- In their wildest dreams, no one with recent Washington
experience would accuse that city of any present commitment to deep intellection
or policy depth. It would be unfair to say that nobody in our nation's
capital is capable. Most actually are, but they are not in positions of
influence, do not have the ear of leadership, lack credibility with the
White House, find media unattracted to their thinking, or they have just
given up on swaying the present team. Fear, stark, ugly, pervasive, and
largely unfounded stalks every corridor of this conundrum. Simply consider
the current roster of examples.
- Right now, reports Sidney Blumenthal at salon.com, the
White House is afraid that former Secretary of State Colin Powell may
finally tell it like it was in the deceitful run-up to war with Iraq.
Since the truth of that matter is already largely out, we can wonder what
horrific revelation could top the marvels of duplicity, error, and deliberate
falsehood that are already exposed. However, Blumenthal reports that "the
West Wing is seized with anxiety." If that is true, we should be
outright fearful that such anxiety is proof of a depth of yet unexposed
guilt regarding the Iraq fiasco that we really do not want to know about.
- Fear of who might hear about that last peccadillo practically
spiked with the publication of the phone records of the Washington Madam.
Because its day-in-day- out population is so itinerant, Washington may
indeed have a higher roster of naughty, naughty cheaters than other major
cities, but that is doubtful. In fact, given the number of houses that
federal and local authorities close, while others open almost daily, San
Francisco appears to be the national sex trade capital. Washington's critical
weakness may be that it has a lower aptitude for privacy.
- Fear has made Guantanamo into a hellhole. Fear that critics
would accuse them of not taking decisive action to round up the perpetrators
of 9/ll drove the Bush team to willy-nilly round up nearly six hundred
possible malefactors. There was little evidence against any of them. There
is still no case against more than a few of them. However, their confinement
has generated a new fear: If US authorities now let them go; some of them
may harbor such anger because of their confinement and abuse that they
will seek revenge. The Bush team has made for itself and maybe for our
country a self- sustaining nightmare.
- Fear is the principal reason that Democrats are unable
to exploit the President's nearly bottomless approval ratings. Fear alone
drove congressional approval last week of legislation to permit virtually
unrestrained domestic spying. That was not the honest fear of being in
the wrong building when a terrorist bomb goes off. It was not even the
reasonable fear of being wrong in case a bomb went off anywhere in the
United States. Members of Congress, cowed by the idea that they might
be accused of being soft on terrorism if they did not cooperate, handed
Bush a piece of legislation that breaks down the long-held critical distinction
between foreign intelligence collection and domestic spying. Now without
a court order US agents will monitor phone calls, e-mails and probably
even street corner talks between Americans and foreigners.
- US officials say that Americans will not be targeted.
However, the legislation permits monitoring of communications between
anyone in the United States and someone abroad. It does not say that the
overseas party (either party for that matter) must be a foreigner. Moreover,
since a large number, if not the majority of Americans now have current
generation relatives in virtually any country on the planet, this legislation
opens much of American society to the prospect of prying. One can ask
how it will be possible to watch only one side of a meeting or eavesdrop
only one side of a conversation. In short, we all must now be fearful
of unmitigated and unremitting domestic spying.
- Various fears enthrall the war in Iraq. American forces,
responding to Bush team and Congressional fears of failure, are taking
either one or the other side in a civil war that need not have occurred.
Before the war, Saddam Hussein had used fear to keep the contending factions
quiet and more or less cooperating. Once the invasion occurred, all bets
were off, and factional differences rapidly dominated the conflict. The
United States never articulated a clear reason for being there, but the
de facto rationale became keeping Iraqis from killing each other. Fear
of admitting defeat in this endeavor has fixated the President on "staying
the course." He simply has replaced or forced into retirement every
military commander who questioned the war, expressed dislike for his chosen
strategy or who honestly feared its outcomes.
