America’s Permanent War Agenda – by Stephen Lendman
Post-9/11, Dick Cheney warned of wars that won’t end in our lifetime. Former CIA Director James Woolsey said America “is engaged in World War IV, and it could continue for years….This fourth world war, I think, will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us.” GHW Bush called it a “New World Order” in his September 11, 1990 address to a joint session of Congress as he prepared the public for Operation Desert Storm.
The Pentagon called it the “long war” in its 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), what past administrations waged every year without exception since the republic’s birth, at home and abroad. Obama is just the latest of America’s warrior presidents that included Washington, Madison, Jackson, Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, Wilson, F. Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, and GW Bush preceding him.
This article covers WW II and its aftermath history of imperial wars for unchallengeable global dominance throughout a period when America had and still has no enemies. Then why fight them? Read on.
Wars Without End
America glorifies wars in the name of peace, what historian Charles Beard (1874 – 1948) called “perpetual war for perpetual peace” in describing the Roosevelt and Truman administrations’ foreign policies – what concerned the Federation of American Scientists when it catalogued about 200 post-1945 conflicts in which America was, and still is, the aggressor.
Historian Gore Vidal used Beard’s phrase in titling his 2002 book, “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace” and saying:
“our rulers for more than half a century have made sure that we are never to be told the truth about anything that our government has done to other people, not to mention our own.”
In his 2002 book “Dreaming War,” he compared GW Bush’s imperial ambitions to WW II and the 1947 Truman Doctrine’s pledge:
“To support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”
It was to keep Greece and Turkey from going communist, but it applied globally and initiated America’s National Security State strategy that included:
— NATO in 1949 for offense, not defense;
— NSC-68 against Soviet Russia in 1950 to “contain” what was called an enemy “unlike previous aspirants to hegemony….animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own (wishing to) impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world” at a time America was the only global superpower, the Soviet Union lay in ruins, threatened no one, and needed years to regain normality.
— Truman’s instigated June 25, 1950 war after the DPRK retaliated in force following months of ROK provocations, what Americans call the Korean War, South Koreans the 6-2-5 War (meaning June 25), and the North its “fatherland liberation war” that left it in ruins, the South occupied to this day, and it was only the mid-century beginning as succeeding administrations continued an agenda for what’s now called “full spectrum dominance” for global US hegemony.
It worried historian Harry Elmer Barnes (1889 – 1968) in his 1953 collection of leading historical revisionists’ essays titled, “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: A Critical Examination of the Foreign Policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and It’s Aftermath” in which he wrote in the preface:
“If trends continue as they have during the last fifteen years, we shall soon reach this point of no return, and can only anticipate interminable wars, disguised as noble gestures for peace. Such an era could only culminate in a third world war which might well, as Arnold J. Toynbee has suggested, leave only the pygmies in remote jungles, or even the apes and ants, to carry on ‘the cultural traditions’ of mankind.”
He cited how America’s “needless” entry into two world wars converted its pre-1914 dream “into a nightmare of fear, regimentation, destruction, insecurity, inflation, and ultimate insolvency.” He debunked the cause and merits of WW I, “the folly of our entering it, and the disastrous results that followed.” He cited “popular fictions” about WW II, the injustices to Germany and Austria that caused it, the war Roosevelt wanted early in the 1930s as captured Polish documents and the censored Forrestal Diaries confirmed.
Before it began, he wanted US neutrality legislation ended, then after September 1939, he dropped any pretense by supporting Britain and France and opposing peace efforts after Poland’s defeat. His June 1940 “dagger in the back” address was a de facto act of war by beginning vast amounts of weapons and munitions shipments to Britain after Dunkirk, followed by the September 1940 (peacetime) Selective Service Act, the first in US history, in preparation for what close advisor Harry Hopkins told Churchill in January 1941 that:
“The President is determined that we shall win the war together. Make no mistake about it,” followed by Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold Stark telling his fleet commanders that “The question of our entry into the war now seems to be when, and not whether.”
Only a pretext was needed, first by trying and failing to provoke Germany, then deciding Japan would be attacked, whether or not it struck US ships, territory, or forces in the Pacific. In a July 4 radio broadcast, Roosevelt said:
“solemnly (understand) that the United States will never survive as a happy and fertile oasis of liberty surrounded by a cruel desert of dictatorship.” Then his July 25 Executive Order froze Japanese assets, stating it was:
“….To prevent the use of the financial facilities of the United States in trade between Japan and the United States in ways harmful to national defense and American interests, to prevent the liquidation in the United States of assets obtained by duress or conquest, and to curb subversive activities in the United States.”
