Inside the Pentagon:
Hawks and doves fight for control of "infinite war"
by Rick Rozoff [The] Pentagon hawks call it "Operation Infinite War". It is a sinister reworking of the original codename for the mobilisation against the Taliban — Operation Infinite Justice. Two detailed proposals for warfare without limit have been presented to the US President by his Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Both have been temporarily put aside but remain on hold. They were drawn up by Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz who rose through State Department and Pentagon ranks under Ronald Reagan to become one of the chief architects of the 1991 Gulf War. Drafted with a small coterie of loyal aides, mainly civilian political appointees at the Pentagon, the plans argue for open-ended war without constraint either of time or geography and potentially engulfing the entire Middle East and Central Asia. The proposals have opened up an abyss in the Bush administration, since they run counter to plans carefully laid by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has had the upper hand against the Pentagon for the first three weeks since the disaster, but is starting to lose his commanding position within the Oval Office. The Pentagon notion starts with the basic proposal that the US should begin its war on terrorism in Afghanistan as it has — along with British troops — using special operations units to scout out targets, ready to pinpoint them with lasers when the bombers fly over. Where it differs is that the dominant thinking in the administration over the past few days is that the plot to attack the World Trade Centre and Pentagon spread well beyond Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden into what Attorney-General John Ashcroft called "a series of individuals and a series of networks around the world". Senior Pentagon officials believe that such a diagnosis demands a military response to match. "This is the green light", said one official, "to do away with fundamentalist terrorism worldwide, for good." The plans put before the President involve expanding the war beyond Afghanistan to include similar incursions by special ops forces — followed by air strikes by the bombers they would guide — into Iraq, Syria and the Bekaa Valley area of Lebanon, where the Syrian-backed Hizbollah (Party of God) fighters that harass Israel are based. In Iraq, any site suspected of being a chemical weapons facility or proliferation plant of any threatening kind would be bombed, in an escalation of the almost weekly current harassment of Iraqi installations by British and US fighter jets. In Syria and Lebanon, as in Afghanistan, special ops would guide air strikes, and also be called on to mount guerrilla-style raids on training camps and to carry out assassinations. While a presidential executive order — which Bush is under pressure to revoke — bans overseas assassinations, the Pentagon points out that the US can act as it pleases in self-defence. If action in Lebanon led to an Israeli reinvasion of the southern part of the country, it would be supported by the US. Asked whether the Hamas organisation on the West Bank and in Gaza would be too controversial for inclusion among possible targets, one source said: "never say never". According to one suggestion, the teams would be added to by Arab and Arab- American fighters, who would scout terrain, locate camps and hideouts and scatter sensors disguised as rocks along roads and trails used by terrorists. Special US units could be deployed in conjunction with domestic troops against terrorist cells in allied Western countries, notably Britain, Germany, France and Spain. Colin Powell's arguement — backed by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice — is that such a campaign would be disastrous, isolating the United States and breaking up the coalition Bush has carefully built, making more than 80 calls to heads of foreign governments since the attacks on September 11. Officials say that in a war without precedent, the rules have to be made up as it develops, and that the so-called "Powell Doctrine" arguing that there should be no military intervention without "clear and achievable" political goals is "irrelevant". Ironically, the principal obstacles to the hawks, apart from Powell, is the military itself, much of which remains loyal to the view of its erstwhile chief, Powell, that "American GIs are not pawns on some global game board". Officials speak of bitter arguments between President's Bush's political appointees and the generals and officer class who hold a deep distaste for front-line action. While happy to support operations in Afghanistan, military sources say that the US risks being dragged into a quagmire of wars far deeper than Bosnia or Kosovo if it begins to strike in Iraq, Syria or Lebanon. The driving force behind the influential hard line is an axis of old-time hawks gathered around an erstwhile colleague of Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon, Richard Perle. (Rick Rozoff lists the warhawks as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Jeanne Kirkpatrick [former US ambassador to the UN] and William Schneider [former adviser to Rumsfeld]) Perle and Rumsfeld head a think-tank called Project for the New American Century, which sent a letter to President Bush laying out the Pentagon's position and urging the removal of Iraq's Saddam Hussein as a precondition to the upcoming war. "Failure to undertake such an effort", it said, "will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war against terrorism." The letter goes on: "Coalition building has run amok. The point about a coalition is 'can it achieve the right purpose?' not 'can you get a lot of members?' President Bush said of his foreign policy team: "There's going to be disagreements, I hope there's disagreement." The bitter divisions in Washington are long-standing. Wolfowitz and Powell first disagreed over military intervention in the Gulf War, which Powell initially opposed. They also held opposing views on the Shia rebellion against Saddam Hussein which followed in its wake. Powell refusing to support it while Wolfowitz saw it as an opportunity. They next clashed over the Balkans: while Powell used his full influence to forestall US military intervention in Bosnia, Wolfowitz was one of the first senior politicians to advocate it. There is an ironic twist. Brought into the inner circle is Zalmay Khalizad, an Afghan and Reagan veteran whose speciality was championing armed insurgencies. Khalizad was one of the early supporters of Bosnia's Muslims and made his name managing the Reagan administration's backing for the mujahideen — and Osama bin Laden — against the Red Army in his native Afghanistan. That was the time that the then Pakistani head of state Benazir Bhutto warned President Reagan: "You are creating a Frankenstein".