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Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century ""
A Report of the Project for the New American Century
September 2000

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. And joining us again is David Swanson. He’s the cofounder of He’s the author of Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency, and his new book is War Is a Lie. Thanks for joining us again.


JAY: So we talked a few days ago about your book, and we talked mostly about the lie side. Now let’s talk a little bit more about why America goes to war, particularly now in the historical period we’re living in. You mentioned in the last interview the Project for a New American Century, which kind of lays out this vision. So dig into that a bit.

SWANSON: Yeah. When you tell people this is a lie, that is a lie, they inevitably come up with, well, then why did we really go, and they want one answer, and it’s always a range of several answers, and even then you don’t quite explain it with rational reasons, wars that don’t make sense, that are doomed to failure, wars where you see private meeting the notes of these guys sitting around together trying to come up with a reason why they want to go to a war they’ve already determined to go into, and then coming up with a reason to tell the public is a second step beyond that.

JAY: What notes? What are you talking about when you say reading the notes? Where have you read the notes?

SWANSON: Well, in particular there’s a nice example in the book from the Vietnam War of Vietnam War planners talking about what reason they should themselves believe in to keep the war going and escalate it, it having just been predetermined that they’re going to do that, knowing full well and themselves predicting that it would accomplish nothing and just be a matter of time, how much blood, how much treasure. But then, after they decide on why they want the war, they decide on why they should tell the public they want the war, sort of a second step. And so there are irrational drives that need to be looked at for why we have these wars that I also go into in the book, including going into�.

JAY: So talk about the PNAC document, PNAC being Project for a New American Century.

SWANSON: The Project for the New American Century, which is a think tank that was around in the ’90s and up through 2005 or ’06�and then it disappeared and then came back online in 2009 when the coast was clear and clearly nobody was getting prosecuted for anything. And there were about 17 members of this so-called think tank who were in top positions in the Bush-Cheney administration�advisor to the president, to the vice president, assistant secretary of defense, and so forth. And a couple of these guys, [Douglas] Feith and [Paul] Wolfowitz, had earlier worked for Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel and put out a paper that advocated the same kind of program that they then put out papers from PNAC advocating, that is, intense nationalism and militarism and going after Middle Eastern states with aggressive wars. And this is what PNAC urged on President Bill Clinton, who agreed with them and made regime change in Iraq one of his goals.

JAY: And I think this is very significant, that this PNAC document, although it was mostly Republicans, I believe [Joe] Lieberman was a supporter of it if not a signer of it. But Clinton agreed with one of its main propositions, that there are certainly sections of the Democratic Party that are on board with this vision.

SWANSON: Right. And there are several key papers that they published, and the biggest one maybe was in 2000, called Rebuilding America’s Defenses�as if they needed to somehow be rebuilt�which was advocating a much larger military, the ability to fight multiple simultaneous wars, an aggressive agenda of going after nations in key regions of American interest, including resource regions, the need to plunder other people’s resources. And a lot of it is language about absolute dominance and maintaining control of the world and fending off any possible rival. This is in the shadows of the Cold War having ended and the need existing for some new enemy, and they haven’t quite come up with international terrorism or al-Qaeda yet to fill that gap, but they want to take this opportunity to maintain American dominance.

JAY: And get rid of the regimes that have gone like this. So you can’t have any that have left the US sphere of influence, so Saddam in Iraq, but you also then have Iran, and it’s a series of�Syria. And it’s you have to either be in our sphere of influence or you’re not going to be.

SWANSON: Right. And you look at what Wesley Clark said about the list of nations that Donald Rumsfeld had, seven nations we were going to go into in five years if the Iraqi people hadn’t fought back, I guess, and�.

JAY: Now, I think it’s very important that this issue�that there’s a significant section of the Democratic Party leadership either shares this vision or does not abhor it. For example, while Lieberman supported this document [snip] and Lieberman gets chosen as Al Gore’s vice president. So, you know, there’s a whole section here that are�they’re more or less on the same page.

SWANSON: Well, there were a lot of factors in that pick, I think maybe the biggest being Al Gore’s pretense that he had never met Bill Clinton and was buddies with one of Clinton’s attackers. But I agree that the Democratic Party does not have a vision that is dramatically different from this.

JAY: So how about President Obama? He runs in the campaign promising a new mindset on foreign policy. Do you see any indication that Obama has a fundamentally different view than the PNAC document?

SWANSON: Yeah, he talked in the campaign, at least on occasion, about ending the mindset that allows war. Then he went and gave a Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech glorifying war and maintaining that Martin Luther King Jr. had been wrong in his peace prize acceptance speech, which if a Republican had done it we’d still be hearing the outrage. And this is someone who gave an Oval Office speech a couple of months back where he regurgitated all of the lies that Bush had told about these wars, about Iraq, starting back with the weapons of mass destruction, on through the lies about the surge that are being used to justify the continuation and escalation in Afghanistan. So there is a problem with the Democrats buying into the same lies that you get from the Republicans.

JAY: Now, one of the arguments that’s given is that you can’t really talk about the real geopolitics, ’cause, one, people won’t understand it, and two, maybe they won’t support the policy, but it makes the most sense. And I’ll give you an example. One of the reasons given for being in Afghanistan which is not talked about publicly is that the US is acting as a kind of a buffer between Pakistan and India, that India will not stomach another pro-Pakistani government in Kabul, and that if the Taliban are to come back to power and Pakistan is allowed to have this influence again in Afghanistan, you could instigate another India-Pakistan conflict. So what you need�so the US�the real reason for the United States being there is really about the disintegration of Pakistan and the possibilities of war, two nuclear powers having a fight over Afghanistan. So what do you make of that?

SWANSON: Well, I think we’re encouraging the disintegration of Pakistan. And I think if we were concerned about a conflict, we wouldn’t be selling weapons to India�you ought to want a conflict with fewer weapons in it if that were your concern. And I think that the secrets are not really that deeply buried. There’s an incident in the book I describe of an interaction between myself and Mr. [Zbigniew] Brzezinski, who you like to cite, and who spelled out his reasons in a RAND Corporation affair for why we need to stay in Afghanistan, including reasons like a gas pipeline that aren’t talked about endlessly on television but that are openly stated at events like that. And concern about, you know, buffering a war? No. If you look at what these people say in NATO meetings�and there’s one happening right now�it’s about the irresistible temptation of being able to put bases and weapons, including nuclear weapons, in a country that borders just about every critical country they want to face off against in the world�and Afghanistan is in that location�and knowing full well that it’s hopeless and it’s a question of how much blood, how much treasure before they pull out. They just can’t help themselves. I don’t think it’s about preventing wars. I think it’s about dominating the globe.

JAY: Thanks for joining us.

SWANSON: Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End of Transcript

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