Britain followed suit the next day, and Roosevelt nationalized the Philippines’ armed forces “as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States” with dominion over its Asian colony.
As early as 1937, he planned a naval blockade, but dropped the idea after an adverse reaction. It resurfaced in 1938 because he knew strangling Japan economically assured war.
Throughout his administration, from 1933 through late 1941, he spurned Japanese peace overtures that would have protected all American interests in the Pacific. By November 25, the final die was cast. America chose war, and on that day, War Secretary Henry Stimson wrote in his diary that it depended only on how to maneuver Japan to attack with the lowest number of US casualties.
Tokyo had no other recourse, knowing it couldn’t win, but hoping for a negotiated settlement to solidify whatever Asian control it could retain. It failed, lost the war, and remains an occupied US vassal state.
In the late 1930s, Roosevelt encouraged a Japanese attack by stationing the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor against the advice of two key admirals, James Richardson, Pacific Fleet commander and Harold Stark, Chief of Naval Operations until March 1942.
Selling arms to Japan’s enemies and an embargo assured war, and US cable documentation confirmed it was coming. Breaking the Japanese code let Britain and Washington track its fleet from the Kurile Islands to its North Pacific refueling point en route to Pearl Harbor on or about December 7.
At a December 5 cabinet meeting, Navy Secretary Frank Knox said: “Well, you know Mr. President, we know where the Japanese fleet is?”
“Yes, I know,” responded Roosevelt, saying “Well, you tell them what it is Frank,” who explained where it was, where it was heading until Roosevelt interrupted adding that perfect information wasn’t available in spite of navy reports confirming it in Pacific waters heading toward Hawaii. On December 6, officials awaited the attack until it came the next morning at 7:55AM Hawaii time.
It was a day of infamy and deceit, with Pearl Harbor’s commander, Admiral HE Kimmel, denied crucial intelligence to let it proceed unimpeded, arouse public anger, and give FDR his war – one decoded Japanese messages showed they didn’t want but Roosevelt gave them no choice.
Like other presidents, he lied the country into war against the wishes of 80% of the public, at a cost of millions of lives in both theaters, and a policy henceforth of perpetual wars for perpetual peace to achieve unchallengeable US dominance. In the modern era, FDR’s foreign policy began it, leaving a bankrupted moral and political legacy active to this day.
Consider also what revisionist historians say about Lincoln – that he provoked the Fort Sumpter (in Charleston, SC harbor) attack and began the Civil War for economic reasons, not to end slavery.
Consider also that ordinary people and soldiers don’t want war, just their leaders and commanders – to wit, Christmas 1914 during WW I when German and British troops stopped fighting, didn’t know why they were doing it, then defied orders by fraternizing with each other for two weeks despite risking being court-martialed. Unable to stop them, their officers joined them in a celebratory pause that didn’t stop another three years of carnage, millions of lost lives, and post-war policies that assured WW II.
The lesson is clear. All wars are immoral, unnecessary, and only happen when one side provokes the other for reasons unrelated to national security threats.
In his seminal book, “A Century of War,” Gabriel Kolko called the 20th century:
“the bloodiest in all history. More than 170 million people were killed,” 70% of whom in WW II were civilians, “mainly (from) the bombing of cities by Great Britain and America.” There was nothing good about “the good war” nor any others.
In Kolko’s later book “Another Century of War,” he stressed how America contributes to much of the world’s disorder through its interventions and as the world’s largest arms producer and exporter. Post-WW II, the US became a global menace, today claiming “terrorism” as the main threat – a bogus fiction to justify militarism, perpetual wars heading the nation for moral, political and economic bankruptcy. According to Kolko:
“The way America’s leaders are running the nation’s foreign policy is not creating peace or security at home or stability abroad. The reverse is the case: its interventions have been counterproductive.”
In his newest book, “The World in Crisis,” Kolko believes that America’s decline “began after the Korean War, was continued in relation to Cuba, and was greatly accelerated in Vietnam – but (GW Bush did) much to exacerbate it further.” He also thinks:
— US power is declining everywhere;
— “the world is no longer dependent on its economic might” because other nations like China and India are growing and may some day equal or surpass America;
— after the Soviet Union’s collapse, “the absence of identifiable foes has been a disaster, leaving the US aimless – (so) it picks and chooses enemies: rag-tag Afghan tribesmen, Iraqis or all sorts, perhaps China, perhaps Russia….South American caudillos,” whatever bogus ones can be invented for imperial wars, but the justification is wearing thin, and the burgeoning cost unsustainable.
