Chapter 5: Wars

To understand America’s military response to 9/11, we have to understand the logic of militarism in America, and the role of the U.S. military.

According to the U.S. DoD baseline report 2009, “The Department manages a global real property portfolio consisting of more than 539,000 facilities (buildings, structures and linear structures) located on more than 5,570 sites, on approximately 29 million acres… the Department’s real property assets represent 57% of the federal government real property portfolio”  (p. 2).

Of the sites, 4,742 are in the U.S., 121 are in U.S. territories, and 716 are overseas, spread over 38 countries.  There are 235 sites in Germany, 123 sites in Japan, and 87 sites in South Korea.

Important to understand: U.S. Military Conflict Abroad is a Mainstay of American Life since Its Founding

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2009:  

“Some of the instances were extended military engagements that might be considered undeclared wars. These include the Undeclared Naval War with France from 1798 to 1800; the First Barbary War from 1801 to 1805; the Second Barbary War of 1815; the Korean War of 1950-1953; the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1973; the Persian Gulf War of 1991; global actions against foreign terrorists after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States; and the war with Iraq in 2003. With the exception of the Korean War, all of these conflicts received Congressional authorization in some form short of a formal declaration of war.”

What does this mean?  Since 1945, there have only been 5 years in which the American military has not been used abroad.  This means that from 1945 to 2011, the U.S. military has been deployed abroad for 61 of 66 years.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as of September 30, 2010 there are over 22 million (22,658,145) living veterans in the U.S.

The Role of the U.S. Military in Post 9/11 World

From 1998 to 2002, Dana Priest, a journalist from the Washington Post, interviewed top U.S. military commanders and was embedded with U.S. military units deployed during the Balkans conflict.  Priest’s thesis is this: the U.S. civilian government increasingly uses and depends on the deployment of military personnel for non-combat uses. The mission[1] of the State Department is to “Advance freedom for the benefit of the American people and the international community by helping to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and act responsibly within the international system.”  Historically, it has been the role of the State Department to take the lead in nation-building, diplomacy and other foreign affairs efforts.  As the State Department atrophies, the Department of Defense (DoD) takes on an ever larger role in nation-building, diplomacy and other foreign affairs efforts.  This occurs during a time when the U.S. is the lone military superpower, and the risk of a WWII-type conflict is remote.  Most military conflict will be asymmetrical, fought by large countries against small, nonstate actors who engage in terrorism.

The U.S. divided the world into Unified Combatant Commands, formerly known as Commander-in-Chief Commands (CinCs). Each UCC is headed by a four-star General.  Their responsibility is to manage the U.S. military stationed in their jurisdiction and carry-out the Unified Command Plan (UCP), as decided upon by the DoD.  According to the DoD, the UCP is “a key strategic document that establishes the missions, responsibilities, and geographic areas of responsibility for commanders of combatant commands.”

The mission of CENTCOM, for example, is the following: “With national and international partners, U.S. Central Command promotes cooperation among nations, responds to crises, and deters or defeats state and nonstate aggression, and supports development and, when necessary, reconstruction in order to establish the conditions for regional security, stability, and prosperity.”

Priest argues that military responsibilities to “[support] development and, when necessary, reconstruction” and “[promote] cooperation among nations” are relatively new. These responsibilities are increasingly the job of the military, and decreasingly the job of the State Department.  The military’s usurpation of State department responsibilities is ordered and encouraged by the civilian government itself.

A key assumption of military diplomacy is that unstable and potentially hostile regimes can be maintained as friends or, at least, non-hostile to U.S. interests when the U.S. military continuously engages them in military training.  For example, the U.S. military trained the Columbian military to engage drug-traffickers; they also trained the Indonesian military, even after the Indonesian military’s questionable actions in East Timor.  Since 1980, the U.S. has trained Egypt’s military (Exercise Bright Star).  Part of this strategy is for unstable, democratically challenged countries to send their top military officers for training in the U.S.

