“THERE is nothing that bin Laden could have hoped for more than the American invasion and occupation of Iraq,” writes a senior serving CIA official with nearly 20 years’ experience.
Calling himself Anonymous, he recently published a damning critique of the policies of George Bush titled Imperial Hubris: Why The West Is Losing The War On Terror. He forcefully argues that the Iraq war, despite Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard swearing otherwise, has, in fact, made the world a much more dangerous place.
In a recent interview, he said the US had “waged two failed half-wars and in doing so left Afghanistan and Iraq seething with anti-US sentiment, fertile grounds for the expansion of al-Qaeda and kindred groups”. He added that Islamic terrorism wasn’t directed against Western “freedoms”. “It’s not hatred of us as a society. It’s hatred of our policies.”
Anonymous’s work is yet another title in the stream of books attacking the Bush Administration in an election year. This rash of material is an unprecedented, bipartisan movement against the current US Government. A litany of commentators and intelligence analysts in the US, Britain and (less publicly) Australia are increasingly reaching the same conclusion: the coalition of the willing has, in the words of Peter Bergen, one of the world’s foremost terrorism experts, “opened up a new front for terrorists in Iraq and created a new justification for attacking Westerners around the world”. One intelligence official said: “If Osama believed in Christmas, this [the war in Iraq] is what he’d want under his Christmas tree.”
Foreign policy is being widely discussed in the mainstream media and the US is being analysed by commentators across the political divide and by people of all backgrounds. Publishers have noticed the growing sense of disillusionment about the ways in which Bush has embraced a unilateral world view. Moreover, Democrats have never been as determined to unseat the Republican Party.
After 9/11 most Americans rallied around the President, but the past 18 months has seen a profound shift in the Zeitgeist. From Mike Moore to anti-Moore titles and books discussing the nuances of intelligence and terrorism, readers are demanding answers to the 21st century’s most profound questions.
It is these concerns that haunt John W. Dean, former lead counsel to President Richard Nixon. In his recent release, Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency Of George W. Bush, he writes of the veiled presidency of Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. He explains the disturbing secrecy surrounding the White House and concludes that it’s “not unlike Nixon’s [presidency] in that it spends far more time crafting the President’s image and working on the politics of re-election than on truly addressing the business of the American people”.
To explain his thesis, Dean offers a chilling comment by General Tommy Franks, former four-star head of US Central Command. When asked what Americans should discuss regarding terrorism, Franks offers: “What is the worst thing that can happen?”
Dean argues that the Bush Administration is systemically attempting to dismantle democracy itself, with an increasing arsenal of repressive legislation and little accountability. In his view the political system has also become dangerously conservative. In Banana Republicans, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber conclude that Bush’s Republican Party is turning the US into a one-party state through tactics and politics that have placed right-wing individuals and agendas in “nearly every branch of the American Government”. The authors despair at how “Republicans see politics as a war [while] strategists for the Democratic Party tend to see politics as a debate”.
A similar view was put forward in their previous book, Weapons Of Mass Deception, in which the authors detail the ways in which the Bush Administration used an aggressive public relations campaign to ensure “success in the market” of selling the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a fearful public. Through the “branding of America”, Rampton and Stauber articulate the power of propaganda in our age.
Richard Clarke is not known for making wild accusations. He has served as a counter-terrorism co-ordinator under Democratic and Republican presidents and his book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War On Terror, is a non-partisan account of how the Bush Administration has squandered numerous opportunities to liquidate al-Qaeda because of its ideological obsession with Saddam. Clarke argues that major clues to Osama bin Laden’s plans were ignored and the result has been disastrous for the global fight against Islamic fundamentalism.
In a recent interview, he said the Iraq war had “probably greatly increased its [the jihadist] recruitment. There was a period of time, as well, where resources in the hunt for bin Laden were pulled away, satellite resources, special forces, Predators [drones] were sent to Iraq rather than sent to Afghanistan. If bin Laden had written the scenario it would have been identical to what happened.” These are startling comments from a lifelong conservative.
The most substantial local contribution is from former intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie’s Axis Of Deceit, which focuses on the distortion of Iraqi intelligence reports by Australia, Britain and the US. Wilkie embarrassed the Government by resigning and going public with his concerns shortly before the Iraq war. He will run as a Greens candidate in the Prime Minister’s seat of Bennelong in the coming federal election.
The US in 2004 is a country in turmoil, yet consistent themes are emerging.
Many of the leading foreign-policy experts, commentators and analysts are concluding that Bush’s policies are contributing to unprecedented worldwide levels of hatred against the US and an increase in terrorist activity.
The popularity of books explaining neo-conservative ideology and its ramifications is bound to continue well past the US elections on November 2.
War of words: how President Bush got it wrong Review by Antony Loewenstein Imperial Hubris: Why The West Is Losing The War On Terror Anonymous (Brassey’s Inc, $49.95) Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency Of George W. Bush John W. Dean (Constable & Robinson, $24.95) Banana Republicans Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber (Penguin, $21.95) Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War On Terror Richard Clarke (Free Press, $39.95) Axis Of Deceit Andrew Wilkie (Black Inc, $29.95)
Antony Loewenstein is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald and can be reached at [email protected]