Remembering 9/11: PNAC in the Whitehouse

On the 15th Anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I have decided to publish an old article dated June 2003 from my LSJ journalism course, on the right-wing think tank PNAC, the positions they took in the W. Bush administration and the defence doctrine that unfolded post 9/11.


Members of right-wing think tank the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) now hold vital positions in the US administration, the National Security Council (NSC) and at one time have been running the CIA.

They are the policy makers, the defence planners and the advisors to President George W. Bush. The PNAC members list includes Vice President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Both have served under previous Bush and Reagan administrations.

One question needs to be asked, are they following the Rebuilding America’s Defences doctrine?

PNAC was established in spring 1997. Chairman William Kristol was Chief of Staff to Dan Quayle, Vice President to George H. W. Bush.

Other members include Governor of Florida Jeb Bush, NSC advisor Elliott Abrams – convicted for his role in the Iran-Contra affair – Special Afghanistan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, former Vice President and currently NSC advisor Dan Quayle, former CIA director James Woolsey and Chair of the Defence Policy Board Richard Perle.

The PNAC defence doctrine Rebuilding Americas Defences (RAD) was drafted and signed by the above in 1998, then released three weeks before George W. Bush entered the Whitehouse in 2000.

The 90 page document originated from the “Defence Policy Guidance” (DPG), which was written by the outgoing 1993 Bush senior defence department run by Cheney, specifically Paul Wolfowitz, who is now Rumsfeld’s deputy, and Lewis Libby, currently Cheney’s Chief of Staff. Both men are also prominent members of PNAC.

Despite admitting America has the strongest military in the world, RAD calls for massive increases in US forces and defence spending, to protect its expanding global interests independently.

The document states: “Maintaining or restoring a favourable order in vital regions in the world such as Europe, the Middle East and East Asia places a unique responsibility on US armed forces.”

An earlier section explained “favourable orders” as those that benefit and promote, “American principles and interests.”

The document goes on to list Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and North Korea as dangerous regimes hostile to those principles.

On the issue of nuclear weapons RAD states “global security and stability are maintained by an inexpensive nuclear arsenal.”

In May 2003, President Bush called for the 10,500 strong US nuclear arsenal to be doubled to 21,000, accumulating an extra 500 nuclear weapons every month.

PNAC says US forces to remain in North and Central Europe, to maintain an influence in the region, but much of the force in “old Europe” should be repositioned to permanent bases in Southeastern Europe.

On February 11 2003, Washington said it planned to “downgrade” the 100,000 strong US military force in Germany, and reposition them in Poland and Romania. Bulgaria was expecting its first arrival from the United States Air Force (USAF) that day.

RAD calls for permanent airbases in Southeast Europe and around the Black Sea.

A report on March 4 from camp Sarafovo, a USAF base at Burgas on the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea confirmed this is already under way. Further US bases are under construction at Constanta, Romania.

Bulgarian defence minister Nikolai Svinarov said Bulgaria expected four or five American military bases to be established in the country.

The document calls for USAF bases in England to be upgraded to handle B-2 bombers.

During the preparation for the Iraqi war, local observers  reported seeing B-2 bombers landing and taking off from Fairford in Gloucestershire. The UK Ministry of Defence denied this.

In the Middle East RAD says a permanent base should be established. The end of the war in Iraq saw a permanent base established in Qatar. Several weeks before the suicide bombings in Riyadh most of the 5,000 permanent Saudi based US personnel were moved to the Qatar base.

RAD estimates an extra $26 to $100 billion per year in defence spending is necessary to maintain US military preeminence.

The Bush 2003 defence budget was $350 billion, an extra $80 billion was added just for the war on Iraq. The US $400 billion defence budget for 2004 was passed.

In order for all this to happen PNAC says on Page 51 of RAD the transformation of US armed forces we a long one, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbour.”

Whether George W. Bush is following the RAD document or not is still disputed. Some political correspondents have said it is impossible for think tanks to force their policies on the American administration.

But think tanks influencing US policies have happened before. The Heritage foundation, funded by Coors beer, published a 3,000-page document called “Mandate for Leadership” at the end of the 1970s. This became the blueprint for the “Reagan Revolution” in 1980, calling for large cutbacks in social security, “trickle-down economics”, increased defence spending and the Star Wars defence program.

The list of named members signed to the Statement of Principles suggests PNAC no longer needs to force their ideals on government, as they are now the ones in those departments that create government policy.

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