The disastrous Iraq war cost multitudes of lives, trillions of dollars, destabilized the Middle East, and led to the rise of ISIS. It’s essential to learn why the U.S. launched such a catastrophic war if we are to avoid such calamities in the future… As many have said: ‘Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it’…
The invasion of Iraq was promoted by an interconnected network of Israel loyalists known as “neoconservatives” who were operating at all levels of the U.S. government, and who used their positions to promote policies on behalf of Israel. (Now they’re doing it again against Iran…)
Israeli media report on this openly – e.g. an Israeli journalist in a major Israeli newspaper reported in 2003: “The war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish, who are pushing President Bush to change the course of history…”
Some members of this network had been part of a 1996 study group working for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that had recommended “shaping [Israel’s] regional environment” by damaging and destabilizing countries such as Iraq, Iran, and Syria.
Below are four articles that name this network of pro-Israel U.S. officials and describe their activities – which include allegations of spying for Israel.
Also see the article by oil insider Gary Vogler, who reports about the Iraq war: “The oil agenda I discovered and experienced was to supply Iraq oil to Israel.” The players were the neocons in the Bush Administration… Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Lewis Libby, Marc Zell, and others…
(After it became clear that the war was a disaster, these neocons turned on Bush – see this.)
A Rose By Another Other Name
The Bush Administration’s Dual Loyalties
Since the long-forgotten days when the State Department’s Middle East policy was run by a group of so-called Arabists, U.S. policy on Israel and the Arab world has increasingly become the purview of officials well known for tilting toward Israel. From the 1920s roughly to 1990, Arabists, who had a personal history and an educational background in the Arab world and were accused by supporters of Israel of being totally biased toward Arab interests, held sway at the State Department and, despite having limited power in the policymaking circles of any administration, helped maintain some semblance of U.S. balance by keeping policy from tipping over totally toward Israel. But Arabists have been steadily replaced by their exact opposites, what some observers are calling Israelists, and policymaking circles throughout government now no longer even make a pretense of exhibiting balance between Israeli and Arab, particularly Palestinian, interests.
In the Clinton administration, the three most senior State Department officials dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli peace process were all partisans of Israel to one degree or another. All had lived at least for brief periods in Israel and maintained ties with Israel while in office, occasionally vacationing there. One of these officials had worked both as a pro-Israel lobbyist and as director of a pro-Israel think tank in Washington before taking a position in the Clinton administration from which he helped make policy on Palestinian-Israeli issues. Another has headed the pro-Israel think tank since leaving government.
The link between active promoters of Israeli interests and policymaking circles is stronger by several orders of magnitude in the Bush administration, which is peppered with people who have long records of activism on behalf of Israel in the United States, of policy advocacy in Israel, and of promoting an agenda for Israel often at odds with existing U.S. policy. These people, who can fairly be called Israeli loyalists, are now at all levels of government, from desk officers at the Defense Department to the deputy secretary level at both State and Defense, as well as on the National Security Council staff and in the vice president’s office.
We still tiptoe around putting a name to this phenomenon. We write articles about the neo-conservatives’ agenda on U.S.-Israeli relations and imply that in the neo-con universe there is little light between the two countries. We talk openly about the Israeli bias in the U.S. media. We make wry jokes about Congress being “Israeli-occupied territory.” Jason Vest in The Nation magazine reported forthrightly that some of the think tanks that hold sway over Bush administration thinking see no difference between U.S. and Israeli national security interests. But we never pronounce the particular words that best describe the real meaning of those observations and wry remarks. It’s time, however, that we say the words out loud and deal with what they really signify.
Dual loyalties. The issue we are dealing with in the Bush administration is dual loyalties-the double allegiance of those myriad officials at high and middle levels who cannot distinguish U.S. interests from Israeli interests, who baldly promote the supposed identity of interests between the United States and Israel, who spent their early careers giving policy advice to right-wing Israeli governments and now give the identical advice to a right-wing U.S. government, and who, one suspects, are so wrapped up in their concern for the fate of Israel that they honestly do not know whether their own passion about advancing the U.S. imperium is motivated primarily by America-first patriotism or is governed first and foremost by a desire to secure Israel’s safety and predominance in the Middle East through the advancement of the U.S. imperium.
“Dual loyalties” has always been one of those red flags posted around the subject of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict, something that induces horrified gasps and rapid heartbeats because of its implication of Jewish disloyalty to the United States and the common assumption that anyone who would speak such a canard is ipso facto an anti-Semite. (We have a Jewish friend who is not bothered by the term in the least, who believes that U.S. and Israeli interests should be identical and sees it as perfectly natural for American Jews to feel as much loyalty to Israel as they do to the United States. But this is clearly not the usual reaction when the subject of dual loyalties arises.)
Although much has been written about the neo-cons who dot the Bush administration, the treatment of the their ties to Israel has generally been very gingerly. Although much has come to light recently about the fact that ridding Iraq both of its leader and of its weapons inventory has been on the neo-con agenda since long before there was a Bush administration, little has been said about the link between this goal and the neo-cons’ overriding desire to provide greater security for Israel. But an examination of the cast of characters in Bush administration policymaking circles reveals a startlingly pervasive network of pro-Israel activists, and an examination of the neo-cons’ voluminous written record shows that Israel comes up constantly as a neo-con reference point, always mentioned with the United States as the beneficiary of a recommended policy, always linked with the United States when national interests are at issue.
First to the cast of characters. Beneath cabinet level, the list of pro-Israel neo-cons who are either policy functionaries themselves or advise policymakers from perches just on the edges of government reads like the old biblical “begats.” Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz leads the pack. He was a protégé of Richard Perle, who heads the prominent Pentagon advisory body, the Defense Policy Board. Many of today’s neo-cons, including Perle, are the intellectual progeny of the late Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a strong defense hawk and one of Israel’s most strident congressional supporters in the 1970s.
The Next Tier
Wolfowitz in turn is the mentor of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, now Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff who was first a student of Wolfowitz and later a subordinate during the 1980s in both the State and the Defense Departments.* Another Perle protégé is Douglas Feith, who is currently undersecretary of defense for policy, the department’s number-three man, and has worked closely with Perle both as a lobbyist for Turkey and in co-authoring strategy papers for right-wing Israeli governments [more info here and here.] Assistant Secretaries Peter Rodman and Dov Zackheim, old hands from the Reagan administration when the neo-cons first flourished, fill out the subcabinet ranks at Defense. At lower levels, the Israel and the Syria/Lebanon desk officers at Defense are imports from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank spun off from the pro-Israel lobby organization, AIPAC.
Neo-cons have not made many inroads at the State Department, except for John Bolton, an American Enterprise Institute hawk and Israeli proponent who is said to have been forced on a reluctant Colin Powell as undersecretary for arms control. Bolton’s special assistant is David Wurmser, who wrote and/or co-authored with Perle and Feith at least two strategy papers for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996. Wurmser’s wife, Meyrav Wurmser, is a co-founder of the media-watch website MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute), which is run by retired Israeli military and intelligence officers and specializes in translating and widely circulating Arab media and statements by Arab leaders. A recent investigation by the Guardian of London found that MEMRI’s translations are skewed by being highly selective. Although it inevitably translates and circulates the most extreme of Arab statements, it ignores moderate Arab commentary and extremist Hebrew statements. [more here]
Vice President’s office
In the vice president’s office, Cheney has established his own personal national security staff, run by aides known to be very pro-Israel. The deputy director of the staff, John Hannah, is a former fellow of the Israeli-oriented Washington Institute. On the National Security Council staff, the newly appointed director of Middle East affairs is Elliott Abrams, who came to prominence after pleading guilty to withholding information from Congress during the Iran-contra scandal (and was pardoned by President Bush the elder) and who has long been a vocal proponent of right-wing Israeli positions. Putting him in a key policymaking position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is like entrusting the henhouse to a fox. [More info here]
Pro-Israel activists with close links to the administration are also busy in the information arena inside and outside government. The head of Radio Liberty, a Cold War propaganda holdover now converted to service in the “war on terror,” is Thomas Dine, who was the very active head of AIPAC throughout most of the Reagan and the Bush-41 administrations. Elsewhere on the periphery, William Kristol, son of neo-con originals Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb, is closely linked to the administration’s pro-Israel coterie and serves as its cheerleader through the Rupert Murdoch-owned magazine that he edits, The Weekly Standard. Some of Bush’s speechwriters – including David Frum, who coined the term “axis of evil” for Bush’s state-of-the-union address but was forced to resign when his wife publicly bragged about his linguistic prowess – have come from The Weekly Standard. [Also see this.] Frank Gaffney, another Jackson and Perle protégé and Reagan administration defense official, puts his pro-Israel oar in from his think tank, the Center for Security Policy, and through frequent media appearances and regular columns in the Washington Times.
The incestuous nature of the proliferating boards and think tanks, whose membership lists are more or less identical and totally interchangeable, is frighteningly insidious. Several scholars at the American Enterprise Institute, including former Reagan UN ambassador and long-time supporter of the Israeli right wing Jeane Kirkpatrick, make their pro-Israel views known vocally from the sidelines and occupy positions on other boards.
Probably the most important organization, in terms of its influence on Bush administration policy formulation, is the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). Formed after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war specifically to bring Israel’s security concerns to the attention of U.S. policymakers and concentrating also on broad defense issues, the extremely hawkish, right-wing JINSA has always had a high-powered board able to place its members inside conservative U.S. administrations. Cheney, Bolton, and Feith were members until they entered the Bush administration. Several lower level JINSA functionaries are now working in the Defense Department. Perle is still a member, as are Kirkpatrick, former CIA director and leading Iraq-war hawk James Woolsey, and old-time rabid pro-Israel types like Eugene Rostow and Michael Ledeen.
Both JINSA and Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy are heavily underwritten by Irving Moskowitz, a right-wing American Zionist, California business magnate (his money comes from bingo parlors), and JINSA board member who has lavishly financed the establishment of several religious settlements in Arab East Jerusalem.
By Their Own Testimony
Most of the neo-cons now in government have left a long paper trail giving clear evidence of their fervently right-wing pro-Israel, and fervently anti-Palestinian, sentiments. Whether being pro-Israel, even pro right-wing Israel, constitutes having dual loyalties that is, a desire to further Israel’s interests that equals or exceeds the desire to further U.S. interests is obviously not easy to determine, but the record gives some clues.
