Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 2004, page 19

Neocon Corner

The War on Iraq Has “Outed” the Neoconservatives—Hopefully for Good

By Andrew I. Killgore

“The War Party may have gotten its war. But it has also gotten something it did not bargain for. Its membership lists and associations have been exposed and its motives challenged.” 

—Patrick J. Buchanan, “Whose War?” The American Conservative, March 24, 2003

To hear America’s Zionist media tell it, Paul Wolfowitz is an intellectual. After all, he studied under the University of Chicago’s Albert Wohlstetter, the neocons’ guru of gurus, and in 1981 and 1982 was director of the State Department’s think tank, the Policy Planning Staff. Now, at the peak of his career, Wolfowitz is U.S. deputy secretary of defense.

He also is a fanatical ideologue, however, whose name has become so associated with the war on Iraq that it now is known as “Wolfowitz’s war.”

An Israeli journalist writing in Israel’s daily Haaretz newspaper dared to point out something that would have drawn howls if printed in the all-too-scared American press. Wrote journalist Avi Shavit on Feb. 11, “The war on Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish, who are pushing President Bush to change the course of history.”

In the January/February 2004 issue of Mother Jones magazine, in an article entitled “The Lie Factory,” Robert Dreyfus and Jason Vest specifically name the neocons who led the U.S. to war with Iraq via misinformation and bogus intelligence. Dreyfus is a longtime Washington journalist whose last cover story for Mother Jones, “The Thirty-Year Itch,” focused on the neocon plan to topple Saddam Hussain and reshape the Middle East. Vest has written for The Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, The American Prospect, and the Village Voice. 

Now-retired Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski described to Dreyfus and Vest how the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (OSP) manufactured scare stories about Iraq’s weapons and ties to terrorists. “It wasn’t intelligence, it was propaganda,” she explained. “They’d take a little bit of intelligence, cherry pick it, make it sound more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, often by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don’t belong together.”

By turning such bogus intelligence into talking points for U.S. officials—which appeared as ominous lines in speeches by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s testimony at the U.N. Security Council last February—the administration pushed American public opinion into supporting an unnecessary war.

According to the Mother Jones article, even before the Bush team at the Pentagon formally had been installed, Wolfowitz and fellow neocon Douglas Feith, under secretary of defense for policy, had begun putting together what would become the rationale for regime change in Iraq. Wolfowitz, clearly with Israeli interests in mind, long had held that not taking Baghdad after the first Iraqi war had been a mistake. Feith, an activist in far-right Zionist circles, was a former aide to Richard Perle—the former chair, and now former member, of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board who is known as the “Prince of Darkness”—when Perle was assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon from 1981 to 1988. (See Stephen Green’s “Serving Two Flags: Newcons, Israel and the Bush Administration,” on p. 20 of the May 2004 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.)

The war on Iraq now is known as “Wolfowitz’s war.”

Called to join the Pentagon’s war-planning team was Harold Rhode, who speaks Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish and Farsi, and who, Dreyfus and Vest write, was “seen by many Pentagon veteran staffers as an ideological gadfly.” Months before Feith was confirmed as under secretary, Rhode helped establish the department’s new anti-Iraq—and broadly anti-Arab—orientation. He declined to be interviewed for the Mother Jones story, saying cryptically, “Those who speak, pay.”

Rhode and Feith purged those career Defense Department officials, including Kwiatkowski, who weren’t sufficiently enthusiastic about the anti-Iraq crusade. Unofficial off-site recruiting ground for the anti-Iraq crusade was the neocon bastion American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Perle’s home base, where the 12th floor conference room is named for neocon mentor Wohlstetter. Michael Rubin and David Wurmser, then AEI’s director of Middle East studies and now foreign policy adviser to Vice President Cheney, also crossed the Potomac to serve as Pentagon consultants.

Wurmser, whom Dreyfus and Vest describe as a “shrill ideologue,” was part of a “minority crusade” in the 1990s promoting war with Iraq. He, his wife, Meyrav Wurmser, Perle and Feith wrote a provocative paper for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in 1996 entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” Under this scheme, Israel would work with Jordan and Turkey to overthrow Saddam Hussain and restore the old Hashemite dynasty.

A 1997 Wall Street Journal column by David Wurmser and Perle called for all-out support for Ahmad Chalabi to promote an insurgency in Iraq. Chalabi is an Iraqi-born Shi’i who was convicted of bank fraud in Jordan after fleeing to London, where he served as head of the exiled Iraqi National Council. While he has little support in his native land, the natty Chalabi is beloved by Washington’s neocons.

Lack of Security

The attack-Iraq group eventually included F. Michael Maloof, a former aide to Perle in the 1980s Pentagon, who lost his security clearance in 2001 and again in 2003.

In 2002, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense William Luti was added to the team, as was Abram N. Shulsky. Wurmser then moved over to the State Department to work for fellow neocon John Bolton, who was in charge of disarmament, proliferation and weapons of mass destruction—and, some say, of monitoring and undermining Secretary of State Powell.

Shulsky’s office began to banish veteran experts, including Joseph McMillan, James Russell, Larry Hanauer and Marybeth McDevitt. Melvin Goodman, a former CIA official and an intelligence officer at the National War College, told Dreyfus and Vest that OSP officials “routinely” pushed lower-ranking staff around on intelligence matters. “People were being pulled aside [and being told] we saw your last piece and it’s not what we are looking for,” he said. “It was pretty blatant.”

Needless to say, neocons Luti and Shulsky were ideological soul mates of Wolfowitz and Feith. Luti, who had come to the Pentagon directly from the office of Vice President Cheney, was a recently retired decorated Navy captain. Kwiatkowski recalled one meeting where Luti, pressed to finish a report, told the staff, “I’ve got to get this over to ”˜Scooter’ right away.” Scooter, she later found out, was none other than Cheney chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby. According to Kwiatkowski, Cheney had direct ties through Luti to the Office of Special Plans.

And, through Cheney, the neocons had direct access to President George W. Bush—who doesn’t like to read, but instead tends to rely on what people tell him. Unfortunately, the 43rd president seems not to have surrounded himself with advisers who had the best interests of the United States at heart. 

Andrew I. Killgore is publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, on Middle East Affairs.

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