Reply to Ken Hanly on Wolfowitz

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Tue Jul 29 03:44:02 MDT 2003

Hi Ken,

I have a reply, I have put in some headings to help you to see the substance
of Wolfowitz's argument. Obviously, I cannot go into full depth at this
point, I cannot claim to give a fully objective interpretation, because time
is at a premium and I have to write now what I can, even if some of the
details are a bit sketchy just now, move the process forward.


I can see the problem you raise, I have recognised it for a very long time,
I do not disagree with you about the point you make. But, in posting this, I
am looking at it the argument, I tracing the internal logic of a coherent
set of arguments, that create a cumulative movement towards initiating and
conducting a really permanent war, in order to defend America in the
terrorism against war, and this is a genuinely new step in "Big Brother"
logic, and not simply a recycler, there are innovations in what Wolfowitz
says, new thinking, fresh thinking is occurring. And this needs to be
acknowledged, we must acknowledge our sources, and not present something
unoriginal as original, for example. Because we miss who said it first, and
do not add to existing knowledge, which is not a constructive policy stance
which can be utlisied to move the process forward, and keep it moving


What Wolfowitz is doing, is to transform spontaneous "defensive" tactics of
US soldiers in live action in Iraq into a strategic principle, a doctrine,
he is learning from the experience of his boys, and he is saying, if this is
the response that our boys are really making in the field, if they think it
is necessary to act this way, then this is what we SHOULD do, because it is
in live combat, that we arrive at tactics to be used. We are not interested
in hypotheticals or baseball here, that just for Democrats. This is just an
extension of the military principle, that an army is only as good, as its
real live combat experience, just as a baseball team gets nowhere if it has
no practice runs. An army that has no real combat experience, can be
defeated by an experienced opponent, which has much less personnel and
equipment, that is military ABC. We have to learn from our experience here,
we must generalise our experience, otherwise we get nowhere at all, in the
permanent war against terrorism, and we don't know where that will end yet.
But we have to win it, and bring it to a speedy conclusion, hence the
urgency of our task.


Now then, Wolfowitz is justifying this position, he is justifying the
actions of his boys (also building morale) by saying that the terrorism is
real, but also he is saying, (1) it is in the nature of terrorism, that
often we do not know in advance, if it is terrorism or not, or if the
terrorists will attack, at any moment in time or not, (2) THEREFORE it is
justifiable to retaliate in advance of identifying a genuine target, in
advance of all reasonable doubt, and (3) If we do not so retaliate, then
effectively we are saying that we have to wait first, for a terrorist attack
to occur, before we do anything, which is like shutting the gate after the
horse has bolted. And any cowboy knows that you have to shut the gate before
the horse bolts, not afterwards. Apart from that, nobody likes to wait, and
only losers wait for something to happen, real men act, they don't wait
around for something to happen. It is precisely this, that bothers the US
high command the most, because they kick themselves for allowing 9/11 type
incidents to occur in the first place, they ask "why did our defence
capability not allow us to prevent this", and they made an analysis of that,
which results in the increasing fusion of the military and political
apparatus, such that the polity is more centralised top-down, and the
military is more deregulated, and freed up in the execution of its American
duty, to perform operations required to defend the American people against
the threat of terrorism which could lead to wars. And they get into
holocaust-type thinking: "never again, cost what cost, this may never happen
again". Because it could happen again.


