«Bloody Bookends»

[Friday, September 18th, 2009]

The avatar above is from the well-preserved plaque affixed to a wall on the second floor of the inner courtyard of the Ducal Palace in Venice.

The purpose of the plaque was to receive written denunciations from citizens regarding high crimes of treason and corruption against La Serenissima, the Republic of Venice, which city-state and then empire endured for more than a thousand years.

The long decline of Venice commenced after Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492.

There are remarkable parallels between the north American Republic of 1789 and the ancient Venetian Republic.

In fact, La Serenissima could be viewed as a kind of template for the Founding Fathers of the United States, especially in regard to their distrust of executive authority.

In Venice that attitude of suspicion and distrust toward executive power was taken to the limit. I am referring to the unique case of Doge Marina Faliero. The council of Ten investigated and found him guilty of treason, ano Domini 1355.

The Ten went into action on behalf of the Republic. The Upshot?

Faliero was decapitated in a courtyard of the Palace, on the exact spot where he had taken the oath of office as Doge only a few months before!

“England and France are again trying to make the Germans

change the rulers of their free choice. This in the name of democracy!”

--H.L. Mencken, September 18th, 1939


Two wars are in the news. The Second World War and Afghanistan. At the beginning of this month, the leaders of Russia, Germany and Poland met in Gdansk, Poland, to commemorate what was termed the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War on September 1st, 1939. Angela Merkel accepted full blame for Germany, as usual. Vladimir Putin acted like Russia was innocent as the driven snow, as usual. And Poland took no blame at all, of course.

In the background, the dreadful, ghastly and sometimes embarrassing Washington/NATO war inside Afghanistan has deteriorated in more ways than one. In fact, the Afghan guerrilla war is fast becoming a full-blown fiasco for Washington and NATO. There is a connection between these two dissimilar wars, seven decades apart; without one, we would never have had the other.  Step by step.

First off, it is important (in my view) to note that the Second World War did not commence with the German invasion of Poland. Nor can it be said to have started when London and Paris declared war a few days subsequent, in response to the invasion. Germany did not declare war on England and France. This was not a world war. This was a European war, actually a war between Germany and Poland, the result of a territorial dispute over the proper boundary between Germany and Poland. 

You may recall something called the Treaty of Versailles (June 28th, 1919) which formally ended the Great War, also known as World War I. This so-called “peace” treaty set the stage for the next war, the one that began on September 1st, 1939--twenty summers later. Versailles was presided over by leaders of the British Empire and France; they set the agenda and called the shots. They rearranged the map of Europe in odd ways, Balkanized central Europe, and picked up more overseas colonies, “protectorates” and “mandates” for themselves, including most of the Middle East. Germany was handed a king-sized bill for “reparations”.

President Wilson, who had come to the rescue of England and France, ended up a hapless and ineffectual bystander to the proceedings. He caught a cold and had a mini-stroke in Paris, and was sick as a dog.

Among other idiocies and injustices, the Treaty of Versailles created an explosive situation in East Prussia, whereby the German port city of Danzig on the Baltic Sea (now renamed Gdansk and incorporated into Poland) was cut off from Germany and surrounded by the territory of a resurrected state, called Poland, whose expansive dimensions had been prestidigitated at Versailles at the expense of Germany and, to a lesser extent, Russia. This arrangement was only rivaled in madness by the division of Berlin into four zones and its isolation behind the Iron Curtain from 1945 until the end of the Cold War.

The foreign policy of the Third Reich from start to finish was an attempt to undo/rectify the Versailles treaty, whose terms had been dictated to an undefeated Germany in 1919. In the summer of 1939, Danzig constituted the last stop in Hitler's program to revise that treaty. The controversy over Danzig was, therefore, the last hope of die-hard, warmongering imperialists in London (led by Winston Churchill) and of Soviet agents complemented by influential Anglophiles in Washington (a coalition of convenience led by Franklin Roosevelt), all of whom were eager to foment a war against Germany out of spite and for their own private ends. 

Hitler and his Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, had already succeeded with respect to France and Austria and Czechoslovakia, in bringing the Saar Valley (1935), the Austrians (1938), and the Sudeten Germans (1938-1939) into the fold of a united, anti-communist Germany. In retrospect, Berlin had succeeded much too fast and far too well, both diplomatically and economically. By the end of the 1930s, Germany was booming, as was its fascist partner, Italy. In the meantime, America under Roosevelt and the New Deal was stuck in the grip of the Great Depression, and Churchill was still “wandering in the wilderness” in the long aftermath of the Great War.