All of this is designed to open the lines of communication between the U.S. and countries that the U.S. is reluctant to engage with diplomatically, politically and economically.  Unified commanders negotiate with politicians and military personnel alike.  U.S. military good-will toward other militaries is seen as both a means to make bad countries good, and a reward them for good behavior.  In return, the U.S. expects cooperation; currently, that means help with the Global War on Terror (GWOT).

Priest sees a paradox, and a worry: historically, militaries are designed for combat, not diplomacy.  With few guidelines by the civilians in government, UCCs and the military personnel in their command are frequently left to discover how “development” and “reconstruction” should be carried out.  For the military, such training is not basic.  This situation produces insecurity and introduces risks.  Soldiers, whose primary responsibility is to follow orders in combat conditions, are now tasked with building schools, negotiating with local political leaders, and police work.  This disjuncture between training and mission is inherent in COIN, or counter-insurgency tactics, the new military strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Finkel’s (2010) The Good Soldiers shows how this can be confusing and potentially dangerous for military personnel to do.  Soldiers are trained to maim and kill, not capture hearts and minds.  With lack of clear direction from civilian government and a military making it up as they go, the U.S. national interest and security, not to mention the lives of millions of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, are at stake.

See also:

Priest, Dana. “A Four-Star Foreign Policy?” Washington Post, 28 September 2000,

sec. A, p. 1.

__________. “An Engagement in 10 Time Zones.” Washington Post, 29 September 2000,

sec. A, p. 1.

__________. “Standing up to State and Congress.” Washington Post, 30 September 2000,

sec. A, p. 1.

[1] U.S. Department of State 2010 Agency Financial Report, “Smart Power in Action,” p. 5. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/150505.pdf


How Did the U.S. Get into War?

Key Questions we should ask:

What is neoconservatism?  What is the Bush Doctrine?

How did 9/11 interact with the neocon worldview?

Who were the major players in and around the Bush administration and what were their roles in shaping post 9/11 foreign policy?

What were the official reasons for going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq?

What was the role of the CIA in shaping the decision for war?

What was the role of the “pro-war movement” in theUnited States?

What are the major criticisms of the official reasons for war and of the pro-war movement arguments, especially with regard to the connection between 9/11 and the Iraq War?

What is neoconservatism?  What is the Bush Doctrine?

Like the term conservative, or liberal, there is no commonly accepted definition or platform of neoconservatism (Hereafter “neocon”).  Like many other artifacts of 9/11,  necons became a symbol and are imbued with all sorts of meanings that have little to do with reality.

Like other intellectual movements, we know neocons from their writings, speeches and deeds.  Here are the key aspects of their doctrine with regard to foreign policy, based on what the Bush administration officials thought and did.  (information from Pfeffler, Mann, the Nat’l Security Strategy 2002, and Project for a New American Century, among other sources).

Hawks =  pro military solution

Doves =  anti-military solution

Military Hegemony

Neocons believe in the centrality and efficacy of American military power to achieve foreign policy goals.  In a military hegemony, theUSwould possess so overwhelming military capability that other actors would not dare act against them.  It is a deterrence strategy based on attempting to achieve a situation where there is no legitimate military competition.


TheUShas the right to act in anticipation of an action by the enemy.  The enemy does not have to strike beforeAmericacan act militarily.  AKA “anticipatory self-defense.”


TheUShas the right to intervene without support from potential  allies, if these allies are “unwilling” to act.  AKA, “going it alone” strategy.

America is Ascendant

Americais growing in capacity for hegemony. Americais the “lone superpower” and is progressing in terms of acquiring resources, economic, political and military capacity.  This is in contrast with the “Americais in decline” view.

Moral Duty to Promote Democracy Abroad

Americahas the moral right and obligation to promote democracy, i.e. transform non-democracies into democracies. Americais a force for good in the world.  Promoting democracy is the best way to achieve foreign policy goals and protect American interests around the world.

Democracy Contagion

Once democracy is introduced into a non-democratic region, democracy will spread there.  All countries desire freedom and democracy.

