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Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War in Iraq: The Council on Foreign Relations

In this issue:

Matt Gonzalez Elected President of San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War in Iraq: The Council on Foreign Relations
Greens explore running anti-war candidates: Panel examines incumbents' records
It's time to vote Green
Editorial: Greens look at the presidency; no easy answers
Traditional ladder to electoral success is questioned
Unlikely Candidate, pt. II
Nader: Roots of a green champion
Excellent health care, coming soon to California
The Land is Our Mother: Brazil's Landless Workers' Movement
Letters to the Editor
News Clips
Media coverage and the public debate about the threat of United States war on Iraq has focused almost exclusively on the role of the Bush administration with little awareness or coverage of the wider consensus within powerful upper class U.S. groups to attack and control Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Nor has there been much coverage about the larger imperial goal of reforming the political economy of the Middle East.

by Larry Shoup

What is the Council on Foreign Relations?

Although not a well-known organization and only occasionally mentioned in the media, the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has been prominent in behind-the-scenes foreign policy formation in the U.S. for over 75 years. The CFR publishes Foreign Affairs, which calls itself “the most influential periodical in print.” CFR members Marvin and Bernard Kalb, call the CFR an “extremely influential private group that is sometimes called the real State Department.” And as J. Anthony Lucas put it: “if you want to make foreign policy, there’s no better fraternity to belong to than the Council.”

The think tank of the CFR, the Studies Program, conducts strategic medium and long term foreign policy planning, and aggressively the challenges of crisis situations. The purpose is to influence both government and the public. The studies program is scholarship at the service of corporate interests, bringing together business and government leaders with leading academics.

CFR’s Drive for a War on Iraq

September 11, 2001 sparked in a new burst of CFR activity to plan yet another “new world order.” Kenneth M. Pollack, the CFR’s Director National Security Studies. wrote an article for the Foreign Affairs magazine entitled “Next Stop Baghdad?” and a book, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq in October 2002. An expert on Iraq, Iran and the Persian Gulf, Pollack is a Yale and MIT graduate who has worked for the CIA, the National Security Council under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and also has been a research professor at the National Defense University. A review of the book in Foreign Affairs called it “exceptionally thoughtful. If any book can shape the current thinking on Iraq, this one will assuredly be it.”

Under the theme: “No more business as usual, blockading the war profiteers in the financial district,” Greens sit down to protest the attack on Iraq. During morning rush hour the first business day after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, protesters chant “block Bush” while blocking the intersection of Market, Battery and Bush streets . From the second person seated on the left: Alameda Green Party County Councilors Patti Marsh and Susanne Baker, and Larry Shoup, former Green Party candidate for secretary of state.  (photo: Brian Marsh)

In the months after September 11 Pollack and other CFR scholars wrote about 100 op-ed articles in major national and international newspapers, 20 major journal articles, and a total of ten books. CFR members made over 1,000 appearances as commentators on radio and TV shows, testified before Congress, and gave briefings to key governmental officials, including, in the words of the CFR Annual Report, special briefings for members of President Bush’s inner circle.

In addition, a “vigorous public diplomacy campaign” is seen a necessary to convince skeptical publics at home and abroad that U.S. objectives and intentions are just. In this regard the Guiding Principles report states:

“One of the most important issues to address is the widely held view that the campaign against Iraq is driven by an American wish to ‘steal’ or at least control Iraqi oil. U.S. statements and behavior must refute this... A heavy American hand will only convince them and the world that the operation against Iraq was undertaken for imperialist, rather than disarmament, reasons.”

Yet the body of the report has a section called “The Lure of Oil: Realities and Constraints,” as well as an addendum called “Oil and Iraq: Opportunities and Challenges,” which is almost as long as all of the rest of the report text. In the sections focusing on oil, lip service is given to Iraq’s control of its own oil, while, in fact, the report argues that national control of Iraqi oil must be scrapped and an “economy based on free market principles” and a “level playing field for all international players to participate” be created. The report goes on to point out:

“Paragraph 30 of UNSCR 1284 already authorizes the UN secretary-general to investigate ways that oil companies could be allowed to invest in Iraq. Thus, the legal basis for the UN to authorize and oversee foreign investment... already exists.”

The report also makes clear that the Iraqi oil contracts that French and Russian companies now have will be challenged:

“Finally, the legality of post-sanctions contracts awarded in recent years will have to be evaluated. Prolonged legal conflicts over contracts could delay the development of important fields in Iraq... It may be advisable to pre-establish a legitimate (preferably UN mandated) legal framework for vetting pre-hostility exploration agreements.”

And Now a Word from CFR’s Corporate Sponsors:

The Council on Foreign Relations list of leading corporate benefactors in recent years include ABC, AOL Time Warner, American Express, Aramco, ATT, British Petroleum, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Chevron Texaco, Citigroup, Corning, Deutsche Bank AG, Exxon Mobil, Federal Express, J.P. Morgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Metropolitan Life Insurance, Morgan Stanley, Nike, Pfizer, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Prudential Financial, Shell Oil, Sony, Toyota, UBS Paine Webber, Verizon Communications and Xerox.

Arrogance of a Super Power: the Bush Administration and CFR Goals

Given the close interlocks of personnel between the CFR and the U.S. government and the bipartisan nature of the CFR, it should come as no surprise that CFR views are clearly reflected both in the Bush administration’s foreign policies and the policy positions taken by leading Democrats in the House and Senate. The majority of Democratic Senators voted for authorizing President Bush to go to war preemptively against Iraq at his own discretion, and Democratic presidential candidates are almost all pro-war.

