Last Friday Condoleezza Rice visited the White House and reportedly had a long chat with President Barack Obama which included an extended discussion of foreign policy that "covered the waterfront." Afterwards, Rice commented approvingly that "there is still a foreign policy community that believes that foreign policy ought to be bipartisan." Rice, who is on a book promotion tour, described the problem exactly, though the word she should have used was "monolithic" rather than "bipartisan." The Obama Administration foreign policy is virtually indistinguishable from that of George W. Bush, whose heavy handed form of internationalism combined with regime change has brought calamity to the United States. Presumably Obama and Rice were able to congratulate each other on their ability to unite Republicans and Democrats in supporting a seamless vision of the world as it might be if only those poor heathen devils out there would learn to behave.
Andrew Bacevich has described the foreign policy consensus that has ruled the United States since the Second World War as a sacred trinity consisting of global military presence, a military capable of projecting power worldwide, and a willingness to intervene anywhere in the world for any reason secure in the belief that Washington is a force for good. These policies have been supported by both major parties and have now led to something approaching war without end as new adversaries are identified and confronted. The peace dividend from the fall of communism was temporary at best, with international terrorism the new threat that has to be combated globally at great cost in lives and treasure. The consensus foreign policy makes for a bleak future for those Americans who actually care about their country, meaning that there will be little difference if we continue with Obama or wind up with President Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton in 2012.
Condoleezza Rice, serving as an inept National Security Adviser and then as an only marginally better Secretary of State, was part of the grand delusion. She once thrilled the American public and the fawning media by describing her vision of nuclear mushroom clouds over US cities courtesy of Saddam Hussein, who, at the time, had no ability to do harm to anyone but his own people. One might have expected public and congressional demands that Rice be called to account for the foreign policy shipwreck she participated in, but she has instead been rewarded and is currently both a tenured professor at Stanford University and a Fellow at the Hoover Institution. She is even being spoken of as a possible Republican presidential candidate somewhere down the road.
The benefit of having a monolithic foreign policy based on a consensus crafted by America’s elites is that it will all pretty much function like an exclusive club where members are allowed to disagree mildly over what wine to have with dinner but not argue about the entrée. As a result, there will be zero transparency to what takes place and absolutely no accountability in a system that is designed to avoid internal conflict and change. Those who expect the government to serve the people should be particularly appalled at the revolving door of self-serving statists who proliferate throughout the system, men and women who have never had a genuine job in their lives but who scurry off to their law firms, lobbying offices, think tanks, and universities before returning at a higher level to the government bringing ruin with them.
A system in which neither party is required to behave responsibly means that decisions will be made without regard for the consequences. Seven years ago a major war crime was committed when Iraq was attacked yet no one has been punished, nor has anyone even been seriously challenged on the steps taken that led up to war. The United States bombed and then invaded a country that posed no threat and that had no ability in any event to strike against Americans or American targets. In 1946, the judges at the Nuremberg Trials called the initiation of a war of aggression the ultimate war crime because it inevitably unleashed so many other evils. Ten leading Nazis were executed at Nuremberg and ninety-three Japanese officials at similar trials staged in Asia. In spite of the fact that a majority of Republicans now considers the Iraq war to have been a "mistake," a view certainly shared by most Democrats and the public, no American government official was even fired as a consequence.
If one were to ask who were the potential war criminals in the Bush Administration the list would certainly include Rice. She was the National Security Adviser at the time and it was her job to know how good the intelligence was and to advise the president accordingly. If she was not aware that a lot of the information she was seeing was questionable at best, she was not doing her job very well and should be held accountable for her incompetence, incompetence which in this case led to war.