But (4) the real analysis of terrorism is simply that, a bona fide terrorist
can, may and will attack at any moment, or could attack, without necessarily
any regard for consequences, including the consequences for his own life,
the terrorist is only aiming for maximum impact, and doesn't care, whose
lives are lost in the process, including his own, you cannot prevent this,
these people have no morals, and therefore you should not approach these
people in a moralistic way, that's naive. And you have to understand clearly
the reality of this, we are not talking chickenburgers. Finally, (5)
therefore, in combatting terrorism, so the reasoning goes, we need to apply
terror ourselves, in order to show, who is really the boss here, it's a show
of strength, we have to hit back so hard, that people get the picture loud
and clear, that all resistance is useless and that, whatever they might
throw at us, they will get smashed anyhow, we have to assert our
superiority, our American strength, without any hesitation or scruple. That
is the core idea shared by Bush and Blair, but of course, around this core
policy idea, you can build in a lot of other creative policy arguments and
ideas for world improvement, and kill a few more birds with one stone. If
fact it might be a way to growth and prosperity which everyone wants. We are
in a moving situation, if we do not go forwards, we go backwards. 9/11
presented America with its greatest challenge in the 21st century, and we
must approach this challenge constructively, we must turn defeat into
victory, and show them what we've got. Thinking positively, we see this as
an opportunity to affirm American values. But, hitting back hard, and
showing who is boss, that is really the main thing. That way people will
show respect, and if people show respect, then we are in a better position
to restore and maintain law and order, and stabilise the world situation,
lower uncertainty and restore investor confidence. And we will have growth
and prosperity, freedom and democracy. Without respect, we lose to the
terrorists, and freedom is at stake.


So, effectively, Wolfowitz is simply saying, "we have to fight terror with
terror". This is, by the way, absolutely not logically different from Leon
Trotsky in the Civil War within the Czarist empire, where he counterposes
the red terror to the white terror (cf. his books, "How the Revolution
Armed", and "Terrorism and Communism: A reply to Karl Kautsky", both
published by New Park publications). Except Leon Trotsky is more open about
it, he just says the red terror is justified to defeat the whiteguards, and
defeat seven or so invading foreign armies. And Trotsky was prepared to kill
the Czar and his family without public trial, seeking to break the
paternalistic worship of the Father of the Peoples, once and for all,
preventing any return ever to that oppressive dynasty. Now the Czar was a
nice man, he didn't kill all those Kurds, did he ? We've got Trotsky in West
Point, are you kidding, of course we have good library systems, and we are
aware of all this literature.


But this is a digression. Wolfowitz cannot say "fight terror with terror" as
such, because that is ideologically not sustainable among the educated
classes in American society. This raises the question of who is the real
terrorist here, we don't want to get into that. The concept of a terrorist
is defined clearly by the State Department, and applied in a principled
manner. The American view is, that "we promote peace, the enemy is the
terrorist", and this us-and-them distinction must always be maintained very
clearly, and never be drawn into doubt in any way, or doubted and we should
not be doubtful about it or raise new doubts about it. If we were to say,
that "we must be able to use a terror policy instrument as well, in response
to terror", or that any of our methods or policies in the line of duty
defined by Bremer could be interpreted as "terroristic" in any way, then we
confuse the issue, we sow doubts, uncertainties, we draw into question our
ethical, rational, balanced American approach, we undermine the idea that
our cause is just, and moreover, in so doing, we undermine the morale of the
troops, they have to believe, that they are dying for a just cause,
otherwise, we don't get any fight out of them, otherwise they start running
off with Iraqi women, and so forth, like mummies boys, instead of real men,
willing to stare death in the face, take it on the chin, until death drops


Now, whereas Wolfowitz is on a war footing (the Sieg mentality), where he
has got to consider the repercussions of everything he says on a broad
international audience, with a context of civil discourse, his Democratic
opponent is trying to pick holes in Wolfowitz's argument by shifting the
focus of justification or the justification of focus. Notice, how the
Democrat doesn't actually say, or says he does, "how did we get into this
mess in the first place", or, "what is the real objective of this war". Why
? Because most Democrats are pro-war, not anti-war, the Democrats in their
majority vote for war, although the pro's and con's of policy outcome must
be weighed up and may only be finally resolved at some future date when the
proecss has been moved forward. There is no real anti-war party, except a
motley bunch of greeny, commie, hippy, dreamy people, who are wet behind the
ears, and do not understand modern geopolitics, the need to show some real
balls, and the threat of terrorism against Western civilisation, and the
American values we all hold so dear, including in Oklahoma,, let us not
forget. The issue is not "war or no war", but the issue is the conduct of
war, the policy alternatives in actually fighting the war, what is the best
approach, how do we win it, who are our allies, what are they prepared to do
to bring the process to a successful conclusion and move it forward from
there. There is already a war going on, it has already been going on for
some time, all that the US government is now doing is to intervene in that
war, in order to stop that war, and win that war in the future, but it is a
permanent war, and we should be prepared for a sustain period of engagement,
not kid ourselves into thinking this is a quick mop-up operation, because it
is not.  The Democrat of course needs to check the movement of public
opinion from an electoral perspective, also, it is not completely certain
how the peace process will develop and evolve, in the war against Iraq, and
therefore, the Democrat needs to adjust his line of argument to a
fast-moving, complex situation, which could spill out into different
directions, depending on investor confidence, and the way the wind might
blow during the summer holidays. And we do not have all that information in
advance, the political situation always contains murky elements, we have to
be aware of that, and while American workers are on holiday, we have a real
opportunity to move things forward and keep it moving forward. And we have
to use that opportunity, and not pass up our chances, to improve our policy
stance and act constructively to resolve the situation, with the minimum
loss of life, because our boys are dying out there for America.


