The war on Iraq:
Conceived in Israel

by Stephen J. Sniegoski, continued.

Table of contents


Part two
© 2003 Stephen J. Sniegoski
All rights reserved.


The network

During the Clinton administration, neoconservatives promoted their views from a strong interlocking network of think tanks — the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri), Hudson Institute, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Middle East Forum, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Center for Security Policy (CSP) — which have had great influence in the media and which have helped to staff Republican administrations. Some of the organizations were originally set up by mainline conservatives and only later taken over by neoconservatives; [14] others were established by neocons, with some of the groups having a direct Israeli connection. For example, Colonel Yigal Carmon, formerly of Israeli military intelligence, was a co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri). And the various organizations have been closely interconnected. For example, the other co-founder of Memri, Meyrav Wurmser, was a member of the Hudson Institute, while her husband, David Wurmser, headed the Middle East studies department of AEI. And Perle was both a "resident fellow" at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and a trustee of the Hudson Institute. [15]

In a recent article in the The Nation, Jason Vest discusses the immense influence in the current Bush administration of people from two major neocon research organizations, JINSA and CSP. Vest details the close links among the two organizations, right-wing politicians, arms merchants, military men, Jewish billionaires, and Republican administrations. [16]

Regarding JINSA, Vest writes:

Founded in 1976 by neoconservatives concerned that the United States might not be able to provide Israel with adequate military supplies in the event of another Arab-Israeli war, over the past twenty-five years JINSA has gone from a loose-knit proto-group to a $1.4-million-a-year operation with a formidable array of Washington power players on its rolls. Until the beginning of the current Bush administration, JINSA's board of advisors included such heavy hitters as Cheney, John Bolton (now Under Secretary of State for Arms Control) and Douglas J. Feith, the third-highest-ranking executive in the Pentagon. Both Perle and former Director of Central Intelligence James Woolsey, two of the loudest voices in the attack-Iraq chorus, are still on the board, as are such Reagan-era relics as Jeane Kirkpatrick, Eugene Rostow, and [Michael] Ledeen — Oliver North's Iran/contra liaison with the Israelis. [17]

Vest notes that "dozens" of JINSA and CSP "members have ascended to powerful government posts, where their advocacy in support of the same agenda continues, abetted by the out-of-government adjuncts from which they came. Industrious and persistent, they've managed to weave a number of issues — support for national missile defense, opposition to arms control treaties, championing of wasteful weapons systems, arms aid to Turkey and American unilateralism in general — into a hard line, with support for the Israeli right at its core." And Vest continues: "On no issue is the JINSA/CSP hard line more evident than in its relentless campaign for war — not just with Iraq, but 'total war,' as Michael Ledeen, one of the most influential JINSAns in Washington, put it last year. For this crew, 'regime change' by any means necessary in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority is an urgent imperative." [18]

Let's recapitulate Vest's major points. The JINSA/CSP network has "support for the Israeli right at its core." In line with the views of the Israeli right, it has advocated a Middle Eastern war to eliminate the enemies of Israel. And members of the JINSA/CSP network have gained influential foreign policy positions in Republican administrations, most especially in the current administration of George W. Bush.


"Securing the realm"

A clear illustration of the neoconservative thinking on war on Iraq is a 1996 paper developed by Perle, Feith, David Wurmser, and others published by an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, titled "A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm." It was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The paper stated that Netanyahu should "make a clean break" with the Oslo peace process and reassert Israel's claim to the West Bank and Gaza. It presented a plan whereby Israel would "shape its strategic environment," beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad, to serve as a first step toward eliminating the anti-Israeli governments of Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. [19]

Note that these Americans — Perle, Feith, and Wurmser — were advising a foreign government and that they currently are connected to the George W. Bush administration: Perle is head of the Defense Policy Board; Feith is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy; and Wurmser is special assistant to State Department chief arms control negotiator John Bolton. It is also remarkable that while in 1996 Israel was to "shape its strategic environment" by removing her enemies, the same individuals are now proposing that the United States shape the Middle East environment by removing Israel's enemies. That is to say, the United States is to serve as Israel's proxy to advance Israeli interests.

