The fraudulence of the "War on Terror" is clearly revealed by looking
at the pattern of actions that preceded and followed its launch.
The Mega-Lie Called the "War on Terror": A Masterpiece of Propaganda
By Richard W. Behan
September 27, 2007
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will
eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such
time as the state can shield the people from the political, economic
and/or military consequences of the lie ... The truth is the mortal
enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest
enemy of the state." --Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda in Nazi
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the administration of George W. Bush has told
and repeated a lie that is "big enough" to confirm Joseph Goebbels'
testimony. It is a mega-lie, and the American people have come to
believe it. It is the "War on Terror."
The Bush administration endlessly recites its mantra of deceit:
The War on Terror was launched in response to the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 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.
This is classic propaganda. In Goebbels' terms, it is the "state"
speaking its lie, but the political, economic, and military
consequences of the Bush administration lie are coming into view, and
they are all catastrophic. If truth is the enemy of both the lie and
George Bush's "state," then the American people need to know the truth.
The military incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq were not done in
retaliation for 9/11. The Bush administration had them clearly in mind
upon taking office, and they were set in motion as early as Feb. 3,
2001. That was seven months prior to the attacks on the Trade Towers
and the Pentagon, and the objectives of the wars had nothing to do
This is beyond dispute. The mainstream press has ignored the story,
but the administration's congenital belligerence is fully documented
in book-length treatments and in the limitless information pool of the
internet. (See my earlier work, for example.)
Invading a sovereign nation unprovoked, however, directly violates the
charter of the United Nations. It is an international crime. Before
the Bush administration could attack either Afghanistan or Iraq, it
would need a politically and diplomatically credible reason for doing so.
The terrorist violence of Sept. 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 United States
"… 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 fraudulence of the "War on Terror," however, is clearly revealed
in the pattern of subsequent facts:
* In Afghanistan the state was overthrown instead of apprehending
the terrorist. Offers by the Taliban to surrender Osama bin Laden were
ignored, and he remains at large to this day.
* In Iraq, when the United States invaded, there were no al Qaeda
terrorists at all.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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
* Today two American and two British oil companies are poised to
claim immense profits from 81 percent of Iraq's undeveloped crude oil
reserves . They cannot proceed, however, until the Iraqi Parliament
enacts a statute known as the "hydrocarbon framework law."
* 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.
* Drafting of the law itself was begun during Paul Bremer's
Coalition Provisional Authority, with the invited participation of a
number of major oil companies. The law was written in English and
translated into Arabic only when it was due for Iraqi approval.
* President Bush made passage of the hydrocarbon law a mandatory
"benchmark" when he announced the troop surge in January of 2007.
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
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 the 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-all of whom
would fill high-level positions in the administration of George W.
Bush, nine years in the future.
In proposing global dominance and preemptive war, it was a radical
departure from the traditional U.S. policy of multilateral realism,
and it was an early statement of the emerging ideology of
The document was too extreme. President George H.W. Bush publicly
denounced it and immediately retracted it. Many in his administration
referred to its authors as "the crazies."
But the ideology survived. Five years later William Kristol and Robert
Kagan created a neoconservative 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 Jan. 26, 1998, the Project for the
New American Century once more urged the military overthrow of the
Saddam Hussein regime.
President Clinton ignored the letter, apparently viewing this
iteration of the proposal as no less crazy than the original.
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, 29 members of the Project for the New
American Century joined the administration of George W. Bush. Their
ideology of world dominion and preemptive war would dominate the Bush
administration's foreign and defense policies.
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 Mideast 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 had been more closely aligned with the oil
industry. President Bush and Vice President Cheney were intimately
tied to it, and so was National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. So
were eight cabinet secretaries and 32 other high-level appointees.
By early February, Vice President Cheney's "Energy Task Force" was at
work. Federal agency people were joined by executives and lobbyists
from the Enron, Exxon-Mobil, Conoco-Phillips, Shell and BP America
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" -- foreign companies negotiating with
Saddam Hussein's regime, none of which was a major American or British
The intent to invade Iraq and the keen interest in Iraqi oil would
soon converge in a top secret memo of Feb. 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 Feb. 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 valuable location for a
pipeline to connect the immense oil and gas resources of the Caspian
Basin to the richest markets. Whoever built the pipeline would control
the Basin, and in the 1990s the contest to build it was spirited.