The result is that America’s “century of domination is now ending.”
America’s Permanent War Economy
It’s how Seymour Melman (1917 – 2004) characterized it in his books and frequents writings on America’s military-industrial complex. One of his last articles was titled “In the Grip of a Permanent War Economy (CounterPunch, March 15, 2003) in which he said:
“at the start of the twenty-first century, every major aspect of American life is being shaped by our Permanent War Economy.” He then examined the horrific toll:
— a de-industrialized nation, the result of decades of shifting production abroad leaving unions and communities “decimated;”
— government financing and promoting “every kind of war industry and foreign investing by US firms;” war priorities take precedence over essential homeland needs;
— America’s “Permanent War Economy….has endured since the end of World War II….Since then the US has been at war – somewhere – every year, in Korea, Nicaragua, Vietnam, the Balkans, Afghanistan – all this to the accompaniment of shorter military forays in Africa, Chile, Grenada, Panama,” and increasingly at home against its own people;
— “how to make war” takes precedence over everything leaving no “public space….on how to improve the quality of our lives;”
— “Shortages of housing have caused a swelling of the homeless population in every major city (because) State and city governments across the country have become trained to bend to the needs of the military….;” the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) currently estimates over 21,000 are on city streets nightly, and during winter months it’s dangerous;
— the result is a nation of growing millions of poor, disadvantaged, uneducated, and “disconnected from society’s mainstream, restless and unhappy, frustrated, angry, and sad;”
“State Capitalism” characterizes America’s government – business partnership running a war economy for greater power and wealth at the expense of a nation in decline, corrupted leadership, lost industrialization, crumbling infrastructure, and suffering millions on their own, uncared for, unwanted, ignored, and forgotten.
Melman stressed that:
“Further evasion is out of order. We must come to grips with America’s State Capitalism and its Permanent War Economy.” Re-industrialization is essential “to restore jobs and production competence – industry by industry.”
“Failing that, there is no hope for any constructive exit,” for the nation or its people.
Dwight Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961 Address to the Nation
It was his farewell address delivered 30 years to the day before Operation Desert Storm began in which he warned about the “military-industrial complex,” citing the “grave implications” of a “coalition of the military and industrialists who profit by manufacturing arms and selling them to the government.”
He stated “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence….by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
He also said that:
“Every gun that is made, every war ship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, from those who are cold and not clothed,” the result of what some analysts call the “iron triangle” of Congress, the Pentagon, and the defense industry that includes producers of sophisticated technology for digital age warfare of a kind Eisenhower never imagined.
In combination, they’ve addicted America to war, not for threats, but for the power and profits that result. In his book “The Political Economy of US Militarism,” Professor Ismael Hossein-Zadeh refers to “parasitic military imperialism,” consuming over 40% of the national tax revenue at the expense of unmet human needs.
Morality aside, it’s not justified economically. It’s wasteful, inefficient, comes at a great cost, and over time is ineffective and self-destructive.
“The control over huge amounts of national resources tends to lead to an undermining of democratic values, a perversion of republican principles and a reduction of civil freedoms, as well as to the political corruption at home and abroad.” Moreover, “The constant need for international conflicts makes (America’s) military imperialism….more dangerous than the imperial powers of the past.”
It’s made war-making a giant enterprise “not only for expansionism but, in fact, for the survival of this empire,” yet consider the fallout Hossein-Zadeh examined in a July 10, 2007 article titled, “Parasitic Imperialism:”
— the redistribution of income and resources to the wealthy;
— the undermining of physical and human capital;
— the nation’s increased vulnerability to natural disasters;
— economic and financial instability, the result of the growing national debt now totally out of control;
— less foreign market potential for non-military ventures;
— the undermining of civil liberties and democratic values; and
— “foster(ing) a dependence on or addiction to military spending, and, therefore….a spiraling vicious circle of (unsustainable) war and militarism” that’s sucking the nation into decline.
America’s Post-WW II Imperial Grand Strategy
Post-WW II, America emerged as the world’s sole superpower – economically, politically and militarily, given the war’s toll on East Asia, Europe and Soviet Russia. In his book, “The Cold War and the New Imperialism,” Professor Henry Heller examined it with emphasis on the Cold War, America’s containment policy, and its efforts against leftist forces in support of fascist elements on the right at both state and local levels.
