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Glenn Greenwald: Is Obama Fulfilling the Neocon Dream of Mass Regime Change in Muslim World?

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Political blogger Glenn Greenwald recently wrote about retired General Wesley Clark’s recollection of an officer telling him in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks that the then-U.S. Secretary of Defense had issued a memo outlining a plan for regime change within five years in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. We play an excerpt of Clark’s comments and ask Greenwald to respond. “What struck me in listening to that video just a couple of days ago is that if you go down that list of seven countries that he said the neocons had planned to basically change the governments of, you pretty much see that that vision, despite the perception that we have a Democratic president and therefore the neoconservative movement is powerless, is pretty much being fulfilled,” Greenwald says. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, in your latest piece, you wrote about the Project for a New American Century, or PNAC, and started talking about neocon, neoconservative, foreign policy as it relates to the Obama administration. Explain.

GLENN GREENWALD: There was a speech that General Wesley Clark gave in 2007 to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, in which he recounted meetings that he had at the Pentagon with people with whom he had close relationships in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and he talked about how, as he had done before, that he was told within a week or two after 9/11 that the Pentagon intended to attack Iraq, even though no one thought that they were involved in the 9/11 attack. And he described an incident where he went back to the Pentagon a few weeks after he was told this, in October or November of 2001, and he asked his source, “Well, it looks like we’re going to attack Afghanistan. You told me we were going to attack Iraq. Are we still going to attack Iraq?” And the source told him, “Oh, General, it’s actually much worse than this.” The—



AMY GOODMAN: Glenn, we’re actually going to play the clip of Wesley Clark.

GLENN GREENWALD: OK, yeah, good. OK, good.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: What happened in 9/11 is we didn’t have a strategy, we didn’t have bipartisan agreement, we didn’t have American understanding of it. And we had, instead, a policy coup in this country. A coup, a policy coup. Some hard-nosed people took over the direction of American policy, and they never bothered to inform the rest of us.

I went through the Pentagon 10 days after 9/11. I couldn’t stay away from Mother Army. I went back there to see Don Rumsfeld. I had worked for him as a White House fellow in the 1970s. All this is in the book. And I said, “Am I doing OK on CNN?” He said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, fine.” He said, “I’m thinking about” — he says, “I read your book.” And he said—this is a book that talks about the Kosovo campaign. And he said, “I just want to tell you,” he said, “nobody’s going to tell us where or when we can bomb. Nobody.” He said, “I’m thinking of calling this a floating coalition. What do you think about that?” I said, “Well, sir, thanks for reading my book. And, well” — he said, “Thanks, that’s all the time I’ve got.” Really.

And I went downstairs. I was leaving the Pentagon, and an officer from the joint staff called me into his office and said, “I want you to know,” he said. “Sir, we’re going to attack Iraq.” And I said, “Why?” He said, “We don’t know.” He said—I said, “Well, did they tie Saddam to 9/11?” He said, “No.” He said, “But I guess it’s they don’t know what to do about terrorism, and so they think—but they can attack states, and they want to look strong. And so, I guess they think if they take down a state, it will intimidate the terrorists. And, you know, it’s like that old saying,” he said, “if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem has to be a nail.” Well, I walked out of there pretty upset.

And then we attacked Afghanistan. I was pretty happy about that. We should have. And then I came back to the Pentagon about six weeks later. I saw the same officer. I said, “Why—why haven’t we attacked Iraq? We still going to attack Iraq?” He said, “Oh, sir,” he says, “it’s worse than that.” He said—he pulled up a piece of paper off his desk. He said, “I just got this memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office. It says we’re going to attack and destroy the governments in seven countries in five years. We’re going to start with Iraq, and then we’re going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.”

AMY GOODMAN: That was General Wesley Clark. Glenn Greenwald, the significance of what he said?

GLENN GREENWALD: So that seems like a fairly radical plan. And he’s talking about what he calls this neocon cabal that had implemented this extremist, militaristic vision, justified on the basis of 9/11. He actually goes on to describe how Paul Wolfowitz, 10 years earlier, was talking about these things well before 9/11.

But what struck me in listening to that video just a couple of days ago is that if you go down that list of seven countries that he said the neocons had planned to basically change the governments of, you pretty much see that that vision, despite the perception that we have a Democratic president and therefore the neoconservative movement is powerless, is pretty much being fulfilled. I mean, the governments of Iraq and Libya and Lebanon, three of those countries, have been changed, including Libya this year by military force. You then look at Somalia and Sudan, where the Obama administration in Somalia has, according to the Washington Post, just this weekend massively escalated its proxy fighting and drone attacks. We’re involved in trying to subvert and control Somalia in all sorts of ways. We have a modest deployment to the south part of Sudan. But that’s another country where we’re now militarily active and trying to control. And then the most important countries on that list, Iran and Syria, are clearly the target of all sorts of covert regime change efforts on the part of the United States and Israel. That is clearly the goal that the United States government has adopted for itself, is to get rid of the Iranian mullahs and the Assad regime in Syria. And so, if you look at what Clark described in a way that he intended to be very frightening and extremist that the neocons wanted to do in these seven countries, it seems pretty clear to me that although we may not be doing it with as much of an overt war as the neocons would like, it’s just a slightly subtle, more subtle and different means of achieving the same end.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of the drone strikes and fitting it in with the Project for a New American Century, this—what’s happened in Pakistan now, Pakistan saying the U.S. has to clear out of a base that is believed to be being used by the United States to launch drone strikes, but drone strikes not only in Pakistan?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, this is—this is what’s so amazing to me, is if you go and look back at what the Congress did in the wake of 9/11, when it enacted the authorization to use military force, if you look at that authorization, it’s incredibly narrow, as it turns out. If you go and actually read it, it says the president is authorized to use military force against those who perpetrated the 9/11 attack and those countries who harbor those individuals. That’s it. That’s the only authorized use of military force.

Well, here we are, more than a decade later, and there was an article in the Washington Post from a week ago where U.S. officials anonymously are saying that, in essence, al-Qaeda, the group that perpetrated the 9/11 attack, according to the government, is now dead. There’s only two leaders left, they say, in that entire region. It’s already rendered, quote, “effectively inoperable.” There is no more al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan or Pakistan, according to the U.S. government. The group that perpetrated 9/11, according to it, is no longer even existing. And yet, here we are engaged in extraordinarily broad military efforts constantly escalating in numerous parts of the world. There are six different countries in which the U.S. is actively using drones—in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Yemen—against groups that didn’t even exist at the time that 9/11 was perpetrated.

And constantly, what you find is we are killing all sorts of civilians. There was just a story, a horrible story from four days ago, where a U.S. air strike in Afghanistan slaughtered an entire family of children, six children between the ages of four and 12. And what we’re doing, in essence, is not only going way beyond what we were supposed to be doing when the Congress authorized military forces, what we’re really doing is we’re constantly manufacturing the causes of our war. Everywhere we go, every time we kill Pakistani troops or kill children in Yemen or in Afghanistan, we’re generating more and more anti-American sentiment and violence, and therefore guaranteeing that we will always have more and more people to fight.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Glenn Greenwald, constitutional law attorney, a political, legal blogger for When we come back, Glenn, we want to ask you about WikiLeaks winning the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. This is in Australia. Stay with us.

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