Thursday, March 17, 2005

Body Blow: Bush's Worldwide War on Women

October 3, 2003

The defining issue of modernity is control of women's fertility. It is this question – more than religion, politics, economics or the "clash of civilizations" – that forms the deepest dividing line in the world today. It is a line than cuts through every nation, every people, from the highest level of organized society down to, in many cases, the divided minds and emotions of individual men and women.

Control of fertility – and its active principle, sexuality – has always been an organizing principle of human society, of course, but modernity has presented the world with a revolutionary concept that overthrows millennia of received wisdom and tradition: namely, that an individual woman should control her own fertility. This notion destabilizes state structures and religious dogmas, and uproots cultural mores whose origins reach back to prehistoric times. It is a profoundly disturbing development in the life of humankind.

Little wonder, then, that anxieties over fertility and sexuality are the chief engines driving the frenzied and increasingly violent fundamentalist movements now sweeping through the world. It is here that extremists of every stripe make common cause against modernity. Almost every other aspect of "the modern" – science and technology, high finance, industrialization, etc. – has been absorbed, in one form or another, by the most "traditionalist" societies. But what today's fundamentalists – from Osama bin Laden to George W. Bush to Pope John Paul II, from the American-backed warlords of Afghanistan to the anti-American mullahs of Iran – cannot accept, at any cost, is the freedom of a woman's body.

This frenzy, this primitive fear – understandable perhaps in the face of such a wrenching upheaval – does not in itself make a fundamentalist an evil person. But it can – and does – lead them into evil: sometimes blindly, in ignorance and panic; but sometimes knowingly, with eyes wide open, a willing embrace of primitive emotions to serve selfish and cynical ends.

And so: last month, George W. Bush quietly cut off funding for a highly praised AIDS program for refugees from Africa and Asia. Why? Obviously, to keep his helots on the Christian Right frothing with passion to do battle for him in 2004. He has already given them control of American social policy, particularly in international negotiations, where they routinely form alliances with Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and other repressive states to derail treaties on women's rights.

But what was his public reason? Bush says he gutted the program because one member of the non-profit consortium running the project is also working with a UN program that was falsely accused of colluding with China's policy of forced abortions. That charge was investigated not once but twice by Bush's own State Department, as well as by the UN, and was shown each time to be completely untrue. The only "evidence" produced to support the slander was an allegation that in a single office in a rural Chinese province a few years ago, the desk of a UN official touched the desk of a Chinese Health Ministry official. That's it. The truth, of course, is that the UN program, and all the non-profit organizations associated with it, are trying to end China's forced abortions.

Of course, this heinous practice that has never stopped Bush from granting massive trade benefits to the baby-killing Communists. Nor has it ever disturbed the orgy of investment in China's repressive regime by the corporate barons of the U.S.-China Chamber of Commerce, headed by that genial old aristocrat, Prescott Bush Junior – known as "Uncle Prescott" to the current president. Naturally, any punishment for China's forced abortions must not fall on the Beijing government itself – not when Uncle Press has choice deals on the line. No, instead it must land – like a ravening MOAB – on the poorest of the poor, in Angola, Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, Eritrea, and other poverty-stricken areas where the Bush family has no investments.

Not content with slapping AIDS-stricken refugees around, Bush has also cut off all U.S. funding to countless family planning services in the poorest regions of the world. This ban applies to any clinic that so much as mentions abortion as an option to its clients, even if it doesn't provide abortions or referrals itself – and even if the woman has been raped (perhaps by the goons of a Bush-backed warlord), even if she will die in childbirth. A clinic will also be cut off if its workers take part in lobbying campaigns to secure legal abortion in their countries. Such rights, hard-won by Western women, are to be denied to the world's poor. (Meanwhile, Bush's helots are scheming to roll them back in America as well.)

Many of these clinics provide the only maternal and post-natal care available for millions of destitute women and their children. They are the only place where the world's most downtrodden and uneducated women can receive information about reproduction and birth control, or treatment for AIDs, genital mutilation and rape. All across Africa and Asia, these clinics – including many run by Bush's beloved "faith-based organizations" – are closing up as they lose their American funding. Yet this funding itself is a mere pittance from the war-fattened federal purse – less than one day's spending on Bush's rape of Iraq.

It is simply a fact that thousands of women and infant children will die needless deaths in the coming year because of Bush's edicts. He could have saved them; instead he has killed them. He has chosen to stand with terrorists and tyrants in the fundamentalists' war against women.

