For a good many years, I have been writing about the tremendous influence of the neoconservatives in formulating and implementing U.S. foreign policy, and maintaining that their role has not just been important it has been decisive. For underscoring the neocons’ pivotal role since before the Kosovo war I have been called a lot of uncomplimentary names, the least of which is “conspiracy theorist,” and for a while there Antiwar.com’s insistence on emphasizing this theme tended to isolate us from antiwar leftists, as well as alienating the more “mainstream” types who doubted whether such an abstruse ideological movement could possibly wield the sort of clout I was describing.
No more. Now the lefties over at, say, DailyKos.com, are hip to the magnitude of the threat and are busy poring over old PNAC position papers [.pdf] looking for clues to our present predicament. Even the word neocon, once all but unrecognizable to the great majority of readers, is now firmly embedded in the American political lexicon even as the consequences of their policies exact an ever increasing toll. Yet still there are some doubters: how could such a small group of people exercise such power especially considering that they aren’t exactly a mass movement. Someone once quipped that there are only about 20 or so neocons but 18 of them are major newspaper columnists. Yet there is more to it than that, and now that Scooter-gate is unfolding before the astonished eyes of official Washington, the neocons’ ubiquity in the mid-to-upper levels of the U.S. government’s national security and foreign policy bureaucracy is all too obvious. General Anthony Zinni was one of the first to call attention to the dangers inherent in the neocons’ foreign policy specialization, and now we have another major senior figure in the Washington policy establishment coming forward to confirm, in no uncertain terms, the nature and extent of the problem.
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson was Colin Powell’s chief of staff over at the State Department, where he formerly served as associate director of policy planning. Before that, he was the director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College. At a recent talk given at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., Col. Wilkerson described the dysfunctional mess the national security bureaucracy finds itself in these days, due in large part to the sheer complexity of the problems we face. He emphasized the need for dissent, because the would-be central planners can’t possibly know all there is to know about even a single issue say, nuclear proliferation and must depend on others who have no compunctions about speaking freely, without fear of violating some party line. Yet that, he sadly avers, is not the case today:
“And when I say that is not the case today, I stop on 26 January 2005. I don’t know what the case is today; I wish I did. But the case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process. What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. And then when the bureaucracy was presented with the decision to carry them out, it was presented in a such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn’t know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out.”
A cabal it’s such a cool word, I try not to overuse it. Slightly foreign-sounding and somehow exotic, it has the advantages of being short and unambiguous as to its exact meaning. The members of a cabal are engaged in a conspiracy, usually of a criminal nature, and they are often to be found in the upper reaches of powerful institutions, especially government institutions, plotting coups d’etat. The Roman senators who murdered Caesar belonged to a republican (small “r”) cabal, whose members resented the conqueror of Gaul’s determination to take their republic down the road to empire. In our own time, as Wilkerson and his former boss observed, another sort of cabal seized control of the U.S. government and steered it down the same road. As Seymour Hersh put it:
“The question we have to say to ourselves is, OK, so here’s what happens, a bunch of guys, 8 or 9 neoconservatives, cultists not Charles Manson cultists, but cultists get in and it’s not, with all due respect to Michael Moore, and you’ll read it, his movie’s fine, but it’s not about oil, it’s not even about protecting Israel, it’s about a Utopia they have, it’s about an idea they have. Not only about democracy can be spread in a sense, I would say Paul Wolfowitz is the greatest Trotskyite of our time, he believes in permanent revolution, and in the Middle East to begin, needless to say.
“And so you have a bunch of people who’ve been for 10, 12 years have been fantasizing since the 1991 Gulf War on the way to resolve problems. And of course Israel will be a beneficiary and etc., etc., but the world in their eyes this was Utopia. And so they got together, this small group of cultists, and how did they do it? They did do it. They’ve taken the government over. And what’s amazing to me, and what really is troubling, is how fragile our democracy is. Look what happened to us.”
Sure, our republic is fragile, especially these days yet it isn’t as fragile as Hersh feared. Yes, our institutions were corrupted by a well-organized conspiracy of liars with an agenda, who deceived the nation into going to war and committing what one general called the worst strategic disaster in American history. We will suffer the consequences for generations to come: we are damaged, but not beyond repair. The self-correcting mechanisms built into our republican form of government have lashed back at this alien intrusion, and the coup-plotters are cornered. That’s what Patrick J. “Bulldog” Fitzgerald has accomplished on our behalf, and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude.
Not a few have exposed the cabal Col. Wilkerson spoke of, but Fitzgerald armed with the subpoena power and a passion for justice is going after them with a vengeance, rooting them out of the corridors of power and hauling them into court, where they are being called to account. Fitzgerald is “turning” the foot soldiers of the cabal, the ones who did the dirty work, and getting them to rat on their commanding officers. Raw Story, which is the place to go these days for the latest in the rats’ sweepstakes, reported that John Hannah, Dick Cheney’s national security adviser, was turning state’s evidence as of Tuesday, and Wednesday it was David Wurmser, Cheney’s chief adviser on Middle East affairs.
