What if there really was no need for much - or even most - of the Cold War? What if, in fact, the Cold War had been kept alive for two decades based on phony WMD threats?
What if, similarly, the War On Terror was largely a scam, and the administration was hyping it to seem larger-than-life? What if our "enemy" represented a real but relatively small threat posed by rogue and criminal groups well outside the mainstream of Islam? What if that hype was done largely to enhance the power, electability, and stature of George W. Bush and Tony Blair?
And what if the world was to discover the most shocking dimensions of these twin deceits - that the same men promulgated them in the 1970s and today?
From: The BBC's three part series: The Power of Nightmares, the full series transcript is found here.
HENRY KISSINGER, Interviewed 1975: I believe that with all the dislocations we know—now experience, there also exists an extraordinary opportunity to form, for the first time in history, a truly global society, carried by the principle of interdependence. And if we act wisely and with vision, I think we can look back to all this turmoil as the birth pangs of a more creative and better system.
VOICE OVER: Kissinger had begun this process in 1972, when he persuaded the Soviet Union to sign a treaty with America limiting nuclear arms. It was the start of what was called “détente.” And President Nixon returned to Washington to announce triumphantly that the age of fear was over.
PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON, June 1, 1972: Last Friday, in Moscow, we witnessed the beginning of the end of that era which began in 1945. With this step, we have enhanced the security of both nations. We have begun to reduce the level of fear, by reducing the causes of fear—for our two peoples, and for all peoples in the world.
VOICE OVER: But a world without fear was not what the neoconservatives needed to pursue their project. They now set out to destroy Henry Kissinger’s vision. What gave them their opportunity was the growing collapse of American political power, both abroad and at home. The defeat in Vietnam, and the resignation of President Nixon over Watergate, led to a crisis of confidence in America’s political class. And the neoconservatives seized their moment. They allied themselves with two right-wingers in the new administration of Gerald Ford. One was Donald Rumsfeld, the new Secretary of Defense. The other was Dick Cheney, the President’s Chief of Staff. Rumsfeld began to make speeches alleging that the Soviets were ignoring Kissinger’s treaties and secretly building up their weapons, with the intention of attacking America.
DONALD RUMSFELD, US Secretary of Defense, Speaking in 1976: The Soviet Union has been busy. They’ve been busy in terms of their level of effort; they’ve been busy in terms of the actual weapons they’ve been producing; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding production rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their institutional capability to produce additional weapons at additional rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their capability to increasingly improve the sophistication of those weapons. Year after year after year, they’ve been demonstrating that they have steadiness of purpose. They’re purposeful about what they’re doing. Now, your question is, what ought one to be doing about that?
VOICE OVER: The CIA, and other agencies who watched the Soviet Union continuously for any sign of threat, said that this was a complete fiction. There was no truth to Rumsfeld’s allegations. But Rumsfeld used his position to persuade President Ford to set up an independent inquiry. He said it would prove that there was a hidden threat to America. And the inquiry would be run by a group of neoconservatives, one of whom was Paul Wolfowitz. The aim was to change the way America saw the Soviet Union.
MELVIN GOODMAN, Head of Office of Soviet Affairs CIA, 1976-87: And Rumsfeld won that very intense, intense political battle that was waged in Washington in 1975 and 1976. Now, as part of that battle, Rumsfeld and others, people such as Paul Wolfowitz, wanted to get into the CIA. And their mission was to create a much more severe view of the Soviet Union, Soviet intentions, Soviet views about fighting and winning a nuclear war.
VOICE OVER: The neoconservatives chose, as the inquiry chairman, a well-known critic and historian of the Soviet Union called Richard Pipes. Pipes was convinced that whatever the Soviets said publicly, secretly they still intended to attack and conquer America. This was their hidden mindset. The inquiry was called Team B, and the other leading member was Paul Wolfowitz.
Professor RICHARD PIPES: And the idea was then to appoint a group of outside experts who have access to the same evidence as the CIA used to arrive at these conclusions, and to see if they could come up with different conclusions. And I was asked to chair it, because I was not an expert on nuclear weapons. I was, if anything, an expert on the Soviet mindset, but not on the weapons. But that was the real key, was the question of the Soviet mindset, because the CIA looked only at—they were known as “bean counters,” always looking at weapons. But weapons can be used in various ways. They can be used for defensive purposes or offensive purposes. Well, all right, I collected this group of experts, and we began to sift through the evidence.
