A Treasonous Camarilla

"Phase two" of the investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence into how we got it wrong on Iraq has been delayed for quite some time, initially because of Sen. Pat Roberts’ outright blocking tactics, and now, apparently, due to a Pentagon internal investigation into the activities of former Deputy Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith, who oversaw a key albeit little-known and highly secretive intelligence-gathering unit, the "Office of Special Plans." A central figure in Washington’s neoconservative network, Feith resigned a year ago, just as suspicion was falling on him and his subordinates in a string of interconnected scandals: the WMD "intelligence" flap, Ahmed Chalabi‘s connections to Iranian intelligence, and the AIPAC spy case.

Last May, I speculated that these matters might have something to do with Feith’s sudden resignation, and now it looks like I was right. Raw Story is reporting that "phase two" of the SSCI investigation is being held up by the Pentagon’s self-probe, while the senators await

"A report from the Pentagon inspector general as to Feith’s alleged role in manipulating prewar intelligence to support a case for war. Feith, who is also being probed by the FBI for his role in an Israeli spy case, resigned in January 2005…. One former intelligence source points to ‘a bigger can of worms’ that a Feith investigation may unravel, pointing to the Israeli spy case – in which Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin passed classified information to a pro-Israeli lobby – and to the Defense Department’s own inability to address security breaches."

Feith is one of the more ideological neocons, with connections to the far-right wing of Israel’s Likud Party and the settler movement. He presided over a newly created team of intelligence analysts – the Office of Special Plans (OSP) – whose job it was to think up the War Party’s talking points. According to Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired Air Force officer and Pentagon analyst, Feith‘s Office of Special Plans was created from a narrow range of neoconservative think tanks – most notably the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank founded by AIPAC officials and long associated with Israel’s Washington lobby. Among the neocon activists who worked with the Near East and South Asia (NESA) bureau, we have one David Schenker, previously a WINEP research fellow, and Churchill expert Michael Makovsky, younger brother of senior WINEP fellow David Makovsky, formerly executive editor of the Jerusalem Post. It was a tightly knit little group, Kwiatkowski has testified:

“Career Pentagon analysts assigned to Rumsfeld’s office were generally excluded from what were ‘key areas of interest’ to Feith, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld, notably Israel, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. ‘In terms of Israel and Iraq, all primary staff work was conducted by political appointees; in the case of Israel, a desk officer appointee from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.’"

The Larry Franklin-AIPAC-WINEP connection strongly suggests that what we are dealing with here is not simply a domestic group that had somehow seized control of U.S. foreign policy in order to pursue their interventionist agenda, but a foreign-directed and assisted covert operation designed to subvert the institutional foundations of various key government agencies and hijack U.S. military might in order to serve the interests of a foreign power, i.e., Israel. This suspicion is particularly strong when it comes to Feith, who had his security clearance revoked in 1982. The charge: leaking information to the Israeli embassy.

Rumsfeld restored Feith’s clearance when the Bushies came to Washington and he was appointed a deputy at Defense, in charge of the policy shop where convicted spy Franklin worked. What is intriguing about the Franklin case is that much of the top-secret information and documentation that came into that fervent neocon’s possession was way above Franklin’s pay-grade. The big question, in the AIPAC spy case, is: who else in DoD was he working with?

One bright day last year, the FBI knocked on the door of the Pentagon and began administering lie-detector tests to DoD employees. Could that be what is holding up the Senate’s investigation into bogus Iraq "intelligence"? Is this why Feith and others have gotten themselves all lawyered-up?

Franklin is taking the fall for higher-ups, including Feith. As law enforcement agencies continue to investigate the circumstances – and government personnel – that surround the AIPAC spy case, the evidence clearly points in a disturbing direction. Come to think of it, an inordinately large number of neoconservatives working in government have had their security clearances revoked, and all for the same reason: passing classified information to Israel. The Franklin case underscores the vital role played by AIPAC as a conduit for funneling U.S. secrets to Tel Aviv, a fact that will come out at the trial – that is, if Franklin and the other two defendants, longtime AIPAC powerhouse lobbyist Steve Rosen, and Keith Weissman, AIPAC’s Iran specialist, have anything to say about it.

