to this one-sided focus advanced by neoconservative hawks since they are convinced that grave damage is inflicted on the security interests of the US. As his most recent articles show, Seymour Hirsch who writes for the New Yorker is a favorite post for this circle to let information leak out. Now the battle assumes even greater dimensions. Richard Clarke's disclosures in March that the Bush administration since September 11, 2001 was occupied with Iraq and not with the alleged terrorists from Al-Qaida were only a first strike in this "Watergate process".
The key figures in this opposition of Bush senior against the neoconservative policy of his son are Brent Scowcroft and James Baker. Baker is the most influential political figure of American republicans around father Bush. In addition, Warren Buffet, a close ally of Bush senior joined to financial circles, urgently demands the removal of Bush's son. He argues that his tax cuts have damaged the economy.
Baker was brought into play at the beginning of 2004 and received an office next to the president's office to advise him on questions of "Iraqi debts". This was a clear signal to the traditional American establishment that Bush would be reducing the role of the neoconservatives. At the same time Condoleezza Rice in the National Security Council formed a White House stabilization group on Iraq presumably to give the White House direct control over Iraq. The group never went beyond its establishment and faces its dissolution today thanks to the undermined neoconservative influence. Something similar happened to James Baker, the neoconservative traditionalist counterweight to Cheney, Rumsfeld and the hawks. Bush made plain that he and Rice are not willing or able to break the power of the rightwing hawks. This was clear this spring. Now the "Watergate" seems to be in full swing. Bush junior did not see the opportunity to free himself enough from Rumsfeld and the hawks.
OIL AND THE ECONOMY
The second factor that will influence the election is the oil market and the fragile recovery of the American economy. The most recent increase of the oil price on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) to $41 a barrel and the rise of the gas price to an unprecedented maximum are not plus-points for Bush's economic growth rhetoric. With the help of record low interests of 1% from the Federal Reserve Bank (FED) and statistical acrobatics redefining the American rate of unemployment to show the creation of more jobs than can be actually accounted, Bush has now managed to neutralize the impression of American voters of an "economic recovery without jobs". Elections in the US are won nowadays by impressions and low voter turnout.
The recent announcement of the Saudis that another 1.5 million barrels would be brought on the market to reduce the price pressure was a political move. That OPEC has no reserves left any more can be heard from circles of the oil industry in OPEC and America. This Saudi policy is a psychological trick to induce oil traders to abandon their speculative positions and lower the price below $40. As Bush knows, the Saudi thrust will hardly influence the American gas price. The lack of refineries is the decisive bottleneck and all the crude oil of the world cannot change this condition in the short-term. The price of gas at the pump will not fall with the extra revenue from summer travels. This will keep the pressure on Bush and the economy. Ironically Saudi Arabia recently offered to finance the construction of two new crude oil refineries in the US. Valero Energy, a firm close to Bush, refused this.
At present the administration is only practicing damage control and trusts that Kerry as a weak adversary will make possible a re-election. The new element "Watergate" and those involved in it suggest that the election will be far more uncertain than it seemed to Bush and his neoconservative supporters two months ago. A long, politically torrid summer is likely.
THE CIA IN THE "WATERGATE" AFFAIR
The details that ultimately forced an American president to a disgraceful resignation are still unknown today. On the surface, the "Watergate" affair was a harmless attempted burglary - allegedly on the command of the White House - by some former CIA employees in the national democratic headquarters at an apartment complex called "Watergate".
In April 1972 the operation of a small group of former FBI- and CIA agents was uncovered in a burglary. The scandal ran in the background when Nixon won his reelection in November with a landslide victory over the democrat George McGovern. However after Nixon entered his second term in office, details about other illegal burglaries, illegal bugging practices, conspiracies to obstruct justice and a "list of Nixon's political enemies" was leaked to Bob Woodward, reporter at the Washington Post. Woodward's most important informant was a mysterious secret source named "Deep Throat".
The accusations around Nixon were so incredible that the president ultimately resigned after different close staff members resigned. The "missing 17 minutes" from a secret tape recording of the White House was cited as a reason.
In retrospect, what is most remarkable in the "Watergate affair" is the fact that no one has revealed up to today who leaked what against Nixon and what was the real reason for the burglary. A fierce struggle for power between the CIA and other secret services was occurring behind the fašade of "Watergate". The result was that Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller replaced Nixon at the end of 1973, a process in which the voters didn't participate at all.
Some journalists compare the current disclosures and attacks on the Bush presidency with "Watergate" given the sudden resignation of a loyal aide like Tenet and the fact that scandals arise against the administration almost daily from unexpected sides.
THE BATTLE BETWEEN "REALISTS" AND NEOCONSERVATIVES
Two main actors wage the current political battle around the White House and George Bush. On one side are the so-called "realists" of foreign policy, the "Realpolitik" fraction. This includes most of the former advisors of the older George Bush like Brent Scowcroft, Henry Kissinger, James Baker and many veterans from military and foreign policy. They argue that America's power depends on its ability to convince its most important allies of the G7-states to cooperate while Bush and the neoconservatives around Bush have weakened cooperation with their aggressive unilateral actions in Iraq and their unilateralism in general. Against the neoconservatives who represent a small but very influential group, they are convinced that war is often the best policy for reaching America's goals. As a result, they are sometimes also called "hawks".
Among the leading neoconservatives are the former advisor in the Pentagon, Richard Perle, the under-secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, under-secretary of state Douglas Feith, under-secretary of state John Bolton and Cheney's chief of staff Lewis Libby. Other neoconservatives occupy key positions in the Bush administration from the speechwriters of the White House to the national security staff for the Middle East.
The neoconservatives convinced the president that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein supported al-Qaida in the September 11 attacks. These accusations lack any concrete evidence up to today.
David Frum, a neoconservative ally of Perle, wrote Bush's famous speech of January 2002 where he described Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the "axis of evil". The neoconservatives were the main authors of Bush's war on terrorism since September 11, 2001.
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