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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Domestic and foreign policies of the Bush administration

Shane Quinn talks about the policies of President George W. Bush earlier this century. He has examined the Bush administration's passing of laws that granted the president very expansive powers, as he pursued his self-declared war against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq.

On 25 October 2001, less than 3 weeks after the United States launched a military offensive in Afghanistan, a very large majority in the US Congress passed the Patriot Act, which was promptly signed into law by President George W. Bush. This radically reshaped America’s domestic legal structure.

The Patriot Act enlarged the powers of the state for increased surveillance of its own citizens, to be conducted through the National Security Agency (NSA), an intelligence apparatus of the US Department of Defense. The Patriot Act formulated the new crime in America of “domestic terrorism”, and in such an expansive fashion that it could be used against various perceived civil misdemeanors.

The Pentagon, whose base of operations had centered on the military, was now focusing somewhat on internal issues in the American political system which was an infringement of US law, violating the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act. This legislation forbids the US Armed Forces from interfering with domestic political activities unless the military has authorization from the US Congress.

Read more: Continuity between the Bush and Obama administrations?

Understanding the matter better

On 17 September 2002, President Bush announced the National Security Strategy of the United States. He declared that the “war on terror” could not be won by defensive methods and that the US reserved the right to wage pre-emptive (or preventive) wars unilaterally. President Bush’s support of such actions had not been a recent phenomenon. Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, a prominent World War II German commander, wrote in his memoirs in 1946 that against the USSR the Wehrmacht from 1941 had launched “the preventive war which alone would suffice to halt the Bolshevik steamroller in its tracks before Europe had succumbed to it”. Keitel maintained further that the USSR had made “preparations to attack us”.

Keitel’s claims are not true. Soviet Russia was not planning an invasion of Nazi Germany in 1941. The Soviet leader Joseph Stalin hoped, in reality, to delay war with the Third Reich for as long as necessary. Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, recalled how Stalin had strongly hinted, shortly after the Fall of France in June 1940, that he wanted to put off war with the Germans until 1943 if possible, in order to give the Russians more breathing space. Stalin was aware that a conflict with Nazi Germany was inevitable and entailed much risk. In the early 1940s, the Soviet Union and the Third Reich were the two strongest military powers in the world.

As Keitel indirectly referred to, the Soviet Army was lavishly equipped with weaponry, a rearmament policy that Moscow had pursued because of the fear of war being unleashed on Soviet Russia, not only by the Germans; the Russians suspected too that the Western states would at best remain neutral during a Nazi invasion of Russia or even participate in it alongside Germany. Indeed, European nations like Spain, Italy, Romania and Croatia each sent military contingents to fight with the Nazis against Russia.

Insignificant quantities of American Lend-Lease aid were shipped to Russia in 1941, as the Red Army that year prevented the Germans from capturing Moscow and Leningrad, Soviet Russia’s largest cities. US military hardware started to appear in greater amounts in Russia in 1942 after the Red Army had overcome the worst of the Nazi onslaught.

There were gaps in 1942, primarily during the autumn and early winter periods, when the US military assistance to Russia was reduced, which prompted renewed suspicions in Moscow. During 3 and a half month period in 1942, when the fighting was raging in the Caucasus and Stalingrad, less than 40 ships carrying Lend-Lease cargo entered the Russian ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. This suggests the Americans were never entirely comfortable in their alliance with Russia. Moreover, some of the US military equipment sent to Russia was of questionable quality, like the P-40 fighter aircraft.

Read more: Did 9/11 attacks halt Bush’s plan of invasion in Afghanistan?

President Bush claimed in September 2002 that his administration was intent on “fighting terrorists and tyrants” wherever needed, which could only be achieved through military force. On 19 March 2003 the Bush White House, with the firm backing of the Tony Blair government in London, sent the US Air Force to bomb Baghdad, and the following day a large-scale ground assault on Iraq began. Washington ordered that Saddam Hussein and his sons, Uday and Qusay, surrender and leave Iraq within 2 days. The Anglo-American military intervention was initiated without the support of their key NATO allies, France and Germany, or the UN Security Council.