Wurmser, whose Israeli-born wife Meyrav is director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the neoconservative Hudson Institute, is the principal author of a by-now-famous 1996 policy paper, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” prepared for then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the Jerusalem-based Institute for Advanced Strategic Political Studies. The “Clean Break” strategy proposed an attempt by Israel to break out of its military and political isolation in the midst of a hostile Arab sea by pursuing regime-change in Iraq, and eventually Syria. Wurmser sought to mobilize the far-right wing of Israel’s Likud party, represented by Netanyahu, around a vision of a Greater Israel surrounded by much lesser enemies. Syria, in Wurmser’s view, was the main target, but the road to Damascus, he contended, had to run though Baghdad. “Whoever inherits Iraq dominates the entire Levant strategically,” he wrote. The key to Israel’s regional hegemony was in rejecting “land for peace” and creating a “natural axis” consisting of Israel, Jordan, and a Hashemite Iraq that could “squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi peninsula.” This would be “the prelude to redrawing the map of the Middle East” to Israel’s advantage, of course.
Among the other co-authors whose names adorn “A Clean Break”: Douglas J. Feith, director of policy at the Department of Defense, and the ubiquitous Richard Perle, who is having his own problems with prosecutor Fitzgerald.
The connection of Israel to all this is plain enough: for the neoconservatives, Israel plays the same role as the old Soviet Union did to the American Communist Party. Acting sometimes in tandem with Tel Aviv, and always in Israel’s interests, the cabal Wilkerson and others have identified is pursuing an ideological vision, which Seymour Hersh refers to above. Yet it could not be pursued in a vacuum, without the assistance of allies, and certainly the Israelis have played a key role in influencing the U.S. government to tread the path to war covertly in the case of Iraq, and now quite openly when it comes to Syria and Iran.
The Israeli penetration of our national security has been put in the spotlight, lately, by the indictment and guilty plea of former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin on charges of spying for Israel. During his tenure as the Pentagon’s top Iran specialist, when he worked for Doug Feith, Franklin was caught red-handed funneling highly classified information to Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s chief lobbyist, and Keith Weissman, AIPAC’s top foreign policy analyst, who then passed the stolen secrets on to the Israeli embassy. The interconnectedness of the investigation into AIPAC’s treason with Fitzgerald’s probe is underscored by the following passage from Franklin’s indictment:
“On or about June 3, 2003, Franklin met with FO-3 [Naor Gilon] at the POAC [Pentagon Officers Athletic Club], and the discussion centered on a specific person, not in the United Status government, and her thoughts concerning the nuclear program of the Middle Eastern country and, separately, certain charity, efforts in Foreign Nation A.”
If Franklin and his Israeli handler a nuclear weapons specialist were talking about a woman whose “thoughts concerning the nuclear program” of a certain “Middle Eastern country” had some significance, then surely Judith Miller is a likely candidate. When we add in the business about “certain charity efforts in Foreign Nation A,” the identification becomes even more credible: “Foreign Nation A” is Israel, the “charity efforts” consist of work on behalf of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, a joint project undertaken by Miller, Harold Rhode (Franklin’s associate and fellow suspect in Feith’s policy shop), and Ahmed Chalabi. It might be said that these efforts on behalf of the Archive are not taking place “in Israel,” as the wording of the indictment puts it, but the ultimate location of the archives is uncertain, and surely Israel is one very possible destination. In any case, it can safely be said that this is a project undertaken on Israel’s behalf.
As Franklin and Gilon hung out at the Pentagon Officers Athletic Club, shooting the breeze, it seems Ms. Miller was the subject of their conversation, at least in part. Did the name Valerie Plame also come up?
The first week of June 2003, was an eventful time in the Plame outing drama: Walter Pincus, a Washington Post reporter, made inquiries at the CIA about Ambassador Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger. Also that week, a memo addressed to undersecretary of state Marc Grossman referred to Plame. Plame’s name and CIA affiliations were being whispered around Washington, and the knives were slowly being unsheathed and aimed at Ambassador Wilson’s throat
The FBI was listening as Franklin and Gilon discussed closely held national security secrets. The question is: Do the Feds have the two of them on tape gossiping about that troublesome gal over at the CIA’s anti-nuclear-proliferation unit whose husband could potentially cause the War Party an awful lot of trouble?
Inquiring minds want to know. And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one taking an interest in what transpired at the POAC that day.
What leads me to suspect something of the sort is that Rosen’s and Weissman’s lawyers are demanding access to all the extensive tapes and other materials recording the surveillance of their clients, but the government, in an unusual move, is refusing, much to the judge’s consternation.
“I am having a hard time,” said Judge T. S. Ellis to prosecutor Kevin DiGregori, “getting over the fact that the defendants can’t hear their own statements, and whether that is so fundamental that if it doesn’t happen, this case will have to be dismissed.”
I wouldn’t count on a dismissal, however. Judge Ellis seemed baffled as to the reason why the defendants couldn’t hear their own incriminating words, but it could be their lawyers who are the problem. It wouldn’t do for them to hear their clients “outing” Valerie Plame or otherwise implicating themselves in the Plame matter such a revelation could endanger and possibly abort Fitzgerald’s case at a crucially important moment in its gestation.
Amid all the speculation about who outed Plame, and who was in a position to know what she was up to, it is odd that no one has mentioned the possibility of a foreign intelligence agency being involved. Yet this would explain the nature of the conspiracy that Fitzgerald is said to be pursuing, going far beyond a possible violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and crossing the line into espionage.
Was Plame outed by agents of a foreign power? Given what we know, it’s entirely possible. As to which country would be ruthless and motivated enough to do it, I hereby nominate “Foreign Nation A” as the most likely candidate.