Feith is the key

Has there ever been a group of political actors in American history as devoid of honor as the neocons? Douglas Feith’s article in the Wall Street Journal makes me think the answer is no. He says that as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from July 2001 until August 2005, he was never (well, hardly ever!) on board with Busherino’s transformation of the war in Iraq from a realistic war to get rid of a grave security threat to a utopian war to turn Iraq into a democracy. Indeed, Feith tells us, he fought manfully in 2004 to get Busherino in a key speech to emphasize the valid, pre-invasion security reasons for the war, not the invalid, enervating, post-invasion democracy reasons for the war, but his sensible position was overruled by others in the administration. It’s now been two years nine months since August 2005, when Feith left the administration. That is longer than the two years five months between the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and Feith’s departure from office. I understand that while in office, he couldn’t publicly disagree with Condoleezza Rice’s Twin Brain (or is Natan Sharansky’s Twin Brain? or Bernard Lewis’s Twin Brain?). In the two years and nine months since Doug baby left office, right up until he published his book a few weeks ago, during those many months while the war debate was raging and all the neocons were still cheerleading democratization, did Feith ever come out and say that he opposed the democratization policy? NO. And did a single one of Feith’s fellow neocons at any point in the last five years and two months seriously criticize Bush’s democratization policy? NO. To the contrary, the neocons passionately backed Busherino to the hilt—David Horowitz and Norman Podhoretz and the Powerline guys and every damn one of them. In fact, just a few months ago, the Powerline guys gave their first annual book award to their guru Norman Podhoretz’s book “World War IV,” which is all about the greatness of trying to create democracy in the Mideast. Not one of the neocons ever said, hey, this idea of making Muslim democratization the center of our policy is nuts. But guess what’s happening now? Since Feith published his recent book on which his article is based, the Powerline guys have been approvingly quoting his points, making it seem as though they too saw all along the problems in Bush’s policy. The Powerline guys never once admit that they themselves were absolute supporters of the very policy they are now criticizing. Just as Feith now, two years and nine months after leaving the administration, and eight months before Busherino leaves office, is for the first time claiming to have opposed Bush’s policy all along.

Feith’s sudden criticisms of Bush are an echo of the Magnificent Seven, the neocons who in fall 2006 gave interviews to Vanity Fair informing the world that they had been critical of Bush’s policy all along. (See this and this.) The little problem with that self-justifying statement was that prior to the Vanity Fair job the Magnificent Ones had never criticized the administration’s policy in any serious way.

Has there ever in American history been a group of political actors as devoid of honor as the neocons?

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James P. writes:

“Has there ever in American history been a group of political actors as devoid of honor as the neocons?”

Certainly. The New Deal crowd in the 30s and 40s, and the Rockefeller / Kissinger crowd in the 70s and 80s.

Paul K. writes:

Douglas Feith had a good reason for keeping his misgivings about the war to himself until this time, and it far outweighs their influence on the policy debate. He had a book deal! Everyone knows that when you have something to say on matters of earth-shaking importance, you must save them for your book if you expect to make the NY Times bestseller list.

The most surreal demonstration of this phenomenon occurred when President Bush and President Musharraf held a joint press conference at the White House on September 22, 2006.

Q: Mr. President, after 9/11, would the United States have actually attacked Pakistan if President Musharraf had not agreed to cooperate with the war on terrorism? He says that the United States was threatening to bomb his country back into the stone age.

And, President Musharraf, would Pakistan have given up its backing of the Taliban if this threat had not come from Armitage?

PRESIDENT BUSH: First, let me—she’s asking about the Armitage thing. The first I heard of this was when I read it in the newspaper today. You know, I was—I guess I was taken aback by the harshness of the words.

All I can tell you is, is that shortly after 9/11, Secretary Colin Powell came in and said, President Musharraf understands the stakes and he wants to join and help route out an enemy that has come and killed 3,000 of our citizens. As a matter of fact, my recollection was that one of the first leaders to step up and say that the stakes have changed, that attack on America that killed 3,000 of the citizens needs to be dealt with firmly, was the President. And if I’m not mistaken, Colin told us that, if not the night of September the 11th, shortly thereafter. I need to make sure I get my facts straight, but it was soon.

I don’t know of any conversation that was reported in the newspaper like that. I just don’t know about it.

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: I would like to—I am launching my book on the 25th, and I am honor-bound to Simon and Schuster not to comment on the book before that day. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: In other words, buy the book, is what he’s saying. (Laughter.)

