“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” Robert Browning.
After the attacks on the morning of September 11, 2001, U.S. President Bush’s mentors didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. They were looking for a provocation that would justify implementation of their plan but this was beyond their wildest visions.
The first highjacked plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York at 8:45 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The second tower was hit twenty minutes after that, and the third hit the Pentagon an hour later.
Soon after the initial attacks, President Bush took off in his jet from Sarasota, Florida. He needed time to let it sink in. High in the stratosphere, he struggled with mixed feelings of horror and guilt. The president had been told of such attacks only a month earlier. On August 6, intelligence briefings had warned him of al Qaida plans and he had done nothing.
On the ground below, the twin towers collapsed into a hellish inferno, a fourth highjacked plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, the White House had been evacuated, and a nervous nation wondered where their president was. What would he tell the people?
Three hours the president’ realized that this was no time for admissions of guilt. He landed in Louisiana and hurried to an underground bunker air force base to tape a TV message. On the little screen he looked pale and shaken as he said “Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.”
A few hours later the president was flown to another fortified location at the Strategic Air Command headquarters in Nebraska where he consulted his mentors. What to do? He didn’t need to think for long. The plan had already been drafted years ago by the hawks in his father’s presidency, including vice president Dick Cheney.
The plan’s four installments were recently declassified under the title of Defense Strategy for the 1990’s, or the Plan for short. “The Plan is for the United States to rule the world,” writes David Armstrong in his article, Dick Cheney’s Song of America (Harper’s Magazine, October, 2002).
When peace broke out in 1990 after the fall of the Soviet Empire there was a real threat to U.S. military. Doves and peaceniks wanted a reduction in military spending. Cheney saw this threat to his dream of military conquest of the world. And he didn’t like the competition from his so-called friends. A strong European Union and the rise of the Asian tigers threatened U.S. world commercial dominance.
Cheney’s plan called for continued military spending against unspecified threats – – he couldn’t suggest war against his allies. To the question “what threat,” Cheney was unwilling to say. The Plan’s audacious goal of world domination would have offended the sensibilities of the most Americans.
Its co-author, Colin Powell, called on the U.S. to be the “biggest bully on the block.” It called for world supremacy through force; invasion of Iraq to destabilize European oil interests; demonization of North Korea to destabilize Asia and counter efforts to reunite the Koreas, giving a reason for continued U.S. military occupation.
What Cheney needed some horrible event to galvanize public. He needed “some catastrophic and catalyzing event-like a new Pearl Harbor,” as the president’s brother, Jeb Bush, had suggested.
The Plan grew more credible with each passing hour. The president rehearsed the answers. Could he convince Americans that an attack on Afghanistan was justifiable, despite evidence that al Qaida had left and spread around the globe? Easy. Could he sell the idea that, while they were in Afghanistan, they might as well invade Iraq and toss out Saddam Hussein and his fictional weapons of mass destruction? No problem. Could he convince Americans that Iran and North Korea were the next targets because they were part of some unsubstantiated “axis of evil”, despite no logical connection between the countries? He could.
Today, Bush’s Pearl Harbor had been delivered to him. He had the right stuff to be the chief bully of the baddest army in the world. When the president returned to Washington at 7 p.m. on September 11, he was ready to rumble. World domination was within his reach.