Wolfowitz himself has been circumspect in public, writing primarily about broader strategic issues rather than about Israel specifically or even the Middle East, but it is clear that at bottom Israel is a major interest and may be the principal reason for his near obsession with the effort, of which he is the primary spearhead, to dump Saddam Hussein, remake the Iraqi government in an American image, and then further redraw the Middle East map by accomplishing the same goals in Syria, Iran, and perhaps other countries. Profiles of Wolfowitz paint him as having two distinct aspects: one obessively bent on advancing U.S. dominance throughout the world, ruthless and uncompromising, seriously prepared to “end states,” as he once put it, that support terrorism in any way, a velociraptor in the words of one former colleague cited in the Economist; the other a softer aspect, which shows him to be a soft-spoken political moralist, an ardent democrat, even a bleeding heart on social issues, and desirous for purely moral and humanitarian reasons of modernizing and democratizing the Islamic world.
But his interest in Israel always crops up. Even profiles that downplay his attachment to Israel nonetheless always mention the influence the Holocaust, in which several of his family perished, has had on his thinking. One source inside the administration has described him frankly as “over-the-top crazy when it comes to Israel.” Although this probably accurately describes most of the rest of the neo-con coterie, and Wolfowitz is guilty at least by association, he is actually more complex and nuanced than this. A recent New York Times Magazine profile by the Times‘ Bill Keller cites critics who say that “Israel exercises a powerful gravitational pull on the man” and notes that as a teenager Wolfowitz lived in Israel during his mathematician father’s sabbatical semester there. His sister is married to an Israeli. Keller even somewhat reluctantly acknowledges the accuracy of one characterization of Wolfowitz as “Israel-centric.” But Keller goes through considerable contortions to shun what he calls “the offensive suggestion of dual loyalty” and in the process makes one wonder if he is protesting too much. Keller concludes that Wolfowitz is less animated by the security of Israel than by the promise of a more moderate Islam. He cites as evidence Wolfowitz’s admiration for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for making peace with Israel and also draws on a former Wolfowitz subordinate who says that “as a moral man, he might have found Israel the heart of the Middle East story. But as a policy maker, Turkey and the gulf and Egypt didn’t loom any less large for him.”
These remarks are revealing. Anyone not so fearful of broaching the issue of dual loyalties might at least have raised the suggestion that Wolfowitz’s real concern may indeed be to ensure Israel’s security. Otherwise, why do his overriding interests seem to be reinventing Anwar Sadats throughout the Middle East by transforming the Arab and Muslim worlds and thereby making life safer for Israel, and a passion for fighting a pre-emptive war against Iraq when there are critical areas totally apart from the Middle East and myriad other broad strategic issues that any deputy secretary of defense should be thinking about just as much? His current interest in Turkey, which is shared by the other neo-cons, some of whom have served as lobbyists for Turkey, seems also to be directed at securing Israel’s place in the region; there seems little reason for particular interest in this moderate Islamic, non-Arab country, other than that it is a moderate Islamic but non-Arab neighbor of Israel.
Furthermore, the notion suggested by the Wolfowitz subordinate that any moral man would obviously look to Israel as the “heart of the Middle East story” is itself an Israel-centered idea: the assumption that Israel is a moral state, always pursuing moral policies, and that any moral person would naturally attach himself to Israel automatically presumes that there is an identity of interests between the United States and Israel; only those who assume such a complete coincidence of interests accept the notion that Israel is, across the board, a moral state.
Clean Break paper
Others among the neo-con policymakers have been more direct and open in expressing their pro-Israel views. Douglas Feith has been the most prolific of the group, with a two-decade-long record of policy papers, many co-authored with Perle, propounding a strongly anti-Palestinian, pro-Likud view. He views the Palestinians as not constituting a legitimate national group, believes that the West Bank and Gaza belong to Israel by right, and has long advocated that the U.S. abandon any mediating effort altogether and particularly foreswear the land-for-peace formula.
In 1996, Feith, Perle, and both David and Meyrav Wurmser were among the authors of a policy paper issued by an Israeli think tank and written for newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that urged Israel to make a “clean break” from pursuit of the peace process, particularly its land-for-peace aspects, which the authors regarded as a prescription for Israel’s annihilation. Arabs must rather accept a “peace-for-peace” formula through unconditional acceptance of Israel’s rights, including its territorial rights in the occupied territories. The paper advocated that Israel “engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism” by disengaging from economic and political dependence on the U.S. while maintaining a more “mature,” self-reliant partnership with the U.S. not focused “narrowly on territorial disputes.” Greater self-reliance would, these freelance policymakers told Netanyahu, give Israel “greater freedom of action and remove a significant lever of pressure [i.e., U.S. pressure] used against it in the past.”
The paper advocated, even as far back as 1996, containment of the threat against Israel by working closely with guess who? Turkey, as well as with Jordan, apparently regarded as the only reliably moderate Arab regime. Jordan had become attractive for these strategists because it was at the time working with opposition elements in Iraq to reestablish a Hashemite monarchy there that would have been allied by blood lines and political leanings to the Hashemite throne in Jordan. The paper’s authors saw the principal threat to Israel coming, we should not be surprised to discover now, from Iraq and Syria and advised that focusing on the removal of Saddam Hussein would kill two birds with one stone by also thwarting Syria’s regional ambitions. In what amounts to a prelude to the neo-cons’ principal policy thrust in the Bush administration, the paper spoke frankly of Israel’s interest in overturning the Iraqi leadership and replacing it with a malleable monarchy. Referring to Saddam Hussein’s ouster as “an important Israeli strategic objective,” the paper observed that “Iraq’s future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly” meaning give Israel unquestioned predominance in the region. The authors urged therefore that Israel support the Hashemites in their “efforts to redefine Iraq.”
In a much longer policy document written at about the same time for the same Israeli think tank, David Wurmser repeatedly linked the U.S. and Israel when talking about national interests in the Middle East [archived here, also see this]. The “battle to dominate and define Iraq,” he wrote “is, by extension, the battle to dominate the balance of power in the Levant over the long run,” and “the United States and Israel” can fight this battle together. Repeated references to U.S. and Israeli strategic policy, pitted against a “Saudi-Iraqi-Syrian-Iranian-PLO axis,” and to strategic moves that establish a balance of power in which the United States and Israel are ascendant, in alliance with Turkey and Jordan, betray a thought process that cannot separate U.S. from Israeli interests.
Perle gave further impetus to this thrust when six years later, in September 2002, he gave a briefing for Pentagon officials that included a slide depicting a recommended strategic goal for the U.S. in the Middle East: all of Palestine as Israel, Jordan as Palestine, and Iraq as the Hashemite kingdom. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld seems to have taken this aboard, since he spoke at about the same time of the West Bank and Gaza as the “so-called occupied territories” effectively turning all of Palestine into Israel.
Elliott Abrams is another unabashed supporter of the Israeli right, now bringing his links with Israel into the service of U.S. policymaking on Palestinian-Israeli issues. The neo-con community is crowing about Abrams’ appointment as Middle East director on the NSC staff (where this Iran-contra criminal has already been working since mid-2001, badly miscast as the director for, of all things, democracy and human rights). The Weekly Standard‘sFred Barnes has hailed his appointment as a decisive move that neatly cocks a snook at the pro-Palestinian wimps at the State Department. Accurately characterizing Abrams as “more pro-Israel, less solicitous of Palestinians” than the State Department and strongly opposed to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, Barnes gloats that the Abrams triumph signals that the White House will not cede control of Middle East policy to Colin Powell and the “foreign service bureaucrats.” Abrams comes to the post after a year in which it had effectively been left vacant. His predecessor, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been serving concurrently as Bush’s personal representative to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban and has devoted little time to the NSC job, but several attempts to appoint a successor early this year were vetoed by neo-con hawks who felt the appointees were not devoted enough to Israel.
Although Abrams has no particular Middle East expertise, he has managed to insert himself in the Middle East debate repeatedly over the years. He has a family interest in propounding a pro-Israel view; he is the son-in-law of Norman Podhoretz, one of the original neo-cons and a long-time strident supporter of right-wing Israeli causes as editor of Commentary magazine, and Midge Decter, a frequent right-wing commentator. Abrams has written a good deal on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, opposing U.S. mediation and any effort to press for Israeli concessions. In an article published in advance of the 2000 elections, he propounded a rationale for a U.S. missile defense system, and a foreign policy agenda in general, geared almost entirely toward ensuring Israel’s security. “It is a simple fact,” he wrote, that the possession of missiles and weapons of mass destruction by Iraq and Iran vastly increases Israel’s vulnerability, and this threat would be greatly diminished if the U.S. provided a missile shield and brought about the demise of Saddam Hussein. He concluded with a wholehearted assertion of the identity of U.S. and Israeli interests: “The next decade will present enormous opportunities to advance American interests in the Middle East [by] boldly asserting our support of our friends” – that is, of course, Israel. Many of the fundamental negotiating issues critical to Israel, he said, are also critical to U.S. policy in the region and “require the United States to defend its interests and allies” rather than giving in to Palestinian demands.
Neo-cons in the Henhouse
The neo-con strategy papers half a dozen years ago were dotted with concepts like “redefining Iraq,” “redrawing the map of the Middle East,” “nurturing alternatives to Arafat,” all of which have in recent months become familiar parts of the Bush administration’s diplomatic lingo. Objectives laid out in these papers as important strategic goals for Israel including the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the strategic transformation of the entire Middle East, the death of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, regime change wherever the U.S. and Israel don’t happen to like the existing government, the abandonment of any effort to forge a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace or even a narrower Palestinian-Israeli peace have now become, under the guidance of this group of pro-Israel neo-cons, important strategic goals for the United States. The enthusiasm with which senior administration officials like Bush himself, Cheney, and Rumsfeld have adopted strategic themes originally defined for Israel’s guidance and did so in many cases well before September 11 and the so-called war on terror testifies to the persuasiveness of a neo-con philosophy focused narrowly on Israel and the pervasiveness of the network throughout policymaking councils.
Does all this add up to dual loyalties to Israel and the United States? Many would still contend indignantly that it does not, and that it is anti-Semitic to suggest such a thing. In fact, zealous advocacy of Israel’s causes may be just that zealotry, an emotional connection to Israel that still leaves room for primary loyalty to the United States and affection for Israel is not in any case a sentiment limited to Jews. But passion and emotion and, as George Washington wisely advised, a passionate attachment to any country have no place in foreign policy formulation, and it is mere hair-splitting to suggest that a passionate attachment to another country is not loyalty to that country. Zealotry clouds judgment, and emotion should never be the basis for policymaking.