A reader writes:

Let us analyze Feith on his own terms. Feith claims that the reason we attacked Saddam was not democratization but national security. He writes in his article that “the erroneous WMD intelligence was not the entire security rationale for overthrowing Saddam.” Quoting from a memorandum he sent to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on May 22, 2004, he says the other reasons for the invasion were that Saddam’s regime “had used WMD, supported various terrorist groups, was hostile to the U.S. and had a record of aggression and of defiance of numerous U.N. resolutions.” And, he continued in his memorandum, in light of the events of 9/11, the “danger that Saddam’s regime could provide biological weapons or other WMD to terrorist groups for use against us was too great” to let stand. Further, he added, (I am now quoting from his article’s summary of the memorandum) “other ways of countering the danger—containment, sanctions, inspections, no-fly zones—had proven” (now quoting his memorandum again)”unsustainable or inadequate.” Feith then writes in his article: “I suggested that the president distinguish between the essential U.S. interests in Iraq and the extra benefits if we could succeed in building democratic institutions there: ‘A unified Iraq (he quotes from his memorandum again) that does not support terrorism or pursue WMD will in and of itself be an important victory in the war on terrorism.’” The national security justifications that he claims were the true reasons for the war, besides the WMD intelligence (now admitted to have been erroneous), are tenuous and did not constitute sufficient reason for launching a war that to date has been a strategic disaster for the U.S.—eliminating a power that balanced Iran, which is by far the greater danger to the U.S. than Saddam ever was, and which to date is the true beneficiary of our invasion. Further, the claim of Saddam’s ties to terrorist groups (note Feith does not specify Al Qaeda, the group responsible for 9/11) is open to debate, yet he bases the danger of Saddam supplying WMDs to (unidentified) terrorists, and the argument for war, on this quite uncertain foundation.

Feith was not qualified for his position as number three civilian in the Defense Department—his highest post previously was as a deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and much of his published work consisted of polemics in favor of Israel. He is widely regarded by people who worked with him at DOD as extremely arrogant and dogmatic. Ironically, a far better qualified and much more experienced person, Peter W. Rodman, was placed under Feith, as an assistant secretary of defense. Rodman’s experience went back to his years as a top aide to Henry Kissinger in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and as head of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and a top aide on the National Security Council in the Reagan administration. Maybe Rodman didn’t have Feith’s connections with Richard Perle. Whatever the reason, Feith should not have been in his position as number three official in the Defense Department. Such are the ways of Washington (from our elected leaders on down), with results that cast more and more doubt on the competence of our government. Other results can be observed every day at Walter Reed Hospital.

LA replies:

I am not in agreement with the reader on several points and frankly I am surprised that he takes the line he does, and uses some of the arguments he does, because I’ve known him for several years and I had not remembered him previously being an opponent of the invasion of Iraq.

For example, he writes:

Further, the claim of Saddam’s ties to terrorist groups (note Feith does not specify Al Qaeda, the group responsible for 9/11) is open to debate, yet he bases the danger of Saddam supplying WMDs to (unidentified) terrorists, and the argument for war, on this quite uncertain foundation.

This misrepresents the debate prior to the invasion. While different possibilities and suspicions concerning connections between Iraq and al Qaeda were bandied about, the administration did not posit any specific ties between Iraq and terrorist groups in order to justify the invasion. The administration did not even say that Iraq was connected with the 1993 World Trace Center attack. To the contrary, over and over, the administration and its supporters said the following:

1. There are Muslim terrorist groups that would destroy us if they could.

2. We’ve had this ten year unresolved problem with Hussein’s WMD programs, and he broke free of the inspection regime in 1998. Iraq is a rogue regime that is opaque to us.

3. Given the above facts, it is a reasonable possibility that Iraq without our knowledge may be in possession of or in the near future develop WMDs and transfer them to non-state Islamic terrorist groups.

4. We cannot allow this to occur.

5. The only way to make sure that it does not occur and cannot occur is to invade Iraq, take possession of its territory, and find and destroy its WMDs.

This was the basic argument for the invasion of Iraq from fall of 2001 until spring of 2003. This argument always made sense to me, and though I looked and looked for rational and persuasive counter arguments, I never saw one. There were all kinds of arguments against the invasion. None of them refuted the above argument. Indeed, none of them even addressed the above argument. And it was the above argument that persuaded me, and a big majority of the American people (and, it had been my impression, the reader), that the invasion was necessary, notwithstanding my great misgivings.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 27, 2008 06:12 AM | Send

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