Something spectacular had to be done to jumpstart the American economy and vindicate Churchill's irresponsible warmongering and relaunch his career. Accordingly, the crisis over Danzig was hyped and manipulated for all it was worth. This ground has been covered in my 2005 book, The Unauthorized World Situation Report, in the chapter entitled "Europa, and the Daughter of Europa".

Among other straws in the wind, I referred in passing to what H.L. Mencken said about the outbreak of the war. This was not from his published magazine and newspaper articles or books. His comment was from unpublished type-written memoranda, recorded contemporaneous with the events. They were never published, but deposited at Mencken's death in 1956 with the Pratt Library in Baltimore. With special permission, I had the opportunity to view them there in 1992, and made some handwritten notes. Here are a few:

Item. “The war is still less than two weeks old, and yet all Americans seem to have already forgotten that what started it was not any effort by Hitler to grab Polish territory, but his effort to force the Poles to return territory that was Germany's.”

Item. “We are now asked to throw blood and treasure into a preposterous effort to preserve the British Empire. It was won by crime and violence and we are now asked to preserve it for all time. The British themselves in building it up were guilty one hundred times over of every crime they now ascribe to the so-called aggressive power.”

Item. “Despite the fact that there were seeds of inevitable disaster in the Polish setup, Pilsudki managed to keep on good terms with both Russians and Germans. At his death, his successor, Beck, showed no such talent. For a while he was in the German orbit, but then the English managed to break him. Whether they used downright bribery or mere flattery is not known at this time. Whatever the bait, he rose to it, and the result was the complete ruin of his country.” 

[Jozef Pilsudski was “First Marshall” and chief of state of Poland from 1920. Colonel Jozef Beck was Foreign Minister from 1932 under Pilsudski until the outbreak of the war. Pilsudski died in 1935. From Wikipedia: “Beck played a decisive role in the evolution of the rapidly deteriorating political situation in Europe during the months preceding the start of the Second World War, through his refusal of Germany's proposal concerning the Free City of Danzig (now Gdask, Poland) and for a German extraterritorial highway to run across Pomerania to East Prussia, two concessions on Poland's part which would be compensated through the extension of the 1934 nonaggression pact for a period of 25 years, the inclusion of Poland in the Anti-Comintern Pact directed against the Soviet Union, and a formal guarantee of the country's borders.”]   

Another interesting straw in the wind, one which I did not mention in Situation Report, is that contained in the diaries of James Forrestal. It concerns his golf match with Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy in December 1945. Forrestal was Secretary of the Navy under FDR in 1944, and then in 1947, he became the first U.S. Secretary of Defense, under Harry Truman, at the start of the Cold War. Forrestal was a most interesting and significant individual, as the even-handed entry in Wikipedia indicates. He attended Princeton, but left prior to graduating. He went to work on Wall Street, and at the age of forty-six succeeded Clarence Dillon as president of Dillon Read.

In Robert Welch's controversial but nonetheless informative book, The Politician, Forrestal is credited with derailing the Morgenthau Plan, a punitive scheme cooked up by Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Soviet spy Harry Dexter White in August 1944, to turn Germany into a cow pasture after the war, with collective punishment and forcible dismemberment of the country. Welch believed that “But for the foresight, patriotism, and determination of just one man, James Forrestal...” the Morgenthau Plan would have been implemented and, as a consequence, most of Europe would have ended up behind the Iron Curtain. Alas, Welch gives no documentation.

In response to the the Morgenthau Plan, which both Roosevelt and Churchill initially embraced out of vindictiveness and in the hope that England might pick up business from a Germany denuded of industry, Forrestal noted in his diary on January 16th, 1945: “The American people would not support mass murder of Germans, their enslavement, or the industrial devastation of the country.” He turned out to be right. 

Of further interest is the fact that Forrestal had openly urged President Truman to take domestic politics out of U.S. foreign policy calculations with respect to Palestine and Zionism. On November 7th, 1947, Forrestal recorded in his diary a White House Cabinet Meeting at which, “I repeated my suggestion made several times previously that a serious attempt be made to lift the Palestine problem out of American partisan politics. No group in this country should be permitted to influence our policy to the point where it could endanger our national security.” This problem is still with us today, unabated and unchallenged.