- Bush and the neocons have used fear of terrorism as the
organizing principle for a US drive to achieve worldwide hegemony. More
than half of the world's so-called terrorist violence occurs in two countries,
Iraq and Afghanistan, which, the Bush team alleges, is the central front
in war against terrorism. However, Iraq was barely on the terrorism map
when the Iraq war began. Terrorism in most of the world has remained at
levels about where they were before 9/11. The big changes relate to reported
terrorist attacks spawned by US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Fears
about the domestic political consequences of failing to win those wars
keep our forces engaged in both places. The fact that the United States
would gain little or no safety from winning both those wars simply has
- Washington is driven by a fear of failure to support
our troops. Both Democrats and Republicans unimaginatively define supporting
our troops as keeping them in the field to mediate, mostly fight, and
to die or wound themselves in an Iraqi civil war. There is a burlesque
simplicity about this conception. The Iraqi army actually collapsed and
bolted in a few days, but American and allied troops have fought Iraqis
for more than four years without controlling the countryside or the major
cities. The US stated fear is that if US forces withdraw, the Iraqis will
descend into full civil war. How that differs from what is actually occurring
is most obscure. The real problem is that the US President is afraid to
admit defeat, and he goes on sacrificing our forces to avoid that decision.
- The President is able to overcome virtually total loss
of public support for his war by holding the fear of defeat over the head
of the Congress. This Washington fear centers on the next election. Neither
party has figured out how to market terminating the war and bringing our
troops home. Every Democratic or Republican candidate is afraid opponents
will tag him or her with quitting.
- Only Ron Paul, the Republican Congressman from Texas,
is forthrightly ready to end the war. Polls show that most Americans
agree with him, but other politicians appear afraid to listen. That is
mainly because they are trying to out-stay the course with their political
peers in Washington, and they do not seem to care what the public thinks.
- Washington fears avidly have aligned themselves with
Zionist ambitions. The principal advocates of war with Iraq were the
neocons, the Israeli lobby and serving Tel Aviv politicians. Those same
ideologues are pushing Washington toward a war with Iran to stifle its
nuclear ambitions. The real worry here is not that Tehran might develop
a bomb, but Tel Aviv's fear that a nuclear Iran (if it chooses to go this
route) would create a balance of power in the Middle East instead of the
present monopoly of nuclear terror the Israelis hold over all Arab heads.
- The fear of the emergence of "Islamist" governments
is a neocon/ Zionist smokescreen. It is a political truism that virtually
all the so-called Middle East terrorist groups are insurgencies seeking
to remove or change autocratic governments. These groups have spent decades
trying to get the attention of their government leadership or trying to
develop a sufficient political following to replace those governments.
In the Egypt case, Hosni Mubarak is the third of a dictatorial series
that began a half century ago with Gamal Abdel Nasser. In spite of growing
pressure for political reform, Mubarak reportedly is thinking of passing
the chair to his son. The Muslim Brotherhood, parent or at least inspiration
for Hamas in Palestine, is only one Egyptian group that would resent that
step and could choose to fight back. To the extent that the United States
continues to back the oligarchs in Arab countries, it has cause to fear
- Palestine is a critical piece of the Washington fear
problem. For more than sixty years, the Zionists have sought to take Palestine
from its people and create an exclusive Jewish state. Despite ethnic
cleansing, expulsion, displacement and confinement of the Palestinians,
the Israeli strategy has not worked. To keep Americans ignorant of Israel's
crimes, Israel supporters planted a deep fear that anyone who criticized
Israeli actions or policies would be labeled anti-Semitic.
- Fear of political assassination (along with offers of
political funds and votes) has corrupted the leadership of both Democratic
and Republican parties. All leading contenders for election in 2008 have
already made their obeisance to Jewish power groups or Israel lobbyists.
In effect, fear of reprisal for failure to do so has made extending allegiance
to Israel a sine qua non for election to the American Presidency.
- Taking such fears on board makes the understanding of
current Washington behavior both clearer and less satisfying. Fear of
Iranian efforts to master nuclear technology tightly links to fears that
Iran can exploit the dissatisfactions of out groups in Arab countries,
a number of which are Shia Muslims, to rattle the cages of present oligarchic
leaders, if not actually to unseat them. Fear of "Islamist"
governments is actually a fear of intensified Islamic country nationalism
and drives for independence. Both will weaken US and Israeli standing
in the region. Fear of Israel's loss of its regional nuclear monopoly
links quite rationally to the probability that other regional governments
will keep trying until they independently master or acquire nuclear technology.
