The Guardian October 17, 2001


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".

Back to index page