In March 1949, a few months after his surprising upset victory over Thomas E. Dewey, President Truman asked Forrestal to resign. Soon thereafter, Forrestal checked into the Bethesda naval hospital, where he was diagnosed with mental and nervous exhaustion. In May he jumped or was pushed to his death from a window on the 16th floor of the hospital. No one really knows what happened.

I had not read about Forrestal in years, and then there he was highlighted in Colonel Andrew Bacevich's outstanding small book, The Limits of Power, published in 2008. The book contains a treasure trove of valuable insights centering on the profligacy and presumption of the United States in the aftermath of the Second World War. With respect to Forrestal, Bacevich maintains that Forrestal's ascension to prominence in Washington coincided with the departure of Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, age seventy-eight, on September 1st, 1945.

Stimson had been placed in charge of the war effort immediately after Pearl Harbor. Stimson had also been a Secretary of State for four years under Herbert Hoover. “He had been around forever. He had seen it all.” Stimson came out of the Eastern Anglophile establishment; by contrast, Forrestal was the son of impoverished Irish-Catholic immigrants. Where Stimson had been steady and sober, Forrestal was a “hard drinker and a compulsive womanizer, ambitious, erratic....who lacked balance, judgement, equanimity.” 

Bacevich claims that Forrestal as Secretary of Defense was an alarmist in foreign affairs, a “pseudo realist” who misconstrued the post-war situation facing the United States. Bacevich further theorizes that Forrestal “...left a lasting mark on U.S. policy and an even greater mark on subsequent generations of Wise Men. Professing to admire Stimson, they tended to model themselves after Forrestal, sounding the alarm at the drop of a hat. From the 1940s down to and including the present decade, Forrestal's offspring found their way into the inner circles of presidential advisers, nervously worrying that the worst case just might be the most probable one and urging prompt action to forestall disaster. The advocates of the Iraq War number among his direct descendants.”

[Alas, this latter notion strikes me as speculative and farfetched. The Neocons who brought America the Iraq war were congenital liars. They knew there was no threat from Iraq, but wanted it destroyed anyway as part of a vendetta to benefit Israel, for whom they worked. They were arrogant and duplicitous, and I see no connection to Forrestal.] 

In 1951 the New York Herald Tribune serialized excerpts from 1944 to 1949 of Forrestal's diaries. He kept a meticulous day-by-day journal, sometimes with documentation. In the same year, Viking Press came out with an expurgated 581 page book, The Forrestal Diaries, edited by Walter Millis of the Tribune. The entry concerning Joe Kennedy is on page 121. Kennedy was Roosevelt's ambassador to England from January 1938 until November 1940. Kennedy resigned just after Roosevelt had won and unprecedented third term.

Joe Kennedy was the one man in America who could have stopped Roosevelt's march to war and thereby brought peace to Europe and the world. He tried, as I outlined in Endstation America, but he did try hard enough. He declined to reveal to the American public Roosevelt's secret, war-instigating alliance with Winston Churchill at a time when Neville Chamberlain was still Prime Minister and trying to keep the peace.

Such revelations would most likely have been grounds for impeachment, and in any event would have torpedoed Roosevelt's re-election in 1940. Why? For the simple reason that Roosevelt's public pronouncements were 180 degrees at variance with what he was doing in private, and what he had been doing was dastardly. (Douglas MacArthur said of Roosevelt, “A man who would never tell the truth, when a lie would serve just as well.”) This topic is embodied in a footnote of history called the Tyler Kent affair. Joe Kennedy knew all about that, because it took place inside the U.S. Embassy in London while he was Ambassador.

Here is Forrestal's entry regarding the outbreak of war in Poland in 1939:

27 December 1945--Played golf today with Joe Kennedy. I asked him about his conversations with Roosevelt and Neville Chamberlain from 1938 on. He said Chamberlain's position in 1938 was that England had nothing with which to fight and she could not risk going to war with Hitler. Kennedy's view: That Hitler would have fought Russia without any later conflict with England if it had not been for Bullitt's [William C. Bullitt, then Ambassador to France] urging on Roosevelt in the summer of 1939 that the Germans must be faced down about Poland; neither the French nor the British would have made Poland a cause of war if it had not been for the constant needling from Washington. Bullitt, he said, kept telling Roosevelt that the Germans wouldn't fight, Kennedy that they would, and that they would overrun Europe. Chamberlain, he says, stated that America and the world Jews had forced England into the war. 

