Hijacking Catastrophe

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After the attacks of 9/11, the Bush administration entered into a
“war on terrorism” that
seemed to have little
regard for the facts at
hand and consequently
little concern for justice.
Compendia of the “lies” that led to the
occupation of Iraq are now commonplace.
It is easy to cynically conclude that
American foreign policy is fully under
the control of war profiteers. The neocon
s erva tives see i t qu i te differen t ly,
however, and consider the administration
to be acting out of patriotic motives
and in the best interest of the United
States.The documentary“Hijacking Cata
s troph e : 9 / 1 1 , Fear & the Selling of
American Empire” explores neo-conserva
tive influ en ces on Am erican po l i c y.
The disintegra ti on of the Sovi et
Union was seen as a unique opportunity
by a small group of neo-conservatives
who are now a part of the Bush administration.
In 1992, a member of this group
named Paul Wolfowitz wrote that the
United States should take advantage of
its position as an unopposed superpower
to preemptively secure “access to vital
materials, particularly Persian Gulf oil.”
An opponent of the ideas in this internal
Department of Defense document leaked
it to the New York Times, sparking considerable
debate. The use of preemptive
military force, which is now known as
the Wolfowitz doctrine, was not acceptable
to most Americans at the time, and
the neo-conservatives knew that it would
take an event like Pearl Harbor to allow
them to attempt to justify such aggression.
The attacks of 9/11 provided exactly
such an event.
TheWo l fowitz doctrine was ef fectively
m ade policy by the Na ti onal Sec u ri ty
S tra tegy issu ed by
the Bush ad m i n i stra
ti on in 2002.
This doc u m en t
a r g u ed for preem
ptive war
a gainst Iraq based
on Ira q’s intent to
use we a pons of
mass de s tru cti on
a gainst the Un i ted
S t a te s . However, i t
is now evi den t
that Iraq repres
en ted no thre a t
to the sec u ri ty of
the Un i ted State s .
Th ere was no rel ia
ble evi den ce
before the invas
i on that we a pon s
of mass de s tru cti
on would be
fo u n d , and none were fo u n d .What is perhaps
not evi dent is that the neo – con s erva
tive agenda for Iraq is being carri ed out
to com p l eti on . It is this divers i on from
f i gh ting terrorism to prom o ting neo – cons
erva tive aims that is referred to as a
h ijack i n g.
The “ Hijacking Ca t a s troph e” DV D
contains a number of interviews in addition
to the documentary, including one
of Shadia Drury discussing Leo Strauss.
After fleeing Nazi Germany, Strauss spent
much time trying to understand why the
Weimar Republic was powerless to prevent
the rise of the
Nazis. He concluded
that ord i n a ry
people were not
adequately capable
of voting in their
own best interest,
and that democracy
itself caused the
rise of the Na z i s .
Over 200 years of
dem oc racy in the
Un i ted State s
argues otherwi s e ,
and Stra u s s’s su rprising
would be of little
interest were it not
for the fact that the
n eo – con s erva tive s
in the Bush administration
are heavily
influ en ced by
Straussian ideas. Strauss was, in fact, one
of Paul Wolfowitz’s teachers at the University
of Chicago.
Borrowing from Plato, Strauss taught
that government policy was best determined
by the wisest members of society,
and that noble lies were sometimes necessary
in cases where ordinary people
could not understand their best interests.
Was the claim that Iraq threatened the
Un i ted States with we a pons of m a s s
destruction an honest mistake, or was it
seen as such a noble lie? Is the noble lie
acceptable in American democracy, or
does it destroy democracy? Is the control
of Persian Gulf oil by preemptive military
action really in the self-interest of
ordinary Americans? Although the United
States currently has a fairly free hand
in the use of military force, it is not free
to escape the consequences of doing the
wrong thing. This documentary makes
an important contribution to the ongoing
debate of these issues.
“Hijacking Catastrophe” is available
from the Media Education Foundation at
w w w. m ed i aed . or g. The 2002 Na ti on a l
Sec u ri ty Stra tegy is ava i l a ble at
w w w. wh i teh o u s e . gov / n s c / n s s . p d f ( or
nss.html). Shadia Drury is the author of
two books on Leo Strauss: “The Political
Ideas of Leo Strauss” and “Leo Strauss
and the Am erican Ri gh t”. Ad d i ti on a l
i n form a ti on on the neo – con s erva tive s
may be found in the July 2003 Vanity Fair
article “Bush’s Brain Trust.” In it, Wolfowitz
states that the linking of Strauss’s
ideas to American policy in Iraq is “a
product of fevered minds”. Drury makes
a strong case to the contrary, while being
careful to point out that there is much to
admire in Strauss’s work beyond the few
ideas of interest to the neo-conservatives.

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