The discovery of a labyrinth of underground bunkers used by the insurgency complete with air-conditioning, shower facilities, and furnished living space in western Iraq yielded a rich arsenal of sophisticated weaponry, including:
“Mortars, rockets, machine guns, night-vision goggles, compasses, ski masks and cell phones. Marines also found at least 59 surface-to-air missiles, some 29,000 AK-47 rounds, more than 350 pounds of plastic explosives and an unspecified amount of TNT in a five-mile area around the bunkers.”
No wonder the reality-based community is having some rather large doubts about the administration’s Soviet-style “we have over-fulfilled the quota set by the Five Year Plan” optimism about the course of the Iraq war, which increasingly resembles the “socialist realism” of Brezhnev-era Kremlin propaganda. Contra Dick Cheney, it doesn’t sound like the insurgency is in its “last throes” to me. And, hey, look what other goodies the insurgents have gotten their hands on, according to this less-widely noted little item from the Washington Times:
“U.S. intelligence officers are reporting that some of the insurgents in Iraq are using recent-model Beretta 92 pistols, but the pistols seem to have had their serial numbers erased. The numbers do not appear to have been physically removed; the pistols seem to have come off a production line without any serial numbers. Analysts suggest the lack of serial numbers indicates that the weapons were intended for intelligence operations or terrorist cells with substantial government backing. Analysts speculate that these guns are probably from either Mossad or the CIA.
“Analysts speculate that agent provocateurs may be using the untraceable weapons even as U.S. authorities use insurgent attacks against civilians as evidence of the illegitimacy of the resistance.”
Agent provocateurs? The CIA? The Mossad? I won’t even try to analyze or interpret what this is supposed to mean, except to say that it implies a much murkier and more nuanced picture of what is going on in Iraq, as opposed to the simple two-sided conflict pitting occupiers against insurgents, than most imagine. The situation is more complicated than the dualistic imagery that suffuses the president’s rhetoric “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists” starting with the number of players contending on the battlefields of Iraq. And stepping back, we can see the outlines of a much more complex larger picture, in which we are fighting a “war on terrorism” not only against Muslim fanatics, but also on another front fanatics of a different breed
Speaking of the Mossad, the Larry Franklin spy scandal is continuing to attract attention. A recent piece by Bidisha Banerjee lifted Slate.com’s interdict against mentioning The American Conservative beyond the inaugural issue to the extent of noting:
“Many bloggers are linking to this piece by the American Conservative‘s Justin Raimondo, who calls this ‘one of the biggest, most far-reaching espionage investigations since the Cold War,’ and insists that ‘the case involves not only the theft of vital U.S. secrets but a concerted effort to influence American foreign policy on behalf of a foreign power.’ Criticizing the U.S. media for ignoring this story, Sabbah’s Blog’s Haitham Sabbah, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, fulminates, ‘It is of note that AIPAC is paying to defend these two and denies any wrong doing.'”
Anyone who points out, I suppose, that Slate for just one example has only mentioned this burgeoning scandal on a single occasion, is “fulminating” almost frothing at the mouth. And as for that Justin Raimondo, he is merely insisting without evidence, mind you! that the Franklin affair isn’t the journalistic equivalent of Oakland about which, as you’ll no doubt remember, Gertrude Stein famously complained that “there isn’t any there there.”
Coupled with Ms. Banerjee’s disdain for anyone who takes this affair seriously is her skeptical lead-in, which links to this article in Ha’aretz, most of which is devoted to running AIPAC’s party line up the flagpole: it was all a setup, a “sting” operation in which two innocent babes-in-the-woods, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman the two top AIPAC officials accused of passing secrets to Israel were led to believe that Israeli lives might be in danger if they didn’t act. And besides, while “AIPAC will presumably be discussed in the actual trials,” we are told, “right now, at least, it does not appear the organization itself will be charged.”
Unless one expects that all 65,000 members of AIPAC will be individually charged, Banerjee is technically correct: but surely the leadership of the organization will have to be held accountable. After all, it’s not as if either Rosen or Weissman came to the organization only recently, or were merely marginal figures in AIPAC’s powerful Washington operation. As David Twersky, director of international affairs at the American Jewish Congress, said of Rosen in an interview with The Forward:
“Regardless of one’s judgment on the outcomes, this is the guy who more than anyone else shaped the institution as it currently exists.”
If Rosen was part of Israel’s spy nest in our nation’s capital, as the FBI contends, then surely it is not entirely unreasonable to assume he shaped one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington into an engine of espionage. If AIPAC isn’t being charged as an organization, and either closed down or else forced to register as a foreign agent, then one has to ask why not. One also has to wonder at the following rather startling tidbit embedded toward the end of the Ha’aretz article:
“Sources close to the case say the prosecution posed four conditions to AIPAC, which would guarantee that it would not be involved in the indictments: a change of working methods to ensure that such incidents don’t happen again; the firing of the two officials and public disassociation from them; no offers of high severance or anything else to make it appear the two quit of their own volition; and no financing of their legal defense.”
Here we have a unique answer to the problem of how to guard U.S. national security secrets: simply get the spies, once caught, to promise never to do it again. How is it that we never thought of such an elegantly simple solution before? All the American Communist Party had to do, during the Cold War years, was rid themselves of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and they would have been above suspicion.