Reluctance to Enter into International Agreements

US should have maximum flexibility in action and should rarely accept international agreements that will constrain their range of actions.  Neocons envision many scenarios whereAmericawould not be able to act to protect their own interests because of international treaties.

Privatization and the Free Market

Many government functions are best conducted if they are outsourced to private organizations.  The free market should handle most government tasks.  This leads to efficiency, flexibility and lower costs.

Neocons are idealistic, “big picture” people, and optimistic.  They envision grand strategies and a world full of democracies, with the US as the sole military superpower.

The Bush Doctrine is substantively the same as the neocon worldview.

President Bush’s 2002 SOTU, AKA Axis of Evil Speech:

“Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threateningAmericaor our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th. But we know their true nature.

North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility towardAmericaand to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens — leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections — then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred.  They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.”

How did 9/11 interact with the neocon worldview?

9/11 was a shocking event, and the neocons found 9/11 to be an opportunity to implement their policies.  9/11 was proof that their ideas about transforming failed states and the need to spread democracy was right.  9/11 had the effect strengthening their views, rather than as a cause to reconsider.

From Six Weeks in Autumn:

“Like many attuned to the rhythms of Washington, Dempsey knew Congress would not have the will to resist granting dramatic new powers to law enforcement immediately. It was a classic dynamic. Something terrible happens. Legislators rush to respond. They don’t have time to investigate the policy implications thoroughly, so they reach for what’s available and push it through.  That was a nightmare for Dempsey. Looking for signs of hope that the legislative process could be slowed, even if it could not be stopped, he made his own calls around town.  He didn’t find much support, even among longtime allies. “If you could get their attention,” Dempsey says, “some members of the House and Senate were, ‘Don’t bother me with the details.’ ”  “A crisis mentality emerges, and there was clearly a crisis . . . The push for action, the appearance of action, becomes so great.”

Within days of the attack, a handful of lawmakers took to the Senate floor with legislation that had been proposed and shot down in recent years because of civil liberties concerns. Many of the proposals had originally had nothing to do with terrorism.  One bill, called the Combating Terrorism Act, proposed expanding the government’s authority to trace telephone calls to include e-mail. It was a legacy of FBI efforts to expand surveillance powers during the Clinton administration, which had supported a variety of technology-oriented proposals opposed by civil libertarians. Now it was hauled out and approved in minutes.”

The military used the term, shock and awe, “first coined by strategist Harlan Ullman to signify a massive, humbling display of American military power” (334 Mann).

Who is President Bush? 

It is important to understand Bush as a human being, with a private life, likes and dislikes, and a view of the world.

A psychological portrait:

—  CEO presidency.  The president is like a CEO of a major corporation, where tasks are not to be micromanaged.  He selects personnel and leaves them to sort out the problems.

—  Clear, simple ideas without nuance.

—  Best to follow one’s “instinct.”  Bush is a “gut player.”

—  Once decision is made, decision will be defended as the correct choice and enforced.

—  Core values are forever—they do not change, no matter the circumstance.

—  Strength projected through certainty and stability.

—  Loyalty to subordinates, and demands loyalty from subordinates.

—  Personal relationships with subordinates is good for management: it limits conflicts that slow decision making and builds consensus.

—  Presidency is position of morality.  The president is a moral role model.

—  World contains good and evil. (echoes of Reagan)

—  Be big and ambitious

—  Outward persona is folksy, joking, “one of the boys,” religious, resolute and compassionately stubborn.

Perhaps unwittingly, neocons had found in Bush their ultimate cheerleader.  Bush initially claimed he was not into nation-building.  But, he is for moral causes and believes thatAmericais a superior, moral place.  Bush may differ from conservatives in his approach to government (he is for government solutions to social problems), but his religious beliefs and life attitudes predispose him to adopt, full heartedly and without reservation.  The idea thatAmericacan be, and should be, a force for good in the world.  For 8 years, he never retreated from this idea.  Indeed, it seemed to grow stronger and more certain as the years went on.  Bush equates democracy with moral good; spreading democracy is spreading moral good, and in religious terms, moral good is the Bible Gospel.  He used the term crusade, and though he realized it is an insensitive and politically unwise term, one cannot doubt that he thinks this is a crusade of a kind, though substantially different from “the” crusades of the middle ages.

