During the 2000 election and the debacle in Florida, I kept asking myself, "Why aren't the Republicans willing to let the constitutional process work?" The Constitution allows for Congress to select the President if there is a disputed election. There was plenty of time to get the task done and the issue settled, but it felt like the Republicans just couldn't wait.

Two years later I began to understand why when I read an essay "The Presiden's Real Goal in Iraq," by Jay Bookman, deputy editorial page editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The neo-conservatives, who have taken control of the Republican Party, had a plan for the country and didn't want to risk waiting another four years to put it into action. Their plan was to take over the world and short circuit American democracy if necessary to do it.

The USA Patriot Act, the hammer lock on Congress, the constant Bush administration drumbeat of fear, fear, fear all fit together when you've been made aware of a strategic plan developed by the neo-cons before George W. Bush became president. The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were just a convenient catalyst to put their plan into action, and the fear the attacks created had a chilling effect on dissent in and out of government.

According to Bookman's essay, the plan was released in September 2002 as the administration's National Security Strategy (something every administration prepares), but its roots (trunk and branches, too) are outlined in a report prepared by the Project for the New American Century issued in September 2000, before Bush's selection by the Supreme Court. It included rejecting the anti-ballistic missile treaty, building a global missile defense system, increasing the defense budget from 3 percent to 3.8 percent of gross domestic product, and development of small nuclear warheads for attacking underground bunkers.

The Project for a New American Century targeted Iran, Iraq and North Korea - this is before the 2000 election, before George Bush labeled them the "Axis of Evil." The report recommended a U.S. military presence over the entire globe and that the U.S., not the United Nations, should take leadership in policing the world. The authors of the report said the U.S. needs permanent military bases in the Middle East, Southeast Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Furthermore, these ideas go back to an even earlier 1992 Pentagon document that, when leaked, was withdrawn by the first Bush administration. These policies are being implemented by the current Bush administration, including building roughly a dozen military bases in Iraq.

Who wrote these reports? People who are now high level Defense Department officials prepared the 2000 New American Century report: Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Stephen Cambone, Eliot Cohen, Devon Cross, Lewis Libby and Dov Zakheim. The earlier, 1992 effort was drafted by Wolfowitz while undersecretary for policy under then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Is it any wonder Cheney was selected as George W. Bush's running mate or that during the 9/11 attacks Cheney was at an undisclosed, secure location?

Bookman in his 2002 essay lays out the choice we face with the election next month. Do we as a people want to lead the international community through consensus and alliances to peace and security, or do we want to go it alone, taking on the costs both in terms of money and lives, to invade and occupy any country where our leaders perceive a threat or possible advantage?

Given that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq (in fact, the U.S. has more of them than any other country) and given that Iraqis weren't involved in the 9/11 attacks (the vast majority of hijackers were Saudi), what was the real reasons the Bush administration couldn't wait for continued international inspections, couldn't wait for international support before invading Iraq? The only thing tha's put it in perspective for me is the idea that neo-conservatives here in the U.S., and currently dominating the thinking in the administration, simply want to run the world.

The other night I watched the foreign policy debate between George Bush and John Kerry. At one point, Bush said words to this effect, "When I was in the debate in 2000, I never dreamed I'd be ordering an attack on Iraq." I find that very hard to believe, given over a decade of the neo-cons plotting, through two Bush administrations, to make America the New Rome. And for whose benefit? Perhaps certain multinational corporations, perhaps weapons manufacturers, perhaps elites in countries willing to live under U.S. domination - but will it benefit you, an average American?

Victoria Stoppiello is a freelance writer from Ilwaco, where access to the Internet has provided her with access to information from far-flung places.

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