In a recent newspaper column, Robert Novak reiterated his earlier reporting that the Bushies are planning to get out of Iraq ASAP – that is, as soon as politically feasible, starting right after the January 2005 elections. Citing unnamed administration officials in the first instance, the veteran conservative columnist – who opposed the invasion of Iraq – went on, in his second installment, to point to none other than Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s recent interview with Rita Cosby of Fox News, in which the Stud Muffin of the War Party seemed to be downsizing the original goals of our Iraqi misadventure. When Cosby asked if we’ll always have troops in Iraq "in some shape or form," Rumsfeld replied:
"Oh, I really don’t. I think that…"
Cosby: "You think we’ll have a total elimination of U.S. troops?"
Rumsfeld: "Well, let me put it this way, when the United States of America puts forces into a country, we do it to try to help that country. Unlike other countries, we’re not going to occupy a country or to take over their real estate. We want to go in and be helpful and leave. That’s basically the American way…."
Rummy then goes into the usual mantra about training enough Iraqis so they can take over the fight against the insurgency, and Cosby asks:
"You’ve said that maybe we might pull out before conditions are, quote, ‘peaceful and perfect.’ When is the earliest that you think we could pull out of Iraq?"
Rumsfeld: "Well, the president’s said very correctly that we will stay there as long as we’re needed and not a minute longer. Now, that part of the world tends not to be perfectly peaceful."
Cosby: " It never will be, do you think?"
Rumsfeld: "It never will be, is my view. And do I think that when we leave, it will be a perfectly peaceful situation, no. I think it’ll be a situation where the Iraqis have developed the ability to manage their situation from a security standpoint and we will have a mutual agreement that it makes sense now to bring down the coalition forces and leave."
What Novak omits from his column, however, is the following very interesting – and highly ambiguous – exchange:
Cosby: "Could that be as early right after the elections? There is some buzz that may be right after the elections, we may see a –"
Rumsfeld: "Oh, no. No, no."
Cosby: "Start pulling out?"
Rumsfeld: "No. We’ve already started. We had over 150,000 troops there originally and we’re down to 137 right now – 137,000."
So, is the "buzz" started by Novak right, or just disinformation designed to mollify antiwar conservatives, as the Kerry-ite wing of the blogosphere insists? We don’t yet know. What we do know is that Rumsfeld took his message of a possible reduction in U.S. troops to Anbar province in Iraq, this past weekend. He showed up unannounced and held a "town hall" meeting at an airbase, where he told a group of restive Marines:
"Our hope is that as we build up Iraqi forces we will be able to relieve the stress on our forces and see a reduction in coalition forces over some period of time, probably post-Iraqi election. But again, it will depend entirely on the security situation here in this country."
The troops are getting mighty cranky, and stories that DVDs of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 are being passed around in the ranks seem to be confirmed by this story, and remarks such as the following:
"A number of military personnel made it clear they would be voting for Democrat John Kerry on Nov. 2 – and not the man who started the Iraq War, U.S. President George W. Bush.
"’I want somebody to represent us who knows what we’ve been through,’ said one. ‘It’s almost choosing the lesser of two evils.’
"’Some day you don’t even know if you’re the good guy,’ said one. ‘It’s more just you’re here to keep your guys alive.’"
Rummy’s visit to Anbar was essentially a campaign event, in which the SecDef signaled to these voters-in-arms that they would be coming home sooner rather than later. A military victory over the insurgency is no longer the stated goal of this administration, at least according to Rumsfeld: the objective is to be able to hand the problem over to the Iraqis. Success, in short, means an Iraqi civil war, in which Allawi has the military advantage and we are only peripherally involved.
That the Republicans are no longer assured of winning the military vote overwhelmingly is perhaps one of the clearest indications that the Bush campaign is in some very big trouble. A key factor in this trend is the unpopularity of the civilian ideologues in the Pentagon, most of whom have never fought in a war, the infamous "chickenhawks" and neoconservative laptop bombardiers disdained by General Anthony Zinni and an increasingly vocal section of the military, intelligence, and diplomatic communities. These rebels against the Empire have taken to leaking sensitive material designed to embarrass the Bushies and discredit the neocons. The rebirth of "realism" in Republican foreign policy circles, and the rising success of The American Conservative magazine – which is quite explicitly committed to anti-imperialism and was founded to counter the once-dominant neocon influence – is eroding the War Party’s base. Which is why it makes sense, in the long run, for such war-hawks as Andrew Sullivan to abandon the GOP ship and jump on the Kerry bandwagon.
Another recent neocon convert to Kerry’s cause is Marshall Wittmann, promoter of "national greatness conservatism." In his chameleon-like ability to change political coloration at a moment’s notice, Wittmann embodies the ruthless opportunism at the heart of the neoconservative soul: this former member of Social Democrats, USA, the successor to the Socialist Party, is also formerly John McCain’s communications director, as well as being a former spokesman for the Christian Coalition, and former director of the neoconservative Hudson Institute‘s Project for Conservative Reform. Today, he is a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, which, one gathers, is the voice of National Greatness Liberalism.