The AIPAC spy trial, scheduled for late April, already had the pro-Israel community plenty scared, and with good reason: in the interests of avoiding guilty verdicts, and possibly very long sentences, Rosen and Weissman will make the case that AIPAC was fully informed of their activities, and, far from disapproving, actively encouraged them to engage in illegal activities, i.e., espionage. Now that the connection to the Feith investigation is coming out, however, a real wave of fear must be sweeping through certain Washington circles. Franklin got 12 years: what will the feds dish out to the rest of the cabal?

There are two different approaches to the question of assigning responsibility for this disastrous war, both of which are valid. The first is to take the broad view and look for the culprits in the world of ideas. From this broad view, we can discern that any number of factors played a role in marching us off to war: the need for oil, the ideological preconceptions of the Bushies, the military-industrial complex, and, perhaps, Earth’s alignment with Pluto and Mars. Such arguments can never be decisively settled, and are fodder for endless scholarly dissertations ostensibly "proving" this theory or that.

What can be proved, however, is that specific individuals, working in concert, proceeded to engage in illegal activities, including espionage, obstruction of justice, and forgery, to name just a few, in the interests of involving us in a needless and increasingly costly war. The crimes of the War Party can be traced back to specific persons: in identifying them and detailing their actions and motives, we can begin to understand the reasons for the biggest strategic disaster in our history. Surely the story of how we were lied into war will be told by future historians in terms of the broad, inclusive approach favored by scholars, but in a sense a truer tale will told by Justice Department prosecutors in the clear, bloodless language of a legal indictment.

It is often said – I have said it myself – that a cabal of neocons took us into war, a view disdained by the War Party as a groundless "conspiracy theory" that verges on anti-Semitism. Yet very few of these people have taken up the cudgels on behalf of the AIPAC defendants, and those few who did went silent soon after Franklin’s guilty plea. If there is no foreign-directed conspiracy to spy on the U.S. and procure information for Israel, in addition to lobbying on behalf of Israel’s interests in the councils of government, then why has Franklin been sentenced to spend over a decade languishing behind bars?

However, I wouldn’t call it a "conspiracy" because of the bad connotations of the word, and "cabal" is not quite right, either. We need something more specific, and I suggest camarilla. The invaluable Wikipedia defines the term as follows:

"A Camarilla is a group of courtiers or favorites that surround a king or ruler. Usually they do not hold any office or have any official authority and influence their ruler behind the scenes. Thus they also escape having to bear responsibility for the effects of their advice."

This describes the neoconservatives to a tee. Taking responsibility for their past assurances that we would be greeted as "liberators" is the last thing any self-respecting neocon would think of doing. As former officials of the occupation start hawking their wares of disillusioned "idealism" and the Weekly Standard pushes the line that Iraq’s democratic revolution has been "betrayed" by the Bush administration, they’re trying to slither out of fault by claiming that their policies weren’t really followed by the sellouts in the Bush administration. The real value of camarilla, however, is that it throws the spotlight on their modus operandi.

Whispering in the ear of the king, this treasonous camarilla had access to power – which they used in a very specific, goal-oriented way. Their goal: secure Israel’s future. Their method: get U.S. troops into the Middle East, in part to distract fire away from Israeli targets, and in part to carry out a "democratization" process in the interests of making the region safe for Israel – or, at least, less hostile. Democracies, the neocons claim, never attack each other – a theory blown to bits not only by any honest examination of our own foreign policy, but by recent events in the occupied territories. The triumph of Hamas should put that old neocon talking point to rest beyond any hope of resuscitation.

The American people want to know who lied them into war and why. If it turns out that the lies were manufactured by a nest of spies rather than a noble-but-naïve band of misguided idealists, there will be hell to pay.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].