Guest Writings

A New American Century? Iraq and the hidden euro-dollar wars by F. William Engdahl, USA/Germany


Part 2: The U.S. foreign debt threat

But, not so simple perhaps. This is a highly unstable system, as U.S. trade deficits and net debt or liabilities to foreign accounts are now well over 22% of GDP as of 2000, and climbing rapidly. The net foreign indebtedness of the United States–public as well as private–is beginning to explode ominously. In the past three years since the U.S. stock collapse and the re-emergence of budget deficits in Washington, the net debt position, according to a recent study by the Pestel Institute in Hanover, has almost doubled. In 1999, the peak of the bubble fury, U.S. net debt to foreigners was some $ 1.4 trillions. By the end of this year, it will exceed an estimated $ 3.7 trillion! Before 1989, the United States had been a net creditor, gaining more from its foreign investments than it paid to them in interest on Treasury bonds or other U.S. assets. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has become a net foreign debtor nation to the tune of $3.7 trillion! This is not what Hilmar Kopper could call ‘peanuts’.

It does not require much foresight to see the strategic threat of these deficits to the role of the United States. With an annual current account (mainly trade) deficit of some $500 billion, some 5% of GDP, the United States must import or attract at least $1.4 billion every day, to avoid a dollar collapse and keep its interest rates low enough to support the debt-burdened corporate economy. That net debt is getting worse at a dramatic pace. Were France, Germany, Russia and a number of OPEC oil countries to now shift even a small portion of their dollar reserves into euro to buy bonds of Germany or France or the like, the United States would face a strategic crisis beyond any of the postwar period. To pre-empt this threat, was one of the most strategic hidden reasons for the decision to go for ‘regime change’ as it is known, in Iraq. It is as simple and as cold as this. The future of America’s sole superpower status depended on pre-empting the threat emerging from Eurasia and Euroland especially. Iraq was and is a chess piece in a far larger strategic game, one for the highest stakes.

The euro threatens the hegemony

When the euro was launched at the end of the last decade, leading EU government figures, bankers from Deutsche Bank’s Norbert Walter, and French President Chirac went to major holders of dollar reserves – China, Japan, Russia – and tried to convince them to shift out of dollars at least a part of their reserves, and into euros. However, that clashed with the need to devalue the too-high euro, so German exports could stabilize Euroland growth. A falling euro was the case until 2002.

Then, with the debacle of the U.S. bubble bursting, the Enron and Worldcom finance scandals, and the recession in the U.S., the dollar began to lose its attraction for foreign investors. The euro gained steadily until the end of 2002. Then, as France and Germany prepared their secret diplomatic strategy to block war in the UN Security Council, rumors surfaced that the central banks of Russia and China had quietly began to dump dollars and buy euros. The result was a dollar free-fall on the eve of war. The stage was set should Washington lose the Iraq war, or it turn into a long, bloody debacle.

But Washington, leading New York banks and the higher echelons of the U.S. establishment clearly knew what was at stake. Iraq was not about ordinary chemical or even nuclear weapons of mass destruction. The ‘weapon of mass destruction’ was the threat that others would follow Iraq and shift to euros out of dollars, creating mass destruction of the United States’ hegemonic economic role in the world. As one economist termed it, an end to the dollar reserve role would be a ‘catastrophe’ for the United States. Interest rates of the Federal Reserve would have to be pushed higher than in 1979 when Paul Volcker raised rates above 17% to try to stop the collapse of the dollar then. Few realize that 1979 dollar crisis was also a direct result of moves by Germany, and France, under Schmidt and Giscard, to defend Europe together with Saudi Arabia and others who began selling U.S. Treasury bonds to protest Carter Administration policy. It is also worth recalling that after the Volcker dollar rescue, the Reagan Administration, backed by many of today’s neo-conservative hawks, began a huge U.S. military defense spending to challenge the Soviet Union.

Eurasia versus the Anglo-American Island Power

This fight over petro-dollars versus petro-euros, which started in Iraq, is by no means over, despite the apparent victory of the United States in Iraq. The euro was created by French geopolitical strategists for establishing a multipolar world after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The aim was to balance the overwhelming dominance of the U.S. in world affairs. Significantly, French strategists rely on a British geopolitical strategist to develop their rival power alternative to the U.S., namely Sir Halford Mackinder.

