years ago, George W Bush addressed the United Nations
and unveiled a doctrine that chilled the blood of all
those who heard him and understood its implications. This
was the doctrine of preemptive in reality preventive
attack. America was at war, he told the delegates.
It was not at war with another state, but with an ideology.
It intended to defeat that ideology by using military
ideologies do not necessarily nest in nation states, but
find homes in the minds and hearts of people spread across
the globe, America would use military force wherever it
found its adherents.
this meant invading nations whose governments had not
done anything to endanger US lives or interests, that
was just too bad. By not exerting themselves to destroy
these 'nests' those governments had made themselves culpable.
If they were incapable of doing so they were 'failed states'.
If they turned a blind eye to what these ideologues were
doing and planning, then they were rogue states. If they
possessed, or had the capacity to build weapons of mass
destruction, they were doubly dangerous. The US reserved
the right to force 'regime change' upon them.
UN was invited to join in the war. If it did not, Bush
warned the assembled heads of state and government, it
would be relegated to the dustbin of history.
Thus did the United States announce that the Westphalian
state system, which had governed international relations
pretty much since 1648, had come to an end. The twin doctrines
on which it was based, national sovereignty and the duty
of countries not to intervene in the internal affairs
of others, were now obsolete. Its place was being taken
by a new order based upon the principle of Empire
an American Empire.
this new order the US would have the right to intervene
militarily in other countries, in defence of universal
goals such as freedom, democracy and peace and non-proliferation.
This right, it was later clarified, would belong to the
US alone. Support from other nations was desirable, even
welcome, but not necessary. Thus did Bush fulfill the
prediction of two perceptive authors, Antonio Neri and
Michael Hardart that is a world ruled as an empire, nationalism
would become a crime and stamping it out would increasingly
be portrayed as a police action.
On Tuesday this week, Bush again addressed the United
Nations. But it was apparent even before he began his
address that his bid for empire was in dire jeopardy.
Many European heads of state did not attend the meeting,
and sent their foreign ministers in their place. Minutes
before he spoke, UN secretary general Kofi Annan reiterated
his view, first stated last week, that the invasion of
Iraq without the sanction of the UN Security Council was
illegal and emphasised that the rule of law i.e
international law had to prevail.
queried about their reactions to Bush's statement, most
assembled heads of state and government refused to be
drawn out. When asked pointedly about the session, the
German foreign minister chose instead to endorse Annan's
statement and added, "I don't want to go more into
the details because this would be very impolite."
America stood isolated at the UN, but that isolation only
underscored the isolation that had developed after the
invasion of Iraq. Not a single country responded to Bush's
appeal to send peacekeepers to Iraq to help the infant
government of Iyad Allawi. What is equally significant,
none of the US' allies has agreed to increase its troop
deployment in Iraq to lighten the burden on the Americans.
is facing outright condemnation of his invasion of Iraq
in the US too. The most telling attack has come, although
belatedly, from John Kerry, who has finally shed months
of pussy-footing on Iraq to come out with a no-holds-barred
attack on Bush's policies. Kerry has warned the country
that the US faced "a crisis of historic proportions
" that could lead to a "war without end".
significance of Kerry's blistering attacks of recent days
lies in their timing. For months his campaign was bogged
down as he tried in every way possible to duck the issue
of Iraq for fear of sounding unpatriotic. The fact that
he has shed these inhibitions shows that a new mood of
critical assessment is on the rise in the American people.
The fact that more than a thousand soldiers have been
killed and upto four times as many disabled since the
Iraq war officially ended, may have something to do with
the coup de grace to Bush's dream of Empire was delivered
eight days before Kerry's attack by the New York Times.
In a scathing editorial on September 12, it condemned
the Bush doctrine of preventive war without qualification.
"If facts mattered in American politics" it
wrote," the Bush-Cheney ticket would not be basing
its re-election campaign on the fear-mongering contention
that the surest defense against future terrorist attacks
lies in the badly discredited doctrine of preventive war."
the Iraq fiasco, American leaders rightly viewed war as
a last resort, appropriate only when the nation's vital
interests were actively threatened and reasonable diplomatic
efforts had been exhausted. That view always left room
for pre-emptive attacks
.But it correctly
drew the line at preventive wars against potential
foes who might, or might not, be thinking about doing
something dangerous. As the administration's disastrous
experience in Iraq amply demonstrates, that is still the
wisest course and the one that keeps America most secure
in an increasingly dangerous era".
as it may seem none of this has dampened Bush's ardour
for the Empire. In his speech to the UN there was not
one word of acknowledgement that every single assumption
on which he committed his nation to a manifestly unjust
war, turned out to be nonsense. There was not one word
of regret for the more than 1,000 American families that
had lost a loved one. There was not even a casual mention
of the 40,000 to 60,000 Iraqis soldiers and civilians
who have been killed since March 19, 2003.
was not a word about the growing chaos in Iraq. In fact
Bush later dismissed bleak assessments of Iraq's future
by his own government's National Intelligence Estimate,
as well as similar findings by three US Senators who visited
Iraq. Instead, according to him, the Iraqi people have
regained their sovereignty and are advancing on the path
to democracy and freedom.
this is a truly terrifying world view. According to Bush
the US has "expand(ed) the circle of liberty and
security and development
that brought 'unity to
Europe, self-government to Latin America and Asia, and
new hope to Africa". According to him what the US
has been doing in Iraq as it kills hundreds, sometimes
thousands of Iraqi civilians every month, is to "reaffirm
the equal value and dignity of every human life".
was a new and chilling expansion of the 'axis of evil'."
We know that oppressive governments support terror while
free governments fight terror in their midst. We know
that free peoples embrace progress and life instead of
becoming the recruits for murderous ideologies".
In short every authoritarian regime is now automatically
a supporter of terrorism!
gently admonished the world that it had a duty to join
the US in the fight against terror. Every world leader
who did not was either a coward or was deluding himself
and his people. " Every nation that seeks peace has
an obligation to help build that world. Eventually there
is no safe isolation from terror networks or failed states
that shelter them or outlaw regimes or weapons of mass
ideological armour is so completely impervious to empirical
arrows that there can be no reasoning with him. That is
why Timothy Garton Ash, writing in the International Herald
Tribune warned that if Bush won the transatlantic schism
would be irreversible. It is also why the French magazine
Le Nouvel Observateur, devoted its cover page and
an entire issue to "Why it is necessary to defeat
Bush". "The majority of Americans in one camp
or the other", it concludes, "know that
this confrontation is not like the others. It is, more
than ever, a choice between societies." For the rest
of the world ot os a choice between worlds.
The author, a noted analyst and commentator, is a former
editor of the Hindustan Times, The Economic
Times and The Financial Express,
and a former information adviser to the prime minister
of India. He is the author of several books including,
The Perilous Road to the Market: The Political Economy
of Reform in Russia, India and China, and
Kashmir 1947: The Origins of a Dispute, and a
regular columnist with several leading publications.