When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 and the death of the Soviet Union was confirmed two years later as Boris Yeltsin courageously stood down the red army tanks in front of Moscow’s White House, a dark era in human history came to an end.
As we have seen, the world had descended into what was in effect an unbroken global war, incepting with the mobilization of the armies of old Europe in August 1914. The "77 Years War" is the appropriate name for it.
If you want to count bodies, 150 million were killed by all the depredations which germinated in the Great War, its foolish aftermath at Versailles, and the march of history into the second world war and cold war which followed inexorably thereupon.
To wit, upwards of 8% of the human race was wiped-out during that span. The toll encompassed the madness of trench warfare during 1914-1918; the murderous regimes of Soviet and Nazi totalitarianism that rose from the ashes of the Great War and Versailles; and then the carnage of WWII and all the lesser (unnecessary) wars and invasions of the Cold War including Korea and Vietnam.
So the seminal point cannot be gainsaid. The end of the cold war meant the chance for a new start toward world peace was finally at hand. Yet 27 years later there is still no peace because Imperial Washington confounds it.
In fact, the War Party entrenched in the nation’s capital is dedicated to economic interests and ideological perversions that guarantee perpetual war. They ensure endless waste on armaments and the inestimable death and human suffering that stems from 21st century high tech warfare; and the reciprocal mayhem and terrorist blowback it inherently generates among those upon whom the War Party inflicts its violent hegemony.
In short, there was a virulent threat to peace still lurking on the Potomac after the 77 Years War ended. The great general and president, Dwight Eisenhower, had called it the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address. But that memorable phrase had been abbreviated by his speechwriters, who deleted the word “congressional” in a gesture of comity to the legislative branch.
So restore Ike’s deleted reference to the legislative pork barrels and Sunday afternoon warriors of Capitol Hill and toss in the legions of beltway busybodies that constituted the civilian branches of the cold war armada (CIA, State, AID, NED etc.) and the circle would have been complete. It constituted the most awesome machine of warfare and imperial hegemony since the Roman legions bestrode most of the civilized world.
In a word, the real threat to world peace circa 1991 was that Pax Americana would not go away quietly into the good night.
In fact, during the past 27 years Imperial Washington has lost all memory that peace was ever possible at the end of the cold war. Today it is as feckless, misguided and bloodthirsty as were Berlin, Paris, St. Petersburg, Vienna and London in August 1914.
Back then a few months after the slaughter had been unleashed, soldiers along the western front broke into spontaneous truces of Christmas celebration, singing and even exchange of gifts. For a brief moment they wondered why they were juxtaposed in lethal combat along the jaws of hell.
As we have seen, the truthful answer is that there was no good reason. The world had stumbled into war based on false narratives, petty short-term political and diplomatic maneuvers and the institutional imperatives of military mobilization plans, alliances and treaties – arrayed into what amounted to a doomsday machine.
Yet as pointless as the Great War was, it took more than three-quarters of a century for all the consequential impacts and derivative evils to be purged from the life of the planet.
Sadly, the peace that was lost last time has not been regained this time – and for the same reasons. Indeed, since the casus belli of 1914 were criminally trivial in light of all that metastasized thereafter, it might do well to name the institutions and false narratives that block the return of peace today.
The fact is, these impediments are even more contemptible than the forces that crushed the Christmas truces one century ago.
There is no peace on earth today for reasons mainly rooted in Imperial Washington – not Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang,Tehran, Damascus, Mosul or Raqqah. The former has become a global menace owing to what didn’t happen in 1991.
What needed to happen was for Bush the Elder to declare "mission accomplished" and slash the Pentagon budget from $600 billion to $250 billion. So doing he should have demobilized the military-industrial complex by putting a moratorium on all new weapons development, procurement and export sales; dissolved NATO and dismantled the far-flung network of US military bases; slashed the US standing armed forces from 1.5 million to a few hundred thousand; and organized and led a world disarmament and peace campaign, as did his Republican predecessors during the 1920s.
Unfortunately, George H.W. Bush was not a man of peace, vision or even mediocre intelligence. He was the malleable tool of the War Party, and it was he who single-handedly blew the peace when he plunged America into a petty argument between the impetuous dictator of Iraq and the greedy Emir of Kuwait that was none of our business.