But, the Democrat does suggest a nuance in the argument meantime, which is,
that the actual official justification offered by the US government for
going to war, was not based on facts (in fact contained numerous lies), so,
the US government is in jurisdicto not principled in its attitude to wars,
and that attitude should change, the attitude has to be an attitude of
integrity. And because the Republicans are not principled, you cannot trust
them, and because you cannot trust them, you are better off to  vote for the
Democrats. But this argument doesn't really work, because the Democrats
voted for the war in the first place. So then all the Democrat can do, is
just suggest this flat inconsistency, "these guys are talking
inconsistencies and lies, you are better off voting for us, because at least
we don't talk inconsistencies and lies", we were sucked in by false
information, provided by sources, which we previously regarded as
authoritative, and we had no reason or ground to doubt they were
authoritative, prior to doubt being shed on those authoritative sources. The
justification for war was supposed to be coherent, black-and-hite, not
nuanced but clear and incontrovertible, we must hunt them out, smoke them
out and bring them to justice, but it was not. So, we have to get away from
who voted for what, the legislature, rather we have to focus on the
behavioural integrity of the executive, we say and we realise, that the
executive is not performing the task, that it was asked to perform by
Congress, and it acted on false information, and therefore, it could not
perform its task adequately, and we need a shake-up in the government, to
prevent this thing happening in the future. Never again, because this could
happen again, it would not have happened, if Democrats had been the majority
of Congress and the Senate. And if this war against terrorism is not won in
time, although we cannot predict this, then it could happen again.


The way Wolfowitz can come back into that argument, is to say that the
Democrat is talking trivialities, he is emphasising superficial
inconsistencies in the policy argument, glitches, policy errors etc. but the
main point is that terrorism is real, you can still continue to read about
it in the press, there is a real war going on out there, not in Hollywood,
our boys are getting killed out there, there is Blood and Gore, even on
television, and I am leading the fight in a real war out here, not an
imaginary one, and I have to make sure that I win that war, I want to do
everything I can, in order to win that war, and back my boys one hundred
percent, and not run off screaming like a ninny, because I see a little bit
of Blood and Gore. And if I am to win that war, I must do everything I can
in order to win it, I am dutibound to do so, and I have to look at it
practically, using an array of data and information, which I cannot tell you
about, because since we are fighting a war, that information is classified.
You cannot expect us to have perfect intelligence, that is impossibe, we
must be prepared to respond, without knowing the complete story, because if
we do not do that, then the terrorists will get us first, and we will be
dead in the water. It's them or us, a life and death issue, the future of
American civilisation is at stake, and since America is the leader of the
free world, the future of the free world is at stake, and if terrorists get
their way, the world will not be free, people will feel scared and lose
trust, investor confidence will decline, so we have to hit them hard and hit
them quick, and keep doing that. And the American people have to be on guard
all the time, because they could be attacked at any time, they should not
rest easy and think that the threat of terrorism is not real because it is.
There will be deaths, collateral damage, but this is unavoidable as will be
explained later.


