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Election 2006 & World War III

By Robert Parry
September 7, 2006

As Americans go to the polls in two months, they should have one thought fixed in their minds: they will be voting on whether to commit the nation to fighting World War III against large segments of the world’s one billion Muslims. Beyond the cost in blood and treasure, this war will mean the end of the United States as a democratic Republic.

Those are the stakes that were made clear by George W. Bush in an alarmist speech to an association of U.S. military officers on Sept. 5. He declared that the United States must battle not only likely or even possible threats from terrorists, but the most fantastical dreams of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda about a mystical global “caliphate.”

Adopting some of the most extreme rhetoric favored by his neoconservative advisers, Bush also broadened the “war on terror” beyond al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists and the Sunni-dominated Iraqi insurgency to include the Shiite-run Hezbollah movement in Lebanon and the Shiite government of Iran.

“As we continue to fight al-Qaeda and these Sunni extremists inspired by their radical ideology, we also face the threat posed by Shia extremists, who are learning from al-Qaeda, increasing their assertiveness and stepping up their threats,” Bush said.

“This Shia strain of Islamic radicalism is just as dangerous, and just as hostile to America, and just as determined to establish its brand of hegemony across the broader Middle East,” Bush continued. “And the Shia extremists have achieved something that al-Qaeda has so far failed to do: In 1979, they took control of a major power, the nation of Iran, subjugating its proud people to a regime of tyranny, and using that nation’s resources to fund the spread of terror and pursue their radical agenda.”

Bush also cited his determination to defeat Hezbollah, a Shiite movement in Lebanon that is now a prominent part of the elected Lebanese government and broadly popular because its militia battled the Israeli army when it invaded Lebanon in July.

Bush referred to Hezbollah’s leader as “the terrorist Nasrallah,” suggesting the United States has joined Israel in its determination to kill Sheikh Sayyad Hassan Nasrallah who was rated the most respected leader in the Middle East by an August 2006 poll in Egypt, which is considered one of Washington’s staunchest regional allies.

Ranked second in that Egyptian poll was Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, another target of the Bush administration. By contrast, Egypt’s pro-American president Hosni Mubarak wasn’t even in the top 10, coming in 11th. Polls across the Middle East also have shown almost universal disapproval of the Bush administration and its policies.

So, Bush has set the United States on course to battle not only the stateless terrorists of al-Qaeda and the stubborn insurgents in Iraq but Islamic political leaders who have widespread support among the Muslim masses. How the United States would win such a war or even assemble the vast numbers of soldiers needed is hard to comprehend.

'World War III' 

Bush’s virtual declaration of war on the Islamic world ranks as possibly the most ambitious military plan in American history – and without doubt the most reckless. This so-called “long war,” which Bush’s followers hail as “World War III,” would mean fighting large portions of a religious movement that has the allegiance of about one-sixth of the planet’s population.

Muslims are concentrated in nations from northern Africa to East Asia, but also include large numbers in Europe and North America.

Nevertheless, in his address to the military officers, Bush talked bravely about how confident he is that the United States will win this war. “America will not bow down to tyrants,” he declared to applause.

Bush’s experience over the past five years, however, suggests that his strategy would require a full-scale transformation of the United States into a warrior nation, committed to a virtual endless struggle against any and all Islamic extremists who harbor thoughts of power, no matter how fanciful those imaginings might be.

A key point in Bush’s argument is that al-Qaeda has expressed a dream of creating a “caliphate” reaching from Spain to Indonesia. Bush described the steps to this empire as starting with “numerous, decentralized operating bases across the world, from which they can plan new attacks, and advance their vision of a unified, totalitarian Islamic state that can confront and eventually destroy the free world.”

But the reality is that prior to Bush’s presidency, al-Qaeda was a marginal movement in the Islamic world, driven out of countries across northern Africa, hounded by secular governments in the Middle East, and expelled even from the Sudan.

In summer 2001, as Bush brushed aside CIA warnings about bin Laden’s plans to strike inside the United States, al-Qaeda leaders were holed up in caves in Afghanistan, literally chased to the ends of the earth.

Then, after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington – and the U.S. counterattack in Afghanistan – bin Laden fled to the mountains of Tora Bora where he apologized to his followers for leading them to what looked like defeat both militarily and politically, since the vast majority of Muslims had joined the rest of the world in condemning the 9/11 attacks.

At that crucial moment, the Saudi terrorist leader set off on horseback along with a small band of supporters and was surprised to find that Bush hadn’t ordered in U.S. troops to cut off al-Qaeda’s escape routes. Bush already was shifting his focus to Iraq, which was governed by a secular dictator who had persecuted Islamic extremists like bin Laden. [See, for instance, Ron Suskind’s account in The One Percent Doctrine.]

Military Blunder

The failure to trap or kill bin Laden at Tora Bora might rank as one of modern history’s worst military blunders. But in his Sept. 5 speech, Bush instead cited other historical failures – what he called missed opportunities to eliminate Lenin and Hitler when they were living in obscurity and writing about their improbable dreams of power.

“In the early 1900s, an exiled lawyer in Europe published a pamphlet called ‘What Is To Be Done?’ – in which he laid out his plans to launch a communist revolution in Russia,” Bush said. “The world did not heed Lenin’s words, and paid a terrible price. …

“In the 1920s, a failed Austrian painter published a book in which he explained his intention to build an Aryan super-state in Germany and take revenge on Europe and eradicate the Jews. The world ignored Hitler’s words, and paid a terrible price.”

But the problem with Bush’s history lesson is that wiping out some future Lenin or Hitler would require killing or imprisoning anyone who wrote about political change in a way that rulers considered objectionable or threatening at that time. While “predictive assassination” might eliminate a Lenin or a Hitler, it also might kill a Mandela or a Jefferson.

What Bush appears to be advocating is the end of free speech and free thought, or at least the regulation and punishment of speech and thought that he disdains. Bush is extending his concept of “preemptive war” – launching attacks against countries that might present a future threat to the United States – to “preemptive thought control,” eliminating political opponents who might pose some future threat.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the U.S. government from criminalizing speech. But Bush is indicating that he and his political followers believe that, amid the “war on terror,” it is justifiable to do just that.

Al-Qaeda Plot

In another chilling passage in his speech, Bush laid out a scenario for labeling criticism of him in the U.S. news media as part of al-Qaeda’s terrorist strategy. Bush claimed that bin Laden wrote to Taliban leader Mullah Omar about launching “a media campaign … to create a wedge between the American people and their government.”

Bush said this media campaign would send the American people messages, including “that their government [will] bring them more losses, in finances and casualties.” Bush continued that bin Laden’s media plan “aims at creating pressure from the American people on the American government to stop their campaign against Afghanistan.”

Bush cited this supposed al-Qaeda manipulation of the U.S. media as one of the reasons that “bin Laden and his allies are absolutely convinced they can succeed in forcing America to retreat and causing our economic collapse. They believe our nation is weak and decadent, and lacking in patience and resolve. And they’re wrong.”

As Bush defines domestic criticism of his war’s costs “in finances and casualties” as part of a terrorist scheme, it’s not hard to imagine how Bush’s devoted followers will react. Any expression of concern that Bush is charting a course toward mad destruction will be attacked as somehow acting in concert with terrorists.

Though Bush has said that his goal in waging his vague and seemingly endless “war on terror” is to defend freedom, the reality behind Bush’s grim vision is the emergence of an American totalitarianism where objectionable thought will be repressed and dissent will be equated with treason.

The President has now made clear that he wants the Nov. 7 congressional elections to be a referendum on whether Americans will follow him into this dark future.


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

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