Splits in the powers that be on Iraq

I never thought I’d agree with Zbigniew Brzezinski on much of anything. (For those who may not remember, he was Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser and a leading cold war ideologue.)

But consider this recent exchange between CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Brzezinski. Blitzer was interviewing Henry Kissinger and Brzezinski on the crisis over Bush’s State of the Union speech. Kissinger basically did a mealy-mouthed apology and tortured defense of Bush and Company. On the other hand:

Brzezinski: “And the larger problem is that the United States stated, at the highest level, repeatedly, without any qualification whatsoever, that Iraq was armed with weapons of mass destruction. Not just nuclear, but bacteriological and chemical. And that was stated without any ambiguity. In fact, it was hyped. It was stated that Iraq is armed with the most dangerous weapons that man has ever devised.

“And that’s why we went to war. This is what we said to the world. This is what we said to the American people.”

Blitzer: “Well, do you have any doubt about that?”

Brzezinski: “Well, it’s clear that they weren’t armed with these weapons. They didn’t use them. We defeated their army in the field. We have control over their arsenals. We haven’t found them. We’re now maintaining that they may be hidden somewhere, which is kind of comical, actually.”

A few seconds later Brzezinski, speaking about the need to resolve the question of whether it was an intelligence failure or hyping by the Bush administration, said, “I think the credibility of our system, domestically and internationally, depends on that issue being resolved.”

That statement highlights the differences between Kissinger and Brzezinski. There is a growing divide in the political and corporate establishments and in the military about the war and occupation of Iraq – what Marxist shorthand pegs as “splits in the ruling class.”

Kissinger (in Republican administrations) and Brzezinski (in Democratic administrations) are both hardened cold warriors. Both have spent years fashioning and leading foreign policy for the benefit of U.S. corporate, financial and military interests. Both remain ardent supporters of U.S. imperialism and global domination. Yet they are seriously divided on how best to achieve their goals.

Kissinger, in full support of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war, takes the “might makes right” approach of the ultra-right wing. This approach disdains world and domestic opinion and arrogantly advocates naked military might to achieve its ends.

Brzezinski and some others in the establishment question a “go it alone” approach, mainly for practical reasons, because it won’t work. For example, they questioned the Bush administration’s projections for a post-war Iraq. They feared that the U.S. military would be spread too thin and that installing a new “U.S.-friendly” government would be a long and difficult matter.

It’s true, neither trend questions that the U.S. should “plant the flag” of power and control in the Mideast and, as icing on the cake, establish control over one of the world’s largest oil reserves. Neither side seriously questions the “right” of U.S. imperialism to police the world, topple governments, and develop and use the most dangerous weapons of mass destruction known to humankind.

Still, there are two things about this split that are important for the working class and people. First, this tactical struggle in the political and military establishments is not isolated from mass pressure and public opinion. It was the massive peace movement that forced this split in the ruling class into the open in the first place.

Second, the split opens all kinds of possibilities. The exposure of the hyping and lying in Bush’s State of the Union speech has opened up a crack that, with continued mass pressure, can defeat George Bush in 2004. Now even conservative commentators and some Republicans in Congress are questioning the truthfulness of other claims by the Bush/Cheney hawks, and the White House is clearly in disarray.

Watergate was an issue for many months before it finally drove Richard Nixon out of office. At first many dismissed the Watergate spying by saying “they all do it.” But the American people, concerned about ending the war in Vietnam, the abuses of domestic spying and attacks on civil liberties, and the corporate attack on living standards and economic justice, turned the Watergate scandal into a mass movement to defeat the ultra-right, and they won. We can do the same.



Scott Marshall is a vice-chair of the Communist Party USA and chair of its Labor Commission. He can be reached at scott@rednet.org