Now we may from time to time have overreacted, but this is normal, in view
of what you actually have to do in military operations. No war is perfect,
there is no perfect war, except in the mind of some bureaucrat, who doesn't
know what he is talking about, mistakes are made sometimes, you got to
realise that, we have to work with that, not be distracted by that, and show
the way forward to move the process forward and move forwards, not go
backwards. To a winning situation, which could move and change, depending on
how the situation evolves, which we cannot foresee exactly, because we never
have perfect information, but we will win. But we cannot speculate endlessly
about possible outcomes, we have to focus on what we need to do now.  You
have to focus on the main theme, the main point, the central focus,  which
is that terrorism is real and a growing threat, and we must respond
effectively to that threat. If we focus too much on legal subtleties and
niceties, we miss the fact that America is at war, and since we are in that
war now, we do have to fight. We must not allow ourselves to be obstructed
by that.  If we cast doubt on procedures, we not only undermine the trust
and confidence of the American people in the ability of the US government to
conduct this war, ethically, on the basis of the best available assessment
of the situation (which, to repeat, must be kept secret, since we are
fighting a war and not going on a picnic, and which is not without
imperfections), but also we de-emphasize and downplay the reality of the
growing threat of terrorism. But we must always place the emphasis where it
belongs, and not de-emphasize things that need to be emphasized. If we
de-emphasize what needs to be emphasized, we get a wrong emphasis, simple as
that, and this leads to errors of judgement, and with errors of judgement,
we cannot conduct this war, in a proper manner, and win it. To win it, we
must emphasize what needs to be emphasized and I am emphasizing that and not
pretending it does not need to be emphsized or that something else needs to
be emphasized instead, which is what the Democrats do.


The ordinary American may not see the threat, may not understand the threat,
may not know the threat. The threat may be invisible. We admit this in
advance. It is possible. Indeed it is inevitable. But nevertheless the
threat is there, and whenever some of our boys are getting killed again in
Iraq, then this proves incontrovertibly, that the threat is real and not
imagined, in fact, in that case, it is not a threat but a real attack which
increases the threat which we face if we do not respond to it. It is
inherent in terrorism, that it is invisible, until disaster strikes, and the
American people must be fully aware of this, they must be educated in this
concept. The killings that do occur, represent the surface, underneath that
surface is a pool of terror, a range of terrorist undercurrents, a terrorist
shadow that hangs over us all, and we cannot be certain what it is exactly.
If we talk deaths in traffic accidents, we are talking accidents, but if we
talk terrorism, we talk deliberate cruelty which corrodes the very fabric of
our culture. There are these unsavoury characters, cowards, who mingle among
the people, and hide among them, and they could strike at any moment, attack
at any moment, but we wouldn't know. We cannot know these things perfectly
in advance, it is inherent in the nature of terrorism, that we have to deal
with, cope with, manage, this invisibility factor, and we have to deal with
that. You have to get this concept quite clear. We do our best, to identify
all possible and potential terrorist threats, threatening scenarios and
scenarios of threat, and we are not threatened by this in so doing, our
resolve is firm. We try to identify terrorists, people who might possibly
engage into terrorist activity in the future, people who today seem innocent
enough, but who could become terrorists, lifestyles which could lead to
terrorism, seedbeds of terrorism in educational institutions, prisons and
community centres, creeping terrorists, proto-terrorists, crypto-terrorists,
pseudo-terrorists and any other type, variety or subspecies of terrorist or
suspecious individuals. It may be a bit murky what it is, but we will
identify it in time. For the purpose of the Homeland Security Act, we try to
define, classify and record, all people and their activities which could be
interpreted as suspect from the point of view of endorsing, leading to,
being complicit in, associated with, or providing a cover for, terrorism, or
related to terrorism, in any other possible way. Because the threat is real,
and the threat is a growing threat. We do not have perfect information, and
therefore we cannot specify the magnitude of the threat as exactly as we
would like, but this is classified information. But there is a threat. And
we have to find it. I rest my case, but we cannot rest, until all terrorists
are rounded up, but this could take a long time. I don't know when. But it
is important to focus on the centrality of the argument, and not get
distracted into thinking that we can sleep easy without combatting



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