Even as some neocons are migrating leftward – that is, going back where most of them came from – the anti-Novaks of the liberal-left, notably the editors of Salon.com, are holding up the Neocon Threat as the main reason for getting rid of George W. Bush. While Novak and Pat Buchanan are confidently predicting that the day of the neocons is over, and we are on our way out of Iraq, on the other hand an anonymous "veteran Foreign Service officer currently serving as a State Department official" presents a radically different vision of what a Bush second term would have in store for us.
Colin Powell isn’t sticking around, says Mr. Anonymous Veteran Diplomat, and this means a neocon takeover at Foggy Bottom. Using Condi Rice as a front, the neocons are jockeying to install their own people in key secondary positions, and are poised to take us into Syria, while offing Yasser Arafat and preparing a final assault on Iran. Blaming the unfolding disaster in Iraq on former viceroy Paul Bremer, rather than their own unrealistic policies and failure to prepare for the real problems of the occupation, the neocon cabal within the administration, we are told, is determined to torpedo Bremer’s hopes of succeeding Powell. Since the publication of this article, however, Bremer – after providing Kerry with debating points by admitting that they went into Iraq with too few troops – has apparently fallen on his own sword, and taken himself out of the running.
This article appears to have prefigured Bremer’s exit stage left, and is, in another sense, an immensely valuable piece that shows how the neocons penetrated the inner sanctum of America’s foreign policy councils, and effectively staged a coup d’etat. According to the author, a core group consisting of Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and Vice President Cheney’s national security advisor, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, manipulated Ms. Rice into acceding to the appointment of Elliott Abrams as special assistant to the president and senior director for the Middle East at the National Security Council. "This appointment," says our veteran diplomat, "gave the neocons everything they wanted – the NSC, Executive Office of the President, Office of the Vice President, the Pentagon, a cornered director in George Tenet at CIA, and Wurmser at State." In short, the neocons had a lock on the policymaking apparatus of this administration, especially as it pertains to the Middle East.
The apparent cohesion of the Wolfowitz-Perle-Feith-Wurmser faction, the coordinated activities of the various sub rosa intelligence operations set up by them, such as the Office of Special Plans and the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, all bespeak a central purpose, which our veteran diplomat does more than strongly imply:
"The whole time Wurmser was at State, career professionals around him saw someone acting more like an agent of influence than as a subordinate of the secretary of state. He was in constant contact with his Pentagon intelligence cell. Questions were asked – but never answered – as to how Wurmser got a full security clearance when he never registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act for his 1996 policy work for Israel’s incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (including advice on how to lobby the U.S. Congress) and as someone who was married to an Israeli citizen with close ties to Israel’s Likud Party – in theory, a party to U.S.-brokered Middle East peace negotiations.
"In September 2003, Wurmser left the Department of State to become Vice President Cheney’s principal deputy for national security affairs under ‘Scooter’ Libby. He left before any questions were answered about his access to and use of classified information. His clearances were never questioned when he joined the vice president’s staff, and his status under the Foreign Agents Registration Act has never been clarified."
With Iran analyst Larry Franklin caught red-handed as he turned over classified documents to Israeli government officials and employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one trusts there is a new urgency to answering these "questions" about "Wurmser’s access to and use of classified information." Amid indications of an extended investigation into Israeli penetration of the top echelons of this administration, these new revelations underscore the treason at the heart of our policy of perpetual war in the Middle East – a policy that does not serve American interests, but suits the Israeli government to a tee.
So we have two possible scenarios: one depicted by the antiwar Right, in which discredited neocons are dumped overboard by badly-burned Bushies, who then undo as much of the damage done by neocon policy as is possible, versus the view of the pro-Kerry State Department realists, who fear that the neocon stranglehold on policymaking will only be strengthened. Which version to believe?
Rather than confront this formidable question, which only Cassandra can answer, what’s interesting about these contending views is that both the Bush-leaning conservatives and the Kerry Kultists over at Salon.com are promising that their guy will get rid of the neocons. Those unlovely warmongers, noted for their ruthless cunning and dubious loyalties, are hated by all. That’s one consequence of this war that isn’t so disastrous – and may even save us from the next one.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Go and check out my recent article, "The Objectivist Death Cult," on LewRockwell.com. It’s an excerpt from a much longer speech delivered last weekend at the Freedom Summit. I love Ayn Rand‘s fiction – but some of her latter-day followers sure are bonkers. I want to make clear, however, that the crowd around Leonard Peikoff, Rand’s official "intellectual heir," is far different in tone and style than the Objectivist Center organization, headed up by David Kelley. The Ayn Rand Institute, under Peikoff and former Israeli intelligence officer Yaron Brook, not only attacks just war theory as "altruism," they also advocate the indiscriminate targeting of innocent civilians in Iraq – and throughout the Middle East. This monstrous position is not held, as far as I know, by Kelley or anyone associated with the Objectivist Center. I should add, however, that – as I explain in my piece – both groups are equally wrong about the Iraq war and the origins of the "war on terrorism."