The animating vision for the CFR/Bush administration’s foreign policy is for a global empire/Pax Americana, extending the existing policeman of the world role to becoming hegemon as well. This view is reflected in the September 2002 Bush administration document “National Security Strategy of the United States.” This official document discounts the importance of a variety of international treaties, including nuclear nonproliferation, in favor of unilateral U.S. actions under the doctrine of “counter-proliferation,” meaning missile defense, and preemptive attacks on countries perceived to be a threat to the United States. The words of the document follow the CFR ideas on pre-emptive attacks discussed above: “we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively... {including} convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities.” The result is that the United States is on the verge of starting a major war as the aggressor.

Critique: The Injustice and Dangers of Current U.S. Imperial Strategy

U.S. government sponsored actions in the last 55 years have attacked the worldwide left and progressive/populist forces, creating a fertile ground for fundamentalist forces like al Queda. The weak and failed states of our era are thus one product of an imposed corporate globalization. Fundamentalism and terrorism arises as an attempt to restore the integrity of ravaged communities and the powerless people within them.

Beyond the injustice, suffering and terrorism that corporate globalization creates, there are dangers posed by the new preemptive imperialism of the CFR, Bush administration, and their supporters in the Republican and Democratic parties. In the past, when one nation unilaterally seized the role of setting international norms and standards, determined what threats existed, preemptively made war, and claimed absolute sovereignty for itself, sooner or later that nation has had a serious price to pay. Any nation deciding upon such a perilous course is likely to be heading for a fall because its actions tend to trigger antagonism and resistance, eventually creating a hostile world united against it. Thus encirclement awaits any nation which consistently ignores the interests of others.

CFR’s Bipartisan Roll-Call:

CFR calls itself nonpartisan but the correct word is bipartisan, with a large representation from both major parties. The CFR’s 4,075 members become members only after being approved by its Board of Directors. Except where noted, the following are listed as current CFR members or leaders in its 2002 Annual Report:

Presidents: George H.W. Bush (former member), James Earl Carter, Bill Clinton, Gerald R. Ford Vice Presidents: Richard B. Cheney, Walter F. Mondale

Secretaries of State: Madeleine Albright, James A. Baker III, Warren Christopher, Alexander M. Haig Jr., Henry A. Kissinger, Colin L. Powell, William D. Rogers, George P. Shultz

National Security Advisors: Richard V. Allen, Samuel Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry A. Kissinger, W. Anthony Lake, Robert C.. McFarlane, Condoleezza Rice, W.W. Rostow, Brent Scowcroft

Secretaries of Defense: Harold Brown, Frank C. Carlucci, Richard B. Cheney, William S. Cohen, Robert S. McNamara, Casper W. Weinberger

CIA Directors: Richard Helms, George Tenet, Stansfield Turner, William Webster, Frank G. Wisner II, R. James Woolsey

U.S. Senators and Congresspersons: Howard H. Baker Jr., Alfonse M. D’Amato, William H. Danforth, Christopher J. Dodd, Richard A. Gephardt, Newton L. Gingrich, Barney Frank, Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen, Geraldine A. Ferraro, Bob Graham, Chuck Hagel, Jane Harman, Gary Hart, Bob Kerrey, John F. Kerry, Joseph I. Lieberman, George S. McGovern, Daniel P. Moynihan, Claiborne Pell, Charles H.Percy, Warren B. Rudman, Charles E. Schumer, Steven J. Solarz, Adlai E. Stevenson, Robert G. Torricelli, John William Warner.

Another Foreign Policy (and World) is Possible

What then would a non-imperial, peaceful, coherent and sustainable United States foreign policy look like? The United States, if it were to take the lead in creating a world of peace, democracy and social justice, would:

  • support the right of self-determination for all peoples in the Middle East, including the Kurds, Palestinians and Israeli Jews; withdraw U.S. troops from the region, and end both the sanctions on Iraq and support for corrupt and authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and around the world;

  • renounce the use of unilateral U.S. military interventions and weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and strongly promote international disarmament treaties;

  • end complicity in all forms of terrorism worldwide;

  • abandon IMF/World Bank/World Trade Organization/NAFTA economic policies that enforce the mass misery of corporate globalization, and begin a major foreign aid program directed at people’s needs rather than corporate needs;

  • ratify the Kyoto protocols on global warming, and promote even stronger international agreements to protect the ecosystems upon which all life depends;

  • support a strengthened United Nations and international law;

  • close all military bases on foreign soil and clean up any toxic wastes left behind;

  • create economic security by replacing oil dependence with reliance on renewable energy and ending corporate domination of American political and economic life;

  • adhere to U.S. and international laws.Today there is no real national dialogue about our foreign policy. The American media largely reflects the views of the corporate upper class and its Council on Foreign Relations. The term “national interest” is based on the interests of the powerful only, not the interests of the American people.

To implement the foreign policy described above, the struggle for a real democracy at home must be intensified. In the long term it is only through democratic, collective decision-making in both the public and private spheres that we can avoid the disasters we face. Today, our political system is controlled by corporate campaign cash, and our Congress is composed of people selected in gerrymandered winner take-all legislative districts.

There are solutions that have been implemented in cities, states, and campuses across the country, including public financing of all elections, Instant Runoff Voting, and Proportional Representation. Fixing our democracy also requires free media access for all ballot qualified candidates on an equal basis, and an end to the Electoral College. Once these reforms are in place, a real dialogue about our future can more fruitfully take place.

Solidarity, courage, and resistance of the people at all levels, including the workplace and the streets, appears to be the way we can build a different foreign policy, and a saner and healthier world.

Laurence H. Shoup received his Ph.D. in U.S. Diplomatic History from Northwestern University, and is the author or co-author of three books, including Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy (with William Minter), published by Monthly Review Press in 1977. This article is excerpted from a longer article, “Policy Planning: Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War” in the March 2003 issue of Z Magazine.

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