Bedroom Farce and Global Tragedy

The Moscow Times, March 4, 2005

Sex, sex, sex – how it haunts the damp and fervid dreams of the Bushist Party faithful. And nowhere moreso than in the deeps of Dixie, where stout Christian soldiers were singing hosannas last week after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their righteous warfare against the foulest form of evil in the modern world:

Genital stimulators.

After prayerful consideration, the Supremes refused to hear challenges to an Alabama law that forbids the sale or distribution of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs," Reuters reports. The law was aimed not only at public vendors of sexual enhancement but also the growing number of private "Tupperware-style parties," where suburbanites gather to peruse the latest marriage-goosing gadgets.

But do let's be fair. In their compassionate conservatism, the Bama Bushists did provide some exceptions to their iron grip on the state's genitals. For example, the law generously allows the sale of sexual devices "for a bona fide…legislative, judicial or law enforcement purpose." Here the mind reels (and the stomach turns): what on god's earth could possibly constitute, say, a bona fide "legislative" use of the "vibrators, dildos, anal beads" and other play-pretties covered by the law?

On second thought, don't ask. Instead, let's just rejoice in the knowledge that, thanks to the Supreme Court, politicians, judges and county sheriffs in Alabama can now diddle themselves to their heart's content with all manner of manipulators, while your ordinary desperate housewife will have to do without.

Yet as we all know – and as the state of Alabama itself acknowledged when confronted with statistics from the law's challengers – the vast majority of the now-banned Bama buzzers were sold to good ole gals, most of them in down-home, red-meat, church-blessed heterosexual marriages. The salt of the earth, in other words – the only kind of people worthy of full citizenship in Bushist philosophy. So why were these exemplary matrons targeted by the mullahs in Montgomery? That question leads us to another curious lacuna in the law – a gap mirrored in similar sex-toy restrictions in Georgia and Bush's own Texas.

As the challengers pointed out – and the Supremes ignored – the state's crusade against artificial exciters somehow failed to include Viagra, Levitra and other chemical erector sets designed to address male shortcomings in the pleasure department. Now, it would be uncharitable to conclude from this that the Bushists have, shall we say, special needs in this regard. Although it's true they exhibit a strange fascination for big missiles, military uniforms and naked Arab men in chains, we don't mean to suggest that they need outside help to achieve a more normative sexual response to a woman.

No, the real reason why girl toys are banned while boy boosters get greenlighted is simple: the laws in Bush's Texas and likeminded states aren't actually designed to restrict sexual aids as such. They are meant to clamp down on the sexual pleasure of women in particular. They are part of Bush's worldwide war against women, which we have often detailed here – a war in which the Bushists are allied with their putative enemies, the radical Islamists. These two groups share an overwhelming fear of the freedom and inviolability of a woman's body, her ability to control her own sexuality and fertility. This freedom threatens social, cultural, political, economic, even psychological structures that in some cases go back thousands of years. It is this, woman's autonomy, which is the true crux of modernity, the real dividing line – not technology, ideology or the much-vaunted "clash of civilizations."

This profound upheaval has provoked fierce, panicky and often violent resistance. To his shame, Bush has aligned America time and again with misogynist bastions like Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Saddam's Iraq in opposing international efforts to guarantee the rights of women. Even as we speak, Bush operatives are trying to blow up the landmark 1995 international agreement on the status of women, when the nations of the world pledged themselves to establishing women's equality in all areas of life, including health, education, employment and political participation. It also declared that women should be able to "decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality…free of coercion, discrimination and violence."

But the Bushists clearly don't want women's sexuality to be free of coercion, discrimination and violence. That's why they are sandbagging the 10-year review of the 1995 declaration now underway at an international conference in Beijing, AP reports. Bush is refusing to reaffirm the declaration unless draconian language is added to ensure that the agreement "does not create any new international human rights," as the Bushists put it. In other words, a little fancy talk about equality is fine – as long as it doesn't actually change anything, as long as the coercion and violence can go on.

This is all of a piece with Bush's savage elimination of U.S. funding for women's health clinics in the poorest regions on earth. For want of this indispensable American aid – mere pittances that wouldn't fund a single hour of Bush's rape of Iraq – clinic after clinic has been forced to close, destroying the only source of medical treatment and reproductive health care, health education, and pre-natal and post-natal care for the most vulnerable women in the world. It has been a literal death sentence for thousands of women – and their infants – in the past four years: a silent holocaust created at the stroke of Bush's pen.

The bedroom farce in Alabama – sweaty-palmed pols in a tizzy over vibrators – may be an amusing bit of provincial comedy. But it masks a sinister tragedy of global proportions.

