I can still see and hear the members of the 9-11 Committee questioning then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice over why she and the Bush II Administration ignored al Qaeda and “focused heavily on Russia.” (1) Despite al Qaeda’s assault against a US warship in January 2000 and the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 killing and wounding 57 servicemen (2); despite Chief Counter-Terrorism Advisor Richard Clarke’s numerous warnings and memos about imminent terrorist attacks (3); despite over 40 Presidential Daily Briefings concerning “Bin Ladin is determined to strike the US” (4); despite information about terrorist sleeper cells in the US (5); despite the Yemenis’ surveillance of federal buildings in New York (6); and despite al Qaeda bombing US embassies around the world and that the “light was blinking red”; President George W. Bush and Rice did not consider al Qaeda “a first order threat.” In fact, a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union the “US Government and its institutions were still constructed to win the Cold War.” (7)
In psychological terms, a “self-fulfilled prophecy” is when an individual acts in such a way as to make his/her beliefs come true. If this be the case, a “nation-fulfilled prophecy” is when a people and their leaders collectively live and behave in such a way as to make their thinking and expectations-even when they contradict the facts-a reality. For this very reason, when the US backed Georgian Republic invaded South Ossetia and fired on Russian peace keepers, it was a nation-fulfilled prophecy (including the current US-Russia tensions over several disputed provinces). In other words, it is what the US has long dreamed of, hoped for, and desired.
Starting in 1867, US Secretary of State William H. Seward purchased Alaska for fear of Russian expansionism. Out of concern for growing Russian nationalism in Asia, President Theodore Roosevelt brokered a peace accord ending the Russo-Japanese War. President Woodrow Wilson sent troops to occupy northern Russia after World War I in hopes of defeating the Red Army. At the end of World War II, George Kennan’s 1946 Long Telegraph wrongly assumed Joseph Stalin had embraced Marx’s ideology: Global peace would come only after capitalism had been destroyed. In reality, Russia had been attacked twice by the West and sought isolation by using Eastern Europe as a buffer. (8) Consciously and subconsciously the US was obsessed with Russia. The current Georgian Crisis and Cold War stems from the George Crisis-The Long Telegraph and a long Frozen War-archaic beliefs solidified in the mind that are difficult to change.
Even though Russia and the US were allies in World War II, a nation-fulfilled prophecy influenced President Harry S. Truman to implement a policy of “containment” (doublespeak for “conquering”) against Russia. He immediately sent US advisors and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military aid to Greece and Turkey. The 1950 National Security Council Document (NSC) No. 68 went even further stating the US must “foster a fundamental change in the nature of the Soviet System”; “foster the seeds of destruction with the Soviet system”; force it to “change its policies drastically”; and use “any means, covert or overt, violent or non-violent” including “overt psychological warfare“ and “covert economic warfare.” Wars in Korea, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, etc…soon followed. There could only be one new “world order” maintained by the US (Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, along with other European nations, were correct in recently stating the conflict in Georgia showed that the US cannot control the world and a new world order based on sharing power needs to emerge.)
A nation-fulfilled prophecy is why hundreds of Special Forces have trained Georgian troops and are now stationed in Georgia. It is the reason Bush II mentioned Hungary during the Olympic Games and why Rice flew to Georgia claiming “this is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten a neighbor, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it.” It is the reason the US mainstream press considers Russian military maneuvers similar to the Nazi takeover of the Sudetenland, refers to Russia’s leader as another Hitler and Stalin, and publishes political cartoons showing a Russian bear standing over a mountainous heap of corpses. When Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential hopeful, told an audience, “My friends, we have reached a crisis, the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War,” he was speaking about the finalization of our nation-fulfilled prophecy.
This is also the reason the US wants to desperately deploy military bases, Patriot Missiles, and a defense missile shield in Poland and the Ukraine. The timing of this agreement sends a clear message embedded in our historical psyche: Russia is the “evil empire” and “red scourge.” While the US uses NATO to march across Asia and as a former officer and part of REFORGER, I know from experience that current national security has never primarily been about a brutal dictator, weapons of mass destruction, or oil. The main reason the US is fighting the Global War On Terror and occupying the Middle East is not even directly related to al Qaeda. It has always been about encircling and eradicating Russian-Soviet style Communism which actually no longer exists in the world! It does exist, however, in our minds and political imaginations. This is how a nation-fulfilled prophecy operates and works. It becomes obsessive and muddles history.
