WASHINGTON: As the war begins in Afghanistan, so does the assault on the White House - to win. the ear and signed orders of the military’s commander in chief President George W Bush - for what Pentagon hawks call "Operation Infinite War". It is a sinister reworking of the original codename for the mobilisation against the Taliban, "Operation Infinite Justice", that had to be changed because it offended lslam, which holds that this is something only Allah and not B-52 bombers can dispense.
The Observer has learnt that two detailed proposals for warfare without limit were presented to the president last week by his Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, both of which were temporarily put aside, but remain on hold. They were drawn up by’ his deputy, Paul Wolf6witz - a highly intellectual right-winger who rose through State Department and Pentagon ranks under Ronald Reagan to become one of the chief architects of the 1991 Gulf War.
Drafted with a small coterie of loyal aides, mainly civilian political appointees at the Pentagon, the plans argue for open-ended war without constraint either of time or geography, and potentially engulfing the entire Middle East and central Asia. The proposals have opened up an abyss in the Bush administration as they run counter to plans carefully laid by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has had the upper hand against the Pentagon for the first three weeks since the disaster, but is starting to lose his commanding position within the Oval Office.
The Pentagon notion starts with the basic proposal that the US should begin its war on terrorism in Afghanistan as it has, along with British troops, been using special operations units to scout out targets, ready to pinpoint them with lasers when the bombers fly over. The dominant thinking in the administration over the past week is that the plot to attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon spread well beyond Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden into what AttorneyGeneral John Ashcroft last Friday night called "a series of individuals and a series of networks around the world".
Senior Pentagon officials believe that such a diagnosis demands a military response to match. "This is the green light to do away with fundamentalist terrorism worldwide, for good," said one on Friday. The plans put before the president during the past week involve expanding the war beyond Afghanistan to include similar incursions by special operations forces, followed by air strikes by the bombers they would guide into Iraq, Syria and the Beqaa Valley area of Lebanon, where the Syrian-backed Hizbollah fighters that harass Israel are based.
Powell’s argument -backed by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice-is that such a campaign would be disastrous, isolating the United States and breaking up the coalition he has carefully built, making more than 80 calls to heads of foreign governments since the attacks on Sept 11. But the Pentagon militants prefer to speak of "revolving alliances" that look like a Venn diagram, with an overlapping centre and only certain countries coming within the US orbit for different sectors and periods of an unending war.
The only countries in the middle of the diagrammatic rose - where all the circles overlap - are the US, Britain and Turkey Officials say that in a war without precedent, the rules have to be made up as it develops, and that the so-called "Powell Doctrine" arguing that there should be no military intervention without "clear and achievable" political goals is "irrelevant". Ironically, The Observer has learnt that the Pentagon hawks’ principal obstacles apart from Powell, is the military itself, much of which remains loyal to the view of its erstwhile chief Powell that "American GIs are not pawns on some global game board".
Officials speak of - bitter arguments last week between Bush’s political appointees and the generals and officer class who hold a deep distaste for front-line action. While happy to support operations in Afghanistan, military sources say the US risks being dragged into a quagmire of wars far deeper than Bosnia or Kosovo if it begins to strike in Iraq, Syria or Lebanon. The final arbiter between the Pentagon and Powell camps is likely to be Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cheney is traditionally an enemy of Powell and a close ally of Rumsfeld and Wolfiowitz, but has been said to be moving closer to the Secretary of State’s views on the road to war. The Observer’s sources, however, indicate the reverse - that Cheney will remain with his friends and support an expansion of the war beyond Afghanistan. The driving force behind the influential hardline is an axis of old-time hawks gathered around an erstwhile colleague of Wolfowitz at the Pentagon - Richard Perle.
Perle has declined various offers to join the Bush administration, but acts as an influential adviser in his role as chairman of the Advisory Defence Policy Board. Perle and Rumsfeld also head a think-tank called "Project for the New American Century", which sent a letter to Bush laying out the Pentagon’s position and urging the removal of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein as a precondition to the upcoming war.
"Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war against terrorism," it said. In a straightforward swipe at Powell, it continues: "Coalition building has run amok. The point about a coalition is ‘can it achieve the right purpose?’ not ‘can you get a lot of members?’" Bush said of his foreign policy team: "There are going to be disagreements, I hope there is disagreement."
But the bitter divisions in Washington are longstanding. Wolfowitz and Powell first disagreed over military intervention in the Gulf War, which Powell initially opposed. They also held opposing views on the Shi’ite rebellion against Saddam Hussein that followed in its wake. Powell refused to support it while Wolfowitz saw it as an opportunity.
They next clashed over the Balkans - while Powell used his full influence to forestall US military intervention in Bosnia, Wolfowitz was one of the first senior politicians to advocate it. Feelings are no friendlier between Powell and Cheney, with matters coming to a head over Ruinsfeld’s appointment to the Pentagon. After being appointed to office earlier this year, Powell set about installing his candidate for defence secretary, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who Bush has put at the head of the new Office for Homeland Security
Cheney, who effectively chose the cabinet, vetoed Ridge and nominated his old mentor from the days of the Ford administration - Rumsfeld. Then together, they chose Wolfowitz, who had rocketed through the ranks of the Reagan and Bush Senior administrations. There was an ironic twist.
Also brought into the inner circle was Zalmay Khalizad, an Afghan and Reagan veteran whose speciality was championing armed insurgencies. Khalizad was one of the early supporters of Bosnia’s Muslims and had made his name managing the Reagan administration’s backing for the mujahidin and Osama against the Red Army in Afghanistan. That was the time the then Pakistani head of state, Benazir Bhutto, had warned Reagan about Osama: "You are creating a Frankenstein." – The Observer. – Dipetik daripada The Sun, 3 Oktober 2001.