When Neo-Cons and Theo-Cons Meet at Armageddon
    By Steve Weissman
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective

    Monday 23 May 2005

    Will future historians portray George W. Bush as the heroic leader of a new world empire and reborn Christian nation? Or, will they treat him as one of America's worst presidents ever ?

    It all depends on who wins and who loses.

    As Winston Churchill cautioned, history is written by the victors, and the current battles have only just begun, whether in Iraq, Iran, or at home. But, even in the early rounds, it would be shortsighted and self-defeating to give Mr. Bush too much credit - or blame - for the direction our country is taking.

    With or without his hand at the helm, two areas of concern - religion and oil - now drive our nation's destiny, and how Americans resolve them will determine who writes the history of our times.

    Terrorism falls somewhere down the list, though Mr. Bush, the Congressional GOP, and too many Democrats have handled faith-based and oil-related issues in ways that greatly help Osama bin Laden and his allies.

    According to published intelligence leaks, in 2001 we faced only a few thousand terrorists. Today, no one knows how many thousands more suicidal bombers the war in Iraq has helped to recruit. Far worse, terrorists are winning the political support of several hundred million Muslims who do not want "Crusader Christians" to dominate their countries, disrespect their cultures, or control their oil.

    Now in TO's feature column, "The Religious Right - Saints or Subversives?" shows how America is going through a massive Christian revival, and how right-wing religious activists now dominate the GOP.

    Former Republican Senator John Danforth, an Episcopalian Minister, eloquently protested the takeover of his party by these theological conservatives, even as current Senate Republicans pack our federal courts with reactionary, "pro-Christian" judges.

    Nor will the theo-cons stop with a few judicial victories. Long before Mr. Bush first spoke of his "higher father," they began their campaign to turn America into what they called "a Christian nation." Long after Mr. Bush steps down, they will remain a continuing threat to the Constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state - and to the religious freedom of us all.

    Self-righteous and self-serving, the theo-cons have told us where they are heading and how they plan to get there. Whether fighting to force biblical Creationism into public schools or to stop gay marriage and "partial-birth abortions," they will use every supposedly single-issue struggle to subvert the Constitution and impose whatever they think their Bible tells them - and the rest of us - to do.

    Islam has its politicized Ayatollahs and Taliban. As Americans, we face their evil twin - our own Christian Nationalists, who threaten our freedom at home while moving heaven and earth to turn a fight against terrorists into Armageddon.

    Stopping these hell-bent Christian Nationalists will not be easy. But for freedom-loving Americans to win, the Democratic Party needs to join with Republican moderates to make a clear, uncompromising defense of Constitutional principles.

    "Congress shall make no law with respect to the establishment of religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof" means precisely what the authors of the First Amendment meant it to say. No state church. A clear separation of God and government. And - as the Constitution's chief author James Madison insisted in his native Virginia – no taxpayer funding for faith-based programs.

    Pandering to voters with unprincipled half-measures will only diminish American freedom, including the religious and political freedom of those faith-based groups whose unwary leaders are now jumping onto the government gravy train. As true conservatives know better than many of my liberal friends, no government anywhere offers free rides or free gravy.

    Beating the Christian Nationalists on the domestic front is also the surest way to weaken their impact on foreign policy and stop them from pushing the United States into an all-out religious Crusade against Islam.

    Controlling the World's Energy

    In his indispensable study Blood and Oil, Professor Michael Klare shows how the desire to control petroleum reserves in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf has shaped American policy ever since the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    Klare also shows how the thirst for oil and natural gas now motivates our global misadventures from Central Asia and the Caspian Sea to Sudan and Venezuela.

    Decades before Mr. Bush showed the slightest interest in the wider world, neo-conservatives like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz were honing this imperial energy policy, which goes far beyond securing enough oil for Americans to burn.

    Control of global reserves - and the ability to reward or punish rivals who need the oil and natural gas - is for the neo-cons a primary lever to enhance American power over other nations.

    To be fair, they did not invent the idea, parts of which reach back at least as far as earlier empire-builders like Teddy Roosevelt, Admiral Alfred Mahan, and their British counterpart, Lord Curzon. The idea of using oil as a lever later shaped America's conflict with Japan in the run-up to World War II. Even more, it shaped the way Washington kept the Japanese in check after the war.