Woodward, Plan of Attack, p.88.  Bush says to Woodward:

“Let me make sure you understand what I just said about the role of the United States.  I believe the United Statesis the beacon for freedom in the world.  And I believe we have a responsibility to promote freedom that is as solemn as the responsibility is to protecting the American people, because the two go hand-in-hand.  No, it’s very important for you to understand that about my presidency… Freedom is not America’s gift to the world.  Freedom is G-d’s gift to everybody in the world… we have a duty to free people” (88-89).

Is it a paternalistic policy?  “Unless you’re the person that happens to be liberated” (89).

What were the official reasons for going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq?

In addition to the neocon worldview expressed above…


Taliban accused of harboring UBL and sponsoring terrorism against theUSand its allies.


—  Hussein non-compliant with UN resolutions.  Sanctions considered a failed policy.

—  Iraq probably has WMD and is likely to use them against the US.

—  Hussein is an evil dictator who is hurting his people.  The Iraqis need to be liberated.

—  Support for Palestinian terrorists in the past.

According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Iraq’s Involvement in the Palestinian Terrorist Activity against Israel

(Communicated by Israeli security sources)
January 2003

During the Aqsa intifada, Iraq’s direct and deep involvement in strengthening the terrorist infrastructures in Judea and Samaria in order to improve their capabilities in carrying out fatal terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, was exposed. Over the past few months Iraq has given substantial financial and military aid to terrorist organizations operating under its purview.

Primary among these organizations is the Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF), headed by Mahmoud Zidan Abu El Abbas who operates from Iraq, and the Arab Liberation Front (ALF), which are both avid pro-Iraqi organizationss. The culmination of this support was the arrest in 2001 of ALF and PLF terrorist groups from the Asqar refugee camp in the Qabatiya area near Nablus and Ramallah. The members admitted during questioning by the Israel Security Agency (ISA), that they had undergone military training in Iraq and subsequently carried out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, civilian and military alike. This mode of operation continues today.

The transfer of Iraqi funds to families of deceased and injured Palestinian terrorists

Iraq’s involvement in terrorism in the territories includes extensive financial aid transferred from Iraq to terrorist groups in the territories, and to families of suicide bombers as well as to injured terrorists and those whose homes were destroyed. The funds are given to the families in public and in highly publicized ceremonies, which take place throughout the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria. During these ceremonies funds are distributed on behalf of Saddam Hussein, the President of Iraq. This activity is legitimized by the Palestinian Authority, with the participation of Palestinian ministers, members of the legislative body and mayors in the ceremonies.

V.  What was the role of the CIA in shaping the decision for war?

CIA was encouraged to keep trying for a coup d’etat, i.e. assassination of Hussein, but this was not the main strategy,  Woodward PoA: 68:  The Iraqi Operations Group, AKA “House of Broken Toys.”  They were asked, “how do we view covert action inIraq?”

Chief of IOG:  “Covert action is not going to remove Saddam Hussein.”  “The CIA had to face the reality that Saddam, in power since 1979, had erectd a nearly perfect security apparatus to protect himself and stop a coup” (71).  This included multiple layers of military and intelligence agencies.  The chief of IOG supported full military invasion.

CIA director Tenet fully approved the intelligence that Hussein had WMD.

What was the role of the “pro-war movement” in the United States?

Various factions within the United States supported massive military intervention in Iraq, AKA “regime change.”  In contrast with anti-war movements, the fervor and type of support given to the idea of war with Iraq can best be termed a “pro-war movement.”  The pro-war movement is distinct from the general willingness of Americans to go to war with Iraq in the fervor and degree of support.  Many Americans supported the idea, but did little or nothing to promote the idea in public.