Zealotry can lead to extreme actions to sustain policies, as is apparently occurring in the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Feith Defense Department. People knowledgeable of the intelligence community have said, according to a recent article in The American Prospect [archived here], that the CIA is under tremendous pressure to produce intelligence more supportive of war with Iraq – as one former CIA official put it, “to support policies that have already been adopted.” Key Defense Department officials, including Feith, are said to be attempting to make the case for pre-emptive war by producing their own unverified intelligence [see this 3-part series by Pentagon insider]. Wolfowitz betrayed his lack of concern for real evidence when, in answer to a recent question about where the evidence is for Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, he replied, “It’s like the judge said about pornography. I can’t define it, but I will know it when I see it.”
Zealotry can also lead to a myopic focus on the wrong issues in a conflict or crisis, as is occurring among all Bush policymakers with regard to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The administration’s obsessive focus on deposing Yasir Arafat, a policy suggested by the neo-cons years before Bush came to office, is a dodge and a diversion that merely perpetuates the conflict by failing to address its real roots. Advocates of this policy fail or refuse to see that, however unappealing the Palestinian leadership, it is not the cause of the conflict, and “regime change” among the Palestinians will do nothing to end the violence. The administration’s utter refusal to engage in any mediation process that might produce a stable, equitable peace, also a neo-con strategy based on the paranoid belief that any peace involving territorial compromise will spell the annihilation of Israel, will also merely prolong the violence. Zealotry produces blindness: the zealous effort to pursue Israel’s right-wing agenda has blinded the dual loyalists in the administration to the true face of Israel as occupier, to any concern for justice or equity and any consideration that interests other than Israel’s are involved, and indeed to any pragmatic consideration that continued unquestioning accommodation of Israel, far from bringing an end to violence, will actually lead to its tragic escalation and to increased terrorism against both the United States and Israel.
What does it matter, in the end, if these men split their loyalties between the United States and Israel? Apart from the evidence of the policy distortions that arise from zealotry, one need only ask whether it can be mere coincidence that those in the Bush administration who most strongly promote “regime change” in Iraq are also those who most strongly support the policies of the Israeli right wing. And would it bother most Americans to know that the United States is planning a war against Iraq for the benefit of Israel? Can it be mere coincidence, for example, that Vice President Cheney, now the leading senior-level proponent of war with Iraq, repudiated just this option for all the right reasons in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991? He was defense secretary at the time, and in an interview with the New York Times on April 13, 1991, he said:
“If you’re going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein, you have to go to Baghdad. Once you’ve got Baghdad, it’s not clear what you will do with it. It’s not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that’s currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Ba’athists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists. How much credibility is that government going to have if it’s set up by the United States military when it’s there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for the government, and what happens to it once we leave?”
Since Cheney clearly changed his mind between 1991 and today, is it not legitimate to ask why, and whether Israel might have a greater influence over U.S. foreign policy now than it had in 1991? After all, notwithstanding his wisdom in rejecting an expansion of the war on Iraq a decade ago, Cheney was just as interested in promoting U.S. imperialism and was at that same moment in the early 1990s outlining a plan for world domination by the United States, one that did not include conquering Iraq at any point along the way. The only new ingredient in the mix today that is inducing Cheney to begin the march to U.S. world domination by conquering Iraq is the presence in the Bush-Cheney administration of a bevy of aggressive right-wing neo-con hawks who have long backed the Jewish fundamentalists of Israel’s own right wing and who have been advocating some move on Iraq for at least the last half dozen years?
The suggestion that the war with Iraq is being planned at Israel’s behest, or at the instigation of policymakers whose main motivation is trying to create a secure environment for Israel, is strong. Many Israeli analysts believe this. The Israeli commentator Akiva Eldar recently observed frankly in a Ha’aretz column that Perle, Feith, and their fellow strategists “are walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments and Israeli interests.” The suggestion of dual loyalties is not a verboten subject in the Israeli press, as it is in the United States. Peace activist Uri Avnery, who knows Israeli Prime Minister Sharon well, has written that Sharon has long planned grandiose schemes for restructuring the Middle East and that “the winds blowing now in Washington remind me of Sharon. I have absolutely no proof that the Bushies got their ideas from him . But the style is the same.”
The dual loyalists in the Bush administration have given added impetus to the growth of a messianic strain of Christian fundamentalism that has allied itself with Israel in preparation for the so-called End of Days. These crazed fundamentalists see Israel’s domination over all of Palestine as a necessary step toward fulfillment of the biblical Millennium, consider any Israeli relinquishment of territory in Palestine as a sacrilege, and view warfare between Jews and Arabs as a divinely ordained prelude to Armageddon. [To see how this novel interpretation of the Bible took hold, see this.] These right-wing Christian extremists [in some cases led by Jewish Israel partisans] have a profound influence on Bush and his administration, with the result that the Jewish fundamentalists working for the perpetuation of Israel’s domination in Palestine and the Christian fundamentalists working for the Millennium strengthen and reinforce each other’s policies in administration councils. The Armageddon that Christian Zionists seem to be actively promoting and that Israeli loyalists inside the administration have tactically allied themselves with raises the horrifying but very real prospect of an apocalyptic Christian-Islamic war. The neo-cons seem unconcerned, and Bush’s occasional pro forma remonstrations against blaming all Islam for the sins of Islamic extremists do nothing to make this prospect less likely.
These two strains of Jewish and Christian fundamentalism have dovetailed into an agenda for a vast imperial project to restructure the Middle East, all further reinforced by the happy coincidence of great oil resources up for grabs and a president and vice president heavily invested in oil. All of these factors the dual loyalties of an extensive network of policymakers allied with Israel, the influence of a fanatical wing of Christian fundamentalists, and oil probably factor in more or less equally to the administration’s calculations on the Palestinian-Israeli situation and on war with Iraq. But the most critical factor directing U.S. policymaking is the group of Israeli loyalists: neither Christian fundamentalist support for Israel nor oil calculations would carry the weight in administration councils that they do without the pivotal input of those loyalists, who clearly know how to play to the Christian fanatics and undoubtedly also know that their own and Israel’s bread is buttered by the oil interests of people like Bush and Cheney. This is where loyalty to Israel by government officials colors and influences U.S. policymaking in ways that are extremely dangerous.
Too Many Smoking Guns to Ignore:
Israel, American Jews and the War on Iraq
Most of the vociferously pro-Israeli neo-conservative policymakers in the Bush administration make no effort to hide the fact that at least part of their intention in promoting war against Iraq (and later perhaps against Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Palestinians) is to guarantee Israel’s security by eliminating its greatest military threats, forging a regional balance of power overwhelmingly in Israel’s favor, and in general creating a more friendly atmosphere for Israel in the Middle East. Yet, despite the neo-cons’ own openness, a great many of those on the left who oppose going to war with Iraq and oppose the neo-conservative doctrines of the Bush administration nonetheless utterly reject any suggestion that Israel is pushing the United States into war, or is cooperating with the U.S., or even hopes to benefit by such a war. Anyone who has the temerity to suggest any Israeli instigation of, or even involvement in, Bush administration war planning is inevitably labeled somewhere along the way as an anti-Semite. Just whisper the word “domination” anywhere in the vicinity of the word “Israel,” as in “U.S.-Israeli domination of the Middle East” or “the U.S. drive to assure global domination and guarantee security for Israel,” and some leftist who otherwise opposes going to war against Iraq will trot out charges of promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the old czarist forgery that asserted a Jewish plan for world domination.
This is tiresome, to put it mildly. So it’s useful to put forth the evidence for the assertion of Israeli complicity in Bush administration planning for war with Iraq, which is voluminous, as the following recitation will show. Much of what is presented below could be classified as circumstantial, but much is from the mouths of the horses themselves, either the neo-con planners or Israeli government officials, and much of it is evidence that, even if Israel is not actively pushing for war, many Israelis expect to benefit from it, and this despite their fear that a war will bring down on Israel a shower of Iraqi missiles.
The evidence below is listed chronologically, except for two items grouped separately at the end. Although deletions have been made for the sake of brevity, and emphasis has been added to occasional phrases and sentences, no editorial narrative has been added. The evidence speaks for itself.