A substantial book could be written to amplify, speculate upon, and attempt to document this one short paragraph. What exactly constituted “America” in this context and who exactly were “the world Jews”. Why would the White House want to needle London and Paris to start a European war over Poland, which ended up costing the lives of perhaps fifty-million people? What was the motive? Was Poland regarded as a pawn, a triggering mechanism? Did Kennedy know what he was talking about? Does the game of golf help to clarify one's thoughts?

Much like today, we may assume that a handful of officials in Washington and London behind the scenes determined what happened. The hidden agenda is the true agenda. What is told to the public is pap. The only point I am endeavoring to make here, in this roundabout way, is that annual reports proclaiming Hitler started the Second World War are incorrect. At best, such pronouncements are evidence of ignorance. More likely, they are a deliberate distortion of history to whitewash the victors.

There was no declaration of war by Germany upon France and England. Just the opposite. Hitler started out with limited objectives with respect to Poland, but Colonel Beck on the Polish side refused to negotiate or entertain compromise. He had a blank check from France and England. The Second World War did not start on Poland's western border (September 1st, 1939) when it was invaded by Germany. Nor did it start a few days later (September 3rd) when France and England issued separate declarations of war on Germany, based upon assurances--needling?--from Washington. Nor did it start when the Red Army, some days further on, invaded Poland's eastern side. Nor when Hitler decided some eight months later to terminate the "phony war" stalemate, and invade France, and run the English expeditionary force off the Continent.

Even then, it was still a European war, albeit one whose impetus and inspiration had come from across the Atlantic, from outsiders, from Roosevelt and his inner circle in 1938 and 1939.

No, the Second World War commenced months later--when Roosevelt finally succeeded in provoking Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Why would Roosevelt want to do that, you may wonder. Roosevelt, it seems to me, naturally felt compelled to commit such a drastic criminal act for two reasons: (1) to make good on his secret, reckless, pre-war promises to Churchill in 1939 that America would join England once the war triggered by Poland got underway, and (2) to rescue his failed Presidency from the Great Depression. In short, he felt responsible for starting the war, yet trapped because he was prevented from getting into it.

In those innocent days, prior to the Cold War and the Imperial Presidency, waging war required a declaration of war by Congress; Roosevelt could not do it on his own, except in a most restricted and underhanded way. America and its representatives on Capitol Hill were against going to war in Europe or anywhere else. Based upon what happened to Woodrow Wilson in World War I, Congress passed a number of neutrality acts in 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1939 for the specific purpose of making it difficult to get drawn in a second time. 

Roosevelt needed an emergency, and soon. With Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt manufactured an emergency which provided the catalyst for the official entry of America into the conflict in Europe. This was consistent with the existing White House policy of a de facto alliance with England and Russia against Germany and Italy. By December 1941, the Germans and their allies were fighting in the suburbs of Moscow. Time was of the essence.

Thanks to Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt railroaded America into a war in the Far East against the Japanese Empire, but that was not the primary objective. Pearl Harbor was a means to an end. Under the terms of the Tripartite Pact between Japan, Germany and Italy, the attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in the U.S. being at war with Germany and Italy. The war begun to reclaim the German city of Danzig for Germany in September 1939 had the fingerprints of Roosevelt all over it. That it evolved into a world war, all orchestrated from the White House, was not in the least surprising.


Which brings us directly to Afghanistan. Pearl Harbor made the present U.S. quagmire in Afghanistan possible. It is inconceivable that the U.S. would be engaged in such a pointless, self-destructive sideshow in central Asia today, if it were not for Roosevelt's dishonest policy of meddling in European and Far Eastern affairs back in the late 1930s.

You break it, you own it. The Second World War broke the world. Washington ended up owning the pieces, whatever there was outside the orbit of the USSR and Red China. Old Europe was obliterated and, along with it, Europe's colonial empires. England, by relying on Washington, went bust and was reduced to a factotum. Poland, by relying on the word of London and Paris, was invaded on two sides, only to resurface from a Soviet dictatorship fifty years down the road. In the meantime, Washington assumed responsibility for everything, taking up where the British Empire, now bankrupt, left off. 

The big advantage was the U.S. Dollar; it became the world's reserve currency. So much for the Depression. The downside was a series of bloody regional wars, starting with Korea. Perpetual war for perpetual peace. A further downside was the specter, indeed the reality, of mutual assured nuclear destruction, thanks to an expanded and empowered Soviet Union, now ensconced in the heart of Europe.