American interests in the region were promoted by an organization
called the Foreign Oil Companies Group. Among its most active members
were Henry Kissinger, a former secretary of state but now an advisor
to the Unocal Corp.; Alexander Haig, another former secretary of state
but now a lobbyist for Turkmenistan; and Richard Cheney, a former
secretary of defense, but now the CEO of the Halliburton Corp.
Late in 1996, however, the Bridas Corp. of Argentina finally signed
contracts with the Taliban and with Gen. 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
Kissinger: Hamid Karzai, Richard Armitage, and Zalmay Khalilzad.
(Armitage and Khalilzad would join the George W. Bush administration
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, John J. Maresca, a
Unocal vice president, asked in a congressional hearing to have the
Taliban replaced by a more stable regime.
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, after the al Qaeda attacks on the U.S.
embassies in Africa. And he issued an executive order forbidding
further trade transactions with the Taliban.
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 access to the Caspian Basin
for American companies. The Enron Corp. 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 in
Washington, Berlin and Islamabad. The Bridas contract might still be
But the Taliban would not yield.
Anticipating this in the spring of 2001, the State Department had
sought and gained the concurrence of India and Pakistan to take
military action if necessary. The PNAC people were not timid about
At the final meeting with the Taliban, on Aug. 2, 2001, 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 apparent,
"President Bush promptly informed Pakistan and India 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.
Sept. 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.
Whatever the truth about 9/11, the Bush administration now had a
fortuitous, spectacular opportunity to proceed with its premeditated
The administration would have to play its hand skillfully, however.
Other nations have suffered criminal acts 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
rage of 9/11 the comparison was superficially attractive. But Pearl
Harbor was the violent expression of hostile intent by a formidably
armed nation, and it introduced four years of full-scale land, sea and
airborne combat. 9/11 was al Qaeda's violent expression of hostility:
19 fanatics armed with box cutters. Yes, extraordinary destruction and
loss of life, but the physical security of our entire nation was
simply not at stake.
Though the comparison was specious, the "War on Terror" was born, and
it has proven to be an exquisite smokescreen. But labeling the
preplanned invasions 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 Oct. 7, 2001, the carpet of bombs is unleashed over Afghanistan.
Soon, with the Taliban overthrown, the Bush administration installed
Hamid Karzai as head of an interim government. Karzai had been a
The first ambassador to Karzai's government was John J. Maresca, a
vice president of Unocal.
The next ambassador to Afghanistan was Zalmay Khalilzad, another
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 was ready to finance the pipeline across Afghanistan
and to protect it with a permanent military presence. Osama bin Laden
remained at large.
The mega-lie, the fabricated "War on Terror" was an easy sell 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 to his organization. And the signature secrecy of
the Bush Administration had kept from public view its eight months of
negotiating with the Taliban. The first premeditated war was largely
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. Of course they could not,
so there would need to be a sustained and persuasive selling job -- 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."
No regime anywhere was in fact threatening anyone with anything, but
Bush appointed a 10-person "White House Iraq Group" in August of 2002.
Chaired by Karl Rove, its members were trusted partisans and
communications experts skilled in perception management. Their role
was explicitly to market 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-nuclear weapons. Rice soon introduced the litany of the smoking
gun and the mushroom cloud, Cheney said hundreds of thousands of
Americans might die, and 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 that swallowed and regurgitated the talking
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
On Feb. 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
But the Security Council, not so easily propagandized, refused to
authorize American force.
On March 14, 2003, President Bush met in the Azores with Prime
Ministers Blair of the United Kingdom and Aznar of Spain. They
abandoned the effort for U.N. authorization, claimed the right to
proceed without it 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 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 regains
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 United States. 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 Mideast 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.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney reject any alteration in
their course. They ask instead for more time, more money and even --
in threatening Iran -- for more targets.
There is no apparent way to the stop madness, to end the hemorrhaging
of blood and treasure, but to impeach these men and, if found guilty,
to remove them from office.
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 administration's behavior. Should this
continue, thinking Americans will discard the last crumbs of respect
for the incumbent legislature -- polling shows there's not much left
-- and punish its members, Republican and Democrat alike, in next
Impeachment will expose the fraudulence of the "War on Terror" and
liberate us from the pall of fear the Bush administration has
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 intercontinental missiles pre-aimed at American targets.
We were a vigilant but poised and confident people then, not a nation
commanded to cower in fear. We can and must regain that strength and
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 it has lost.
We risk far less by embracing the truth and acting on it. Our nation
cherishes honesty: the fraudulence must end. But Bush and Cheney have
shown themselves incapable of honesty, and we also cherish justice.
They must be impeached.
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 rwbehan @ rockisland.com.
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