Besieged, Bothered, Bewildered – and Busted

by , June 12, 2004

“It’s not fun to be accused of war crimes,” opines Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). It’s even less fun to be victimized by war criminals, but, then again, why should the neocons at PNAC care about that? After all, as we all know, the scandal that’s increasingly making top officials of this administration look like the inmates at Charenton, is all about them. These are “Tough Times for Neocons,” as the title of a piece in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times put it. The poor babies feel “embattled,” “besieged,” and, worst yet:

“Where neoconservatives were once seen as having a future in Republican administrations, the setbacks in Iraq could make it difficult for the group’s leading members to win Senate confirmation for top posts in the future.”

Oh, some of the neocons have a future, alright – wearing one of those cute little orange jumpsuits and making some tatooed bruiser named Butch very happy. It’s not legal to out CIA agents, feed forgeries to U.S. intelligence, and employ methods that, if used by any other nation on earth, would certainly be judged as war crimes. If you write legal opinions tortuously rationalizing the most degraded forms of barbarism, you could be charged as an accessory to a war crime, and if you signed off on orders allowing such methods to be used, and then try to cover up the evidence, you aren’t merely “besieged” – you’re busted.

That is precisely what is happening to the neoconservative mandarins of power who once cast such long shadows across the Washington landscape, and now face the equivalent of a firing squad, with shots coming from the right as well as the left. As Ken “Cakewalk” Adelman sheepishly admitted to the Times:

“Iraq didn’t turn out to be as promising as it was billed.”

Yeah, right, Ken: tell it to the families of the killed and wounded – on both sides. Golly gosh Gee-willikers, Adelman whines, confiding that “he was torn about what had happened since.” Oh boo hoo hoo, poor little me: “I still have to sort it all out. I’m just not settled yet.”

831 American soldiers and untold thousands of Iraqis aren’t quite settled in their graves yet, but Adelman, a leading figure in Bush’s neoconservative brain trust and a confidante of Dick Cheney’s, is focused on – what else? – himself. And who can blame him? After all, the peasants with pitchforks are coming up the road, their torches flaring against the night sky, closing in on the castle:

“Other neocons worry that the real trouble for them could begin if President Bush is not reelected and, among conservatives, the finger-pointing begins – in their direction.

“‘Bush could end up looking like the worst president since Jimmy Carter because of Iraq, and people are going to say, ‘You got us into this mess,’ said one Washington source who considered himself a neoconservative and spoke on the condition of anonymity. ‘It’s going to be nasty and bitter and brutal.'”

You betcha he spoke on condition of anonymity: it’s the neocons’ chief means of defense. They’ve gone underground, denying their very existence and hiding deep in the cellars of the national security bureaucracy, hoping against all hope that they won’t be smoked out by investigators hot on the trail of their many and various crimes – against the nation, and also against humanity. The very word “neocon” is now being held up as the newest form of “hate speech.” But as much as they squirm and squeal and beg for mercy – and this piece by Los Angeles Times reporter Paul Richter is certainly the occasion for that – the gods will hopefully not flinch in making them pay full price for their hubris.

“Nasty and bitter and brutal,” eh? I say let’s build a human pyramid with Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, “Scooter” Libby, Harold Rhode, Michael Rubin, Abram Shulsky, Bill Luti, and the whole gang over at the Office of Special Plans, with Dick Cheney at the apex. Then let the dogs at them: no, not those mean-looking German Shepherds in the Abu Ghraib photo gallery of horror, but an even fiercer breed: Pat Buchanan, Paul Craig Roberts, Lew Rockwell, Claes Ryn, Tom Fleming, and the meanest dog of them all: Patrick J. “Bulldog” Fitzgerald, the prosecutor assigned to the Valerie Plame case, the one with potentially the sharpest bite.

In going through the desks of top neocons in the national security bureaucracy, trying to hunt down the officials who outed undercover CIA agent Plame in retaliation for her husband’s antiwar stance, Fitzgerald and his fellow investigators more than likely came across a large number of very interesting items, clues to crimes yet to be uncovered. Once prosecutors went fishing in those muddy, murky waters, there’s no telling what they might have pulled in. Which brings up an important point….

