The Forever War
Dec. 14, 2001
Back in the early ‘70s, Joe Haldman’s quirky book, the Forever War won science fiction’s double crown, the Hugo and Nebula awards. The novel is about a war against faceless and unfathomable aliens called the Taurans, a war which can never be won, but which a small cabal has no interest in ending. And so it goes on for century after century across time and space.
The U.S. is presently engaged in just such a war. It is not war by the dictionary definition: “A conflict carried on by force of arms, as between nations or parties within a nation.” It is not war according to the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Sec. 8) which states that only “the Congress shall have the power to declare war…and makes rules concerning captures on land and water.”
The Congress has not declared war, in part because there is no entity to declare war on. We are bombing a country we are not at war with. Our enemy is “terrorism,” which is not a person, place or thing, but a concept. It might be simpler to say we are at war with things we don’t like.
So is it pedantic to point out that the Congressional resolution passed in the wake of Sept 11 was not a declaration of war, but only authorized the President to take whatever steps he saw fit to defend the nation? It isn’t if the President’s definition of “defending the nation” is about to metastasize into a war with at least nine other countries (at last count)—Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, North Korea, Colombia, and Iran.
“Afghanistan is just the beginning,” said the President said in laying out his doctrine: “If anyone harbors a terrorist, they’re a terrorist. If they fund a terrorist, they’re a terrorist. If they house terrorists, they’re terrorists…if they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorize nations, they will be held accountable.”
He then accused Iraq of manufacturing biological weapons (along with Libya, Syria and Iran) and demanded that North Korea allow inspections to determine if it is “developing nuclear weapons.” Trying to keep up with the guy leaves one breathless.
But the accusation aimed at Iraq, according to Vincent Cannistaro, former CIA chief of counterterrorism and National Security Council director of intelligence, is “supported by little validated intelligence.” Moreover, he added “there is no evidence that Iraq is targeting Americans for violent acts or has collaborated with the terrorist groups that have been killing us.”
But evidence is not what a right-wing cabal with growing influence over the Administration’s foreign policy is interested in. Led by Secretary of Defense William Rumsfeld and DOD official Richard Perle, it is concentrated in an 18-member body called the Defense Policy Board. Board members include Henry Kissinger, former Energy Secretary James Schlesinger, former Defense Secretary Harold Brown, and former Vice-President, Dan Quayle.
The Board is a reincarnation of the old Committee on the Present Danger, which back in the ‘70s and ‘80s scutted the Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement II and détente with the Soviet Union. The Committee also played an important role in pumping up the military budget (creating the massive budget deficits of the Reagan era), and pushed for intervention in Central America. Perle and Rumsfeld were charter members of the old Committee, and Perle presently chairs the Defense Policy Board.
These are people who passionately want to spread the war to Iraq and beyond and don’t care much about building coalitions or what Perle calls “insipid internationalism.” They are unilateralists on everything from global warming to arms control, and they hate international law. For good reason. They were in charge when the U.S. was hauled before the World Court and found guilty for illegally mining Nicaragua’s harbors. Needless to say they love military tribunals and hate international courts.
The Board surrounds itself with a cloud of columnist flack ranging from William Safire and Charles Krauthammer to Hollywood gossip gleaner, Liz “Let’s get on with this war” Smith, proposing everything from dismembering Iraq to using nuclear weapons. One thing they all agree upon is that it is time for the U.S. to reshape the globe the way the Board wants and anyone who gets in the way gets flattened by a precision guided bomb or Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Their instrument will be Rumsfeld’s New Model Army of Special Forces and massive air power, which will pummel any country into submission. While it may destroy Al Queda, it will aqlso plant acres of dragon’s teeth among the civilians caught up in our “air surgery,” dragon’s teeth that will require yet new wars in other places against people we know nothing about.
As our president said last week in Kentucky, “Across the world, and across the years, we will fight these evil ones, and we will win.” Even if the war takes forever and ever and ever.