The upshot for America was an agenda of total interventionism across the globe combined with an open-ended Imperial Presidency. This was the era of Ex America in which we still find ourselves today. The bloody bookends  are the Second World War and Afghanistan. Or, more precisely, the Second World War and the fraudulent, Neocon-inspired “war on terror”.

Why is this important? Because U.S. unbridled interventionism is now taken for granted by the government and people of the United States. It has been going on so long, and the process has been so repetitive, extravagant, and so abused, that very few object to it on principle. The two U.S. attacks upon Iraq in 1991 and 2003 are prime examples. But the Vietnam war is just as good, maybe even better.

The bombardments and invasion of Iraq, the present “AfPak” war inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Bill Clinton’s Kosovo War of 1999, a bizarre game of target practice, are products of the post Cold War era, in which Washington reigns supreme as the “lone surviving Superpower”, and does whatever it pleases. Vietnam, by contrast, was the most brutal proxy war fought within the constraints imposed by the Cold War between the nuclear “Superpowers”. 

The negative impact of all these unnecessary conflicts  upon the American psyche and upon U.S. constitutional government has been tremendous. I am naturally concerned, as well, about the immediate human consequences for those on the ground, whose territories are being bombed or under siege, but it is beyond my comprehension. Evidently, Washington policy makers feel that they have the right, like the British imperialists before them, to make a battlefield of any spot on the globe, based upon a concept of “U.S. national security”, which concept might be ill-conceived and even totally nuts. Remember the domino theory?

The underlying character of the American involvement in Vietnam at the height of the Cold War applies just as well to American involvement today in the greater Middle East under the catchall “war on terror” scenario. “Suffice it to say that the war in Vietnam remains the preeminent example of Washington injecting itself into an area of the world about which it knew next to nothing and which, in the final analysis, was none of its business, and doing it under such adverse conditions and in such an incoherent manner, that a bloody mess for all concerned was thereby assured.” [See Situation Report, “The Rising Sun”]

No one in the United States knew anything about Vietnam when Washington's masterminds or “Wise Men” decided to make a stand there, a move which eventually cost the lives of over 50,000 American soldiers, and helped to radicalize a generation of college students for no reason, and which resulted in a decade of economic stagnation. What can we expect from Iraq and Afghanistan? More of the same.

In August two summers ago I wrote a little item for the website Taki's Top Drawer entitled “Uncle Cheney Liberates Fifty Million People”. It was based upon a Larry King interview with Vice-President Richard B. Cheney--the de-facto co-President as well as Regent--in the Administration of G.W. Bush, Jr. It was written in a fit of exasperation at having to listen to Cheney's constant disinformation about the deplorable U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, for which he was directly responsible. Here's an excerpt:

“Normally, I don’t watch a speech or interview given by either Cheney or his marionette, G.W. First, it is infuriating. Second, it’s just a complete waste of time. These folks do not have an ounce of credibility left. Yet, they keep talking. They have to. Somewhere along the line, they must have concluded that the point of no return has been reached. They have nothing to lose now.  

“G.W. had a slim but real chance to turn the ship around when former Secretary of State Jim Baker and Congressman Lee Hamilton delivered the “Baker Report” on Iraq in December, 2006. That report was essentially a repudiation of the Bush Administration’s entire Iraq policy, and it advocated a new direction, and made specific recommendations to get us the hell out of there. Bush had a chance to face the fact that Cheney and his “Neocon” charlatans had put the country on the wrong track. 

“It seemed to me that G.W. could have asked Cheney to resign for health reasons. If Cheney didn’t, he could simply have been sidelined with no responsibilities. Under such circumstances, Cheney would have resigned to a world of duck shooting and fly fishing. Then G.W. could have brought Baker in to be Secretary of State, and let Baker carry out his own report. Why not? Nothing like that happened, of course, because Bush and Cheney have such colossal egos that they cannot stand to admit they are wrong. That is what this is all about now, ego and self-justification.  

“In the Larry King interview, Cheney is asked about the Administration’s credibility problem. Cheney answered: ‘...I think in the end, it will depend upon the results and what ultimately happens. I think history will judge us well, if we’re successful in achieving the objectives we’ve set. I think the President has made some crucial decisions, very important decisions, very difficult decisions. But I think what we’ve done in Afghanistan, for example, and in Iraq, which represents liberating 50 million people from two of the worst regimes in modern times, is a very significant achievement.’ 

