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Translated from French by Siv O'Neall

By Dominique Dhombres
Television: The triumph of Wolfowitz
Wednesday March 12, 2003
Arte (French-German television channel)

George W Bush can't control himself from fury and he is counting the days which separate him from the moment when he can finally launch his troops against Iraq. When he entered the White House, in January 2001, this country and its president left him practically indifferent. The foreign politics, in a general way, hardly interested him. He left his torpor in this field only to vaguely consider the idea of a reduction of the number of American soldiers stationed outside the U.S. All that changed after September 11, 2001. The fascinating American documentary by Michael Kirk 'The White House: The War Behind Closed Doors' that Arte programmed Tuesday evening, prime time, tells the story about how the 43rd president of the United States was convinced of the urgent need for a radical transformation of the American foreign politics.

The central figure of this upheaval is Paul Wolfowitz, number two in the Pentagon, whose ideas won out among the top American administrators, during the winter 2001-2002. Wolfowitz had put them in writing, in 1992, in a memorandum from the time of the first Gulf war. They had then been considered dangereous by the 41st president, George Bush Senior, and publicly rejected. Wolfowitz affirms that it is time to give up on the doctrines of "containment", characteristic of the cold war, and to resort to "preemptive" actions against the new enemies of America, perceived like an "axis of Evil" (Iraq, Iran, North Korea). It is even necessary to go further, since the disappearance of the USSR allows it. It is no more a question of managing the crises, but of reorganizing the world, by imposing the American values everywhere.

Michael Kirk shows, through a series of talks, how Wolfowitz gradually conquered the spirits within the Bush administration, leading a ruthless combat behind the scene, against the leader of the clan that was for realism and caution, the Secretary of State Colin Powell. He convinced Condoleezza Rice, George Bush advisor for security questions, who had been reticent up to that point, and especially the president himself. In accordance with the practices formerly in force in the communist world, practices which are in fact as old as humanity, it was left to the adversary of the new doctrines, Colin Powell, to convince the rest of the world of the just cause represented by these ideas.