Gee, I wonder how many exposed Soviet moles got severance pay from their former employers in the Kremlin. Having disassociated AIPAC from Rosen and Weissman basically admitting that they’re guilty the once-invulnerable lobbying group is not only rewarding them financially, it is also footing the bill for their defense, as Ha’aretz reports:
“AIPAC has abided by the first three conditions and the severance pay offered the two was considered very low, considering the many years they worked for the lobby. But it is said to be helping with their legal fees, indirectly, through its own law firm.”
By keeping AIPAC open for business, as if it were an ordinary lobbying group to be considered in the same way as the tobacco lobby, the textiles lobby, the drug companies, etc., the Justice Department is not only compromising the national security, it is also underscoring an otherwise brazen double standard when it comes to cracking down on organizations that supposedly had a hand in subverting it. How many Islamic “charities” and other groups have been shut down, had their doors locked and their officers arrested and deported on the mere suspicion of collaboration with groups even vaguely associated with alleged terrorists? Yet here we have AIPAC’s top Washington operatives at the center of an investigation into espionage on behalf of Israel, and the organization is being treated with kid gloves.
AIPAC is even allowed to break the supposed “deal” made with prosecutor Paul McNulty about funding the defense. Unlike McNulty, Plato Cacheris doesn’t come cheap and neither does Abbe Lowell. His last high-profile client Gary Condit left Washington under similarly murky circumstances. Chandra Levy’s remains were found in a Washington park three years ago this past May 22, and yet Condit has to this day gotten off virtually scot free, in spite of widespread and well-founded suspicions. The AIPAC defendants and their supporters who are just now beginning to come out of the woodwork are hoping for the same sort of outcome.
I noted previously that Israel’s most vocal champions, who are usually quick to counterattack when the Lobby has been crossed, have been unusually silent, beyond an initial exclamation of skepticism when the charges were first aired last year. Now the blogger Roger L. Simon, a mid-list novelist and screenwriter who has become a minor-league Charles Krauthammer of the blogosphere, has deigned to comment on the widening scandal.
“One of the more interesting cases moving somewhat under the radar is the report that espionage charges will soon be filed against two officials of AIPAC American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The charges, as I understand them, are somewhat vague and also unprecedented. Thomas Lifson, channeling (he says via email) the title of my first Moses Wine novel, thinks there has been a set-up. My question is why.”
It’s all a conspiracy against AIPAC, you see, with the clear implication that the FBI and the Justice Department have been taken over by neo-Nazis who are conducting an anti-Semitic pogrom: it’s Kristallnacht in the streets of Washington, D.C. Or so we are not-so-subtly led to assume. However, if Simon wants to know why Rosen and Weissman are facing charges of espionage, perhaps he ought to ask AIPAC’s lawyer, Nathan Lewin, who, according to Eli Lake in the New York Sun:
“Heard the highly classified case against them and advised the organization to sever its relationship with the two. The charges against Messrs. Rosen and Weissman, which have yet to be made publicly, were so secret that Mr. Lewin needed security clearance just to hear them.”
But of course Simon doesn’t really want to know why the Franklin affair is exploding into a Chernobyl-like catastrophe for Israel and its amen corner in the U.S. which is why he’s reduced to emitting paranoid conspiracy theories about ethno-religious persecution where none exists. The pundits who relentlessly hew to the Israeli party line as assiduously as any Communist of the 1930s adhered to the latest dictums from the Kremlin are hiding behind a massive persecution complex that blinds them to the emerging truth. Like squid emitting clouds of obfuscating ink, they just burrow deeper into the sand anything is preferable to coming out into the open with their sympathy for AIPAC’s treason. Without actually saying it, AIPAC’s defenders like Michael Ledeen, David Frum, and Joel Mowbray, to take only a few of the more well-known examples believe Rosen and Weissman were right to hand over highly sensitive U.S. secrets to Israel, and only regret that the spies were caught. Also without saying it, they know that the Franklin-Rosen-Weissman case will inevitably lead investigators to the very core of Israel’s Washington spy nest. As the Washington Post reported last September:
“FBI counterintelligence investigators have in recent weeks questioned current and former U.S. officials about whether a small group of Iran specialists at the Pentagon and in Vice President Cheney’s office may have been involved in passing classified information to an Iraqi politician or a U.S. lobbying group allied with Israel, according to sources familiar with or involved in the case.”
Aside from asking about two Israeli diplomats, investigators have focused their probe on the War Party’s Washington headquarters:
“Investigators have specifically asked about a group of neoconservatives involved in defense issues, including Feith, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, Iraq and Iran specialist Harold Rhode and others at the Pentagon. FBI agents also have asked current and former officials about Richard Perle of the defense board and David Wurmser, an Iran specialist and principal deputy assistant for national security affairs in Cheney’s office, according to sources familiar with or involved in the case.
“‘The initial interest was: Do you believe certain people would spy for Israel and pass secret information?’ said one source interviewed by the FBI about the defense officials.”
One can easily imagine these guys in the dock alongside Rosen, Weissman, and Franklin, while their supporters outside the courtroom champion their cause: imagine Richard Perle as a sort of neocon Mumia Abu Jamal! The wonderful irony of David Horowitz types, who were once Commies crusading to “Free Bobby Seale!,” campaigning to “Free Paul Wolfowitz and all political prisoners!” is almost too delicious for words.