When Mikhail Gorbachev, a former president of Russia, said Georgia provoked the clash in the Caucuses region and criticized the US media for its censorship, he was right. He knows only too well that one of the greatest tragedies in modern history was when the US squandered not only a Cold War victory, but also a Cold War peace. (This was actually “the end of history.”) By the time Gorbachev rose to power in the Soviet Union, “de-Stalinization” had occurred; the Soviets and China were still at odds; the Russia had backed down during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis; President Anwar Sadat had banished Communism from Egypt; détente-a lessening of tensions, had led to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and trade between the US and Soviet Union; the US militarily had aided brutal regimes in Indonesia and throughout Central and Latin America slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Communists; and the Soviets were losing badly in Afghanistan. It was clear, Communism and the Soviet Union was rapidly disintegrating.
And yet, while Gorbachev was in the process of lessening US-Soviet military/economic competition, the Reagan and Bush I regimes were invading Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and bombing Libya. And while Gorbachev believed in realistic engagement-nuclear weapons are so destructive that using such weapons endangers human existence, President Ronald Reagan was wanting to place missiles in outer space. At the 1986 Reykjavik, Iceland Summit, Gorbachev proposed to Reagan the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons but had to settle with only Euromissiles. And even as Gorbachev was withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and writing in Pravda that nations should pursue a type of armed forces that would be “sufficient to repulse a possible aggression but would not be sufficient for the conduct of offensive action,” (9) Reagan was expanding the Military-Corporate Complex and US Armed Forces around the globe.
Gorbachev went far beyond what the US expected. Still, it was the nation-fulfilled prophecy, a final face-off between the US and Russia, that reigned supreme in the minds of most Americans and the ruling elite. When the Berlin Wall was torn down, the Soviet Union dismantled, and noncommunist governments spread throughout Eurasia, there was no euphoria in the Bush I Administration. Instead, the US was too busy rejecting Gorbachev’s Asymmetrical Doctrine-a reciprocal reduction of WARSAW and NATO conventional forces. The US Peace Dividend threatened military careers and lucrative armaments industries. Gorbachev realized what the US could not: In order to establish internal and external peace a nation must free up scarce resources, otherwise used for an unproductive military empire, and aid its citizens. Gorbachev expanded détente and made the world safer for everybody, something the US was and is not willing to do.
Kennan, who many years later believed his Long Telegraph message had been misinterpreted and militarized by Truman and the NSC, wrote that the greatest danger to the US was not the Soviet Union or nuclear weapons but “…compulsions, the suspicions, the anxieties such as competition engenders,…misread signals” and “mischief deliberately perpetrated by third parties.” (10) Nation-fulfilled prophecies, driven by suspicions and anxieties-while at the same time political, cultural, and academic institutions are mobilized for perpetual war, have a way of ending in enormous tragedies. As Rice resurrects the Iron Curtain motif and claims “Russia will pay a price,” she fails to understand millions of people, with their lives and resources, have already paid a steep price. The elite ruling class should have realized too that all along, what needed to be “contained” was their misguided nation-fulfilling prophecy to entrap and destroy Russia.
Dallas Darling is the author of “The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Faith”. He writes for World News and currently works with Pastors For Peace in delivering humanitarian aid to foreign countries. You can read more of his articles at BeverlyDarling.com.
(1) The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. (Authorized Edition) New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 203.
(2) Ibid., p. 190.
(3) Ibid., p. 199.
(4) Ibid., p. 264.
(5) Ibid., p. 260.
(6) Ibid., p. 261.
(7) Ibid., p. 399.
(8) Barragy, Terrence J. and Harry Russell Huebel. From Republic to Empire: Readings in American History Since 1877. Houston, Texas: D. Armstrong Company, Inc. 1982. p. 161 ff.
(9) Barash, David P. Introduction to Peace Studies. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1991. p. 344.
(10) Ibid., p. 277.