Dark Passage: PNAC's Blueprint for Empire

(Original version published Sept. 20, 2002 in the Moscow Times. This is the expanded version from the book, Empire Burlesque.)

Not since Mein Kampf has a geopolitical punch been so blatantly telegraphed, years ahead of the blow.

Adolf Hitler clearly spelled out his plans to destroy the Jews and launch wars of conquest to secure German domination of world affairs in his 1925 book, long before he ever assumed power. Despite the zig-zags of rhetoric he later employed, the various PR spins and temporary justifications offered for this or that particular policy, any attentive reader of his vile regurgitation could have divined his intentions as he drove his country – and the world – to murderous upheaval.

Similarly – in method, if not entirely in substance – the Bush Regime's foreign policy is also being carried out according to a strict blueprint first written ten years ago, then renewed a few months before the Regime was installed in power by the judicial coup of December 2000.
What does the plan call for? An attack on Iraq. Vast increases in military spending. Planting new American bases all over the world, from the jungles of South America to the steppes of Central Asia. Embracing the concept of "pre-emptive war" and unilateral action as cornerstones of national strategy.

These policies may seem like reactions to the "changed world" confronting America after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But in fact, each one of them – and many other policies now being advanced by the Bush Administration – was planned long before the first plane ever struck the doomed Twin Towers.

They are the handiwork of an obscure but influential conservative group called Project for the New American Century (PNAC), whose members – including Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld – now sit in the highest reaches of power. The papers they produced during the 1990s are like a roadmap of the course that America is following – a course which PNAC hopes will lead to a "benign" but utterly dominant "American Empire."

The Unipolar Moment
Not surprisingly, the roots of PNAC go back to the first Bush Administration. In 1992, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney asked two of his top aides, Paul Wolfowitz (now assistant secretary of Defense) and Lewis Libby (now Cheney's chief of staff), to draw up a "Defense Guidance Plan" to shape American strategy in the post-Cold War world. They produced an aggressive, ambitious document calling for the unilateral use of American military might to "discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." Military intervention would be "a constant fixture" of what Wolfowitz and Libby called a "new order" which the United States – not the United Nations – would "establish and protect."

The goal was to seize the opportunity offered by the collapse of the Soviet Union – which left the United States without a serious international rival – and extend this "unipolar moment" of American dominance for decades to come; indeed, into a "New American Century."
The report was leaked in the midst of the 1992 presidential campaign, sparking controversy over its "imperial ambitions," and was publicly disowned by President George H.W. Bush. After the Bush team was defeated by Bill Clinton, a lame-duck Cheney finally issued a watered-down version of the paper as official policy. The Clinton Administration then scrapped it upon taking office.

But the unipolar vision of American dominance was not forgotten. During the 1990s, it was refined and expanded their ideas in a number of conservative think tanks – the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Hudson Institute, the Center for Security Policy and others – whose memberships often overlapped. And now that they were out of office, the advocates of dominance could speak more freely.

One former member of Cheney's Defense Department team, Zalmay Khalilzad (now Bush's special emissary to Afghanistan), wrote openly that the U.S. must "be willing to use force" to express its "global leadership" and preclude the rise of potential rivals. Others, such as former Reagan official and AEI stalwart Richard Perle (now head of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board) and Douglas Feith (now assistant secretary of Defense), worked with Israel's Likud Party, drawing up plans calling for American-led "regime change" efforts in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Finally, in 1997, Project for the New American Century was formed as a focal point for disseminating the dominance ideal. It was a "big tent" of Great Power adherents: Beltway players like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, former Vice President Dan Quayle, and former Reagan education secretary turned public scold, William Bennett; Christian "social conservatives" like Gary Bauer; and the so-called "neoconservatives" (often former Democrats whose staunch anti-communism had led them to the Reagan Right), including Elliot Abrams, who'd been convicted of lying to Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal but was pardoned by George Bush Sr. (and now serves on the White House director of Middle East policy). Other notable figures joining PNAC included the Afghan-born Khalilzad, publisher and presidential candidate Steve Forbes, and Jeb Bush, younger brother of the president-to-be.

"A New Pearl Harbor"
PNAC fired its first shot across the bow in 1998, with letters to President Clinton and Congressional leaders calling for "regime change" in Iraq, by force if necessary, and the establishment of a "strong U.S. military presence in the region." Then in September 2000, just months before the disputed election that brought George W. Bush to power, the group published a highly detailed, 90-page "blueprint" for transforming America's military – and the nation's role on the world stage.