This past February, a French intelligence-connected newsletter, Intelligence Online, wrote a piece, ‘The Strategy Behind Paris-Berlin-Moscow Tie’. Referring to the UN Security Council bloc of France-Germany-Russia to try to prevent the U.S.-British war moves in Iraq, the Paris report notes the recent efforts of European and other powers to create a counterpower to that of the United States. Referring to the new ties of France with Germany and more recently with Putin, they note, ‘a new logic, and even dynamic seems to have emerged. An alliance between Paris, Moscow and Berlin running from the Atlantic to Asia could foreshadow a limit to U.S. power. For the first time since the beginning of the 20th Century, the notion of a world heartland–the nightmare of British strategists–has crept back into international relations.’[3]

Mackinder, father of British geopolitics, wrote in his remarkable paper, ‘The Geographical Pivot of History’ that the control of the Eurasian heartland, from Normandy France to Vladivostock, was the only possible threat to oppose the naval supremacy of Britain. British diplomacy until 1914 was based on preventing any such Eurasian threat, that time around the expansion policy of the German Kaiser eastwards with the Baghdad Railway and the Tirpitz German Navy buildup. World War I was the result. Referring to the ongoing efforts of the British and later Americans to prevent a Eurasian combination as rival, the Paris intelligence report stressed, ‘That strategic approach (i.e. to create Eurasian heartland unity) lies at the origin of all clashes between Continental powers and maritime powers (UK, U.S. and Japan) … It is Washington’s supremacy over the seas that, even now, dictates London’s unshakeable support for the U.S. and the alliance between Tony Blair and Bush.’

Another well-connected French journal, Reseau, wrote on the eve of the Iraq war that the dollar was ‘The achilles heel of the USA’.[4] That is an understatement to put it mildly.

Iraq was planned long before

This emerging threat from a French-led Euro policy with Iraq and other countries, led some leading circles in the U.S. policy establishment to begin thinking of pre-empting threats to the Petro-dollar system well before Bush was even President. While Perle, Wolfowitz and other leading neo-conservatives played a leading role in developing a strategy to preserve the faltering system, a new consensus was shaping which included major elements of traditional Cold War establishment around figures like Rumsfeld and Cheney.

In September 2000, during the campaign, a small Washington think-tank, the Project for a New American Century, released a major policy study: ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century’. The report is useful in many areas to better understand present Administration policy. On Iraq, it states, ‘The United States has sought for decades to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.’

This PNAC paper is the essential basis for the September 2002 Presidential White Paper, ‘The National Security Strategy of the United States of America’. The PNAC’s paper supportes a, ‘blueprint for maintaining global U.S. pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests The American Grand Strategy must be pursued as far into the future as possible.’ Further, the U.S. must, ‘discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.’ (emphasis added).

The PNAC membership in 2000 reads like a roster of the Bush Administration today. It included Cheney, his wife Lynne Cheney, neo-conservative Cheney aide, Lewis Libby; Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. It also included NSC Middle East head, Elliott Abrams; John Bolton of the State Department; Richard Perle, and William Kristol. As well, former Lockheed-Martin vice president, Bruce Jackson, and ex-CIA head James Woolsey were on board, along with Norman Podhoretz, another founding neo-con. Woolsey and Podhoretz speak openly of being in ‘World War IV’.

It is becoming increasingly clear to many that the war in Iraq is about preserving a bankrupt American Century model of global dominance. It is also clear that Iraq is not the end. What is not yet clear and must be openly debated around the world, is how to replace the failed Petro-dollar order with a just new system for global economic prosperity and security.

Now, as Iraq threatens to explode in internal chaos, it is important to rethink the entire postwar monetary order anew. The present French-German-Russian alliance to create a counterweight to the United States requires not merely a French-led version of the Petro-dollar system, some Petro-euro system, that continues the bankrupt American Century, only with a French accent, and euros replacing dollars. That would only continue to destroy living standards across the world, adding to human waste and soaring unemployment in industrial as well as developing nations. We must entirely rethink what began briefly with some economists during the 1998 Asia crisis, the basis of a new monetary system which supports human development, and does not destroy it.

1 Engdahl, F. William, Mit der ślwaffe zur Weltmacht, edition steinherz, Wiesbaden, 2002. Chapter 9-10 detail the creation and impact of the Petrodollar recycling and the secret 1973 Saltsjoebaden meeting in preparing the oil shock.

2 Radio Liberty/RFE press release, Charles Recknagel, ‘Iraq: Baghdad moves to Euro’, November 1, 2000. The wire was picked up for about 48 hours by CNN and other media and promptly vanished from the headlines. Since William Clark’s article, ‘The real but unspoken reasons for the upcoming Iraq war’ appeared in the Internet on February 2, 2003, a lively online discussion of the oil-euro factor has taken place, but outside occasional references in the London Guardian press, little in mainstream media has been said of this strategic background factor in the Washington decision to go against Iraq.

3 Intelligence Online, no.447: 20/02/2003. ‘The Strategy Behind Paris-Berlin-Moscow Tie’. Intelligence Online Editor, Guillaume Dasquie, is a French specialist on strategic intelligence and has worked for French intelligence services on the bin Laden case and other investigations. His reference to French Eurasian geopolitics clearly reflects high-level French thinking.

4 Reseau, ‘Suprematie du dollar: Le Talon d’Achille des USA’, appeared April 4, 2003. It details a French analysis of the vulnerability of the dollar system on the eve of Iraq war.

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