“Benjamin Netanyahu’s government comes in with a new set of ideas. While there are those who will counsel continuity, Israel has the opportunity to make a clean break; it can forge a peace process and strategy based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative.To secure the nation’s streets and borders in the immediate future, Israel can [among other steps] work closely with Turkey and Jordan to contain, destabilize, and roll-back some of its most dangerous threats. This implies a clean break from the slogan, ‘comprehensive peace’ to a traditional concept of strategy based on balance of power. Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right, as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria’s regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq..Since Iraq’s future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly, it would be understandable that Israel has an interest in supporting the Hashemites in their efforts to redefine Iraq. Israel’s new agenda can signal a clean break by abandoning a policy whichallowed strategic retreat, by reestablishing the principle of preemption, rather than retaliation alone and by ceasing to absorb blows to the nation without response. Israel’s new strategic agenda can shape the regional environment in ways that grant Israel the room to refocus its energies back to where they are most needed: to rejuvenate its national idea.Ultimately, Israel can do more than simply manage the Arab-Israeli conflict though war. No amount of weapons or victories will grant Israel the peace it seeks. When Israel is on a sound economic footing, and is free, powerful, and healthy internally, it will no longer simply manage the Arab-Israeli conflict; it will transcend it. As a senior Iraqi opposition leader said recently: ‘Israel must rejuvenate and revitalize its moral and intellectual leadership. It is an important, if not the most important, element in the history of the Middle East.’ Israel-proud, wealthy, solid, and strong-would be the basis of a truly new and peaceful Middle East.”“A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” policy paper written for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, mid-1996, under the auspices of an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Authors included Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser, now all policymakers in or policy advisers to the Bush administration
“Iraq’s future will profoundly affect the strategic balance in the Middle East. The battle to dominate and define Iraq is, by extension, the battle to dominate the balance of power in the Levant over the long run.Iraq tried to take over its neighbor, Kuwait, a catastrophic mistake that has accelerated Iraq’s descent into internal chaos. This chaos has created a vacuum in an area geostrategically central, and rich with human and natural resources. The vacuum tempts Iraq’s neighbors to intervene, especially Syria, which is also driven to control the region.Iraq’s chaos and Syria’s efforts simultaneously provide opportunities for the Jordanian monarchy. Jordan is best suited to manage the tribal politics that will define the Levant in the wake of failed secular-Arab nationalism.IfJordan wins, then Syria would be isolated and surrounded by a new pro-western Jordanian-Israeli-Iraqi-Turkish bloc.It would be prudent for the United States and Israel to abandon the quest for ‘comprehensive peace,’ including its ‘land for peace’ provision with Syria, since it locks the United States into futile attempts to prop-up local tyrants and the unnatural states underneath them. Instead, the United States and Israel can use this competition over Iraq to improve the regional balance of power in favor of regional friends like Jordan.”“Coping with Crumbling States: A Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant,” policy paper written for an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, December 1996, by David Wurmser, now a State Department official in the Bush administration
“In the [occupied] territories, the Arab world, and in Israel, Bush’s support for Sharon is being credited to the pro-Israel lobby, meaning Jewish money and the Christian right.[In April 2002] state department professionals convinced Bush that it was important to quell the violence in the territories before assaulting Iraq. The U.S. military supported that view, emphasizing the critical importance of the ground bases in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, for the success of the mission. But according to a well-placed American source, the weather vane turned.Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, asked Bush what kind of coalition-shmoalition he needed to win the war in Afghanistan. They calmed his concerns by saying there’s no chance the situation in the territories will shake the regimes of Mubarak in Egypt and the Abdullahs in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.Last Saturday [April 20], the president convened his advisors in Camp David, for another discussion of the crisis in the territories and Iraq. They decided to sit on the fence.”Israeli commentator Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz, April 26, 2002
“It echoes the hawks in the Bush administration, but Israel has its own agenda in backing a US attack on Iraq. As Egypt and other Arab allies issue vehement warnings to dissuade Washington, Israel’s fear is that the US will back off. ‘If the Americans do not do this now,’ said Israeli Deputy Defense Minister and Labor Party member Weizman Shiry on Wednesday, ‘it will be harder to do it in the future. In a year or two, Saddam Hussein will be further along in developing weapons of mass destruction. It is a world interest, but especially an American interest to attack Iraq. And as deputy defense minister, I can tell you that the United States will receive any assistance it needs from Israel,’ he added. Viewed through the eyes of Israel’s hawkish leaders, however, a US strike is not about Iraq only. Decisionmakers believe it will strengthen Israel’s hand on the Palestinian front and throughout the region. Deputy Interior Minister Gideon Ezra suggested this week that a US attack on Iraq will help Israel impose a new order, sans Arafat, in the Palestinian territories. ‘The more aggressive the attack is, the more it will help Israel against the Palestinians. The understanding would be that what is good to do in Iraq, is also good for here,’ said Ezra. He said a US strike would ‘undoubtedly deal a psychological blow’ to the Palestinians.Yuval Steinitz, a Likud party member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, says he sees another advantage for Israel. The installation of a pro-American government in Iraq would help Israel vis-a-vis another enemy: Syria. ‘After Iraq is taken by US troops and we see a new regime installed as in Afghanistan, and Iraqi bases become American bases, it will be very easy to pressure Syria to stop supporting terrorist organizations like Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad, to allow the Lebanese army to dismantle Hizbullah, and maybe to put an end to the Syrian occupation in Lebanon,’ he says. ‘If this happens we will really see a new Middle East. It might be enough not to invade Syria but just to have an American or UN blockade so that no one can ship weapons to it,’ Steinitz adds.Mr. Ezra predicts a US strike would ‘calm down the entire region’ by eliminating ‘the extremism of Saddam.’”Ben Lynfield, Christian Science Monitor, August 30, 2002
“As the Bush administration debates going to war against Iraq, its most hawkish members are pushing a sweeping vision for the Middle East that sees the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq as merely a first step in the region’s transformation. The argument for reshaping the political landscape in the Mideast has been pushed for years by some Washington think tanks and in hawkish circles. It is now being considered as a possible US policy with the ascent of key hard-liners in the administration, from Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith in the Pentagon to John Hannah and Lewis Libby on the vice president’s staff and John Bolton in the State Department, analysts and officials say. Iraq, the hawks argue, is just the first piece of the puzzle. After an ouster of Hussein, they say, the United States will have more leverage to act against Syria and Iran, will be in a better position to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will be able to rely less on Saudi oil. The thinking does not represent official US policy. But increasingly the argument has served as a justification for a military attack against Iraq, and elements of the strategy have emerged in speeches by administration officials, most prominently Vice President Dick Cheney.A powerful corollary of the strategy is that a pro-US Iraq would make the region safer for Israel and, indeed, its staunchest proponents are ardent supporters of the Israeli right-wing. Administration officials, meanwhile, have increasingly argued that the onset of an Iraq allied to the US would give the administration more sway in bringing about a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though Cheney and others have offered few details on precisely how.In its broadest terms, the advocates argue that a democratic Iraq would unleash similar change elsewhere in the Arab world.’Everyone will flip out, starting with the Saudis,’ said Meyrav Wurmser, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute in Washington [and another author of the 1996 policy paper written for Israel, above]. ‘It will send shock waves throughout the Arab world. Look, we already are pushing for democracy in the Palestinian Authority, though not with a huge amount of success, and we need a little bit more of a heavy-handed approach,’ she said. ‘But if we can get a democracy in the Palestinian Authority, democracy in Iraq, get the Egyptians to improve their human rights and open up their system, it will be a spectacular change. After a war with Iraq, then you really shape the region.’”John Donnelly and Anthony Shadid, Boston Globe, September 10, 2002
“Slowly, President Bush’s war plan against Iraq is emerging from the thick fog. At first it looked like a collection of hazy slogans, but gradually it is becoming clear that it has definite, if hidden, aims.The war plan of the Bushies makes sense only if the US leadership is ready (more than that, is actually longing) for the occupation of Iraq in order to remain there for many, many years.But in the eyes of Bush and his advisers, this is a very worthwhile investment that would yield immense benefits. Among others:
• The main objective of the American economy (and therefore of American policy) is the oil of the Caspian Sea.
• The existence of a secure American base in the heart of the Arab world will also enable Washington to bully all the Arab regimes, lest they stray from the straight and narrow.
• The new situation will destroy the last remnants of Arab independence. Even today, almost all the Arab countries are dependent on America.
A massive American physical presence in their midst will put an end to any pretense of Arab power and unity.A grandiose, world-embracing, yet simple and logical design. What does it remind me of?In the early 80’s, I heard about several plans like this from Ariel Sharon (which I published at the time). His head was full of grand designs for restructuring the Middle East, the creation of an Israeli ‘security zone’ from Pakistan to Central Africa, the overthrow of regimes and installing others in their stead, moving a whole people (the Palestinians) and so forth. I can’t help it, but the winds blowing now in Washington remind me of Sharon. I have absolutely no proof that the Bushies got their ideas from him, even if all of them seem to have been mesmerized by him. But the style is the same, a mixture of megalomania, creativity, arrogance, ignorance and superficiality. An explosive mixture. Sharon’s grand design floundered, as we know. The bold flights of imagination and the superficial logic did not help; -Sharon simply did not understand the real currents of history. I fear that the band of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Rice, Wolfowitz, Perle and all the other little Sharons are suffering from the same syndrome.Sharon may believe that he will be the big winner of such an American move, though history may show that he brought a historical disaster on us. He may succeed in exploiting the ensuing anarchy in order to drive the Palestinians out of the country. But within a few years Israel could find itself surrounded by a new Middle EastA region full of hatred, dreaming of revenge, driven by religious and nationalist fanaticism. And in the end, the Americans will go home. We will be left here alone. But people like Bush and Sharon do not march to the beat of history. They are listening to a different drummer.”Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery, CounterPunch.org, September 10, 2002
“Ever since the Bush administration ordered the CIA to nurture the exiled Iraqis, nothing happens to them by accident. [Jordanian] Prince Hassan didn’t just happen to drop in [on a meeting of Iraqi exiles in London] because he was in town. The Hashemite dynasty has never given up its dream to revive the Iraqi throne. It could be a great job for Hassan, whose older brother [the late King Hussein] denied him the Jordanian kingdom at the last minute. It’s true that restoring a monarchy in Iraq does not exactly fit the Bush administration’s vision of a democratic Middle East. But there are signs that it fits some old dreams of a few of the key strategists around the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld triangle running America’s Iraq policy. A few weeks ago, Richard Perle invited the Pentagon chiefs to a meeting with researchers from a Washington think tank. According to information that reached a former top official in the Israeli security services, the researchers showed two slides to the Pentagon officials. The first was a depiction of the three goals in the war on terror and the democratization of the Middle East: Iraq, a tactical goal; Saudi Arabia, a strategic goal; and Egypt, the great prize. The triangle in the next slide was no less interesting: Palestine is Israel, Jordan is Palestine, and Iraq is the Hashemite Kingdom.”Israeli commentator Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, October 1, 2002
