The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES” by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick from Chapter 13 “THE BUSH-CHENEY DEBACLE: “The Gates of Hell Are Open in Iraq” on page 543 and I quote: “When former CIA Director Robert Gates became secretary of defense in late 2006, generals were ensconced as director of the CIA, both undersecretary and deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, chief of the State Department’s counterterrorism operations, and head of CIA covert operations—all positions long held by civilians. Retired Admiral Mike McConnell replaced [John] Negroponte as DNI [director of national intelligence].
The pentagon also owned or leased over 75 percent of all federal buildings. And it ran a vast, far-flung network of over 700, by some counts over 1,000, bases in some 130 countries that spanned every continent but Antarctica, plus 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories. The Department of Defense Base Structure Report for FY 2008 stated, “The Department of Defense (DOD) remains one of the world’s largest ‘landlords’ with a physical plant consisting of more than 545,700 facilities (buildings, structures, and linear structures) located on more than 5.400 sites, on approximately 30 million acres.” Its thirteen naval task forces patrolled the oceans and seas. The American Enterprise Institute called for turning this network of overseas bases into a system of “frontier stockades,” housing a “global cavalry,” which, “like the cavalry of the old West, . . . is one part warrior and one part policeman.”
Douglas Feith outlined the new military posture: “We are performing the most thorough restructuring of U.S. military forces overseas since” 1953, he informed the House Armed Services Committee. “We want. . . greater flexibility for our forces, their ability to deploy powerful capabilities rapidly anywhere in the world where they are needed.” Feith regretted that September 11 had made the current posture obsolete. “Much of our current posture,” he testified, “still reflects the mentality and reality of the Cold War—forward deployed forces configured as defensive, tripwire units and expected to fight near where they were based.” But now those forces would be required to “project power into theaters that may be far from where they are based.” “The lessons of the last 15 years tell us,” he elaborated, “that we often are required to conduct military operations in places that were not predicted. . . . Our goal is to have forces deployed forward in such a way that they can quickly reach crisis spots as necessary in the future.” This would require a rethinking of current basing arrangements. He noted, for example, “our plans for our posture in Europe include lighter and more deployable ground capabilities, leading-edge air and naval power, advanced training facilities, and strengthened special operations forces, all positioned to deploy more rapidly to the Middle East and other hot spots.”
“The administration has instituted what some experts describe as the most militarized foreign policy machine in modern history,” wrote James Sterngold in the “San Francisco Chronicle.” “The policy has involved not just resorting to military action, or the threat of action, but constructing an arc of new facilities in such places as Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Qatar and Djibouti that the Pentagon calls ‘lily pads.’ They are seen not merely as a means of defending the host countries—the traditional Cold War role of such installations—but as jumping-off points for future ‘preventive wars’ and military missions.”
The United States was not only the world’s policeman, it was also the world’s arms supplier, often fueling the conflicts in which it ultimately intervened on “humanitarian” grounds. In 2008, it signed agreements to sell $37.8 billion in arms, representing over 68 percent of the world total. Italy came in second at $3.7 billion. Almost $30 billion of that total went to developing nations, which purchased over 79 percent of their arms from the United States.
It fell to none other than Zbigniew Brzezinski to accurately assess the toll taken on American democracy by Bush’s disastrous war on terrorism. Brzezinski was in a good position to know, having played a similar role in stirring up Cold War fears of the Soviet Union. He wrote in March 2007 that the so-called war on terror, by deliberately creating a “culture of fear,” had had a “pernicious impact on American democracy, on America’s psyche and on U.S. standing in the world.” The damage was “infinitely greater” than that inflicted on 9/11. He worried that the administration was exploiting public fear to justify war with Iran and contrasted the United States’ “five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror” with the “more muted reactions of’” other victims of terrorism, including Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Japan. He mocked Bush’s “justification for his war in Iraq” and his absurd claim “that he has to continue waging it lest al-Quaeda cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.” Bush’s fearmongering was reinforced by “terror entrepreneurs. . . experts on terrorism [whose] task is to convince the public that it faces new threats. That puts a premium on the presentation of credible scenarios of ever-more-horrifying acts of violence.” As a result, “America has become insecure and paranoid.” For proof, he pointed to Congress’s ever-growing list of potential targets across the United States for would-be terrorists. He also deplored the madness of proliferating “security checks,” “electronic billboards urging motorists to ‘Report Suspicious Activity’ (drivers in turbans?),” and television shows with “bearded ‘terrorists’ as the central villains” that “reinforce the sense of the unknown but lurking danger that . . . increasingly threaten[ed] the lives of all Americans.” Television and films had stereotyped Arabs, he regretted, “in a manner sadly reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns,” opening Arab American to harassment and abuse.