By contrast, even though liberal historians have reviled Warren G. Harding as some kind of dumbkopf politician, he well understood that the Great War had been for naught, and that to insure it never happened again the nations of the world needed to rid themselves of their huge navies and standing armies.
To that end, he achieved the largest global disarmament agreement ever made during the Washington Naval conference of 1921, which halted the construction of new battleships for more than a decade.
And while he was at it, President Harding also pardoned Eugene Debs. He thereby gave witness to the truth that the intrepid socialist candidate for president and vehement antiwar protester, who Wilson had thrown in prison for exercising his first amendment right to speak against US entry into a pointless European war, had been right all along.
In short, Warren G. Harding knew the war was over, and the folly of Wilson’s 1917 plunge into Europe’s bloodbath should not be repeated at all hazards.
Not George H.W. Bush. The man should never be forgiven for enabling the likes of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Gates and their neocon pack of jackals to come to power – even if he did denounce them in his bumbling old age.
Even more to the point, by opting not for peace but for war and oil in the Persian Gulf in 1991 he opened the gates to an unnecessary confrontation with Islam. In turn, that nurtured the rise of jihadist terrorism that would not haunt the world today – save for forces unleashed by George H.W. Bush’s petulant quarrel with Saddam Hussein.
We will address more fully below the 45-year old error that holds the Persian Gulf is an American Lake and that energy security requires it be patrolled by the Fifth Fleet. As we previously indicated, the real answer to high oil prices everywhere and always is high oil prices and the wonders they work to rebalance the global energy market.
But first it is well to remember that there was no plausible threat anywhere on the planet to the safety and security of the citizens of Springfield MA, Lincoln NE or Spokane WA when the cold war ended.
The Warsaw Pact had dissolved into more than a dozen woebegone sovereign statelets; the Soviet Union was now unscrambled into 15 independent and far-flung republics from Belarus to Tajikistan; and the Russian motherland would soon plunge into an economic depression that would leave it with a GDP about the size of the Philadelphia SMSA.
Likewise, China’s GDP was even smaller and more primitive than Russia’s. Even as Mr. Deng was discovering the PBOC printing press that would enable it to become a great mercantilist exporter, an incipient Chinese threat to national security was never in the cards.
After all, it was 4,000 Wal-Marts in America upon which the prosperity of the new red capitalism inextricably depended and upon which the rule of the communist oligarchs in Beijing was ultimately anchored. They were not about to militarily attack their golden goose.
No Jihadi Terrorist Or Iranian Threat Circa 1990
In 1990 there was no global Islamic threat or jihadi terrorist menace at all. What existed under those headings were sundry fragments and deposits of middle eastern religious, ethnic and tribal history that were of moment in their immediate region, but no threat to America whatsoever.
The Shiite/Sunni divide had coexisted since 671 AD, but its episodic eruptions into battles and wars over the centuries had rarely extended beyond the region, and certainly had no reason to fester into open conflict in 1990.
Inside the artificial state of Iraq, which had been drawn on a map by historically ignorant European diplomats in 1916, for instance, the Shiite and Sunni got along tolerably well. That’s because the nation was ruled by Saddam Hussein’s Baathist brand of secular Arab nationalism.
The latter championed law and order, state driven economic development and politically apportioned distribution from the spoils of the extensive government controlled oil sector. To be sure, Baathist socialism didn’t bring much prosperity to the well-endowed lands of Mesopotamia, but Hussein did have a Christian foreign minister and no sympathy for religious extremism or violent pursuit of sectarian causes.
As it happened, the bloody Shiite/Sunni strife that plagues Iraq today and functions as a hatchery for angry young jihadi terrorists in their thousands was unleashed only after Hussein had been driven from Kuwait and the CIA had instigated an armed uprising in the Shiite heartland around Basra. That revolt was brutally suppressed by Hussein’s republican guards, but it left an undertow of resentment and revenge boiling below the surface.
Needless to say, Bush the Younger and his cabal of neocon warmongers could not leave well enough alone. When they foolishly destroyed Saddam Hussein and his entire regime in the pursuit of nonexistent WMDs and ties with al-Qaeda, they literally opened the gates of hell, leaving Iraq as a lawless failed state where both recent and ancient religious and tribal animosities are given unlimited violent vent.