The other day FBI agents paid a visit to the Pentagon, and subjected several top neocons to lie-detector tests. They wanted to know where neocon protégé (and Iranian spy) Ahmed Chalabi got his hot little hands on highly valued U.S. secrets. But what I want to know is this: How many different teams of investigators have to go through the same desks? Why not consolidate all these ongoing investigations – l’affaire Plame, the Niger uranium forgeries, Chalabi-gate, and the Abu Ghraib war crimes – into one big investigation? We can call it Neocon-gate.

After all, the trail of evidence in all these various scandals leads back to the same few dozen or so key neocons, centered in the civilian upper echelons of the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President. It would certainly avoid duplication of effort and save the taxpayers a pretty penny. Even more importantly, it would save time. Because there is still time to turn away from the policies that have led us to the edge of the Middle Eastern abyss, if George W. Bush acts quickly enough and cuts his losses in Washington as well as Iraq. Get U.S. troops out of Iraq – and get the neocons out of the Pentagon, and back to either academia, or jail – whichever comes first.

Buchanan says the troops are coming home, and the day of the neocons is over. He may be right, and, for once, he and the neocons seem to agree. The raid on the Chalabi compound in Baghdad was the neocons’ Kronstadt, as Norman Podhoretz would put it, the breaking point between administration loyalists and the War Party. The neocons, for their part, have already begun yelping that the Revolution has been betrayed, and the Times dutifully records their sectarian complaints:

“One group of neoconservatives, including onetime Reagan Defense official Richard Perle, was unhappy that the White House didn’t move more quickly to turn sovereignty over to Iraqis and put the country in control of dissidents such as Chalabi.”

Perle’s version of “sovereignty” involves the installation of not just an American puppet, like Prime Minister- to-be Iyed Alawi, but one whose strings are pulled by the neocons – or the Iranians, or whomever. Over at the Weekly Standard, the War Party’s Iskra, the little Lenin of the laptop bombardiers joins the Democrats in going after Rumsfeld’s scalp:

“Other neocons, including William Kristol, former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle and editor of the journal Weekly Standard, contended that the Pentagon under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had allowed security problems to spread by deploying too few troops.”

But the rush to war necessitated the Rumsfeldian strategy of minimizing the invasion force and downplaying the costs, both in human lives and American treasure. The troops had to roll before anyone could examine and debunk the lies that led to war, and to heck with the consequences.

It was only a matter of time before the parasites departed their failing host – as I’ve said all along – but even I was shocked by the speed with which the neocons turned on George W. Bush, the man who empowered them and is now taking direct hits on account of their policies.

I must admit to taking an inordinate amount of pleasure in reading this account of the neocons’ come-uppance. It really had me chuckling, but the following had me in stitches:

“In general, neocons felt as if ‘they had created a brilliant screenplay, and it had fallen into the hands of the wrong director,’ said one self-described neoconservative, borrowing a line from political satirist Bill Maher.”

This is how the chickenhawk brigade thinks of the Iraq war: as a Hollywood epic with a cast of hundreds of thousands and an unlimited budget. They, of course, as the authors of this elaborate mega-fiction, get top billing, while the soldiers, who fight and die, are considered little more than extras. If we are looking for an explanation for the air of unreality that seems to pervade the top foreign policy councils of this administration, then surely this moronic quip tells us all we need to know about the deluded sociopaths who make up the War Party.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

I received a lot of rather surprised letters from readers of my last column, who couldn’t understand what seemed to them to be a paean to Ronald Reagan. I must confess to being entirely at fault here: over 3,000 words, and still I didn’t express myself clearly or completely. Not good. Oh well, Matt Barganier to the rescue: he said what I meant to say, in this model of clarity and concision, and I’ll briefly summarize his conclusion: we’re living in an era where the despoiler of Central America, and the best friend the military-industrial complex ever had, is a veritable peacenik in comparison to what we have now.