- Plodding along just below the surface is a fear that
the United States faces declining control over oil and other essential
resources. Before any Iraqi government could form, Jerry Bremer began
to rig the situation to yield US control over Iraqi oil. That effort has
come down to the present debate in Baghdad over a new oil law. The draft
is touted in Washington as an effort to achieve equitable sharing of oil
revenues among Iraq's three main ethnic groups (Shia, Sunni and Kurdish),
but it is recognized in Baghdad as a plan of US and British companies
to usurp control of the Iraqi oil industry(as Bremer actually intended).
It is a reasonable Bush team fear that if US forces withdraw the Iraqis
will feel no compulsion to enact or enforce such a law. The real problem
already emerging is Chinese, Indian and other competition for supplies.
- Fear of another 9/11 hangs over this landscape. That
is because in the nearly six years since 9/11, fear that it could happen
again has been the rhetorical centerpiece of much Washington policy. Only
last week, Fox News carried a reported "threat" of such an event
in the next 90 days. In fact, the so-called threat was the mere speculation
of an Israeli "terror specialist", but the tale received wide
discussion before dying out.
- Even though the country has not had an attack since 9/11,
the Department of Homeland Security terrorism alert system keeps Americans
in a constant state of fear about such a prospect. DHS keeps the posted
"terrorism threat" level at least at yellow or orange, meaning
a high mid-range of threat. This is the leading edge of the official rationale
for continuing the War on Terrorism. It lulls the public into taking as
given that the defense budget must remain high. It is a core argument
for leaving US forces in Iraq.
- In sum, fear drives it all. However, the War goes nowhere,
while our major domestic and foreign policy interests are ignored or,
at best, go underfunded. As we learned last week in Minneapolis, at least
25% of the nation's bridges are in some manner deficient and could collapse
as did I 35W. We squander our diplomatic personnel resources on the gross
establishment and the fool's errand we have created in Iraq, while Secretary
Rice struggles to find adequate resources to represent the United States
effectively to over 6.25 billion other people where many countries of
importance to American interests find us under-represented. As senior
diplomats will tell you, if you ask, the bulk of our country's foreign
policy agenda is virtually on hold. We lose more troops every day in a
war we did not need to fight, while US behavior makes more enemies in
the world than it is possible to identify or neutralize. Our leadership
undermines, if it does not destroy altogether, our constitutional rights
in order to permit domestic spying that will have a miniscule rate of
return on investment.
- Our leadership uses fear to justify policies and actions
that turn our country into a global pariah, while moving it slowly but
surely toward the status of a police state. Yet our total human losses
abroad do not come close to the number of deaths each year on American
highways. We are told that we fight in Iraq to keep the terrorists from
attacking us here, but we have demonstrated repeatedly that if terrorists
tried to cross our borders, we would not be able to keep them out, because
we are unlikely to know who they are. We are told that our money must
go for defense, even though it is perfectly clear that a fielded army
of 200,000 in Iraq, equipped with the best weapons in the world, cannot
stop one aggrieved, determined, and bomb-laden teenager.
- We are told that our defenses lie in military solutions.
But it is daily more clear that the true enemy is the human condition.
In the past, the United States has met that condition with open arms,
prepared to share and assist others in the fight against the world's
main enemies: poverty, scarcity, disease, and injustice. Looking at the
pit of a national depression in 1933, in the first paragraph of his first
inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave Americans advice that is
even more critical today than it was when he gave it:
- "This great Nation will endure as it has endured,
will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm
belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself-nameless, unreasoning,
unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into
- To advance, we need trained, dedicated leadership that
is unafraid. We need leaders and policies to advance the broad range of
American interests without catering to any third party, without trashing
our constitutional liberties, and without trampling the lives and liberties
of other people.
- The writer is the author of the recently published work,
_A World Less Safe_, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist
on rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US
Department of State whose immediate pre-retirement positions were as Chairman
of the Department of International Studies of the National War College
and as Deputy Director of the State Office of Counter Terrorism and Emergency
Planning. He will welcome comment at email@example.com.