Likewise, the Shiite theocracy ensconced in Tehran was an unfortunate albatross on the Persian people, but it was no threat to America’s safety and security. The very idea that Tehran is an expansionist power bent on exporting terrorism to the rest of the world is a giant fiction and tissue of lies invented by the Washington War Party and its Bibi Netanyahu branch in order to win political support for their confrontationist policies.
Indeed, the three decade long demonization of Iran has served one overarching purpose. Namely, it enabled both branches of the War Party to conjure up a fearsome enemy, thereby justifying aggressive policies that call for a constant state of war and military mobilization.
When the cold-war officially ended in 1991,in fact, the Cheney/neocon cabal feared the kind of drastic demobilization of the US military-industrial complex that was warranted by the suddenly more pacific strategic environment. In response, they developed an anti-Iranian doctrine that was explicitly described as a way of keeping defense spending at high cold war levels.
And the narrative they developed to this end is one of the more egregious Big Lies ever to come out of the beltway. It puts you in mind of the young boy who killed his parents, and then threw himself on the mercy of the courts on the grounds that he was an orphan!
To wit, during the 1980s the neocons in the Reagan Administration issued their own fatwa again the Islamic Republic of Iran based on its rhetorical hostility to America. Yet that enmity was grounded in Washington’s 25-year support for the tyrannical and illegitimate regime of the Shah, and constituted a founding narrative of the Islamic Republic that was not much different than America’s revolutionary castigation of King George.
That the Iranians had a case is beyond doubt. The open US archives now prove that the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government in 1953 and put the utterly unsuited and megalomaniacal Mohammad Reza Shah on the peacock throne to rule as a puppet in behalf of US security and oil interests.
During the subsequent decades the Shah not only massively and baldly plundered the wealth of the Persian nation. With the help of the CIA and US military, he also created a brutal secret police force known as the Savak, which made the East German Stasi look civilized by comparison.
All elements of Iranian society including universities, labor unions, businesses, civic organizations, peasant farmers and many more were subjected to intense surveillance by the Savak agents and paid informants. As one critic described it:
Over the years, Savak became a law unto itself, having legal authority to arrest, detain, brutally interrogate and torture suspected people indefinitely. Savak operated its own prisons in Tehran, such as Qezel-Qalaeh and Evin facilities and many suspected places throughout the country as well.
Ironically, among his many grandiose follies, the Shah embarked on a massive civilian nuclear power campaign in the 1970s, which envisioned literally paving the Iranian landscape with dozens of nuclear power plants.
He would use Iran’s surging oil revenues after 1973 to buy all the equipment required from Western companies – and also fuel cycle support services such as uranium enrichment – in order to provide his kingdom with cheap power for centuries.
At the time of the Revolution, the first of these plants at Bushehr was nearly complete, but the whole grandiose project was put on hold amidst the turmoil of the new regime and the onset of Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran in September 1980. As a consequence, a $2 billion deposit languished at the French nuclear agency that had originally obtained it from the Shah to fund a ramp-up of its enrichment capacity to supply his planned battery of reactors.
Indeed, in this very context the new Iranian regime proved quite dramatically that it was not hell bent on obtaining nuclear bombs or any other weapons of mass destruction. In the midst of Iraq’s unprovoked invasion of Iran in the early 1980s the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against biological and chemical weapons.
Yet at that very time, Saddam was dropping these horrific weapons on Iranian battle forces – some of them barely armed teenage boys – with the spotting help of CIA tracking satellites and the concurrence of Washington. So from the very beginning, the Iranian posture was wholly contrary to the War Party’s endless blizzard of false charges about its quest for nukes.
However benighted and medieval its religious views, the theocracy which rules Iran does not consist of demented war mongers. In the heat of battle they were willing to sacrifice their own forces rather than violate their religious scruples to counter Saddam’s WMDs.
David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street. He’s the author of three books, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America and TRUMPED! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back. He also is founder of David Stockman’s Contra Corner and David Stockman’s Bubble Finance Trader.
Read more by David Stockman
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- The New Gray Lady – Comfort Woman for the War Party – January 15th, 2019
- Good Riddance to General Mattis and the Rest of Washington’s Mad Dogs of War – December 25th, 2018