ALEXANDRIA, VA — For many Americans, the reasons for the U.S.
attack on Iraq in 2003 remains a mystery. The reasons the Bush administration
gave for going to war — that Iraq had ties with al Qaeda, that it
possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that, somehow, it was involved
in the terrorist attacks of 9/ll — have all been proven false. It
is, some argue, as if after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, we
declared war on Mexico.
However, a group of men and women in and out of government proposed
war with Iraq even before 9/ll. These were the neoconservatives —
including such leading Bush administration officials as Paul Wolfowitz,
Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and L. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
What motivated these advocates of war with a country that never attacked
the U.S. and posed little threat is the subject of an important new
book, The Transparent
Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the
National Interest of Israel (Enigma Editions)
by Stephen J. Sniegoski, Ph.D.
Dr. Sniegoski’s focus on the neoconservative involvement in
American foreign policy antedates the 9/ll terrorist attacks. His first
major work on the subject, The
War on Iraq: Conceived in Israel, was
published February l0, 2003 — more than a month before the American
attack on Iraq.
The new book examines the close relationship of the American neoconservatives
and the Israeli Likudnik right, and its role as a fundamental driver
of the Bush administration’s militant Middle East policy. Sniegoski
states, “This orientation is at the root of the explanation for
why our policy does not seem to address or correspond with the genuine
security needs of the U.S.... Ideology and personal ties have blinded
them to what most others clearly see was the foreign policy reality.”
While U.S. policy traditionally stressed stability in the Middle
East, “[T]he neocons called for destabilizing existing regimes....
Likudnik strategy saw the benefit of regional destabilization for its
own sake — creating as it would an environment of weak, disunified
states or statelets involved in internal and external conflicts that
could easily be dominated by Israel.... Thus, unlike a true ‘cabal,’ characterized
by secrecy, the neoconservatives’ was a ‘transparent cabal’ —
oxymoronic as that term might be.”
During the l990s — long before the 9/ll terrorist assault — the
neoconservatives were quite open about their goal of war in the Middle
East to destabilize Iraq and other enemies of Israel. Sniegoski cites
a l996 paper entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy For Securing
The Realm,” published by an Israeli think tank, the Institute
for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.
Included in the study group that prepared the report were figures
who later loomed large in the Bush administration’s war policy
— Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser.
The “realm” that the study group sought to secure was
that of Israel. The purpose of the policy paper was to provide a political
blueprint for the incoming Israeli Likud 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 by which Israel would “shape
its strategic environment,” beginning with the removal of Saddam
Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad. The
same people — Feith, Wurmser, Perle — would later advise the Bush
administration “to pursue virtually the same policy regarding
the Middle East.”
The study urged Israel to abandon any thought of trading land for
peace with the Palestinians. Incredibly, the study referred to “Our
claim to the land — to which we have clung for 2,000 years — is legitimate
and noble.” For Americans to use the phrase “our” in
describing the claims of a foreign government is indeed revealing.
When Bush assumed the presidency in 2000, neoconservatives filled
key defense and national security policy positions. Paul Wolfowitz
became Deputy Defense Secretary, and Douglas Feith became Under Secretary
for Policy. The principal neoconservatives on Vice President Cheney’s
staff included “Scooter” Libby, Eric Edelman, and John
Hannah. David Wurmser replaced Edelman in 2003. Elliott Abrams was
a member of the National Security Council who in 2002 was put in charge
of Near East policy.
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin
Powell, was well aware of Feith’s Israeli orientation, saying, “A
lot of these guys, including Wurmser, I looked at as card-carrying
members of the Likud Party, as I did with Feith.... I often wondered
if their primary allegiance was to their own country or to Israel.”
According to Richard Clarke, a counter-terrorism adviser early in
the Bush administration, Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives in the
administration were fixated on Iraq as the greatest terrorist threat
to the U.S. At a top-level White House meeting on terrorism in April
200l, Wolfowitz expressed the view that Saddam Hussein was a far more
important subject than al Qaeda.
The tragedy of 9/ll offered the neoconservatives a convenient pretext
to implement their war agenda for the U.S. Sniegoski reports: “Immediately
after the 9/ll attacks, the neocons found the perfect climate to publicly
push for a wider war on terrorism that would immediately deal with
Israel’s enemies, starting with Iraq.”
Sniegoski shows how, when the CIA rejected claims of Iraq’s
involvement in terrorism and possession of WMDs, Feith created a separate
intelligence group in the Pentagon that provided the “intelligence” needed
to promote the war against Iraq.
The neocons, Sniegoski declares, had a much more ambitious agenda
far beyond Iraq: “They openly advocated the forceful reconfiguration
of the entire Middle East.” Neocon Michael Ledeen of the American
Enterprise Institute declared, “Creative destruction is our middle
name.” In 2002, Ledeen responded to the fears of former National
Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft that an attack on Iraq would turn
the whole Middle East into a “cauldron” in the following
terms: “One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron,
and faster, please.”
Sniegoski has provided an indepth, scholarly analysis of the role
the neoconservatives played in taking us to war. Frequently, those
who point to these facts are accused of anti-Semitism, an effective
way to stifle criticism. Sniegoski makes clear that the vast majority
of Jewish Americans reject the neoconservative position and that of
Israel’s right wing. Indeed, some of the most articulate critics
of neoconservatives are Jewish. A 2007 Gallup poll found that
Americans as a whole opposed the war by a margin of 56 to 42 percent;
among American Jews the opposition was as high as 77 percent.
A 2007 study by terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul
Cruickshank showed, ”The Iraq conflict has greatly increased
the spread of the al Qaeda ideological virus, as shown by a rising
number of terrorist attacks.” Terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman
Qaeda is more dangerous than it was on 9/ll.” And today, the
neocons are promoting a preemptive war against Iran.
Stephen Sniegoski has performed a notable service in explaining the
role neoconservatives played in taking us to war in Iraq — a war that
may have served neither the interests of our own country or of Israel.
Hopefully, we will learn important lessons from this story.
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The Conservative Curmudgeon is copyright © 2009
by Allan C. Brownfeld and the Fitzgerald
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Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which
is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has
been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and
the U.S. Senate Internal Subcommittee.
He is associate editor of The Lincoln Reveiw and a contributing
editor to such publications as Human Events,
The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle
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