The pro-war movement in America consisted of:  government officials, advisors to government officials, media and masses.  Within government and the circles of government advisors, the neocons were the most vocal.  For within government, see above.  Included also is Zalmay Khalilzad, regional specialist for Iraq for Bush II.  Figures such as Richard Perle (chair of non-governmental Defense Policy Board,” a group of former officials who met every few months and presented their views to the Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld) and William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard.  The movement was sustained by the conservative press such as the Weekly Standard, the Washington Times, the National Review, Fox News, Wall Street Journal editorial as well as conservative blogs.  Influential pundits, such as Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, helped the movement gain strength.

Mainstream media were accused of “sleeping on the job,” meaning that they allowed the government to push for war without adequate questioning.  The mainstream media largely presented the government’s views on the matter, while there was some dissent, especially by former officials from Bush I administration (Brent Scowcroft, Eagleberger and others).

Many celebrities also voiced support for the war:

After the invasion, March 26:

Tiger Woods (since removed from his website):

“Obviously, no one likes war. Our Congress and President tried hard to avoid the use of force, but ultimately decided it was the best course of action. I like the assertiveness shown by President Bush and think we owe it to our political and military leaders, along with our brave soldiers to be as supportive as possible during these difficult and trying times. I just wanted to take this opportunity to let our forces know that I am thinking about you and wishing you and your families the best.”


What are the major criticisms of the official reasons for war and of the pro-war movement arguments, especially with regard to the connection between 9/11 and the Iraq War? 

A.  Hyping the Iraq threat

Bush’s Mushroom Cloud speech October 2002 in Cincinnati, speaking about why America could need to intervene militarily in Iraq

“Some citizens wonder: After 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now?

There is a reason. We have experienced the horror of September 11. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing — in fact they would be eager — to use a biological, or chemical, or a nuclear weapon.

Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

Here, he moves the rhetoric of “terrorists” to “our enemies.”  Bush is making a connection between the type of people who committed the acts of 9/11 to a larger, and more ambiguous term, “our enemies.”  Our enemies, in this case, is the Iraqi government led by Saddam Hussein.

B.  Iraq has WMD

Between 2002 and 2003, the government was convinced that Iraq possessed WMD.  The WMD threat was “clear evidence of peril,” according to Bush.  Subsequently, the US government has issued official reports saying that Hussein era Iraq as of March 2003 did not have WMD.

C.  Reasons for war were unclear

Why did we go?

Because Iraq had WMD.

But they don’t, we found out.  Did we make a mistake by going to war?

Well, everyone thought they had WMD.  It wasn’t just us.  Besides, a stable middle east is in best interest of the US and the Iraqis were living under an evil dictator and the Iraqis deserve to be free.

Did we have to do that by going to war without our long-standing allies, Germany, France and our new ally, Russia?

Yes, because they wouldn’t do it, otherwise.

But they went to Afghanistan.

Russia didn’t.  Look, this is a little understood war, the first war of the 21st century.  Historians will prove that what we did was right.

D.  Iraq had nothing to do with the planning or execution of 9/11.

E.  War in Iraq is about American control over Iraq’s oil supply.



The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Global War on Terror Operations since 9/11  is over 1 trillion dollars. 

“…Congress has approved a total of $1.283 trillion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan and other counter terror operations; Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)…

According to CBO’s latest projection, war costs for FY2012-FY2021 could total another $496 billion if troop levels fell from 180,000 in FY2011 to 45,000 by FY2015 and remained at that level through FY2021. Under that scenario, war costs through FY2021 would total $1.8 trillion.”

U.S. and Coalition Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, 2001 – 2011 (June 1)

Country Dead Wounded Total
Afghanistan 2,489 11,541 14,030
Iraq 4,773 32,102 36,875
Total 7,262 43,643 50,905

Source:  CNN.com

Note:  There are two soldiers POW/MIA, one in each country.  Numbers slightly different from icasualties website:http://icasualties.org/.  For American casualties only, see DoD website:  http://www.defense.gov/news/casualty.pdf.  See also American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics (2010)http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf.

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