The Soviet Union controlled Eastern and Central Europe while Mao’s War of Liberation defeated Chiang Kai-Shek Nationalists. Cold War confrontation followed. It pitted US imperialism against an opposing ideology, the aim being which side would triumph or could both co-exist peacefully and avoid conflict.
War was never an option given each side’s nuclear strength under a policy of “mutually assured destruction (MAD)”. In addition, post-Stalinist Russia began reforms and expanded its sphere of influence. It wasn’t to destroy the West, but to co-exist equally. America and Soviet Russia only competed for developing country allies to keep them from the opposing camp, so neither would be dominated by the other or more vulnerable to being isolated, marginalized, or shut out from world markets and influence.
US Imperialism Post-WW II
James Petras and others have said behind every imperial war is a great lie, the more often repeated the more likely to be believed because ordinary people want peace, not conflict, so it’s vital to convince them.
In the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration overthrew two popularly elected governments in Iran and Guatemala, and sought greater influence in Africa and Southeast Asia as anti-colonial movements gained strength.
On January 1, 1959 Fidel Castro’s socialist revolution ousted the US-backed Batista dictatorship. He then survived America’s failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, but faced decades of US hostility, including an embargo, destabilization, intimidation, and hundreds of attempts to kill him, unsuccessful so Cuba is still free from US dominance, but hardly safe from its northern hegemon.
In the 1950s, America also backed French Southeast Asian imperialism until defeat at Dien Bien Phu drove them out. A repressive South Vietnamese client regime was established at the same time, supported by US military advisors teaching war and repression tactics. Unifying North and South elections were blocked, and direct intervention began in 1961. In 1958, Washington also subverted Laotian democracy and incited civil war. Cambodia as well was targeted but remained free.
Early in his administration, Kennedy intervened, but a new James Douglass book titled “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters” says without conviction because he opposed using force. After the Joint Chiefs demanded troops for Laos, he told his Geneva Conference representative, Averell Harriman:
“Did you understand? I want a negotiated settlement in Laos. I don’t want to put troops in.”
He wouldn’t agree to using nuclear weapons in Berlin and Southeast Asia and refused to bomb or invade Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis, saying afterwards that “I never had the slightest intention of doing so.”
In June 1963 (a few months before his assassination), he called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, ending the Cold War, and moving forward for “general and complete disarmament.” In October 1963, he signed National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263 to withdraw 1,000 US forces from Vietnam by year end and all of them by 1965. He said he wanted “to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” He wanted peace, not conflicts. It cost him his life, and future presidents got the message.
Johnson resumed Southeast Asian escalation to establish client regimes and military bases across East and South Asia, encircle China, and crush nationalist anti-imperial movements. The Indochinese war engulfed Cambodia and Laos as well under Johnson and Nixon. It killed three to four million, inflicted vast amounts of destruction, caused incalculable human suffering, got America to sign a peace treaty in January 1973, but war continued until its clients were defeated in April 1975.
Prior to Reagan’s election, the “Vietnam syndrome” and easing Cold War tensions and disarmament efforts alarmed militarists to fear defense spending cuts detrimental to profits. A propaganda campaign exaggerated bogus threats, manipulated intelligence to heighten fear, and got the Reagan administration to approve large military spending increases to confront “Soviet expansionism” at a time it was transitioning from Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko to Gorbachev in 1985, followed by perestroika in 1986, glasnost in 1988, border openings and the Berlin Wall’s collapse in 1989, then the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991 – a new threat militarists feared would bring large, not to be tolerated, defense budgets cuts.
In the late 1980s, however, leading figures, including Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Samuel Huntington, and Albert Wohlstetter alleged Third World conflicts threatened US interests in the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Western Pacific, and recommended deterrence to stop them. Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney agreed. Others wanted large defense cuts for a peace dividend, including Johnson’s DOD chief Robert McNamara who proposed reductions up to 50%.
Throughout the 1989 – 1999 period, mostly under Bill Clinton, US-instigated provocations, sanctions, and armed insurrections support involved America in 134 military operations according to the Federation of American Scientists. The most egregious was Clinton’s bombing and dismemberment of Yugoslavia, an act playwright Harold Pinter called:
“barbaric” and despicable, “another blatant and brutal assertion of US power using NATO as its missile” to consolidate “American domination of Europe.” Worse was yet to come with the election of George Bush, America’s worst president in a country that never had a good one and never will as it’s now governed.
Long before 9/11, Middle East restructuring plans were based on bogus terrorist, rogue state, and “clash of civilizations” threats by hordes of Islamofascists, including the Palestinian resistance, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Saddam Hussein targeted in the 1990 – 91 Gulf War, followed by years of devastating sanctions, then ousted by GW Bush in 2003.
