Loose Ends

The stories we never heard the end of…

by , June 24, 2009

With events in Iran stalled – it looks like the hard-liners have effectively neutralized the opposition, at least for the moment – and nothing more pressing to occupy our attention (not counting, of course, the trials and tribulations of Perez Hilton), it’s time to rewind the tape and get back to those stories that never seemed to have a real ending.

First off, the Iraq war: Over in the UK, they’re convening an investigation into the Iraq war – how we came to fight it, and why. A useful process, albeit a bit belated: there’s no chance, one presumes, that such an inquiry could ever take place in this country. Too many politicians of both parties would stand exposed as fools, knaves, or both.

In any case, the process of unearthing the trail of evidence has, so far, produced one fascinating memo, dated Jan. 31, 2003, written by Blair’s chief foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, which details the lengths George W. Bush and Tony Blair were prepared to go to legitimize their war. Faced with the prospect that UN inspectors would fail to find "weapons of mass destruction" – for the simple reason that they didn’t exist – the two most mendacious characters in international politics discussed what the UK Guardian refers to as "alternative scenarios" to provoke a military conflict.

According to the memo, "Bush told Blair the U.S. had drawn up a provocative plan ‘to fly U2 reconnaissance aircraft painted in UN colors over Iraq with fighter cover.’ Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes this would put the Iraqi leader in breach of UN resolutions."

A little paint, some cooperative"journalists," and an utter disregard for anything remotely resembling the truth – it’s a recipe for what the late Gen. William E. Odom characterized as the worst military disaster in U.S. history. It is also, I might add, a political, diplomatic, and geopolitical catastrophe, the consequences of which we will be experiencing for the next few decades.

The Guardian informs us that "Lord Guthrie, a former chief of the defense staff under Blair, described the memo as ‘quite shocking.’" Hasn’t Lord Guthrie ever heard of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which the U.S. invented a completely nonexistent North Vietnamese "attack" on a U.S. ship, and used it as a pretext to gin up a disastrous war? Perhaps the Brits are easily shocked, but to an American this is just another day in the life of the Empire.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is against making the hearings public, supposedly because witnesses will not speak freely if exposed to the glare of publicity, but at least they’re having an investigation, which is much more than we can say about the situation in the U.S. Here there is about as much likelihood of effectively probing the causes of the Iraq war as there is of the sun rising in the West. The opacity of our public officials is nearly impenetrable, and this is as true under an ostensibly "liberal" administration as it was under Bush II. President Barack Obama was quick to renege on his alleged commitment to "transparency," and he exhibits the same stubborn willfulness when it comes to holding on to "national security"-related information, i.e., information that could prove embarrassing to government officials.

Obsessive secrecy in the alleged defense of "national security" takes a back seat, however, when it comes to our relations with certain privileged entities, and this is especially true when it comes to our "special relationship" with Israel. What’s so "special" about this relationship is that it permits the Israelis to spy on us to their hearts’ content – without fear of prosecution, even if they’re caught. Yes, we know that Jonathan Pollard has been in jail all these years, but that appears to be an anomaly. Look what happened to Ben Ami Kadish, who shared an Israeli handler with Pollard, and got off with… a fine! Speaking of the Kadish case, judge William H. Pauley III averred, "This offense is a grave one that implicates the national security of the United States. Why it took the government 23 years to charge Mr. Kadish is shrouded in mystery."

Allow me to clear up the mystery, Your Honor: as the case of the mysterious "Israeli art students" and the shenanigans that took place with the Urban Movers in New Jersey on 9/11 make all too clear, Israel has carte blanche to spy in the United States and carry out whatever covert actions it deems necessary. Using the Israel lobby and its multifaceted organizations and front groups, Israeli intelligence has thoroughly penetrated American political life, including the U.S. government at every level. And political influence is routinely used to steal U.S. "secrets" – which, as far as the Israelis are concerned, are very far from secret.

The exemplar of this loosey-goosey "security" policy is the AIPAC espionage case, in which two top officials of the powerful lobbying group were caught red-handed pilfering U.S. secrets fed to them by one Larry Franklin, the Pentagon’s chief Iran policy analyst. Franklin, a fanatical neocon, was an eager spy on behalf of Israel: he believed the Jewish state wasn’t being given enough access, and, determined to rectify that, he offered his services to Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s longtime chief Washington operative, and Keith Weissman, the group’s Iran expert, during the course of a "working" luncheon with the chief political officer at the Israeli embassy, Naor Gilon. Since the FBI’s counterintelligence unit was keeping close tabs on Gilon and his fellow lunchers as part of an ongoing investigation into Israeli spying, Franklin’s betrayal was caught on tape.

Rosen was a key figure in AIPAC’s rise as one of the most powerful of the Washington lobbies. Pat Buchanan famously quipped that the U.S. Congress is "Israeli-occupied territory," and it was Rosen who, for many years, was the de facto commander of that occupying army. That he was also spying for Israel, as well as openly pressuring government officials into toeing the Lobby’s line on issues great and small, is no big surprise: AIPAC has long served as an adjunct of the Israeli government, an entity that surely includes the Mossad.

The indictment of Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman details espionage-related activities on the part of the latter two as far back as 1999. Yet the U.S. Justice Department did not see fit to prosecute AIPAC itself, only two of its most prominent employees. Which meant that a couple of the spy network’s tentacles were to be amputated, while the rest of the creature was left intact – and just as powerful as ever.

So powerful, indeed, that they enlisted the services of Rep. Jane Harman, who aspired to the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and ultimately got Obama’s Justice Department to drop all the charges against Rosen and Weissman. As for Franklin, who pled guilty in exchange for the promise of leniency at sentencing, he was originally given 12 and a half years in prison and a substantial fine, but, upon dismissal of the charges against Rosen and Weissman, was re-sentenced to a mere 10 months home confinement and an extended period of probation. One would be interested to know the terms of his probation: no more reading The Weekly Standard and Commentary?

One colorful detail of this case that kind of jumps out at you is the argument made in the government’s legal brief to judge T. S. Ellis, justifying their motion to reduce Franklin’s sentence to nine years:

“Just prior to the entry of his guilty plea, Franklin was approached by two individuals who made a pitch to Franklin about faking his death by suicide and disappearing, thus thwarting any cooperation in the case against Rosen and Weissman. In January 2006, Franklin conducted five consensually recorded telephone conversations with one of these individuals, in support of an obstruction of justice/witness tampering investigation; however, the FBI was unable to obtain the requisite incriminating evidence to support a criminal investigation.”

It’s an open question as to whether these two individuals were Americans or Israelis, but as far as the matter of whether Rosen, Weissman, and Franklin were part of a much larger espionage ring, that’s settled. For years – as long as the case took to prosecute – the cheering section for the AIPAC defendants has been claiming that Rosen and Weissman were doing exactly what journalists and legitimate lobbyists do all the time in Washington: dealing in information. One wonders, however, if these "journalists" are usually asked by their employers to fake their own suicides.

Of course, if Franklin had agreed, he might not be alive today. After all, who would make inquiries about someone who’s already believed to be dead? Franklin’s secrets would die with him – and, as it is, they are still unlikely to be revealed.

Read more by Justin Raimondo