OPINION

Hawkish vision of ‘messianic’ US fades

The United States found itself at a critical crossroads after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. One option was to police al-Qaida in Afghanistan and elsewhere while also implementing an enlightened foreign policy that would tackle the deeper reasons behind the popularity of terrorism in poor Muslim neighborhoods. The desired result of this would be to solve the Palestinian problem and challenge the image of an America dependent upon Israel. The other option the US faced on the morning after the September 11 attacks was the road to Baghdad, which is what President George W. Bush finally decided to take. Without a doubt, this decision was disastrous, provoking an unprecedented and tragic fiasco. The scourge of terrorism was not effaced; Iraq is still in chaos; Iran has become increasingly powerful and, in his wildest dreams, Osama bin Laden could not find better excuses to recruit fresh mujahedeen fighters. Behind this entire fiasco was a posse of «hawks» led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. On the basis of a messianic conviction that an invasion of Iraq would propagate Western democracy, as if by magic, across the entire Middle East, they convinced President Bush to move into Baghdad. They even convinced him that he would receive a warm reception from millions of Iraqis. Meanwhile, experts and officials of the CIA and Pentagon warned that the Neoconservatives were living in some kind of virtual reality. Actually, Cheney and Rumsfeld had created their own separate secret service within the Pentagon and were thrashing then secretary of state Colin Powell in a bureaucratic tug of war before imposing their own view. And Bush the Younger, perhaps in a concerted effort to oppose his father, listened to Rumsfeld, a sworn enemy of Bush Senior. Ignoring the advice of experienced military officials, Rumsfeld drafted the worst conceivable plan for a country’s invasion and reconstruction. And this Neoconservative whirlwind succeeded in alienating America worldwide and diffusing the incredible wave of sympathy for the US created after the 2001 attacks. At least, with Rumsfeld’s resignation, the extremely dangerous notion of America’s messianic role has been relegated to the history books.