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The So-Called War on Terror: A Masterpiece of Propaganda
By Richard W. Behan
Who will tell the people?
From its first days in office in January of 2001 the Administration of George W. Bush meant to launch military attacks against both Afghanistan and Iraq. The reasons had nothing to do with terrorism.
This is beyond dispute. The mainstream press has either ignored the story or missed it completely, but the Administration’s congenital belligerence is fully documented elsewhere.
Attacking a sovereign nation unprovoked, however, directly violates the charter of the United Nations. It is an international crime. The Bush Administration would need credible justification to proceed with its plans.
The terrorist violence of September 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 U.S. “...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” was born.
The “War on Terror” is patently fraudulent, but the essence of successful propaganda is repetition, and the Bush Administration has repeated its mantra endlessly:
The War on Terror was launched in response to the terrorist attacks of September 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.
The Administration’s campaign of propaganda has been a notable success. The characterization of today’s war as a “fight against terrorists and states that support them” is generally accepted, rarely scrutinized, and virtually unchallenged, even by opponents of the war.
The fraudulence of the “War on Terror,” however, is clearly revealed in the pattern of subsequent facts:
1. In Afghanistan the state was overthrown instead of apprehending the terrorist: Osama bin Laden remains at large.
2. In Iraq, when the U.S. invaded, there were no terrorists at all.
3. 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.
4. 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 why.
5. 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.
6. Today two American and two British oil companies are poised to claim immense profits from 81% of Iraq’s undeveloped crude oil reserves. They cannot proceed, however, until the Iraqi Parliament enacts a statute known as the “hydrocarbon law.”
7. 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.
8. Drafting of the law itself was begun during Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority, with the invited participation of the oil companies. The law was written in English and translated into Arabic only when it was due for Iraqi approval.
9. President Bush made passage of the hydrocarbon law a mandatory “benchmark” when he announced the troop surge in January of 2007.
Speculation: If the hydrocarbon law is passed, the Administration will have achieved the war’s strategic purpose, and it will end quickly. Otherwise, the war effort will eventually collapse in a political and diplomatic firestorm, a hideous violation of the American people’s trust in their government, and a certifiable international crime.
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 factors.
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 a 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.
In proposing global dominance and preemptive war, it was a radical departure from the traditional U.S. diplomacy of multilateralism, and it was an early statement of the emerging ideology of “neoliberalism.”
The document was too extreme. President George H.W. Bush publicly denounced it and immediately retracted it.
But five years later William Kristol and Robert Kagan created a neoliberal 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 January 26, 1998, the Project for the New American Century urged the military overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime.
President Clinton ignored the letter. The unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation violates the charter of the United Nations: it is an international crime.
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.
Weeks later, in January of 2001, twenty nine members of the Project for the New American Century joined the Administration of George W. Bush. Among them were:
Richard Cheney, Vice President
Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Mr. Cheney's Chief of Staff
Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense
Steven Cambone, Undersecretary of Defense
Peter Rodman, Assistant Secretary of Defense
Dov Zakheim, Controller, Department of Defense
Abram Shulksy, Chairman, Office of Special Plans, DOD
Richard Perle, Chairman, Defense Policy Board
James Woolsey, member, Defense Policy Board
Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State
Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State
John Bolton, Under Secretary of State
Zalmay Khalilzad, President's Special Envoy
Elliott Abrams, National Security Council
Robert Zoellick, U.S. Trade Representative
These people and their ideology of world dominion and preemptive war would dominate George Bush’s government. Rebuilding America's Defenses formed the basis of the Bush Administration's foreign and defense policies. It was enshrined in a subsequent document signed by the President: The National Security Strategy of the United States.
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 Mid East 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 has been more closely aligned with the oil industry. President Bush and Vice President Cheney are intimately tied to it, and so is National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. So are eight cabinet secretaries and 32 other high-level appointees.
By early February, Vice President Cheney’s “Energy Task Force” was at work. It included federal agency people and 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”—dozens of foreign companies negotiating with Saddam Hussein’s regime. None of the “suitors” was a major American or British oil company.
The intent to invade Iraq and the keen interest in Iraqi oil would soon converge.
The convergence took the form of a top secret memo of February 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 February 3, 2001, the Bush Administration was committed to invading Iraq, with the oil fields clearly in mind.
The terrorist attacks on Washington and New York were still seven months in the future.
The issue in Afghanistan was the strategically invaluable location for a pipeline to connect the immense oil and gas resources of the Caspian Basin to the richest markets. Whoever built the pipeline across Afghanistan would control the Basin, and in the 1990’s the contest to build it was spirited.