“The summer of 1993 saw the emergence of two contradictory paths concerning Israel and its place in the Middle East. The signing of the Oslo agreement raised hopes for Israel’s integration into a web of political, security and economic cooperation with its Arab neighbors. At the same time, Harvard Prof. Samuel Huntington published his essay, ‘The Clash of Civilizations,’ in which he argued that the conflicts around the world would no longer be over ideology, but over culture instead. ‘Islam has bloody borders,’ Huntington wrote, counting Israel as a ‘Western creation’ on the fault lines of the conflict, along with Kashmir and Bosnia. The idea was accepted enthusiastically by the Israeli right wing. It also had some supporters on the left, most noticeably Ehud Barak, who described Israel as a Western fortress in the region, ‘a villa in the jungle.’ As of now, it appears that the argument was settled in favor of the clash of civilizations theory, which has taken over the political and security establishment in Israel. The appeal of the clash of civilizations theory is also expressed in the Israeli enthusiasm for the expected American assault on Iraq, in the hope of showing the Arabs who’s the boss in the region. Israel is the only country to absolutely support the American decision, and has urged it to act, and quickly. The tangible result of the change in consciousness has been deepening Israel’s dependence on American defense and economic support. Sharon led that policy. The same Sharon says there are no free lunches in policy and is now begging for aid from Washington, trying to point the American cannon in the direction of its next target after Iraq.”Israeli correspondent Aluf Benn, Haaretz, November 14, 2002
“The embrace of U.S. President George W. Bush is Ariel Sharon’s chief asset as he vies for another term of office as prime minister. Sharon is finding it hard to show any achievements during his 20 months in power. The only card left in his hand is the diplomatic card, as personified by Israel’s good relations with the White House, and all of Sharon’s campaign revolves around it. Sharon and his cronies are now asking the voters for an extended period of grace, and are promising that next year will be the year that counts. All of their hopes and expectations are pointed toward Washington: an American attack on Iraq is seen as the lever which can extricate Israel from its economic, security and social quagmire. It is hoped that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power will set in motion a ‘domino effect,’ will end the Palestinian Intifada, bring about the end of Yasser Arafat’s regime and eradicate the threat to Israel from Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.”Israeli correspondent Aluf Benn, Haaretz, November 18, 2002
“To understand the genesis of this extraordinary [US global] ambition, it is also necessary to grasp the moral, cultural and intellectual world of American nationalism in which it has taken shape. This nationalism existed long before last September, but it has been inflamed by those attacks and, equally dangerously, it has become even more entwined with the nationalism of the Israeli Right. The banal propaganda portrayal of Saddam as a crazed and suicidal dictator plays well on the American street, but I don’t believe that it is a view shared by the Administration. Rather, their intention is partly to retain an absolute certainty of being able to defend the Gulf against an Iraqi attack, but, more important, to retain for the US and Israel a free hand for intervention in the Middle East as a whole. From the point of view of Israel, the Israeli lobby and their representatives in the Administration, the apparent benefits of such a free hand are clear enough. For the group around Cheney, the single most important consideration is guaranteed and unrestricted access to cheap oil, controlled as far as possible at its source. [A]s alternative technologies develop, they could become a real threat to the oil lobby, which, like the Israeli lobby, is deeply intertwined with the Bush Administration. War with Iraq can therefore be seen as a satisfactory outcome for both lobbies.[W]hat the Administration hopes is that by crushing another middle-sized state at minimal military cost, all the other states in the Muslim world will be terrified into full co-operation in tracking down and handing over suspected terrorists, and into forsaking the Palestinian cause.The idea, in other words, is to scare these states not only into helping with the hunt for al-Qaida, but into capitulating to the US and, more important, Israeli agendas in the Middle East.’ The road to Middle East peace lies through Baghdad’ is a line that’s peddled by the Bush Administration and the Israeli lobby. It is just possible that some members of the Administration really believe that by destroying Israel’s most powerful remaining enemy they will gain such credit with Israelis and the Israeli lobby that they will be able to press compromises on Israel. But this is certainly not what public statements by members of the Administration, let alone those of its Likud allies in Israel, suggest.It’s far more probable, therefore, that most members of the Bush and Sharon Administrations hope that the crushing of Iraq will so demoralise the Palestinians, and so reduce wider Arab support for them, that it will be possible to force them to accept a Bantustan settlement bearing no resemblance to independent statehood.From the point of view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, war with Iraq also has some of the character of a Flucht nach vorn, an ‘escape forwards,’ on the part of the US Administration. On the one hand, it has become clear that the conflict is integrally linked to everything else that happens in the Middle East, and therefore cannot simply be ignored, as the Bush Administration tried to do during its first year in office. On the other hand, even those members of the American political elite who have some understanding of the situation and a concern for justice are terrified of confronting Israel and the Israeli lobby in the ways which would be necessary to bring any chance of peace. When the US demands ‘democracy’ in the Palestinian territories before it will re-engage in the peace process it is in part, and fairly cynically, trying to get out of this trap.”Dexter Filkins, New York Times, December 29, 2002Anatol Lieven, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, London Review of Books, December 2002
“If you want to know what the administration has in mind for Iraq, here’s a hint: It has less to do with weapons of mass destruction than with implementing an ambitious U.S. vision to redraw the map of the Middle East. The new map would be drawn with an eye to two main objectives: controlling the flow of oil and ensuring Israel’s continued regional military superiority. [Patrick] Clawson [a policy analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy], whose institute enjoys close ties with the Bush administration, was candid during a Capitol Hill forum on a post-Hussein Iraq in 1999: ‘U.S. oil companies would have an opportunity to make significant profits,’ he said. ‘We should not be embarrassed about the commercial advantages that would come from a re-integration of Iraq into the world economy.’…But taking over Iraq and remaking the global oil market is not necessarily the endgame. The next steps, favored by hard-liners determined to elevate Israeli security above all other U.S. foreign policy goals, would be to destroy any remaining perceived threat to the Jewish state: namely, the regimes in Syria and Iran. In 1998, [David] Wurmser, now in the State Department, told the Jewish newspaper Forward that if [Iraqi opposition leader] Ahmad Chalabi were in power and extended a no-fly, no-drive zone in northern Iraq, it would provide the crucial piece for an anti-Syria, anti-Iran bloc. ‘It puts Scuds out of the range of Israel and provides the geographic beachhead between Turkey, Jordan and Israel,’ he said. ‘This should anchor the Middle East pro-Western coalition.’ [Richard] Perle, in the same 1998 article, told Forward that a coalition of pro-Israeli groups was ‘at the forefront with the legislation with regard to Iran. One can only speculate what it might accomplish if it decided to focus its attention on Saddam Hussein.’Now, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has joined the call against Tehran, arguing in a November interview with the Times of London that the U.S. should shift its focus to Iran ‘the day after’ the Iraq war ends.[T]he hard-liners in and around the administration seem to know in their hearts that the battle to carve up the Middle East would not be won without the blood of Americans and their allies. ‘One can only hope that we turn the region into a caldron, and faster, please,’ [Michael] Ledeen preached to the choir at National Review Online last August. ‘That’s our mission in the war against terror.’”UC Berkeley journalism professor Sandy Tolan, Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2002
“The immediate and laudatory purpose of a United States military campaign against Iraq is to stamp out the regime of Saddam Hussein, the world’s most psychopathic ruler, and to strike a blow against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As such this is a welcome move from Israel’s standpoint, whatever the consequences. [T]he American planners, who display considerable disdain for most of the Muslim and Arab worlds, seem to think that the forcible removal of Saddam’s evil regime and the consequent implantation of an American military presence in the wild Middle East will project a civilizing or liberating influence. They are not alone; not a few progressive Arab thinkers (and many Israelis) appear to welcome this American deus ex machina into the region.”Israeli military/political analyst, Yossi Alpher, bitterlemons.org, December 23, 2002
“I think that the conquest of Iraq will really create a New Middle East. Put differently: the Middle East will enter a new age. For the time being this will happen without us, as long as there’s no Palestinian solution. Many peoples in the region are ruled by frightened dictators who have to decide whom to fear more, the terrorists or the war against terrorism. Asad fears for his legitimacy due to the war against terrorism. Arafat can also lose his legitimacy. The Saudis gave money for terrorism due to fear. No terrorist-sponsoring country is democratic. In those countries [that support terrorism] there will be revolutions. Television will play a role like in the collapse of the Iron Curtain. This will happen with the Palestinians, too. The Arab world is ripe for internal revolution like the USSR and China in the past decade.”Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, bitterlemons.org, December 23, 2002
“Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, having just returned from a week-long fact-finding trip to the Middle East, addressed the Chicago Council of Foreign Relations Dec. 16 and said out loud what is whispered on Capitol Hill: ‘The road to Arab-Israeli peace will not likely go through Baghdad, as some may claim.’ The ‘some’ are led by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In private conversation with Hagel and many other members of Congress, the former general leaves no doubt that the greatest U.S. assistance to Israel would be to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime. That view is widely shared inside the Bush administration, and is a major reason why U.S. forces today are assembling for war. As the US gets ready for war, its standing in Islam, even among longtime allies, stands low. Yet, the Bush administration has tied itself firmly to Gen. Sharon and his policies. In private conversation, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has insisted that Hezbollah, not al Qaeda, is the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization. How could that be, considering al Qaeda’s global record of mass carnage? In truth, Hezbollah is the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization from Israel’s standpoint. While viciously anti-American in rhetoric, the Lebanon-based Hezbollah is focused on the destruction of Israel. Thus, Rice’s comments suggest that the U.S. war against terrorism, accused of being Iraq-centric, actually is Israel-centric. That ties George W. Bush to Arik Sharon.What is widely perceived as an indissoluble Bush-Sharon bond creates tension throughout Islam.On balance, war with Iraq may not be inevitable but is highly probable. That it looks like Sharon’s war disturbs Americans such as Chuck Hagel, who have no use for Saddam Hussein but worry about the background of an attack against him.”Robert Novak, Washington Post, December 26, 2002
“With a scandal chipping away at his government, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon changed the subject to Iraq this week and found his country eager to listen.Mr. Sharon’s remarks seemed to strike a chord with Israeli voters, who are concerned about an Iraqi attack and still traumatized by the events of 1991, when 39 Iraqi missiles landed in the country. To some Israeli commentators, the week’s events highlighted the lingering effects of the first war with Iraq, and how Mr. Sharon, an incumbent prime minister with an unmatched reputation for toughness, is the likely beneficiary of any debate over a second one. ‘What happened in 1991 is an unfinished chapter,’ said Asher Arian, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem. ‘The Israeli public feels it has a score to settle. When Sharon talks about Iraq, it has enormous resonance. ‘Part of the explanation for the positive reception of Mr. Sharon is the genuine fear that many Israelis harbor of an Iraqi attack. The other factor, commentators here say, is the looming memory of the Persian Gulf war of 1991. For Israelis, proud of their military successes over the years, that war was a different experience. At American insistence, they endured Iraqi missile attacks without fighting back. ‘The gulf war was the first time in Israel’s history where people had to hide and run way,’ said Itzhak Galnoor, former commissioner of the Israeli civil service. ‘For Israelis to be helpless, that was very traumatic.’”Dexter Filkins, New York Times, December 29, 2002
Authors’ note: Given the prevailing atmosphere in the United States for debate on Israel, the frequency with which critics of Israel are accused of malicious ethnic motives, and the widespread skittishness about associating Israel or American Jews with war planning against Iraq, the following items are of particular interest. The first of these items reports a clear Jewish effort to suppress any evidence of Jewish support for war. The second is evidence, from a non-Jewish perspective, of the effect of the silence imposed on critics of Israel.