He noted the impact that the Bush administration’s appalling civil rights records had had on citizens at home and the grave damage the war on terror had done to the United States internationally. “For Muslims,” he wrote, “The similarity between the rough treatment of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military and of the Palestinians by the Israelis has prompted a widespread sense of hostility toward the United States in general.” He singled out “a recent BBC poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries” that ranked Israel, Iran, and the United States “as the states with ‘the most negative influence on the world.’ Alas, for some,” he emphasized, “that is the new axis of evil!”
Brzezinski concluded by asking “Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, ‘Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia’?” and urged that “even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.” As Brzezinski repeatedly made clear, terrorism was a tactic, not an ideology, and declaring war on a tactic made absolutely no sense.
Meanwhile, behind the ideological veil of free-market capitalism, the richest Americans continued to plunder the national wealth. Bush and Cheney did everything they could to facilitate the effort, knowing the consequences full well. Shortly before the 2000 presidential election, Bush joked with some of his wealthy followers, “This is an impressive crowd—the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite; I call you my base.”
Within months of taking office, Bush signed a bill cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans. He passed additional tax cuts in 2002 and 2003. Meanwhile, federal spending rose sharply, increasing 17 percent in his first term alone. Under Clinton, federal spending had increased by 11 percent in constant collars over two terms. By 2004, Bush had turned the$128 billion surplus he inherited into a $413 billion deficit. The “New York Times” reported that for Wall Street, the Bush years were the new Gilded Age. Bankers, the “Times” revealed, celebrated their obscene bonuses with five-figure dinners. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that between 1998 and 2005, two-thirds of American corporations, at least a quarter of which had assets in excess of $250 million, paid no income taxes. These years saw the sharpest rise in income inequality in the nation’s history. The 44.2 percent of the nation’s income that went to the top 10 percent in 2005 exceeded the 43.8 percent that had gone to the top 10 percent in 1929 and was a far cry from the 32.6 percent in 1975. In 2005, the richest 3 million had as much income as the bottom 166 million, who comprised more than half of the population. The ranks of American billionaires swelled from 13 in 1985 to more than 450 in 2008. Two hundred twenty-seven thousand people joined the ranks of millionaires in 2005 alone. But workers’ wages barely kept pace with inflation, and 36 million were below the poverty line. Almost all the new wealth created went directly to the top 10 percent of the population, with most going to the top one-tenth of 1 percent. In 2006, the twenty-five top U.S. hedge fund managers earned an average of $570 million each. In 2007, their average earnings jumped to $900 million.
The International Labour Organization reported that between 2003 and 2007, executives managers’ pay increased by 45 percent in real terms while that of the average executive grew by 15 percent and that of the average worker by only 3 percent. In 2003, executive managers in the top fifteen U.S. firms earned 300 times as much as the average American worker. By 2007, that number was up to more than 500 times.
Bush cut the top tax rates on income, on capital gains, which were mostly stock profits, and on dividends, which typically fell from 39.6 percent to 15 percent. The 36 percent marginal tax rate on the richest Americans was the lowest it had been in over eighty years and a far cry from the 91 percent under Eisenhower. But few hedge fund or private equity managers paid the 36 percent rate. Treating their earnings as capital gains, they paid at an average rate of 17 percent. The situation got so bad that billionaires, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, publicly decried the “inequality gap.” Buffett, the third richest man in the world, noted that he was taxed at 17.7 percent on his taxable income while his secretary was taxed at 30 percent of hers. Estate taxes, which only the top 2 percent paid, had also been slashed.
Meanwhile, the minimum wage stagnated at $5.15 an hour from 1997 to 2007. In 2007, at the other end of the scale, some 2 million U.S. households were worth between $10 million and $100 million and thousands were worth more than that amount.
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao was the most openly antilabor occupant of that office in more than a hundred years. She effectively dismantled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Unions were put under unprecedented scrutiny by the Department of Labor agents, while employers were allowed to flout regulations with impunity. As a result, union membership plummeted to record lows, as barely 12 percent of the workforce was represented at the end of the Bush presidency, most of whom were government workers.