On 29 September 2006, following approval by the House of Representatives, the US Senate ratified the Military Commissions Act (MCA) by 65 votes against 35 as part of the war on terror; and president Bush then signed the MCA on 17 October 2006. It granted him unprecedented powers in the history of the US. Washington could deny the right to habeas corpus for US citizens detained as “unlawful enemy combatants”, and not merely for those partaking in combat but also for people who “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States”.

With the passing of the Military Commissions Act, those imprisoned in Afghanistan and sent to the Guantanamo Bay military prison could not appeal to the courts of justice in America. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said before that “technically unlawful combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention”.

The White House was bestowed with the power to detain indefinitely any American or foreign national, in the US and overseas, who was discovered in possession of material supporting activities against America; and the act sanctioned the use in prisons of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (ETI) relating to sleep and sensory deprivation, solitary confinement and forced medication.

US military personnel and CIA operatives were allowed to commit “enhanced interrogation techniques”, and the testimonies extracted under such circumstances were used in trials by military commissions. The Center for Constitutional Rights, headquartered in New York, felt the Military Commissions Act to be “a massive legislative assault on fundamental rights, including the right to habeas corpus – the right to challenge one’s detention in a court of law”.

Guantanamo received a number of prisoners under the age of 18. Erik R. Saar, a US Army sergeant who had been based at Guantanamo, wrote that he “had to wonder about the wisdom of keeping kids so young in a place like Gitmo [Guantanamo]”. In 2008 there were 21 prisoners at Guantanamo below the age of 18.

The White House’s response when criticized for breaches of human rights in places like Guantanamo, located on the shores of southeastern Cuba, is that since it is not officially part of the US, the area does not fall under the jurisdiction of America’s courts of justice or international law. The establishment of US control over Guantanamo, which is a major port area, has allowed Washington to evade responsibility for such policies. The CIA established other secret prisons in NATO states such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania, and in the Middle East and Asia.

Read more: The dilemma of old style bushwhacking in Pakistan

The Bush administration was advancing its military and political ambitions in the highly-prized Caucasus region. This led inevitably to rising tensions between Washington and Moscow. The US often ignored the Kremlin’s concerns regarding a region that is on Russia’s doorstep, and which president Vladimir Putin believes to be within his country’s sphere of interest, as the Caucasus has been historical.

President Bush sent 200 military advisers to Georgia, and Russian officials complained to Washington about the presence of US troops on Georgian soil. The US established NATO’s Partnership for Peace Program (NATO-PfP) relating to the ex-Soviet republics, and the US military had been conducting exercises in the former territories of the Soviet Union since 1997.

Yet Bush’s government was aware that other means were needed to reach their goals, rather than solely armed persuasion. Prominent on the international scene was the billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Institute, renamed Open Society Foundations in 2011. The policies of Soros and his Open Society groups are usually compatible with Washington.

Soros’ Open Society groups have funneled tens of millions of dollars into the former Soviet republics. In the autumn of 2003 alone, the Open Society poured at least $42 million into assisting the Rose Revolution in Georgia, which helped Mikheil Saakashvili to come to power in January 2004.

Soros was involved too in the Ukrainian Orange Revolution, which enabled the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko to become president of Kyiv in January 2005. The next month Yushchenko spoke of his desire to seek Ukrainian accession to NATO. Also assisting the above color revolutions were American and European organizations like USAID, the Poland-America-Ukraine Cooperation Initiative, Freedom House, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). These groups helped to sustain the electoral campaign of Yushchenko, which otherwise would probably have failed.

Read more: Bush, Clinton, Obama stand united to help Afghan refugees

The color revolutions drew some similarities with the Anglo-American-led 1953 putsch in Iran. Here, the British MI6 and CIA had funded demonstrations and other unrest in Tehran, in order to remove the Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and replace him with someone more pliant, the Shah as it turned out. Mosaddegh had put Iran’s oil reserves under state control.


Shane Quinn has contributed on a regular basis to Global Research for almost two years and has had articles published with American news outlets People’s World and MintPress News, Morning Star in Britain, and Venezuela’s Orinoco Tribune. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.