    Perle learned the geo-political uses of oil as a top staff aide to Democratic Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, one of the country's leading energy strategists. The eager young aide worked with Jackson all during the 1970s, when American policy-makers were considering a wide range of responses to OPEC's new power and the oil crisis it created.

    Wolfowitz got his education as as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense during the creation of the Carter Doctrine, which President Jimmy Carter announced in his 1980 State of the Union message. Opening the door to much that has followed, this unilateral edict declared Persian Gulf oil reserves off-limits to domination by any of America's current or potential rivals.

    In their many years of pushing Washington to invade Iraq, the neo-cons consistently emphasized the strategic importance of controlling as much of the world's energy supplies as possible. Nowhere did they make this clearer than in the 18 February 1992 draft of the Defense Planning Guidance. Its principal authors were Wolfowitz and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff.

    Leaked to the press at the time, the classified draft was widely quoted in the New York Times and other newspapers. What Wolfowitz and Libby wrote back then directly addresses two of today's most pressing questions: Why did the Bush administration invade Iraq? And, why do so few of our foreign policy leaders - Democrats as well as Republicans - now refuse even to consider pulling out our troops and military bases.

    Wolfowitz and Libby explained how America would use its political and military muscle to prevent the emergence of any rival super-power, whether Russia, China, or our Western European allies. The United States, said the authors, "must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."

    To do this, they said, the US "must sufficiently account for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order."

    The key mechanism was to provide a steady supply of oil and natural gas, but a supply with America's hand on the stopcock. "In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil."

    Wolfowitz and Libby wrote the draft just after the first Gulf War, and horrified the elder Bush with their candor. He was especially embarrassed since the leak came before the Pentagon could "scrub" the language and wrap its meaning in euphemism for wider dissemination. The younger Bush and his administration seem to prefer the blunter language.

    In their 1992 draft, Wolfowitz and Libby signal the geo-political thinking that led the neo-cons to urge invading Iraq long before 9/11. They explain why Washington is now building as many as 14 permanent military bases there. And they suggest why so few of our foreign policy leaders - whether neo-cons or tough-talking, "muscular" Democrats - will ever give up the Iraqi bases without a fight.

    The military infrastructure now in Iraq is there to help protect and expand American control of oil and natural gas throughout the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and now Central Asia as well. And, as most Democratic or Republican policy-makers see it, this expanding control deters other countries from challenging America's status as "the world's only remaining super-power."

    What, then, of the terrorists?

    Osama bin Laden has to be laughing all the way to his latest hidey-hole. When he started his current jihad, he talked mostly of driving the Americans out of his native Saudi Arabia and overthrowing the Saudi royal family. Now, in the eyes of growing numbers of Muslims in a widening arc from the Southern Philippines to Africa, he is defending both radical Islam and most of the world's oil and natural gas. He has become a modern-day Sala el-Din and an Islamist Leon Trotsky. For a revolutionary, even one as reactionary as bin Laden, it doesn't get any better than this.

    Not so for the United States. Spurred on by super-power addicts seeking to control the world through energy reserves and Christian fanatics eager to please their God, Mr. Bush and the GOP rushed us headlong into a bear-trap. To whatever degree bin Laden meant to provoke such a massive over-reaction, his terror tactics worked. He and his allies now use America's heavy-handed military presence in Iraq and beyond to move us toward a "Clash of Civilizations" that could tear the world apart.

    And how does America's loyal opposition respond?

    Seeing us stuck in Iraq, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean felt forced to urge us to get stuck in even deeper. "Now that we're there, we're there and we can't get out," he said in a recent speech. "I hope the President is incredibly successful with his policy now."

    Given his independence from foreign policy-makers in both parties, Dr. Dean might have no idea of the blank check he has written to those who see control of oil as the key to world power. But, as he will learn, Iraq is only the beginning of an oil-soaked Armageddon that now threatens Iran, and has shown growing disruptions from Saudi Arabia to Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and nuclear-armed Pakistan, our supposed ally.

    To get us out of this morass will not be easy. Take that as given. But we have no chance at all unless grassroots activists organize to turn Dr. Dean and the Democratic Party against keeping any American troops or bases in Iraq.