I have long maintained that the post-9/11 era resembles Bizarro World, as if some Imp of the Perverse had inverted the moral order and transmuted black into white. The eerie reality of this scenario was once again impressed on me when I read this Reason article by Michael Young, the editorial page editor of the Beirut Daily Star, on why Reagan was evil to have “cut and run” in Lebanon:

“One thing Bush must not do in Iraq is imitate what Reagan did in Lebanon, because there the Gipper left behind one perilous wasteland.”

“… By failing to stick it out in Iraq, the U.S. could well make the same mistakes there that it did in Lebanon. True, Lebanon had no strategic significance for the Reagan administration, but when the U.S. simply cut and run, this did far more damage to its interests than many care to remember. The Syrian-managed chaos that the Reagan administration left behind allowed for the blossoming of militant Muslim groups that kidnapped dozens of foreigners during the mid-1980s, leading to the fiasco of Iran-Contra. Many of these groups would eventually coalesce into Hezbollah, which the Bush administration today considers a major terrorist threat. The U.S. also took the 1983 suicide attacks against its embassy and soldiers lying down, effectively ceding Lebanon to a Syrian regime that had more than its share of responsibility for the ensuing deaths.”

Damascus is the root of all the evil in Young’s world, sitting as he is in Beirut, but surely he takes his Syria-phobia a bit too far: is he really saying the Syrians were to blame for Iran-Contra? Forgive me, my readers, but I just can’t help asking: Is he Syria-ous?

I notice he mentions the Israeli siege of that city, but otherwise their role in destroying what is left of Lebanese society goes unmentioned. It’s all the Syrians’ fault. What has “allowed” the growth of Hezbollah, and other groups, isn’t Israeli aggression, or the displacement of a people. It must be the Syrians.

Americans didn’t create Lebanon’s perilous wasteland: the scorpions in the Middle East bottle did it themselves, and there is no power on earth that can stop them stinging each other save their own survival instinct. It isn’t our fight, and yet Young (and, sadly, Reason magazine) lend their voices to Norman Podhoretz’s complaint – in an essay calling for the start of “World War IV” – that Reagan “cut and run.” Even while freely admitting Lebanon’s lack of “strategic significance,” still, we are told, it would be “downright immoral” to leave Iraq, just as it was to leave Lebanon. Why, a “civil war” might break out – although why this would be worse than the guerrilla war now taking place there, Young doesn’t say. Oh, and get this: “Westerners would be vulnerable to kidnapping.” We all know this isn’t happening right now – oh, wait…. It’s a terrible fate that awaits Iraq if we leave: “Militant anti-American groups could thrive in the vacuum.” Nothing thrives in a vacuum, but the Iraqi insurgency is certainly swelling Al Qaeda’s ranks, and, somewhere, Osama bin Laden is smiling: the invasion of Iraq has fulfilled his prophecy that the Crusaders would be back, in force this time, with the intent to stay. The capper is Young’s warning that the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq “could provoke regional crises.” As if the invasion has had a calming effect on the region! “In the absence of hegemony by one state,” avers Young, “Iraq would be buffeted by the contending whims of several of its neighbors.” But this is precisely what war opponents predicted – that the country, or a large chunk of it, would be swallowed up in the maw of the mullahs. Now that the prophecy has come true, who is to blame – opponents of intervention, or the War Party’s foreign cheering section?

I hear that Lebanese hash is quite powerful, and perhaps this explains Young’s delusions: I would advise him to put down the hookah and let his head clear – if only for a moment – so as to ask himself why it is moral for America to pursue everybody else’s interests, in the Middle East or anywhere, but “downright immoral” to pursue our own. Short answer: it isn’t. What is downright immoral, however, is to continue sacrificing American and Iraqi lives just so the neocons can “reform” the Middle East out of its culture, its religion, and its legitimate grievances against the West.

President Reagan was no libertarian, and, although he presided over the most comprehensive disarmament agreement ever signed between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, he was only pro-peace in relative terms. But he was wise to get out of Lebanon, and George W. Bush, if he had a tenth of Reagan’s wisdom, would do well to follow his example in Iraq. And that, folks, is why I took up the cudgels in his defense.

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