Iraq was destroyed, occupied and balkanized. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran face similar threats, the common thread being dominating Eurasia through endless conflicts and increased military spending for war profiteering bounties. September 11 assured it, and got Michelle Ciarocca of the Arms Trade Resource Center, in September 2002 to say:
“The whole mind set of military spending changed on Sept. 11. The most fundamental thing about defense spending is that threats drive (it). It’s now going to be easier to fund almost anything.”
Hossein-Zadeh investigated the growing role of private contractors creating a “built-in propensity to war that makes the US military-industrial complex a menace to world peace and stability, a force of death and destruction,” as virulent under Obama as George Bush.
The fallout includes a burgeoning national debt, loss of civil liberties and democratic freedoms, erosion of social services, collapse of the dollar, America already in decline, its coming loss of preeminence as a world power, its potential bankruptcy, perhaps demise in its present form. and the possibility of WW III.
America’s Illegal Wars of Aggression – The “Supreme Crime”
All US post-WW II conflicts were premeditated wars of aggression against nations posing no threat to America –
what Justice Robert Jackson at Nuremberg called:
the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Canadian Law Professor Michael Mandel explained America’s guilt in his superb 2004 book, “How America Gets Away with Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage, and Crimes Against Humanity,” his main theme being Jackson’s Nuremberg “supreme crime” declaration, as relevant now as then.
Tragically, as Edward Herman observed in reviewing Mandel’s book:
“The problem for the United States (and the world) has been that this country is now in the business of aggression and its commission of the “supreme crime” is standard policy, thereby bringing the “scourge of war” across the globe in direct violation of the UN charter.”
Its Purposes and Principles state that:
“The Purposes of the United Nations are:
(1) To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”
Conspiratorially with NATO and Israel, America willfully and repeatedly violates international and US laws, punishes its victims, absolves itself, and since WW II has directly or indirectly murdered millions of people globally, mostly civilian non-combatants.
Barack Obama – America’s New Warrior President
America glorifies conflicts and the righteousness of waging them, packaged as liberating ones for democracy, freedom, justice, and the best of all possible worlds. Obama is just the latest in a long line of warrior leaders promising peace by waging war, justifying them by bogus threats, and calling pacifism unpatriotic to further an imperial agenda for greater wealth, power, and unchallengeable global dominance.
In opposition to his announced Afghanistan surge, peace activists gathered across from the White House on December 12 for an “Emergency Anti-Escalation Rally” organized by “End US Wars”- a new coalition of grassroots anti-war organizations.
Speakers included Kathy Kelly, David Swanson, Granny D (age 100 on January 24, 2010) former Senator Mike Gravel (1969 – 1981), and former Representative and 2008 Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, among others.
This writer was asked to prepare a short commentary to be read to the crowd. Updated, it’s reproduced below:
Obama’s Permanent War Strategy
Disingenuously calling Afghanistan a “war of necessity, not choice,” Obama ordered 30,000 more troops deployed over the next six months with perhaps many more to follow. In one of his most defining decisions, he’s more than doubled the force count since taking office, angered a majority in the country, and continues his permanent war agenda while calling himself a man of peace.
Next target, Yemen, and its newest, occupied Haiti for plunder, exploitation, and very likely killing unwanted Haitians by neglect, starvation, disease, and face-to-face confrontations if they resist.
As a candidate, Obama campaigned against imperial militarism, promised limited escalation only, and pledged to remove all combat troops from Iraq by August 31, 2010. That was then. This is now, and consider what he has in mind – the permanent occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and more.
Besides the Afghan escalation, he’s also destabilizing Pakistan to balkanize both countries, weakening them to control the Caspian Sea’s oil and gas riches and their energy routes to secured ports for export. The strategy includes encircling Russia, China, and Iran, obstructing their solidarity and cohesion, defusing a feared geopolitical alliance, weakening the Iranian government, perhaps attacking its nuclear sites, eliminating Israel’s main regional rival, and securing unchallenged Eurasian dominance over this resource rich part of the world that includes China, Russia, the Middle East, and Indian subcontinent.
Like George Bush, Obama plans permanent war and more military spending than all other nations combined at a time America has no enemies. He promised change and betrayed us. Grassroots activism must stop this madness and make America a nation again to be proud of. The alternative is too grim to imagine.
Over 50 years ago, Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) warned:
“Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war” and live in peace, because we have no other choice.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.