“Give me a break, please! Listen, it’s not our job to liberate anybody. Those countries do not belong to us, and we understand nothing about them. Let’s get real. It is this essential misconception about America’s role in the world which has made it possible for the “Neocons” and their dupes to get us into this jam. Over and above all other considerations, is the simple fact that the country will go bankrupt on its present course. Besides, a good chunk of Afghanistan is already back under Taliban control. As for Iraq, if that inferno is liberation, brother you can have it.”

In the meantime,  the wingnuts Cheney and Bush, Jr., have left the building, and Barack Obama has shifted the scene of action to Afghanistan, where he has suggested that the U.S. ought to  have been engaged to the max all along, this contention being one of those cheap, self-serving Democratic Party talking points to the effect that Iraq was somehow the wrong war, even though the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill voted for it in 2002, to keep the Israel Lobby happy and to try to escape from being slammed as soft on terrorism by the Cheney/Bush co-consulship. Obama is making it up as he goes along.

In the meantime, the largest U.S. embassy in the world, costing over a billion Dollars, has been constructed in the Green Zone of Baghdad, and most U.S. military personnel in Iraq have retired to their numerous air-conditioned, self-contained bases scattered around the country, including an air force base larger than Heathrow airport in London.

In the meantime, in the aftermath of the devastation to Iraq caused by the needless U.S. invasion and occupation of the country, everyone is waiting uneasily for the next shoe to drop: a full-scale, sectarian civil war among those left alive, amid the devastation. The nation-state of Iraq has been destroyed all right, whether by deliberate design of the Neocons in charge at the Cheney White House and at the Rumsfeld Pentagon, or just by their colossal incompetence, is an open question.

What is not in doubt is that the costs to the American treasury for this misadventure--in an area of the world about which Washington understands next to nothing--have been enormous and are mounting. Some have called it the three trillion dollar war. May I ask, for what? And why? Can you guess?


There is a wonderful little book entitled Someone Has Blundered, written by an English professor by the name of Denis Judd. The title of the book is an apt description of U.S. foreign policy since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Soviet Union. The subtitle of Judd's book is “Calamities of the British Army in the Victorian Age”. Every member of the Washington “national security elite” would benefit greatly by reading this book. It was first published in 1973 and reprinted in 1999. It is the latter edition which I have in my library; its cover is illustrated with a Victorian painting entitled “Last Stand of the 44th at Gundamuck in the Retreat from Kabul, 1841.” There is snow on the ground, and it looks like Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.

A third edition came out in 2007. From the preface: “Though a number of the episodes described in the book are compounded equally of tragedy and farce, there is no intention on my part to mock the bones of those who died so long ago and who tried, however ineffectually, to do their duty.”

The book is not devoted to detailing military tactics; the thrust is to show the policy background which led to English troops being caught in impossible situations in faraway lands in pointless exploits. With respect to Afghanistan, we learn that it was considered an annex of the British Raj in India, and therefore constituted what one would term today “a national security concern” for the gentlemen in London who were overseeing their far-flung empire.

An item from the first chapter, On to Kabul! 

“Russian expansion into Asia had gathered momentum in the first decades of the nineteenth century. The French threat to India, which had evaporated with Nelson's victory of the Nile in 1798, was thus replaced by a Russian threat. Although the military logistics and the political rewards of a Russian invasion of India remained somewhat obscure, [my emphasis] the ‘Russian scare’ remained a constant stock-in-trade for British military planners throughout the nineteenth century.

“By 1836 Russia had brusquely extended her influence in Persia, and had encouraged the Shah to lay siege to the fortified city of Herat in western Afghanistan. Herat lay in a fertile plain known as the ‘Granary of Central Asia’. But it offered more than grain and fodder to its conqueror, for all the great routes to India from the West passed through Herat.

"It now seemed as if the ‘gateway to India’ was about to fall into Persian hands, and hence under Russian control. In London, Lord Palmerston, the Foreign Secretary, was determined to counter Russian influence in Persia with more clear-cut British influence in Afghanistan.”

To coin a phrase, plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose! An official in London is alarmed that Persia is making a foray into Afghanistan, which might threaten the trade route to India, because Persia has fallen under Russian influence, and something must be done about it. Was there a genuine threat from Russia to India? Professor Judd sounds skeptical.