“A group of U.S. political consultants has sent pro-Israel leaders a memo urging them to keep quiet while the Bush administration pursues a possible war with Iraq. The six-page memo was sent by the Israel Project, a group funded by American Jewish organizations and individual donors. Its authors said the main audience was American Jewish leaders, but much of the memo’s language is directed toward Israelis.The memo reflects a concern that involvement by Israel in a U.S.-Iraq confrontation could hurt Israel’s standing in American public opinion and undermine international support for a hard line against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. ‘Let American politicians fight it out on the floor of Congress and in the media,’ the memo said. ‘Let the nations of the world argue in front of the UN. Your silence allows everyone to focus on Iraq rather than Israel.’ An Israeli diplomat in Washington said the Israeli government did not request or fund the efforts of the Israel Project and that Israeli leaders were unlikely to follow all the advice. ‘These are professional public relations people,’ the diplomat said. ‘There’s also a political-diplomatic side.’ The Iraq memo was issued in the past few weeks and labeled ‘confidential property of the Israel Project,’ which is led by Democratic consultant Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi with help from Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Republican pollsters Neil Newhouse and Frank Luntz. Several of the consultants have advised Israeli politicians, and the group aired a pro-Israel ad earlier this year. ‘If your goal is regime change, you must be much more careful with your language because of the potential backlash,’ said the memo, titled ‘Talking About Iraq.’ It added: ‘You do not want Americans to believe that the war on Iraq is being waged to protect Israel rather than to protect America.’ In particular, the memo urged Israelis to pipe down about the possibility of Israel responding to an Iraqi attack. ‘Such certainty may be Israeli policy, but asserting it publicly and so overtly will not sit well with a majority of Americans because it suggests a pre-determined outcome rather than a measured approach,’ it said.”Dana Milbank, Washington Post, November 27, 2002
“[We need to] demystify the question of why we have become unable to discuss our relationship with the current government of Israel. Whether the actions taken by that government constitute self-defense or a particularly inclusive form of self-immolation remains an open question. The question of course has a history.This open question, and its history, are discussed rationally and with considerable intellectual subtlety in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Where the question is not discussed rationally, where in fact the question is rarely discussed at all, since so few of us are willing to see our evenings turn toxic, is in New York and Washington and in those academic venues where the attitudes and apprehensions of New York and Washington have taken hold. The president of Harvard recently warned that criticisms of the current government of Israel could be construed as ‘anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.’ The very question of the US relationship with Israel, in other words, has come to be seen as unraisable, potentially lethal, the conversational equivalent of an unclaimed bag on a bus. We take cover. We wait for the entire subject to be defused, safely insulated behind baffles of invective and counterinvective. Many opinions are expressed. Few are allowed to develop. Even fewer change.”Joan Didion, New York Review of Books, January 16, 2003
Kathleen Christison worked for 16 years as a political analyst with the CIA, dealing first with Vietnam and then with the Middle East for her last seven years with the Agency before resigning in 1979. Since leaving the CIA, she has been a free-lance writer, dealing primarily with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her book, “Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy,” was published by the University of California Press and reissued in paperback with an update in October 2001. A second book, “The Wound of Dispossession: Telling the Palestinian Story,” was published in March 2002.
Bill Christison joined the CIA in 1950, and served on the analysis side of the Agency for 28 years. From the early 1970s he served as National Intelligence Officer (principal adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence on certain areas) for, at various times, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Before he retired in 1979 he was Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit.
Serving Two Flags: Neo-Cons, Israel and the Bush Administration
Since 9-11, a small group of “neo-conservatives” in the Administration have effectively gutted–they would say reformed–traditional American foreign and security policy. Notable features of the new Bush doctrine include the pre-emptive use of unilateral force, and the undermining of the United Nations and the principle instruments and institutions of international law….all in the cause of fighting terrorism and promoting homeland security.
Some skeptics, noting the neo-cons’ past academic and professional associations, writings and public utterances, have suggested that their underlying agenda is the alignment of U.S. foreign and security policies with those of Ariel Sharon and the Israeli right wing. The administration’s new hard line on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict certainly suggests that, as perhaps does the destruction, with U.S. soldiers and funds, of the military capacity of Iraq, and the current belligerent neo-con campaign against the other two countries which constitute a remaining counterforce to Israeli military hegemony in the region–Iran and Syria.
Have the neo-conservatives–many of whom are senior officials in the Defense Department, National Security Council and Office of the Vice President–had dual agendas, while professing to work for the internal security of the United States against its terrorist enemies?
A review of the internal security backgrounds of some of the best known among them strongly suggests the answer.
Dr. Stephen Bryen and Colleagues
In April of 1979, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Robert Keuch recommended in writing that Bryen, then a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, undergo a grand jury hearing to establish the basis for a prosecution for espionage. John Davitt, then Chief of the Justice Department’s Internal Security Division, concurred.
The evidence was strong. Bryen had been overheard in the Madison Hotel Coffee Shop, offering classified documents to an official of the Israeli Embassy in the presence of the director of AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. It was later determined that the Embassy official was Zvi Rafiah, the Mossad station chief in Washington. Bryen refused to be poly-graphed by the FBI on the purpose and details of the meeting; whereas the person who’d witnessed it agreed to be poly-graphed and passed the test.
The Bureau also had testimony from a second person, a staff member of the Foreign Relations Committee, that she had witnessed Bryen in his Senate office with Rafiah, discussing classified documents that were spread out on a table in front of an open safe in which the documents were supposed to be secured. Not long after this second witness came forward, Bryen’s fingerprints were found on classified documents he’d stated in writing to the FBI he’d never had in his possession….the ones he’d allegedly offered to Rafiah.
Nevertheless, following the refusal of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to grant access by Justice Department officials to files which were key to the investigation, Keuch’s recommendation for a grand jury hearing, and ultimately the investigation itself, were shut down. This decision, taken by Philip Heymann, Chief of Justice’s Criminal Division, was a bitter disappointment to Davitt and to Joel Lisker, the lead investigator on the case, as expressed to this writer. A complicating factor in the outcome was that Heymann was a former schoolmate and fellow U.S. Supreme Court Clerk of Bryen’s attorney, Nathan Lewin.
Bryen was asked to resign from his Foreign Relations Committee post shortly before the investigation was concluded in late 1979. For the following year and a half, he served as Executive Director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and provided consulting services to AIPAC.
In April, 1981, the FBI received an application by the Defense Department for a Top Secret security clearance for Dr. Bryen . Richard Perle, who had just been nominated as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, was proposing Bryen as his Deputy Assistant Secretary! Within six months, with Perle pushing hard, Bryen received both Top Secret-SCI (sensitive compartmented information) and Top Secret-“NATO/COSMIC” clearances.
Loyalty, Patriotism and Character
The Bryen investigation became in fact the most contentious issue in Perle’s own confirmation hearings in July, 1981. Under aggressive questioning from Sen. Jeremiah Denton, Perle held his ground: “I consider Dr. Bryen to be an individual impeccable integrity….I have the highest confidence in [his] loyalty, patriotism and character.”
Several years later in early 1988, Israel was in the final stages of development of a prototype of its ground based “Arrow” anti-ballistic missile. One element the program lacked was “klystrons”, small microwave amplifiers which are critical components in the missile’s high frequency, radar-based target acquisition system which locks on to in-coming missiles. In 1988, klystrons were among the most advanced developments in American weapons research, and their export was of course strictly proscribed.
The DOD office involved in control of defense technology exports was the Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA) within Richard Perle’s ISP office. The Director (and founder) of DTSA was Perle’s Deputy, Dr. Stephen Bryen. In May of 1988, Bryen sent a standard form to Richard Levine, a Navy tech transfer official, informing him of intent to approve a license for Varian Associates, Inc. of Beverly, Massachusetts to export to Israel four klystrons. This was done without the usual consultations with the tech transfer officials of the Army and Air Force, or ISA (International Security Affairs) or DSAA (Defense Security Assistance Agency.
The answer from Levine was “no”. He opposed granting the license, and asked for a meeting on the matter of the appropriate (above listed) offices. At the meeting, all of the officials present opposed the license. Bryen responded by suggesting that he go back to the Israelis to ask why these particular items were needed for their defense. Later, after the Israeli Government came back with what one DOD staffer described as “a little bullshit answer”, Bryen simply notified the meeting attendees that an acceptable answer had been received, the license granted, and the klystrons released.
By now, however, the dogs were awake. Then Assistant Secretary of Defense for ISA, (and now Deputy Secretary of State) Richard Armitage sent Dr. Bryen a letter stating that the State Department (which issues the export licenses) should be informed of DOD’s “uniformly negative” reaction to the export of klystrons to Israel. Bryen did as instructed , and the license was withdrawn.
In July, Varian Associates became the first U.S. corporation formally precluded from contracting with the Defense Department. Two senior colleague in DOD who wish to remain anonymous have confirmed that this attempt by Bryen to obtain klystrons for his friends was not unusual, and was in fact “standard operating procedure” for him, recalling numerous instances when U.S. companies were denied licenses to export sensitive technology, only to learn later that Israeli companies subsequently exported similar (U.S. derived) weapons and technology to the intended customers/governments.
In late1988, Bryen resigned from his DOD post, and for a period worked in the
private sector with a variety of defense technology consulting firms.
Bryen and the China Commission
In 1997, “Defense Week” reported (05/27/97) that, ….” the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence reaffirmed that U.S.- derived technology from the cancelled [Israeli] Lavi fighter project is being used on China’s new F-10 fighter.” The following year, “Jane’s Intelligence Review” reported (11/01/98) the transfer by Israel to China of the Phalcon airborne early warning and control system, the Python air-combat missile, and the F-10 fighter aircraft, containing “state-of-the-art U.S. electronics.”
Concern about the continuing transfer of advanced U.S. arms technology to the burgeoning Chinese military program led, in the last months of the Clinton Administration, to the creation of a Congressional consultative body called the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The charter for the “The China Commission”, as it is commonly known, states that its purpose is to….”monitor, investigate, and report to the Congress on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the Peoples Republic of China.” The charter also reflects an awareness of the problem of “back door” technology leaks: “The Commission shall also take into account patterns of trade and transfers through third countries to the extent practicable.”
It was almost predictable that in the new Bush Administration, Dr. Stephen Bryen would find his way to the China Commission. In April 2001, with the support of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) Bryen was appointed a Member of the Commission by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Last August, his appointment was extended through December of 2005.
Informed that Bryen had been appointed to the Commission, the reaction of one former
senior FBI counter-intelligence official was: “My God, that must mean he has a “Q
clearance!” (A “Q” clearance, which must be approved by the Department of Energy, is the designation for a Top Secret codeword clearance to access nuclear technology.)
Michael Ledeen, Consultant on Chaos
If Stephen Bryen is the military technology guru in the neo-con pantheon, Michael Ledeen is currently its leading theorist, historian, scholar and writer. It states in the website of his consulting firm, Benador Associates, that he is “…one of the world’s leading authorities on intelligence, contemporary history and international affairs” and that….”As Ted Koppel puts it, ‘Michael Ledeen is a Renaissance man….in the tradition of Machiavelli.’” Perhaps the following will add some color and texture to this description.