On February 19, 1998, in an "Open Letter to the President," the neoconservative Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf proposed "a comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime." The letter continued: "It will not be easy — and the course of action we favor is not without its problems and perils. But we believe the vital national interests of our country require the United States to [adopt such a strategy]." Among the letter's signers were the following current Bush administration officials: Elliott Abrams (National Security Council), Richard Armitage (State Department), Bolton (State Department), Feith (Defense Department), Fred Ikle (Defense Policy Board), Zalmay Khalilzad (White House), Peter Rodman (Defense Department), Wolfowitz (Defense Department), David Wurmser (State Department), Dov Zakheim (Defense Department), Perle (Defense Policy Board), and Rumsfeld (Secretary of Defense). [20] In 1998 Donald Rumsfeld was part of the neocon network and already demanding war with Iraq. [21]

Signers of the letter also included such pro-Zionist and neoconservative luminaries as Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Gaffney (Director, Center for Security Policy), Joshua Muravchik (American Enterprise Institute), Martin Peretz (editor-in-chief, The New Republic), Leon Wieseltier (The New Republic), and former Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.). [22] President Clinton would only go so far as to support the Iraq Liberation Act, which allocated $97 million dollars for training and military equipment for the Iraqi opposition. [23]

In September 2000, the neocon think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) [24] issued a report, "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century," that envisioned an expanded global posture for the United States. In regard to the Middle East, the report called for an increased American military presence in the Gulf, whether Saddam was in power or not., maintaining that "the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." [25] The project's participants included individuals who would play leading roles in the second Bush administration: Cheney (Vice President), Rumsfeld (secretary of defense), Wolfowitz (deputy secretary of defense), and Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff). Weekly Standard editor William Kristol was also a co-author.

In order to directly influence White House policy, Wolfowitz and Perle managed to obtain leading roles on the Bush foreign policy/national security advisory team for the 2000 campaign. Headed by Soviet specialist Condoleezza Rice, the team was referred to as "the Vulcans." Having no direct experience in foreign policy and little knowledge of the world, as illustrated by his notorious gaffes — confusing Slovakia with Slovenia, referring to Greeks as "Grecians," and failing a pop quiz on the names of four foreign leaders — George W. Bush would have to rely heavily on his advisors.

"His foreign policy team," Kagan observed, "will be critically important to determining what his policies are." And columnist Robert Novak noted: "Since Rice lacks a clear track record on Middle East matters, Wolfowitz and Perle will probably weigh in most on Middle East policy." [26] In short, Wolfowitz and Perle would provide the know-nothing Bush with a ready-made foreign policy for the Middle East. And certainly such right-wing Zionist views would be reinforced by Cheney and Rumsfeld and the multitude of other neocons who would inundate Bush's administration.

Neocons would fill the key positions involving defense and foreign policy. On Rumsfeld's staff are Wolfowitz and Feith. On Cheney's staff, the principal neoconservatives include Libby, Eric Edelman, and John Hannah. And Cheney himself, with his long-time neocon connections and views, has played a significant role in shaping "Bush" foreign policy. [27]


A Perle among men

Perle is often described as the most influential foreign-policy neoconservative, their eminence grise.[28] He gained notice in the 1970s as a top aide to Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-Wash.), who was one of the Senate's most anti-Communist and pro-Israeli members. During the 1980s, Perle served as deputy secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, where his hard-line anti-Soviet positions, especially his opposition to any form of arms control, earned him the moniker "Prince of Darkness" from his enemies. However, his friends considered him, as one put it, "one of the most wonderful people in Washington." That Perle is known as a man of great intellect, a gracious and generous host, a witty companion, and a loyal ally helps to explain his prestige in neoconservative circles. [29]

Perle isn't just an exponent of pro-Zionist views; he has also had close connections with Israel, being a personal friend of Sharon's, a board member of the Jerusalem Post, and an ex-employee of the Israeli weapons manufacturer Soltam. According to author Seymour M. Hersh, while Perle was a congressional aide for Jackson, FBI wiretaps picked up Perle providing classified information from the National Security Council to the Israeli embassy. [30]