Back then, the fixation for those in charge of the British Empire was trade and empire building; nowadays for the White House, it is oil and Israel, not necessarily in that order. But underlying these surface realities was national ego and the urge to checkmate any conceivable “threat” to overseas assets--whether they were owned outright, like the British in India, or indirectly, like the Americans in the Greater Middle East. It is not always clear that the “national security elite” knows what it is doing or understands what the best interests of the United States are.

Remember something called the Carter Doctrine? Probably not, but it is still with us. The Carter Doctrine is one of those unilateral declarations of intent, like the London/Paris declarations of war upon Germany on September 3rd, 1939, the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 which proclaimed that the U.S. would not tolerate European interference in the Americas, or the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494, based on a Papal Bull issued by Pope Alexander VI, which divided the entire world outside of Europe between Spain and Portugal. Such pronunciamentoes have meaning only to the extent that they are enforceable by the issuing party and are taken seriously by other parties. Everything is predicated upon a concept of spheres of influence, which are an entitlement to great powers of the day. 

The Carter Doctrine was a reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas Day 1979. President Jimmy Carter called it "the greatest foreign policy crisis confronting the United States since World War II." In attempting to prop up a failing pro-communist regime, the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev ordered Russian troops to occupy Afghanistan. In doing so, Brezhnev had crossed a line into an American sphere of influence in central Asia. The two tectonic plates of the “Superpowers” had collided. The Russian bugbear of the 19th century had returned to agitate England's successor in the great game.

There was a hubbub in Washington. Washington's ally, Pakistan, next door seemed to be threatened. More importantly, the Persian Gulf, through which the majority of the free world's oil supplies flowed, was in the neighborhood. Something had to be done in response.

On January 23rd, 1980 President Carter delivered his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress and to the nation. He had already announced that America was boycotting the Moscow Olympics and was embargoing grain shipments to the Soviet Union. He proclaimed what was immediately dubbed the Carter Doctrine: 

“The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: It contains more than two-thirds of the world's exportable oil. The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Straits of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world's oil must flow....  

“This situation demands careful thought, steady nerves, and resolute action, not only for this year but for many years to come. It demands collective efforts to meet this new threat to security in the Persian Gulf and in Southwest Asia. It demands the participation of all those who rely on oil from the Middle East and who are concerned with global peace and stability.... 

“Meeting this challenge will take national will, diplomatic and political wisdom, economic sacrifice, and, of course, military capability.... 

“Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

Say what?! Did Jimmy Carter and his national security "wise man" Zbigniew Brzezinski overreact to the Russian move into Afghanistan? Probably. The Soviets were, after all, attempting to maintain the status quo inside their own sphere of influence, not to take over another. Indeed, there was already a communist government in place in Kabul. But with the invasion and occupation, the Soviet Politburo shot itself in the foot, and sealed the doom of the USSR. Geopolitically speaking, this development was an upside for the West. It ended the Cold War and freed half of Europe, undoing some of the downside from the Second World War. Read about the hijinks in Charlie Wilson's War

Under the strain of the Mujahideen insurgency, stoked by material aid from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Ronald Reagan's CIA, the Soviet army faltered. It withdrew in February 1989, at the direction of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last head of state of the USSR. Soon thereafter, the USSR itself collapsed. I will not detain you further, except to point out that Professor Bacevich has written a concise and an insightful analysis of the Carter Doctrine, its transmogrification over the years, and its implications today in Afghanistan, in the October issue of The American Conservative. 

Bacevich manages to do this without saying a word about Israel. That is a noteworthy achievement, because 9/11 is left out of the equation. Why did the U.S. Army and NATO become engaged on the ground in Afghanistan in the first place? The answer is, the terrorist assaults on New York and Washington on September 11th, 2001. Washington and NATO are not there to protect the free flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz, as proclaimed in the Carter Doctrine. They are there supposedly to fight the “war on terror” in response to a terrorist attack.

But this begs the question, which is studiously avoided every September 11th in the United States. The question is, why? Why were we attacked?The answer was known from day one, but still America remains in denial, and the powers-that-be in Washington refuse to alter American policy or even consider changing strategy. They are impotent and ignorant. I have concluded that the Afghan War is a sham and a diversion, just like the wider “war on terror”. We live the Orwellian nightmare of perpetual war for perpetual peace, to advance a private agenda.