The document, "Rebuilding America's Defenses," acknowledged its adherence to the "basic tenets" of the controversial 1992 Wolfowitz-Libby report, and advocated a series of "transformations" in national defense and foreign affairs. These included:

--- Projecting American dominance with a "worldwide network of forward operating bases" – some permanent, others "temporary access arrangements" as needed for various military interventions – in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. These additions to America's already-extensive overseas deployments would act as "the cavalry on the new American frontier" – a frontier that PNAC declared now extended throughout the world.

--- Withdrawing from arms control treaties to allow for the development of a global missile shield, the deployment of space-based weapons and the production of a new generation of "battlefield nuclear weapons," especially "bunker-busters" for penetrating underground fortifications.

--- Raising the U.S. military budget to at least 3.8 percent of gross domestic product, with annual increases of tens of billions of dollars each year.

--- Developing sophisticated new technologies to "control the global commons of cyberspace" by closely monitoring communications and transactions on the Internet.

--- Pursuing the development of "new methods of attack – electronic, 'non-lethal, biological…in new dimensions, in space, cyberspace and perhaps the world of microbes." Just this month, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was complaining to Congress about long-standing international chemical weapons treaties which have "tangled us up so badly" and prevented the use of non-lethal chemical arms in subduing enemy armies – and enemy populations.

--- Developing the ability to "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars." This means moving beyond the "two-war standard" of preparedness which has guided U.S. strategy since World War II in order to account for "new realities and potential new conflicts." It lists countries such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Libya as targets for those potential new conflicts, and urges Pentagon warplanners to consider not merely containing them or defeating them in battle, but "changing their regimes."

Oddly enough, although "regime change" in Iraq was still clearly a priority for PNAC, it had little to do with Saddam Hussein and his brutal policies or his aggressive tendencies. Instead, removing Saddam was tied to the larger goal of establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf in order to "secure energy supplies" and preclude any other power from dominating the vital oil regions of the Middle East and Central Asia. The PNAC report puts it quite plainly:

"The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

This is why the Bush Regime has offered a constantly shifting menu of rationales for the impending attack on Iraq: because the decision to remove Saddam was taken long ago, as part of a larger strategic plan, and has little to do with any imminent threat from the broken-backed Iraqi regime, which is constantly bombed, partially occupied (with U.S. forces already working in the autonomous Kurdish territories) and now swarming with UN inspectors. If the strategic need for the attack "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein," then almost any rationale will do.

Perhaps due to the presence of Washington heavyweights like Cheney and Rumsfeld, the PNAC report recognized that thorny political difficulties could stand in the way of implementing the group's radical designs. Indeed, in one of the most striking and prescient passages in the entire 90-page document, PNAC acknowledged that the "revolutionary" changes it envisaged could take decades to bring about – unless, that is, the United States was struck by "some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor."

The Path of Action
That "new Pearl Harbor" did come, of course, in the thunderclap of September 11, 2001. And the PNAC alumni now in government were quick to capitalize on this "catalyzing event." All of the PNAC recommendations listed above were put into place, with almost no debate from a shellshocked Congress and a populace reeling from the unprecedented assault on American security. In the very first days following the attack, Rumsfeld urged the Bush cabinet to make "Iraq a principal target of the first round in the war against terrorism," despite the lack of any proof connecting Baghdad to the terrorist atrocity, according to Bob Woodward's insider account, Bush at War.

But Rumsfeld was overruled by Colin Powell, who counseled that "public opinion has to be prepared before a move against Iraq is possible." So the "war on terrorism" was launched initially against Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime was harboring Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden and his band of international extremists. The attack on Afghanistan was accompanied by the construction of new American bases and "temporary access arrangements" throughout Central Asia, giving America a military "footprint" in the strategically vital region for the first time. At the same time, new U.S. forces were dispatched to East Asia, to the Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere, and to South America, to help Colombia combat "narco-terrorists" and to protect that nation's vital oil pipelines.

Meanwhile, at home, military budgets skyrocketed to deal with the "new realities and potential new conflicts." The Bush Administration withdrew from the landmark ABM arms control treaty and began construction of missile defense facilities. There were new funds and more research for the militarization of outer space (dubbed "Full Spectrum Dominance"), and the development of "non-lethal" biochemical weapons. Pentagon technicians, led by another convicted Iran-Contra figure, John Poindexter, began the development of Internet "data-mining" and monitoring technology (which, despite some recent Congressional restrictions, continues today). And the U.S. announced a new "nuclear posture," including the willingness to use tactical nuclear weapons – a move supported by the Republican-led House of Representatives, which approved Pentagon plans to develop the "bunker-buster" nukes specifically recommended by PNAC.

