Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are at it again.
Last week, Rumsfeld told the press we should be preparing for "the Long War," saying of the war this administration has stirred up with its attack on Iraq that,
"Just as the Cold War lasted a long time, this war is something that is not going to go away."
The last time Rumsfeld talked like this was in the 1970s, in response to
the danger of peace presented by Richard Nixon.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon returned from the Soviet Union with a
treaty worked out by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the beginning of a process Kissinger called "détente." On June 1, 1972,
Nixon gave a speech in which he said:
"Last Friday, in Moscow, we witnessed the beginning of the end of that era which began in 1945. With this step,
we have enhanced the security of both nations. We have begun to reduce the level of fear, by reducing the causes of fear—for our two
peoples, and for all peoples in the world."
But Nixon left amid scandal and Ford came in, and Ford's Secretary of
Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) and Chief of Staff (Dick Cheney) believed it was intolerable that Americans might no longer be bound by
fear. Without fear, how could Americans be manipulated? And how could billions of dollars taken as taxes from average working
people be transferred to the companies that Rumsfeld and Cheney - and their cronies - would soon work for and/or run?
Rumsfeld and Cheney began a concerted effort - first secretly and then
openly - to undermine Nixon's treaty for peace and to rebuild the state of fear.
They did it by claiming that the Soviets had a new secret weapon of mass
destruction that the president didn't know about, that the CIA didn't know about, that nobody knew about but them. It was a nuclear
submarine technology that was undetectable by current American technology. And, they said, because of this and
related-undetectable-technology weapons, the US must redirect billions of dollars away from domestic programs and instead give the
money to defense contractors for whom these two men would one day work or have businesses relationships with.
The CIA strongly disagreed, calling Rumsfeld's position a "complete
fiction" and pointing out that the Soviet Union was disintegrating from within, could barely afford to feed their own people, and
would collapse within a decade or two if simply left alone.
As Dr. Anne Cahn, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1977 to 1980,
told the BBC's Adam Curtis for his documentary "The Power of Nightmares":
"They couldn't say that the Soviets had acoustic means of picking up American submarines, because they couldn't
find it. So they said, well maybe they have a non-acoustic means of making our submarine fleet vulnerable. But there was no evidence
that they had a non-acoustic system. They’re saying, 'we can’t find evidence that they’re doing it the way that everyone thinks
they’re doing it, so they must be doing it a different way. We don’t know what that different way is, but they must be doing it.'
"INTERVIEWER (off-camera): Even though there was no evidence.
"CAHN: Even though there was no evidence.
"INTERVIEWER: So they’re saying there, that the fact that the weapon
"CAHN: Doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It just means that we haven’t
But Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted Americans to believe there was something
nefarious going on, something we should be very afraid of. To this end, they convinced President Ford to appoint a commission
including their old friend Paul Wolfowitz to prove that the Soviets were up to no good.
Wolfowitz's group, known as "Team B," came to the conclusion that the Soviets had developed several terrifying new
weapons of mass destruction, featuring a nuclear-armed submarine fleet that used a sonar system that didn't depend on sound and was,
thus, undetectable with our current technology. It could - within a matter of months - be off the coast of New York City with a
Although Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld's assertions of this powerful new Soviet
WMD was unproven - they said the lack of proof proved the "undetectable" sub existed - they nonetheless used their charges to
push for dramatic escalations in military spending to selected defense contractors, a process that continued through the Reagan
Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz helped re-organized a group - The
Committee on the Present Danger - to promote their worldview. The Committee produced documentaries, publications, and provided
guests for national talk shows and news reports. They worked hard to whip up fear and encourage increases in defense spending,
particularly for sophisticated weapons systems offered by the defense contractors for whom many of these same men would later become
And they succeeded in recreating an atmosphere of fear in the United
States, and making themselves and their defense contractor friends richer than most of the kingdoms of the world.
Trillions of dollars and years later, it was proven that they had been
wrong all along, and the CIA had been right. Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz lied to America in the 1970s about Soviet WMDs and the
Soviet super-sub technology.
Not only do we now know that the Soviets didn't have any new and
impressive WMDs, but we also now know that the Soviets were, in fact, decaying from within, ripe for collapse any time, regardless
of what the US did - just as the CIA (and anybody who visited Soviet states - as I had - during that time could easily predict). The
Soviet economic and political system wasn't working, and their military was disintegrating.
But the Cold War was good for business, and good for the political power
of its advocates, from Rumsfeld to Wolfowitz to Cheney who have all become rich in part because of the arms industry.
Today, making Americans terrified with their so-called "War On Terror"
is the same strategy, run for many of the same reasons, by the same people. And by hyping it - and then invading Iraq to bring it
into fruition - we may well be bringing into reality forces that previously existed only on the margins and with very little power
to harm us.
Most recently we've learned from former CIA National Intelligence
Officer for the Middle East and South Asia Paul Pillar that, just like in the 1970s, the CIA disagreed in 2002 with Rumsfeld and Cheney about an WMD threat - this time posed by Iraq -
even as Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz were telling America how afraid we should be of an eminent "mushroom cloud."
We've seen this movie before. The last time, it cost our nation
hundreds of billions of dollars, vastly enriched the cronies of these men, and ultimately helped bring Ronald Reagan to power. This
time they've added on top of their crony enrichment program the burden of over 2200 dead American servicemen and women, tens of
thousands wounded, as many as a hundred thousand dead Iraqis, and a level of worldwide instability not seen since the run-up to
World War Two.
When Hilary Clinton recently noted that the only political card
Republicans are any longer capable of playing is the card of fear, she was spot-on right. They're now even running radio and TV
commercials designed to terrorize our children ("Do you have a plan for a terrorist attack?"), the modern reincarnation of "Duck and Cover."
Now that former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has confessed that
many of the terror alerts that continually popped up during the 2004 election campaign were, as USA Today noted on 10 May 2005, based on "flimsy evidence" or were
over his objection at the insistence of "administration officials," it's increasingly clear that the Bush administration itself is
the source of much of the "be afraid!" terror inflicted on US citizens over the past 5 years.
It's time for patriotic Americans of all political affiliations, and for
our media, to join with Senator Clinton, former CIA official Paul Pillar, and the many others who are pointing this out, and refuse
to allow the Bush administration to inflict terror on Americans - and the world - for political gain.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address in 1932,
when Americans were terrorized by the Republican Great Depression, the echoes of World War One, and the rise of Communism in Russia:
This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from
honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So,
first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified
terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
Indeed, the best hope for the growth of democracy around the world and
the survival of individual liberty in the United States is for us to turn away from Rumsfeld's and Cheney's politics of terror and
fear, and once again embrace the great vision of this nation, held by her great statesmen and women from 1776 to today. Indeed,
they are still among us, as we saw most recently when a brave few senators stood up to filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito.
In this election year, we must redouble our efforts to swell their
ranks, to involve ourselves in local and national political groups, and to return America to her destiny as the world's beacon of
courage, liberty, and light.
Thom Hartmann [thom (at) thomhartmann.com] is a Project Censored Award-winning
best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated noon-3pm Eastern Time daily progressive talk show syndicated by Air America Radio. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent book is "What Would Jefferson Do?"
© 2006 Thom Hartmann