VOICE OVER: Team B began examining all the CIA data on the Soviet Union. But however closely they looked, there was little evidence of the dangerous weapons or defense systems they claimed the Soviets were developing. Rather than accept that this meant that the systems didn’t exist, Team B made an assumption that the Soviets had developed systems that were so sophisticated, they were undetectible. For example, they could find no evidence that the Soviet submarine fleet had an acoustic defense system. What this meant, Team B said, was that the Soviets had actually invented a new non-acoustic system, which was impossible to detect. And this meant that the whole of the American submarine fleet was at risk from an invisible threat that was there, even though there was no evidence for it.
Dr ANNE CAHN, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1977-80: They couldn’t say that the Soviets had acoustic means of picking up American submarines, because they couldn’t find it. So they said, well maybe they have a non-acoustic means of making our submarine fleet vulnerable. But there was no evidence that they had a non-acoustic system. They’re saying, “we can’t find evidence that they’re doing it the way that everyone thinks they’re doing it, so they must be doing it a different way. We don’t know what that different way is, but they must be doing it.”
INTERVIEWER (off-camera): Even though there was no evidence.
CAHN: Even though there was no evidence.
INTERVIEWER: So they’re saying there, that the fact that the weapon doesn’t exist…
CAHN: Doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It just means that we haven’t found it.
PIPES: Now, that’s important, yes. If something is not there, that’s significant.
INTERVIEWER: By its absence.
PIPES: By its absence. If you believe that they share your view of strategic weapons, and they don’t talk about it, then there’s something missing. Something is wrong. And the CIA wasn’t aware of that.
VOICE OVER: What Team B accused the CIA of missing was a hidden and sinister reality in the Soviet Union. Not only were there many secret weapons the CIA hadn’t found, but they were wrong about many of those they could observe, such as the Soviet air defenses. The CIA were convinced that these were in a state of collapse, reflecting the growing economic chaos in the Soviet Union. Team B said that this was actually a cunning deception by the Soviet regime. The air-defense system worked perfectly. But the only evidence they produced to prove this was the official Soviet training manual, which proudly asserted that their air-defense system was fully integrated and functioned flawlessly. The CIA accused Team B of moving into a fantasy world.
PIPES: The CIA was very loath to deal with issues which could not be demonstrated in a kind of mathematical form. I said they could consider the soft evidence. They deal with realities, whereas this was a fantasy. That’s how it was perceived. And there were battles all the time on this subject.
INTERVIEWER: Did you think it was a fantasy?
PIPES: No! I thought it was absolute reality.
CAHN: I would say that all of it was fantasy. I mean, they looked at radars out in Krasnoyarsk and said, “This is a laser beam weapon,” when in fact it was nothing of the sort. They even took a Russian military manual, which the correct translation of it is “The Art of Winning.” And when they translated it and put it into Team B, they called it “The Art of Conquest.” Well, there’s a difference between “conquest” and “winning.” And if you go through most of Team B’s specific allegations about weapons systems, and you just examine them one by one, they were all wrong.
INTERVIEWER: All of them?
CAHN: All of them.
INTERVIEWER: Nothing true?
CAHN: I don’t believe anything in Team B was really true.
VOICE OVER: The neoconservatives set up a lobby group to publicize the findings of Team B. It was called the Committee on the Present Danger, and a growing number of politicians joined, including a Presidential hopeful, Ronald Reagan.
[ TITLE: The Price of Peace and Freedom / Committee on the Present Danger, propaganda film 1978 ]
VOICE OVER: Through films and television, the Committee portrayed a world in which America was under threat from hidden forces that could strike at any time, forces that America must conquer to survive.
ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN, through interpreter: A concentration of world evil, of hatred for humanity, is taking place. And it is fully determined to destroy your society. Must you wait until the young men of America have to fall defending the borders of their continent?!
VOICE OVER: This dramatic battle between good and evil was precisely the kind of myth that Leo Strauss had taught his students would be necessary to rescue the country from moral decay. It might not be true, but it was necessary, to re-engage the public in a grand vision of America’s destiny, that would give meaning and purpose to their lives. The neoconservatives were succeeding in creating a simplistic fiction—a vision of the Soviet Union as the center of all evil in the world, and America as the only country that could rescue the world. And this nightmarish vision was beginning to give the neoconservatives great power and influence.
HOLMES: The Straussians started to create a worldview which is a fiction. The world is not divided into good and evil. The battle in which we are engaged is not a battle between good and evil. The United States, as anyone who observes understands, has done some good and some bad things. It’s like any great power. This is the way history is. But they wanted to create a world of moral certainties, so therefore they invent mythologies—fairytales—describing any force in the world that obstructs the United States as somehow Satanic, or associated with evil.
More on Team B
Center for American Progress: It's Time to Bench 'Team B'
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Team B: The trillion-dollar experiment
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Neocons: The men behind the curtain
As a CIA analyst, I've seen distortions of intelligence before