Neocon Valor Is an Act of Feith

It has sometimes been noted that the neoconservatives, conspicuously absent on the battlefield, excel at the Washington infighting that enabled their ascent in the first place. Marine and Army combat units are justifiably proud of never leaving a comrade behind on the battlefield. Neocons adhere to a somewhat different philosophy, namely putting the boot in to an erstwhile ally who has faltered in the struggle for global hegemony and lost his usefulness. When Francis Fukuyama could no longer see the sense in what was going on in Iraq and said so publicly, he was excoriated by his former friends at the American Enterprise Institute. Donald Rumsfeld, who did everything the neocons wanted and more, also fell (or was pushed) under the wheels when the Mesopotamian adventure turned out to be somewhat less than Club Med on the Euphrates. No less a sage than Richard Perle, while conceding that Rumsfeld had kicked Iraqi butt during the April 2003 invasion, suggested ominously that the defense secretary had somehow failed in his execution of the remainder of the Iraq plan, which had been carefully crafted by leading neocon intellectual Paul Wolfowitz of "oil revenue will pay for reconstruction" fame.

But within the neocon pantheon of the great and not so great there is one man who stands out for sheer class, integrity, and intellectual rigor: Douglas J. Feith, the former undersecretary of defense for policy. Feith’s scholarly attributes are surely confirmed by his position as visiting professor at Georgetown University, where he and fellow deep thinker George Tenet reportedly dazzle undergraduates. Feith, who claims to be an admirer of Edmund Burke, oddly has never quite understood that his hero abhorred the political and social disruption that came out of the French Revolution. As creating disorder became something of a piece de resistance at Feith’s Pentagon, Doug might well be regarded as the anti-Burke. Feith, whose pretentiousness frequently matched his way of expressing himself, described as "not often on point," might have deserved the stinging rebuke from Gen. Tommy Franks, who called him "the f*cking stupidest guy on the face of the earth."

And now, for everyone who was disappointed by the ultimate Harry Potter book or the latest recommendation from Oprah, Doug Feith is preparing to explain himself in his own words through a massive 688-page tome that goes on sale April 8. It is reported that lines are already forming on Times Square preparing to storm Borders Books at midnight on the 7th to seize the very first copies of War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism as they roll hot off the presses. In passing it is interesting to note that Doug and his Georgetown buddy George “At the Center of the Storm” Tenet both have written books with titles suggesting that they were valiant helmsmen making the hard decisions guiding the ship of state. That the ship of state is now on the rocks and sinking rapidly is apparently a side issue, as George netted $4 million for his book deal and one assumes that Doug has been similarly well endowed by Harper Collins.

Doug’s thesis is not completely clear because the book has not yet come out, but the title is suggestive in its evocation of the "War on Terrorism." No intelligence officer and few who have seriously thought about national security would concede that any such thing actually does or can exist, but Feith is clearly impervious to outside opinion. Some pre-publication reviews provide insights into the general argument of the book, which the Washington Post calls a "massive score-settling work." It is quite simple: Dough Feith was right, and everyone who disagreed with him was wrong. Feith concedes no error on his part, ever. In fact, everyone else in the administration was wrong except for Doug and his two Defense Department bosses, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. Not only were the "others" wrong, they stabbed both President George W. Bush and the Pentagon in the back. It’s a familiar tale, the stab in the back that doomed the kaiser’s 1918 spring offensive, the treacherous fifth column inside Madrid, the yellow-dog press that denied Americans victory both in Korea and Vietnam. In Feith’s vision the traitors are the secretary of state, the National Security Council, and the CIA, all of which "undermined" the president and his stalwart band of brothers at the Pentagon.

In Feith’s curious version of reality, the decision to invade Iraq was the right one because Saddam was "a bloodthirsty megalomaniac," elevating at a stroke the disposal of megalomaniacs to a United States national interest. Feith concedes that there were "serious errors" in the planning surrounding the invasion and the initial phases of the occupation, though the errors were made by others. He reportedly does not address the fact that in the lead-up to war his office was pumping out false and misleading intelligence subsequently judged by the Pentagon inspector general as "inappropriate." Most others would consider his action illegal and even treasonous in that it may have involved collusion with a foreign government, Israel. The intelligence, which contradicted information obtained by CIA and the State Department, was used to justify the invasion.

Saddam Hussein posed no threat whatsoever to the United States, and Feith’s efforts helped make sure that the numerous dissenting voices in the government in 2002-3 were silenced when they tried to slow the rush to war. It is particularly ironic that Feith’s book claims that he was forced to develop intelligence on Iraq because the CIA was "politicizing" its own reports, something that his own Office of Special Plans did regularly. Feith further pillories the CIA by claiming that it ignored possible links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, links that did not exist except on the editorial pages of The Weekly Standard and in Feith’s fevered imagination.

Doug is particularly scornful of Colin Powell, who publicly appeared to be a voice of moderation. Feith does not like moderation, and he refers to Powell as a "dove." Powell "downplayed" the threat posed by Iraq while never opposing the actual invasion, according to Feith. Powell also is blamed for failing to convince France, Germany, and Turkey to support the Iraq war effort, conveniently ignoring that popular sentiment in all three countries was overwhelmingly opposed to joining the United States on its fool’s errand. Feith also takes shots at his nemesis Tommy Franks, whom he accuses of having no interest in postwar planning; at Condoleezza Rice for failing to coordinate policy; and at Paul Bremer for doing more harm than good while in Iraq. All of those charges are more than a little bit true, but it is interesting how Feith completely exonerates both himself and the Pentagon for the massive failures in judgment that characterized the Iraq fiasco.

Doug claims that his plan to establish an Iraqi Interim Authority that would have shared power between U.S. officials and appointed Iraqis, many of whom would have been exiles, would have worked but for the sabotage carried out by disloyal subordinates at the State Department and CIA. Ahmed Chalabi, who provided reams of false information to justify the war in the first place, would have undoubtedly been one of those appointees. Feith calls the opposition to Chalabi "pathological," but it is more likely true that everyone else was seeing what he chose to ignore. Chalabi has been convicted of massive bank fraud in Jordan, is considered an intelligence fabricator both by the CIA and State Department, and is generally believed to be a double agent who was working for the Iranian intelligence service at the same time as he was "assisting" the U.S. occupation in Iraq.

It is to be hoped that Feith’s book, featuring a photo of a pensive and scholarly looking Doug on the back of the dust jacket, will soon be featured in the remainder section at Barnes & Noble marked down to $1.99. One expects that Barnes & Noble will have the good sense to categorize it as fiction.

Author: Philip Giraldi

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is a contributing editor to The American Conservative and executive director of the Council for the National Interest.