"The Savage Wars of Peace"
The existence of PNAC and its influence on the Bush Administration is not some "conspiracy theory." It follows a pattern frequently seen in American history: a group of like-minded people band together in think tanks, foundations, universities and other institutions, where they lay out their vision for America's future. And when they at last have access to the levers of power, they try to make that vision a reality.

What is different now is that the September 11 attacks have given this particular group an unprecedented amount of political capital – not to mention cold, hard federal cash – to put their long-held dreams into practice, virtually without opposition. (In contrast, consider the bitterly partisan political struggles between Congress and Lincoln during the Civil War.) What is also different is the essential content of that vision: the establishment – by force – of an American Empire.

This Empire is to be different from the old Roman or British models, of course. It will not entail settlement or direct control of foreign lands, but will instead offer paternal "protection" and "guidance" – backed up with strategically placed military bases and "temporary access arrangements" for the inevitable "constabulatory duties" required to enforce PNAC's longed-for "Pax Americana." However, the intent is not outright conquest, but the chance to bring "the single sustainable model of national success" to all the world, to set people, and their markets, free – as long as no "regional or global challenges to America's leadership" arise, of course.

But there will be costs to taking up what Thomas Donnelly, the principal author of the PNAC blueprint, calls "the free man's burden." Donnelly, a former journalist and legislative aide, wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs last year that America should look to its "imperial past" as a guide to its future. Reviewing The Savage Wars of Peace, a pro-Empire book by journalist Max Boot, Donnelly cites approvingly the "pacification" of the Philippines by American forces in 1898-1900, in which at least 100,000 Filipinos were killed in a bid for independence. He also points to the U.S. Army's success in subduing the Native American tribes in a series of small wars, and, closer to our time, the efficient "constabulatory operation" in Panama, which was invaded by the first President Bush in 1989. Similar "savage wars of peace" – pacifications, counterinsurgencies, police actions, invasions – will be required to maintain the new American Empire, says Donnelly.
And here too, George W. Bush has clearly echoed the thinking of the PNAC members who now surround him in the White House. Speaking at a Republican fundraiser last August, the President seemed keenly aware of the heavy price in blood and treasure the nation will have to pay to maintain its imperium in the New American Century: "There's no telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the homeland."

The Beautiful Song of War
These texts spring from the Dominators' quasi-religious cult of "American exceptionalism," the belief in the unique and utter goodness of the American soul – embodied chiefly by the nation's moneyed elite, of course – and the irredeemable, metaphysical evil of all those who would oppose or criticize the elite's righteous (and conveniently self-serving) policies.

Anyone still "puzzled" over the Bush Regime's behavior need only look to these documents for enlightenment. They have long been available to the media – which accepted Bush's transparent campaign lies about a "more humble foreign policy" at face value – but have only now started attracting wider notice, in the New Yorker this spring, and this week in the Glasgow Sunday Herald.

The documents explain America's relentless march across Afghanistan, Central Asia and soon into the Middle East. They explain the Bush Regime's otherwise unfathomable rejection of international law, its fanatical devotion to so-called "missile defense," its gargantuan increases in military spending – even its antediluvian energy policy, which mandates the continued primacy of oil and gas in the world economy. (They can't conquer the sun or monopolize the wind, so there's no profit, no leverage for personal gain and geopolitical power in pursuing viable alternatives to oil.) The Sept. 11 attacks gave the Regime a pretext for greatly accelerating this published program of global dominance, but they would have pursued it in any case.
So there will be war: either soon, after immediately the November mid-term elections, or – in the event that Iraq's new offer for inspections is accepted – then later, after some "provocation" or "obstruction," no doubt in good time before the 2004 presidential vote. The purse-lipped rhetoric about "evil" and "moral clarity" is just so much desert sand being thrown in our eyes. Backstage, the Bush Regime is playing Mafia-style hardball, warning reluctant allies to get on board now, or else miss out on their cut of the loot when America – not a "democratic Iraq" – divvies up Saddam's oilfields: a shakedown detailed last week by the Economist, among many others.

The Dominators dream of empire. Not only will it extend their temporal power, they believe it will also give them immortality. Indeed, one of their chief gurus, Reaganite firebreather Michael Ledeen, says that if the Dominators have the courage to reject "clever diplomacy" and "just wage total war" to subjugate the Middle East, "our children will sing great songs about us years from now."* This madness, this bin Laden-like megalomania is now driving the hijacked American republic – and the world – to murderous upheaval.

It's all there in the text, set down in black and white.

Read it and weep.

*This quote is widely attributed to Richard Perle, but the dubious honor belongs to Leeden alone.