American interests in the region were promoted by a private-sector organization, the Foreign Oil Companies Group. It had the full support of the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, and the Departments of Energy and Commerce. Among the Group’s most active members were Mr. Henry Kissinger, a former Secretary of State but now an advisor to the Unocal Corporation; Mr. Alexander Haig, another former Secretary of State but now a lobbyist for Turkmenistan; and Mr. Richard Cheney, a former Secretary of Defense, but now the CEO of the Halliburton Corporation.
Late in 1996, however, the Bridas Corporation of Argentina finally signed contracts with the Taliban and with General 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 Mr. Kissinger: Mr. Hamid Karzai, Mr. Richard Armitage, and Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad. (Armitage and Khalilzad would be active members of the Project for the New American Century, and 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 Mr. John J. Maresca, a Unocal vice president, asked in a Congressional hearing to have the Taliban removed from power and a stable regime installed instead.
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, retaliating for the al Qaeda attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And he issued an Executive Order forbidding further trade transactions with the Taliban.
Mr. 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 and exclusive access to the Caspian Basin for American companies. (The Enron Corporation 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 three times, in Washington, Berlin, and Islamabad. The Bridas contract might still be voided
But the Taliban would not yield.
Anticipating this, planning was underway to take military action if necessary. In the spring of 2001, the State Department sought and gained the concurrence of India and Pakistan to do so. The PNAC people were not timid about using force.
At the final meeting with the Taliban, on August 2, 2001, an exasperated 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 now apparent, “President Bush promptly informed Pakistan and India that the U.S. would launch a military mission into Afghanistan before the end of October.” 
This was five weeks before the events of 9/11.
SEPTEMBER 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.
There is much we need to learn about the attacks, and troubling questions remain about official inquiry itself:
1. Why did Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney initially oppose any investigation at all?
2. Why did a full year elapse before any inquiry was undertaken?
3. Why did President Bush insist on appointing the 9/11 Commissioners himself?
4. Why did he first choose Mr. Henry Kissinger, a former Unocal
consultant, to head the Commission?
5. Why did Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney refuse to testify under oath?
Whatever the truth about 9/11, the Bush Administration now
had a fortuitous and spectacular opportunity to proceed with the
The Administration would have to play its hand skillfully.
Other nations have suffered criminal events 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 dust and shock and rage of 9/11 the comparison was superficially plausible. But Pearl Harbor was the violent expression of hostile intent by a formidably armed nation, and it introduced four years of full scale warfare. 9/11 was a violent expression of hostility by 19 fanatics armed with box cutters: the physical security of our entire nation was simply not at stake.
Though the comparison was specious, a deliberate fraud, the “War on Terror” was born. It would prove to be an exquisite smokescreen. But labeling the preplanned incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq 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 October 7, 2001, the carpet of bombs is unleashed over Afghanistan.
Soon, with the Taliban overthrown, the U.S. installed Mr. Hamid Karzai as head of an interim government. Mr. Karzai had been a Unocal consultant.
The first ambassador to Mr. Karzai’s government was Mr. John J. Maresca, a vice president of Unocal.
The next ambassador to Afghanistan was Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad. Mr. Khalilzad had been a 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 standing ready to finance the pipeline across Afghanistan, and to protect it with a permanent military presence. This was global hegemony, but it was scarcely benevolent—and Osama bin Laden remained at large.
The mega-lie, the fabricated “War on Terror” was an easy sell for the Bush Administration 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. And the signature secrecy of the Bush Administration had kept from public view its 8 months of negotiating pipeline access with the Taliban. The first premeditated war was largely unopposed.
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, but of course they could not. Absent that, there would need to be a sustained and persuasive selling job, and that would call for 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.”
The campaign of propaganda and fear rose to the level of brilliance when Mr. Bush appointed the 10-person “White House Iraq Group” in August of 2002. Chaired by Mr. Karl Rove, its members were trusted partisans and communications experts skilled in perception management. Their role was explicitly to market the war, to persuade the American people—and eventually the Congress—of 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 of all—nuclear weapons. Ms. Rice soon introduced the litany of the smoking gun and the mushroom cloud, Mr. Cheney said hundreds of thousands of Americans might die, and Mr. 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, swallowing and repeating the talking points. The White House Iraq Group found it easy to plant such misleading stories as the aluminum tube foolery in the New York Times.
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 sold.
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 February 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 willing to trust George W. Bush and not so easily propagandized, refused a fresh resolution to authorize American force.