Although not technically part of the Bush administration, Perle holds the unpaid chairmanship of the Defense Policy Board. In that position, Perle has access to classified documents and close contacts with the administration leadership. As an article in Salon puts it: "Formerly an obscure civilian board designed to provide the secretary of defense with non-binding advice on a whole range of military issues, the Defense Policy Board, now stacked with unabashed Iraq hawks, has become a quasi-lobbying organization whose primary objective appears to be waging war with Iraq." [31]


"Actions inconceivable at present"

As Bush and his people came into office in January 2001, press reports in Israel quoted government officials and politicians speaking openly of mass expulsion of the Palestinians. Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel in February 2001; noted for his ruthlessness, he had said in the past that Jordan should become the Palestinian state where Palestinians removed from Israeli territory would be relocated. [32] Public concern was mounting in Israel over demographic changes that threatened the Jewish nature of the Israeli state. Haifa University professor Arnon Sofer released the study, "Demography of Eretz Israel," which predicted that by 2020 non-Jews would be a majority of 58 percent in Israel and the occupied territories. [33] Moreover, it was recognized that the overall increase in population would exceed what the land, with its limited supply of water, could support. [34]

It appeared to some that Sharon intended to achieve expulsion through militant means. As one left-wing analyst put it at the time: "One big war with transfer at its end — this is the plan of the hawks who indeed almost reached the moment of its implementation." [35] In the summer of 2001, the authoritative Jane's Information Group reported that Israel had completed the planning for a massive and bloody invasion of the Occupied Territories, involving "air strikes by F-15 and F-16 fighter bombers, a heavy artillery bombardment, and then an attack by a combined force of 30,000 men ... tank brigades and infantry." Such bold strikes would aim at far more than simply removing Arafat and the PLO leadership. But the United States vetoed the plan, and Europe made its opposition to Sharon's plans equally plain. [36]

As one close observer of the Israeli-Palestinian scene presciently wrote in August 2001, "It is only in the current political climate that such expulsion plans cannot be put into operation. As hot as the political climate is at the moment, clearly the time is not yet ripe for drastic action. However, if the temperature were raised even higher, actions inconceivable at present might be possible." [37] Once again, "revolutionary times" were necessary for Israel to achieve its policy goals. And then came the September 11 attacks.


Revolutionary September

The September 11 atrocities provided the "revolutionary times" in which Israel could undertake radical measures unacceptable during normal conditions. When asked what the attack would do for U.S.-Israeli relations, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded: "It's very good." Then he edited himself: "Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy." Netanyahu correctly predicted that the attack would "strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we've experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror." Sharon placed Israel in the same position as the United States, referring to the attack as an assault on "our common values" and declaring, "I believe together we can defeat these forces of evil." [38]

In the eyes of Israel's leaders, the September 11 attacks had joined the United States and Israeli together against a common enemy. And that enemy was not in far-off Afghanistan but was geographically close to Israel. Israel's traditional enemies would now become America's as well. And Israel would have a better chance of dealing with the Palestinians under the cover of a "war on terrorism."

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the neoconservatives began to publicly push for a wider war on terrorism that would immediately deal with Israel's enemies. For example, Safire held that the real terrorists that America should focus on were not groups of religious fanatics "but Iraqi scientists today working feverishly in hidden biological laboratories and underground nuclear facilities [who] would, if undisturbed, enable the hate-driven, power-crazed Saddam to kill millions. That capability would transform him from a boxed-in bully into a rampant world power." [39]

Within the administration, Wolfowitz clearly implied a broader war against existing governments when he said: "I think one has to say it's not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable, but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism. And that's why it has to be a broad and sustained campaign. It's not going to stop if a few criminals are taken care of." [40]

On September 20, 2001, neocons of the Project for the New American Century sent a letter to President Bush endorsing the war on terrorism and stressing that the removal of Saddam was an essential part of that war. They maintained that "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism." Furthermore, the letter-writers opined, if Syria and Iran failed to stop all support for Hezbollah, the United States should "consider appropriate measures against these known sponsors of terrorism." Among the letter's signatories were such neoconservative luminaries as William Kristol, Midge Decter, Eliot Cohen, Francis Fukuyama, Gaffney, Kagan, Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Perle, Peretz, Norman Podhoretz, Solarz, and Wieseltier. [41]

To part three

© 2003 by Stephen J. Sniegoski. All rights reserved.

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