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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, October 29, 2004


Indications are that Bush administration intends to remain

By John Dalton

One of the most disturbing revelations from the first presidential debate came when Sen. John Kerry observed that America is building 14 military bases in Iraq, and "they've got a rather permanent concept to them." In this light, perhaps it was not surprising that President Bush, when asked if he had an exit strategy for Iraq, only had a vague response: "as soon as the mission's done."

President Bush, it is time for you to level with the American people. What is your real mission and is there an exit strategy?

My growing concern is that Mr. Bush has no intention of ever leaving Iraq. Americans who want to know before Tuesday's election when their servicemen and women are coming home may be forced to look behind the curtain to see who is orchestrating America's foreign policy in Iraq.

The Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a Washington think tank formed in the 1990s, may provide some clues.

PNAC was founded by key Bush administration officials, namely Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Other founders of PNAC include Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Cheney Chief of Staff Lewis Libby, former Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle, Defense Policy Board member Eliot Cohen, National Security staff member Elliot Abrams, Undersecretary of State John Bolden, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the White House liaison to the Iraqi opposition in 2002-2003.

In 2003, President Bush stated, "I rarely read (newspaper) stories ... the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world." Largely, PNAC's founding members are those people.

These powerbrokers in the Bush administration see this war in ideological terms. Their philosophy is that Western alliances can no longer maintain peace or international order.

In 1996, frustrated by the Clinton administration's "Wilsonian multilateralism," PNAC members William Kristol and Robert Kagan published a policy paper, "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy." They asked the question, "What should America's international role be?" Their answer: benevolent global hegemony.

In their minds, American "military supremacy" is the "only reliable defense against a breakdown of peace and international order."

In September 2000, just before many PNAC leaders took control over the U.S. military, Wolfowitz, Libby and Bolton published a policy paper entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses."

The article outlined the PNAC vision for 21st-century American foreign policy, which builds on the neo-Reaganite view of American global military supremacy. For the PNACers, Iraq serves as a launching pad for future endeavors. Here is what they wrote:

• "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification (for war), the need for substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

• "From an American perspective, the value of (Middle Eastern) bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene ... retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy."

As one can see, the PNACers wanted to enter Iraq long before Mr. Bush took office. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Bolton, Armitage and Abrams even urged President Clinton in 1998 to invade Iraq, unilaterally if necessary. Their letters to the president and congressional leaders stated, "In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action. ... In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy."

The mask has now been torn from the phony war pretexts of 9/11. As Secretary Rumsfeld himself confessed recently, Iraq had no ties to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The American people can now see the actual motivation for war: the pursuit of American global domination. Is Iraq just the first step toward this policy vision of global domination? What country is next on their agenda? How many American lives will these "optional" wars cost?

It's easy to see why the Bush administration has no intention of leaving Iraq: They envision it as the springboard for more military interventions in the region.

As the secretary of the Navy during our conflict in Bosnia, I know the one question that is on the minds of every American with a loved one in Iraq: "When are our men and women in uniform coming home." While Mr. Bush may not want to admit it before the election, it is becoming more apparent that under his administration, the answer may be never.

John Dalton served as Secretary of the Navy from 1993-1998 and helped bring the USS Missouri to Hawai'i. He wrote this article for The Advertiser.