On March 14, 2003 President Bush met in the Azores with Prime Ministers Blair of the UK and Aznar of Spain. They abandoned the effort for a new resolution, claimed the right to proceed without one, and a week later launched the war.
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 sectarian civil war. Half a trillion dollars and counting.
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 failure.
The Afghan pipeline is a dead issue. As the warlords and the poppy growers in Afghanistan thrive, and as the Taliban regroups and seeks to regain 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 U.S. 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 Mid East 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.
Neither President Bush nor Vice President Cheney are willing to yield, even to consider the slightest alteration in their course. They ask instead for more time, more troops, more money, and even—in threatening Iran—for more targets.
There is no apparent way to stop the madness of these men but to impeach them and, if found guilty, to remove them from office.
The evidence is mountainous of impeachable offenses, but none is more tragic and serious than the mega-lie of the “War on Terror.” Given the unbending intransigence, only impeachment will end the hemorrhaging of lives and treasure.
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 high crimes and misdemeanors of George Bush and Richard Cheney. Should this continue, the American people will have no choice but to discard the last crumbs of respect for the incumbent legislature—polling shows there’s not much left—and to punish its members, Republican and Democrat alike, in next year’s election.
Finally, impeachment will expose the fraudulence of the “War on Terror”, and liberate us from the pall of fear the Bush Administration 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 transcontinental missiles pre-aimed at American targets.
Two public figures—Zbigniew Brzezinsky and Wesley Clark—have recently made this comparison, and noted how confident and poised Americans were, facing large and real threats.  With the mega-lie exposed and discredited, we can and should display our poise and confidence once again.
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 they have lost.
We risk far less by embracing the truth and acting on it. Our nation cherishes honesty: the fraudulence must end. But Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have shown themselves incapable of honesty, and we also cherish justice. They must be impeached.
 White House Press Release of March 8, 2004
 “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,” New York Times, September 24, 2006.
 Joshua Holland, “Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil,” published on the AlterNet website, October 16, 2006.)
 See Greg Mutitt, ed., Crude Designs: the Ripoff of Iraq’s Oil Wealth, the Platform Group, United Kingdom.
 See “Slick Connections: U.S. Influence on Iraqi Oil,” by Erik Leaver and Greg Mutitt, Foreign Policy in Focus, July 18, 2007.
 See John W. Dean, Worse Than Watergate: the Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, New York: Little, Brown, 253p., 2004.
 See a series of articles in the Christian Science Monitor, June, 2005
 See “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy,” by William Kristol and Robert Kagan, writing in Foreign Affairs, July/August 1996.)
 The NSC meeting is described in Ron Suskind's book, The Price of Loyalty, New York:
Simon and Schuster, 348p., 2004
 See “Crude Alliance,” by Jeffrey St. Clair, in Counterpunch, March 9-11, 2007.
 The maps and the “suitors” documents were forced into the public domain by a Freedom
of Information Act lawsuit. The suit was entered by the citizen’s group Judicial Watch, and
was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court by the Bush Administration. The documents
can be seen at the Judicial Watch website.
 Quoted from “Contract Sport” by Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, Issue 23, February 16, 2004.
 See “Players on a Rigged Chessboard: Bridas, Unocal, and the Afghanistan Pipeline,” by Larry Chin, Online Journal, March 6, 2002.
 See Karl W. B. Schwarz, One Way Ticket to Crawford, Texas: a Conservative Republican Speaks Out, RPC Publishing, 2004.
 See Chin, op. cit..
 See Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections, February 23, 2003.
 See Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, New York: The Free Press, 304 p., 2004.
 For a full description of the White House Iraq Group’s work, see Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus, “Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence,” Washington Post, August 10, 2003.
 See Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, End Times: the Death of the Fourth Estate, Oakland: AK Press, 2006. Also see the PBS expose by Bill Moyers, Buying the War.
 Zbigniew Brzezinkski, “Terrorized by the ‘War on Terror: How a Three Word Mantra Has Undermined America,’” Washington Post, March 25, 2007.
 “Generally Speaking: Questions for Wesley K. Clark, New York Times, July 1, 2007.
This article was distilled from a longer, more detailed, and illustrated slideshow presentation,“The Fraudulent War.” It is available without cost. The 5.4 mb PDF file can be downloaded here:
Richard W. Behan's last book was Plundered Promise: Capitalism, Politics, and the Fate of the Federal Lands (Island Press, 2001). He is currently working on a more broadly rendered critique, To Provide Against Invasions: Corporate Dominion and America’s Derelict Democracy. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This essay is deliberately not copyrighted; permission to reproduce it is unnecessary.