Putting aside the key question whether George W. Bush, "The Great Decider," was aware that he was being sold a bill of goods, there were certainly others who should have known better but went along for the ride. George Tenet, the CIA Director notorious for his "slam-dunk" comment, a man who cooked the intelligence to make the war possible to curry favor with the White House, is now Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and has generously remunerated positions on the boards of Allen & Company merchant bank, QinetiQ, and L-1 Identity Solutions. He sold his memoir At the Center of the Storm, which has been described as a "self-justifying apologia," in 2007 for a reported advance of $4 million. His book, ironically, admits that the US invaded Iraq for no good reason.
Tenet, who never actually worked as a spy, having instead wormed his way up through the system as a congressional staffer, provided the intelligence analysis and godfathered the 2002 Iraq National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that hyped the case for Saddam being a threat. It has been argued that he truly believed the intelligence he was providing and, if that is true, he failed to pay attention to the considerable doubts within the CIA about some of the sources used to indict the Iraqis, most notably "Curveball." If Tenet was not aware of that and was not conveying the caveats to the White House he was failing to do what his job required, opting instead to get on board the Administration bus and go after Saddam.
And then there is Dick Cheney. Cheney, unique for a Vice President, made numerous visits to the CIA headquarters to oversee the generation of the Iraq NIE and to make sure that it said what the White House wanted it to say. Cheney and his colleague in crime Scooter Libby also served as a conduit for bogus information being generated by the Pentagon, bypassing the usual intelligence channels through the CIA and the National Security Adviser. In 2002, Cheney disclosed that he was worth somewhere between $19 and $86 million so it is safe to assume that he is currently in comfortable retirement, a millionaire many times over from his time at Halliburton, a major defense contractor. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2007 but later had his prison sentence commuted by President Bush. He has achieved a soft landing since that time and is now a Senior Vice President at the Hudson Institute.
Paul Wolfowitz, the Bush Deputy Secretary of Defense, is seen by many as the "intellectual" driving force behind the invasion of Iraq. He is currently a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. A bid to reward him for his zeal by giving him a huge golden parachute as President of the World Bank at a salary of $391,000 tax free failed when, after 23 months in the position, he was ousted over promoting a subordinate with whom he was having an affair.
Wolfowitz’s chief deputy at the Pentagon, Doug Feith, was the architect of the invasion of Iraq. As Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, he ran the infamous Office of Special Plans (OSP). OSP collected and disseminated information that CIA and State Department Intelligence had found to be suspect. Not surprisingly, Feith’s reports supported the case that Iraq presented a threat to the United States. After the fighting had begun, when no weapons of mass destruction were found, it was learned that much of the phony information had been invented by people like Ahmad Chalabi, who manipulated his neocon friends and was also very chummy with the Iranians at the same time, providing them with classified information that had been passed to him by his US government contacts. Feith left the Defense Department to take up a visiting professorship at the school of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, which was subsequently not renewed. He is reported to be again practicing law and thinking deep thoughts about his hero Edmund Burke, who no doubt would be appalled to make Feith’s acquaintance. Feith is a senior fellow at the neoconservative Hudson Institute and the Director of the Center for National Security Strategies. His memoir War and Decision did not make the best seller list and is now available used on Amazon for one cent, plus shipping. If the marketplace is anything to go by Tenet has turned out to be more esteemed if not venerated with a used copy of his opus available for $2.75.
And so it goes with Condoleezza Rice off on her book signing. No one is found guilty for starting an unnecessary war that has killed 4,425 Americans and many thousands of Iraqis. No one is punished or even tarnished by his or her role. On the contrary, all are, in fact, richly rewarded for their presumed dedication to their country. One can well presume that the old saw about every good deed being rewarded has been turned on its head in the US government, with only those guilty of crimes against humanity being considered for promotion. Can there be any wonder why ambitious people who are ethically challenged flock to start wars and torture for Uncle Sam? They know they will never be held accountable for anything they do and will reap the financial rewards that they think they deserve. Until that culture is eradicated by something like a Nuremberg trial demonstrating that no one is above the law the United States will continue to be a place that the rest of the world quite rightly regards as preaching respect for rules and values while rewarding just the opposite.