The Cabal Strikes Back

You would think that a political tendency such as the neoconservatives, one that has presided over a disastrous war which is increasingly unpopular, and which has unleashed a wave of resentment and even hatred against them, would just crawl back under the rock from whence they sprang and lay low for the duration. Not the neocons, however: they may be down, but they are far from out, as this report from Washington policy wonk Steve Clemons makes all too ominously clear:

“Multiple sources have reported that a senior aide on Vice President Cheney’s national security team has been meeting with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute, one other think tank, and more than one national security consulting house and explicitly stating that Vice President Cheney does not support President Bush’s tack towards Condoleezza Rice’s diplomatic efforts and fears that the President is taking diplomacy with Iran too seriously.

“This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an ‘end run strategy’ around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument. The thinking on Cheney’s team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran’s nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).”

The President, reined in by his party’s fear of electoral disaster and his nation’s war weariness, has hesitated to go all the way with the neocons’ plan to open up the second phase of their bid to “transform” the Middle East into a pile of “democratic” rubble: no one in this country but Dick Cheney and his boys think going to war with Iran is such a grand idea, but that isn’t stopping the neocons from trying to pull it off anyway. Clemons informs us that the plan is to have the Israelis mount the first strike, after which the Iranians will retaliate against U.S. troops in Iraq – and the fight will be on.

Further evidence of this “end run” around the White House is the recent leak to ABC News of a plan by the administration to destabilize Iran’s economy, including “a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions.” Bush reportedly signed a “non-lethal presidential finding” authorizing the plan: such “findings” are supposed to be kept secret, with only the Senate and House intelligence committees in the know. The leak could only have been prompted, as Laura Rozen points out, by those with a desire to spike talks with Tehran – and perhaps even invite retaliation from the mullahs, who could easily interpret this program as an act of war.

Another component of this set-up is Lebanon, where a Sunni Muslim militant group has gotten into a major confrontation with the Lebanese army – and this barely a few months after Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker that the administration was covertly – albeit indirectly – funding Lebanese Salafist (Sunni) extremists in a bid to counter the Shi’ite Hezbollah, which is currently mobilizing to topple the pro-Washington government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Hezbollah, seen by the Americans and the Israelis (or do I repeat myself) as Tehran’s sock-puppet, is yet another tripwire laid down in the path of the stumbling American Gulliver, who is about to be dragged down into a wider Middle Eastern war.

The Cheney administration, in alliance with the Israel lobby and the currently dominant “red-state fascist” wing of the GOP, is determined to gin up a war with Iran, and they just may get away with it. Politically, there is almost no opposition to or even much awareness of this headlong rush to war, with all “major” presidential candidates committed to confronting Iran militarily, if “necessary,” over the nuclear issue.

And while the War Party is currently frustrated in its attempts to persuade the Dear Leader that bombing Tehran would be timely, the vast network of American-funded –and-sponsored covert actions around the world built up under the reign of Rumsfeld is being utilized to create provocations on every front – even to the extent of giving aid and comfort to the very folks who attacked us on 9/11, such as Fatah-al-Islam in Lebanon, which is affiliated with al Qaeda. That the Siniora government has now had to crack down on the very extremist groups they and their Saudi patrons were nurturing with cash and care should make clear even to Rudy Giuliani the exact meaning of “blowback.”

In an interview with CNN, Hersh explains the relevance of his reporting on US covert operations in Lebanon to the current outbreak of violence in that war-torn country:

“What I was writing about was sort of a private agreement that was made between the White House, we’re talking about Richard – Dick – Cheney and Elliott Abrams, one of the key aides in the White House, with Bandar [Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser]. And the idea was to get support, covert support from the Saudis, to support various hard-line jihadists, Sunni groups, particularly in Lebanon, who would be seen in case of an actual confrontation with Hezbollah – the Shia group in the southern Lebanon – would be seen as an asset, as simple as that.”

Notice how he talks about an agreement between the White House – “Cheney and Elliott Abrams” – and Prince Bandar. George W. Bush is totally out of the loop. The Cheney cabal is mobilizing all its considerable power to launch a final Middle Eastern offensive, and their Lebanese excursion – reportedly a major reason for the sudden reassignment of John Negroponte to the State Department – is just the beginning of what they have in store for us.

In the end, however, when it comes down to launching a full frontal assault on Iran, it all depends on the Israelis. The War Party is counting on them to strike the first blow, with the guarantee that the Americans will strike the second, third, fourth, and fifth blows, ad infinitum. Blows directed not only at Iran, but also against Syria, Hezbollah, and the Palestinians.

If the sentiments expressed by Michael Freund are any indication of the general sentiment in Israel, then I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they agreed to go along for the ride. Freund, as I think any objective observer of my debate with him on the Web site will conclude, simply repeated talking points, and was not interested in any objections – either moral or strategic – to his program of bombing Tehran. Facts, logic, and the possible blowback – including radioactive blowback – from a nuclear “event” in Iran: none of this seemed to penetrate his armor. He was impervious to it all, and didn’t even acknowledge let alone answer the multiplicity of objections raised – not the least of which was that the American and Israeli perspectives on this question are inevitably different. Yet Freund made no such unsubtle distinctions. Nor did he ever address the moral questions involved, such as how to justify the certain deaths of tens of thousands of Iranians and others in the name of – what, exactly? Israel’s survival? A possible Iranian nuclear strike on the U.S.? Freund actually raised this last point, which is so far-fetched that it wouldn’t even make a good episode of 24 – but I have to wonder, does he really believe this nonsense?

I doubt it. Like most war propaganda, it’s just a cynical attempt to brazenly manipulate peoples’ deepest fears, to raise the decibel level of the “debate” until rational discussion is no longer possible.

In any case, there are reasons to believe the current Israeli government would like to be the spearhead of the coming blitz, especially if it rehabilitates leaders who have lost all credibility with the stark failure of the IDF’s most recent incursion into Lebanon. The neocons reportedly were quite displeased with the Israelis for not going all out to smash Hezbollah and this could be a way for Tel Aviv to make up for it.

The idea that the US would have to “finish the job” if the Israelis started it shows how we have become the prisoners of our own satellites. According to the scenario as presented by Clemons, Israel is to be the catalyst that forces the hand of a reluctant President and traps us in a regional conflagration that will make the Iraq war seem like a mere skirmish. Yet, as Clemons makes clear, the real catalytic element here is Cheney, widely regarded as Bush’s co-president, the patron and protector of neoconservative ideologues whose agenda involves much more than advancing Israeli interests.

As Colin Powell told Bob Woodward, after 9/11, the neocons centered around the office of the vice president set up “a separate government.” That government – widely discredited, and reeling from the recent trial and conviction of one of its principal figures – is now engaged in a struggle for power with the legal and duly constituted government, the outcome of which has yet to be determined. What is clear, however, is that the Cheney administration will stop at nothing in its effort to win that fight – even if it means starting World War IV. This is an outcome the neocons would dearly love to see, and I have to say that, sadly, their chances of success are quite good.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, 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].