In 1983, on the recommendation of Richard Perle, Ledeen was hired at the Department of Defense as a consultant on terrorism. His immediate supervisor was the Principle Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs, Noel Koch. Early in their work together, Koch noticed with concern Ledeen’s habit of stopping by in his (Koch’s) outer office to read classified materials. When the two of them took a trip to Italy, Koch learned from the CIA station there that when Ledeen had lived in Rome previously, as correspondent for The New Republic, he’d been carried in Agency files as an agent of influence of a foreign government: Israel.
Some time after their return from the trip, Ledeen approached his boss with a request for his assistance in obtaining two highly classified CIA reports which he said were held by the FBI. He’d hand written on a piece of paper the identifying “alpha numeric designators”. These identifiers were as highly classified as the reports themselves….which raised in Koch’s mind the question of who had provided them to Ledeen if he hadn’t the clearances to obtain them himself. Koch immediately told his executive assistant that Ledeen was to have no further access to classified materials in the office, and Ledeen just ceased coming to “work”.
In early 1986, however, Koch learned that Ledeen had joined NSC as a consultant, and sufficiently concerned about the internal security implications of the behavior of his former aide, arranged to be interviewed by two FBI agents on the matter. After a two hour debriefing, Koch was told that it was only Soviet military intelligence penetration that interested the Bureau. The follow-on interviews that were promised by the agents just never occurred.
Koch thought this strange, coming as it did just months after the arrest of Naval intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard on charges of espionage for Israel. Frustrated, Koch wrote up in detail the entire saga of Ledeen’s DOD consultancy, and sent it to the Office of Senator Charles Grassley, then a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which had oversight responsibility for, inter alia, the FBI.
A former senior FBI counter-intelligence official was surprised and somewhat skeptical, when told of Koch’s unsuccessful attempts to interest the Bureau in an investigation of Ledeen, noting that in early 1986, the Justice Department was in fact already engaged in several on-going, concurrent investigations of Israeli espionage and theft of American military technology.
Machiavelli in Tel Aviv
Koch’s belated attempts to draw official attention to his former assistant were too late, in any event, for within a very few weeks of leaving his DOD consultancy in late 1984, Ledeen had found gainful (classified) employment at the National Security Council (NSC). In fact, according to a now declassified chronology prepared for the Senate/House Iran-
Contra investigation, within calendar 1984 Ledeen was already suggesting to Oliver North, his new boss at NSC….” that Israeli contacts might be useful in obtaining release of the U.S. hostages in Lebanon.” Perhaps significantly, that is the first entry in the “Chronology of Events: U.S.- Iran Dialogue”, dated November 18,1986, prepared for the Joint House-Senate Hearings in the Iran-Contra Investigations.
What is so striking about the Ledeen-related documents which are part of the Iran-Contra Collection of the National Security Archive, is how thoroughly the judgements of Ledeen’s colleagues at NSC mirrored, and validated, Noel Koch’s internal security concerns about his consultant.
- on April 9, 1985, NSC Middle East analyst Donald Fortier wrote to National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane that NSC staffers were agreed that Ledeen’s role in the scheme should be limited to carrying messages to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres regarding plans to cooperate with Israel on the crisis within Iran, and specifically that he should not be entrusted to ask Peres for detailed operational information;
- on June 6, 1985, Secretary of State George Shultz wrote to McFarlane that, “Israel’s record of dealings with Iran since the fall of the Shah and during the hostage crisis [show] that Israel’s agenda is not the same as ours. Consequently doubt whether an intelligence relationship such as what Ledeen has in mind would be one which we could fully rely upon and it could seriously skew our own perception and analysis of the Iranian scene.”
- on 20 August, 1985, the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense informed Ledeen by memorandum that his security clearance had been downgraded from Top Secret-SCI to Secret.
- on 16 January, 1986, Oliver North recommended to John Poindexter “for [the] security of the Iran initiative” that Ledeen be asked to take periodic polygraph examinations.
- later in January, on the 24th, North wrote to Poindexter of his suspicion that Ledeen, along with Adolph Schwimmer and Manucher Ghorbanifar, might be making money personally on the sale of arms to Iran, through Israel.
During the June 23-25, 1987 joint hearings of the House and Senate select committees’ investigation of Iran-Contra, Noel Koch testified that he became suspicious when he learned that the price which Ledeen had negotiated for the sale to the Israeli Government of basic TOW missiles was $2,500 each.
Upon inquiring with his DOD colleagues, he learned the lowest price the U.S. had ever received for the sale of TOWs to a foreign government had been a previous sale to Israel for $6,800 per copy. Koch, professing in his testimony that he and his colleagues at DOD were not in favor of the sale to begin with, determined that he–Koch–should renegotiate the $2,500 price so that it could be defended by the “defense management system.” In a clandestine meeting on a Sunday in the first class lounge of the TWA section of National Airport, Koch met over a cup of coffee with an official from the Israeli purchasing mission in New York, and agreed on a price of $4,500 per missile, nearly twice what Ledeen had “negotiated” in Israel.
There are two possibilities here–one would be a kickback, as suspected by his NSC colleagues, and the other would be that Michael Ledeen was effectively negotiating for Israel, not the U.S.
Like his friend Stephen Bryen (they’ve long served together on the JINSA Board of Advisors) Ledeen has been out of government service since the late1980s….until the present Bush Administration. He, like Bryen, is presently a serving member on the China Commission and, with the support of DOD Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, he
has since 2001 been employed as a consultant for the Office of Special Plans OSP). Both involve the handling of classified materials and require high-level security clearances.
The Principals: Perle, Wolfowitz and Feith
One might wonder how, with security histories like these, Messrs. Bryen and Ledeen have managed to get second and third chances to return to government in highly classified positions.
And the explanation is that they, along with other like-minded neo-conservatives, have in the current Bush Administration friends in very high places. In particular, Bryen and Ledeen have been repeatedly boosted into defense/security posts by former Defense Policy Council member and chairman Richard Perle (he just quietly resigned his position), Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.
As previously mentioned, Perle in 1981 as DOD Assistant Secretary for International Security Policy (ISP) hired Bryen as his Deputy. That same year, Wolfowitz as head of the State Department Policy Planning Staff hired Ledeen as a Special Advisor. In 2001 Douglas Feith as DOD Under Secretary for Policy hired, or approved the hiring of Ledeen as a consultant for the Office of Special Plans.
The principals have also assisted each other down through the years. Frequently. In 1973 Richard Perle used his (and Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s) influence as a senior staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to help Wolfowitz obtain a job with the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. In 1982, Perle hired Feith in ISP as his Special Counsel, and then as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Negotiations Policy. In 2001, DOD Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz helped Feith obtain his appointment as Undersecretary for Policy. Feith then appointed Perle as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board. In some cases, this mutual assistance carries risks, as for instance when Perle’s hiring of Bryen as his Deputy in ISP became an extremely contentious issue in Perle’s own Senate appointment hearings as Assistant Secretary.
Every appointment/hiring listed above involved classified work for which high-level security clearances and associated background checks by the FBI were required. When the level of the clearance is not above generic Top Secret, however, the results of that background check are only seen by the hiring authority. And in the event, if the appointee were Bryen or Ledeen and the hiring authority were Perle, Wolfowitz or Feith, the appointee(s) need not have worried about the findings of the background check. In the case of Perle hiring Bryen as his deputy in 1981, for instance, documents released in 1983 under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the Department provided extraordinarily high clearances for Bryen without having reviewed more than a small portion of his 1978-79 FBI investigation file.
Richard Perle: A Habit of Leaking
Perle came to Washington for the first time in early 1969, at the age of 28, to work for a neo-con think tank called the “Committee to Maintain a Prudent Defense Policy.” Within months, Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson offered Perle a position on his staff, working with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And within months after that–less than a year–Perle was embroiled in an affair involving the leaking of a classified CIA report on alleged past Soviet treaty violations.
The leaker (and author of the report) was CIA analyst David Sullivan, and the leakee was Richard Perle. CIA Director Stansfield Turner was incensed at the unauthorized disclosure, but before he could fire Sullivan, the latter quit. Turner urged Sen. Jackson to fire Perle, but he was let off with a reprimand. Jackson then added insult to injury by immediately hiring Sullivan to his staff. Sullivan and Perle became close friends and co-conspirators, and together established an informal right-wing network which they called “the Madison Group,” after their usual meeting place in–you might have guessed–the Madison Hotel Coffee Shop.
Perle’s second brush with the law occurred a year later in 1970. An FBI wiretap authorized for the Israeli Embassy picked up Perle discussing with an Embassy official classified information which he said had been supplied to by a staff member on the National Security Council. An NSC/FBI investigation was launched to identify the staff member, and quickly focused upon Helmut Sonnenfeldt. The latter had been previously investigated in 1967 while a staff member of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, for suspected unauthorized transmission to an Israeli Government official of a classified document concerning the commencement of the 1967 war in the Middle East.
In 1981, shortly before being appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy (ISP)–with responsibility, inter alia, for monitoring of U.S. defense technology exports, Richard Perle was paid a substantial consulting fee by arms manufacturer Tamares, Ltd. of Israel. Shortly after assuming that post, Perle wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Army urging evaluation and purchase of 155 mm. shells manufactured by Soltam, Ltd. After leaving the ISP job in 1987, he worked for Soltam.
Paul Wolfowitz: A Well Placed Friend
In 1973, in the dying days of the Nixon Administration, Wolfowitz was recruited to work for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). There was a certain irony in the appointment, for in the late 1960’s, as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, Wolfowitz had been a student and protege of Albert Wohlstetter, an influential, vehement opponent of any form of arms control or disarmament, vis a vis the Soviets. Wolfowitz also brought to ACDA a strong attachment to Israel’s security, and a certain confusion about his obligation to U.S. national security.
In 1978, he was investigated for providing a classified document on the proposed sale of U.S. weapons to an Arab government, to an Israel Government official, through an AIPAC intermediary. An inquiry was launched and dropped, however, and Wolfowitz continued to work at ACDA until 1980.
In 1990, after a decade of work with the State Department in Washington and abroad, Wolfowitz was brought into DoD as Undersecretary for Policy by then Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney. Two years later, in 1992, the first Bush Administration launched a broad inter-departmental investigation into the export of classified technology to China. O particular concern at the time was the transfer to China by Israel of U.S. Patriot missiles and/or technology. During that investigation, in a situation very reminiscent of the Bryen/Varian Associates/klystrons affair two years earlier, the Pentagon discovered that Wolfowitz’s office was promoting the export to Israel of advanced AIM-9M air-to-air missiles.