Global inequality was even more extreme. A December 2006 report by economists in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Finland found that the richest 1 percent owned 40 percent of global wealth and the top 10 percent owned 85 percent, while the poorest 50 percent struggled to survive with only 1 percent. Per capita wealth ranged, in 2000, from $180,837 in Japan and $143,727 in the United States to $1,100 in India and $180 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. By 2008, the net worth of the world’s richest 1,100 people—its billionaires—was approximately double that of the poorest 2.5 billion people. Some analysts estimated that the world’s richest 300 people had more wealth than the poorest 3 billion.
Despite the wildly erroneous perceptions of the American people, U.S. foreign aid was doing little to rectify this situation. In fact, according to the OECD, U.S. development aid in 2008 totaled less than .2 percent of gross domestic product, the lowest among twenty-two advanced industrial nations, which averaged .47 percent. Sweden gave at more than five times the rate the United Stated did, with Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands not far behind. Even Ireland gave at more than three times the U.S. rate.
During Bush’s tenure, administration officials and their allies on Wall Street and conservative groups like the American Enterprise Institute sang the praises of unregulated financial markets, which they trusted to generate economic abundance and private fortunes. They turned a blind eye to financial shenanigans and unbridled speculation as the national debt skyrocketed from $5.7 trillion at the end of the Clinton administration to over $10 trillion by the time Bush left office.
Economic conditions declined precipitously with the downturn that began in December 2007. Income and wealth plummeted and poverty registered a sharp increase. Harvard economist Lawrence Katz put the situation succinctly when he stated, “For the typical American family, the 2000s have been a disaster.” Even before the collapse of 2008, the Bush years had produced the lowest jobs and income growth in the postwar period.
By late 2009, over 40 million Americans were living in poverty. In 1988, 26 percent of Americans told Gallup pollsters that the country was divided between haves and have-nots, with 59 percent identifying themselves as haves and only 17 percent as have-nots. When Pew asked that same question in the summer of 2007, 48 percent responded that the country was so divided, with 45 percent considering themselves haves and 34 percent have-nots.
The United States had become a plutocracy with almost a quarter of income going to the top 1 percent and the richest one-tenth of 1 percent earning as much as the poorest 120 million. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich identified the new plutocrats: “With the exception of a few entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, they’re top executives of big corporations and Wall Street, hedge-fund managers, and private equity managers.”
By November 2008, it was clear to most Americans that Bush-Cheney foreign and domestic policies had been an unmitigated disaster. A CBS News/”New York Times” poll placed Bush’s final approval rating at 22 percent, down from 90 percent following the 9/11 attack. Cheney’s stood at an abysmal 13 percent.
Americans hungered for a change. They were fed up with the United States’ wars, tired of runaway defense spending, concerned about assaults on constitutional rights, angry over policies that favored the very wealthy, and worried about the deepening economic collapse. But few people realized how powerful the beneficiaries of the United States’ military-industrial complex and national security state had become and how fiercely they would resist any challenge to their rule. They would soon find out the hard way.”
(AFTER BUSH-CHENEY INVADED IRAQ, MAINLY FOR THE HUGE AMOUNTS OF OIL THEY HAD, HE ALSO REDUCED THE INCOME TAX ON THE WEALTHIEST PEOPLE IN IRAQ, CREATING A HUGE UNREST BETWEEN THE TWO CLASSES OF PEOPLE. HE PRIVATIZED THE STATE ENTERPRISES AND THEY COULD BE 100 PERCENT FOREIGN OWNED AND THEY COULD TAKE THEIR PROFITS OUT OF IRAQ. ALSO, HE PRIVATIZED THE BANKS. SO, WHILE HE WAS RAPING IRAQ, LIKE HE WAS DOING IN THE UNITED STATES, THE ONLY PEOPLE BENEFITING, WERE THE SUPER RICHEST 1 PERCENT, WHO WERE BILLIONAIRES AND THAT BATTLE IS CONTINUING RIGHT TODAY IN THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY, WHERE THE RICH BILLIONAIRE KOCH BROTHERS ARE FINANCING FIVE CANDIDATES TO BEAT THE BILLIONAIRE DONALD TRUMP FOR THE NOMINATION OF THEIR PARTY IN THE 2016 ELECTION. I’M SURE GLAD THEY WILL HAVE A DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE THEY WILL AVE TO SQUARE OFF AGAINST IN 2016. AFTER READING THIS BOOK, IT’S GOING TO BE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE FOR JEB BUSH TO DEFEND HIS BROTHER IN THE 2016 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES.
LaVern Isely, Progressive, Overtaxed, Independent Middle Class Taxpayer and Public Citizen and AARP Members