In this instance, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, aware that Israel had already been caught selling the earlier AIM 9-L version of the missile to China in violation of a written agreement with the U.S. on arms re-sales, intervened to cancel the proposed AIM (-M deal. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time was General Colin Powell, currently Secretary of State.
Wolfowitz continued to serve as DoD Undersecretary for Policy until 1993, well into the Clinton Administration. After that, however, like most of the other prominent neo-conservatives, he was relegated to trying to assist Israel from the sidelines for the remainder of Clinton’s two terms. In 1998, Wolfowitz was a co-signer of a public letter to the President organized by the “Project for the New American Century.” The letter, citing Saddam Hussein’s continued possession of “weapons of mass destruction,” argued for military action to achieve regime change and demilitarization of Iraq. Clinton wasn’t impressed, but a more gullible fellow would soon come along.
And indeed, when George W. Bush assumed the Presidency in early 2001, Wolfowitz got his opportunity. Picked as Donald Rumsfeld’s Deputy Secretary at DoD, he prevailed upon his boss to appoint Douglas Feith as Undersecretary for Policy. On the day after the destruction of the World Trade Center, September 12, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz raised the possibility of an immediate attack on Iraq during an emergency NSC meeting. The following day, Wolfowitz conducted the Pentagon press briefing, and interpreted the
President’s statement on “ending states who sponsor terrorism” as a call for regime change in Iraq. Israel wasn’t mentioned.
Douglas Feith: Hardliner, Security Risk
Bush’s appointment of Douglas Feith as DoD Undersecretary for Policy in early 2001 must have come as a surprise, and a harbinger, even to conservative veterans of the Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administration. Like Michael Ledeen, Feith is a prolific writer and well-known radical conservative. Moreover, he was not being hired as a DoD consultant, like Ledeen, but as the third most senior United States Defense Department official. Feith was certainly the first, and probably the last high Pentagon official to have publicly opposed the Biological Weapons Convention (in 1986), the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (in 1988), the Chemical Weapons Convention (in 1997), the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (in 2000), and all of the various Middle East Peace agreements, including Oslo (in 2000).
Even more revealing perhaps, had the transition team known of it, was Feith’s view of “technology cooperation,” as expressed in a 1992 Commentary article: “It is in the interest of U.S. and Israel to remove needless impediments to technological cooperation between them. Technologies in the hands of responsible, friendly countries facing military threats, countries like Israel, serve to deter aggression, enhance regional stability and promote peace thereby.”
What Douglas Feith had neglected to say, in this last article, was that he thought that individuals could decide on their own whether the sharing of classified information was “technical cooperation,” an unauthorized disclosure, or a violation of U.S. Code 794c, the “Espionage Act.”
Ten years prior to writing the Commentary piece, Feith had made such a decision on his own. At the time, March of 1972, Feith was a Middle East analyst in the Near East and South Asian Affairs section of the National Security Council. Two months before, in January, Judge William Clark had replaced Richard Allen as National Security Advisor, with the intention to clean house. A total of nine NSC staff members were fired, including Feith, who’d only been with the NSC for a year. But Feith was fired because he’d been the object of an inquiry into whether he’d provided classified material to an official of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. The FBI had opened the inquiry. And Clark, who had served in U.S. Army counterintelligence in the 1950’s, took such matters very seriously…..more seriously, apparently, than had Richard Allen.
Feith did not remain unemployed for long, however. Richard Perle, who was in 1982 serving in the Pentagon as Assistant secretary for International Security Policy, hired him on the spot as his “Special Counsel,” and then as his Deputy. Feith worked at ISP until 1986, when he left government service to form a small but influential law firm, then based in Israel.
In 2001, Douglas Feith returned to DoD as Donald Rumsfeld’s Undersecretary for Policy, and it was in his office that “OSP”, the Office of Special Plans, was created. It was OSP that originated–some say from whole cloth–much of the intelligence that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have used to justify the attack on Iraq, to miss-plan the post-war reconstruction there, and then to point an accusing finger at Iran and Syria…..all to the absolute delight of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Reason for Concern
Many individuals with strong attachments to foreign countries have served the U.S. Government with honor and distinction, and will certainly do so in the future. The highest officials in our executive and legislative branches should, however, take great care when appointments are made to posts involving sensitive national security matters. Appointees should be rejected who have demonstrated, in their previous government service, a willingness to sacrifice U.S. national security interests for those of another country, or an inability to distinguish one from the other.
Stephen Green was the author of two meticulously sourced books about Israel and U.S. policies. Green, who had previously been a field director for Oxfam, later served in the Vermont legislature. A review of one of Green’s books in the Naval War College Review stated: “It would seem that since 1965 US policy in the Mideast has been based on ‘secret covenants clandestinely executed, with dissembling ever after.”
Kagan pushed regime change in Iraq, now says US must get over ‘trauma’ and do Syria
by Philip Weiss and Annie Robbins, reposted from Mondoweiss, Nov. 23, 2015
The Times exonerated Kagan a year ago because of his powerful social connections. His good friend and fellow-armchair-gunslinger is Bill Kristol of the Emergency Committee for Israel; more importantly his wife is Victoria Nuland, an assistant secretary of state under Obama and the daughter of a revered physician and author [Sherwin B. Nuland, a surgeon of Ukrainian Jewish origin]. Even more importantly, he has Hillary Clinton’s ear…
Robert Kagan helped start the Project for a New American Century, the famous neoconservative shop that advised George Bush that Israel’s war with terrorism was our war and hurry up and topple Saddam Hussein because he has nuclear weapons. “If we do not move against Saddam Hussein and his regime, the damage our Israeli friends and we have suffered until now may someday appear but a prelude to much greater horrors,” they wrote. Well the greater horrors came, hundreds of thousands killed and injured, Iraq torn apart, and ISIS rising.
With that sort of record, you’d think Kagan ought to be boxing holiday orders at a fulfillment center or doing Santa duty at the mall. Nope, he’s still pushing regime change from an elite platform. A year ago, the unrepentant Brookings scholar was wheeled out by the New York Times to counsel a more aggressive foreign policy for President Obama. And now he has an after-Paris piece in the Wall Street Journal with a typically-grandiose headline, The Crisis of World Order, urging policymakers to get over their Iraq “trauma” and for Obama to replace the Assad regime in Syria.
In recent years, the mere mention of U.S. ground troops has been enough to stop any conversation. Americans, or at least the intelligentsia and political class, remain traumatized by Iraq, and all calculations about what to do in Syria have been driven by that trauma.
No mention of the trauma to the people of Iraq of the war Kagan pushed. The American political class is suffering from “paralysis,” Kagan says. But Paris has changed all that.
“Perhaps there are Europeans today wishing that the U.S. will not compound its error of commission in Iraq by making an equally unfortunate error of omission in Syria. “
Here’s the plan, it’ll just take 50,000 troops:
America will have to take the lead, provide the troops, supply the bulk of the air power and pull together those willing and able to join the effort.
What would such an effort look like? First, it would require establishing a safe zone in Syria, providing the millions of would-be refugees still in the country a place to stay and the hundreds of thousands who have fled to Europe a place to which to return. To establish such a zone, American military officials estimate, would require not only U.S. air power but ground forces numbering up to 30,000. Once the safe zone was established, many of those troops could be replaced by forces from Europe, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, but the initial force would have to be largely American.
In addition, a further 10,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops would be required to uproot Islamic State from the haven it has created in Syria and to help local forces uproot it in Iraq.
Of course the “heretofore immovable” Assad regime must go. Something the Israelis want too. Kagan never mentions Israel, of course. The neocons don’t want to be charged with misapprehending the U.S. interest.
At the same time, an internationally negotiated and blessed process of transition in Syria should take place, ushering the bloodstained Mr. Assad from power and establishing a new provisional government to hold nationwide elections. The heretofore immovable Mr. Assad would face an entirely new set of military facts on the ground, with the Syrian opposition now backed by U.S. forces and air power, the Syrian air force grounded and Russian bombing halted. Throughout the transition period, and probably beyond even the first rounds of elections, an international peacekeeping force—made up of French, Turkish, American and other NATO forces as well as Arab troops—would have to remain in Syria until a reasonable level of stability, security and inter-sectarian trust was achieved.
No mention of how the Syrian air force would be grounded or Russian bombing halted. Maybe Obama can just call Putin and tell him we’ve got it covered? (Snark) And only 50,000 troops to stabilize Syria. Like that really worked in Iraq.
And look at how he uses Paris:
At practically any other time in the last 70 years, the idea of dispatching even 50,000 troops to fight an organization of Islamic State’s description would not have seemed too risky or too costly to most Americans. In 1990-91, President George H.W. Bush, now revered as a judicious and prudent leader, sent half a million troops across the globe to drive Iraq out of Kuwait, a country that not one American in a million could find on a map and which the U.S. had no obligation to defend. In 1989, he sent 30,000 troops to invade Panama to topple an illegitimate, drug-peddling dictator. During the Cold War, when presidents sent more than 300,000 troops to Korea and more than 500,000 troops to Vietnam, the idea of sending 50,000 troops to fight a large and virulently anti-American terrorist organization that had seized territory in the Middle East, and from that territory had already launched a murderous attack on a major Western city, would have seemed barely worth an argument.
The Times exonerated Kagan a year ago — he “exudes a Cocoa-Puffs-pouring, stay-at-home-dad charm” — because of his powerful social connections. His good friend and fellow-armchair-gunslinger is Bill Kristol of the Emergency Committee for Israel; more importantly his wife is Victoria Nuland, an assistant secretary of state under Obama and the daughter of a revered physician and author. Even more importantly, he has Hillary Clinton’s ear. “Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor.”
Kagan continues to be taken seriously, not because he has a booklined office and comes up with stentorian titles, but because is a member of a class of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists, many of them also members of the Israel lobby, that won’t go away until their larger cohort, of blue state meritocrats and the Jewish organizations and Jewish donors, finally turns on them. People like Hillary Clinton and Anne-Marie Slaughter feel greater kinship to this warmongerer than they do to Jim Lobe, though Lobe has continually been right and Kagan has been repeatedly wrong.
P.S. Lobe is a friend of Weiss’s; he was given the Arthur Ross Media Award last week, presented by the American Academy of Diplomacy at a ceremony at the State Department. “The award was given in recognition of Mr. Lobe’s chronicling of the influence of the neoconservative movement on US policy in the Greater Middle East through his blog Lobelog.com.” Hat’s off to a great achievement.
The next generation:
The children of several neocons have now been similarly embedded in the U.S. government, NGOs and thinktanks, carrying on the pro-Israel agenda: