Monday, January 28, 2008

Ten Years Gone....

Ten years ago—January 26, 1998—a group of conservative political scientists and sulking, out-of-power Reaganites signed an open letter to President Clinton which explicitly called Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq a threat to national security, and called for the US to invade, 'liberate,' and effectively colonize Iraq, creating a bastion of truth, justice, and the American way in the Middle East. This benevolent imperialism, they argued, would be a win-win situation for everyone in the long run—the threat to the US would be removed, we would have access to the region's resources, and the poor benighted Ay-rabs would reap all the benefits of the West's liberal, capitalist democracy.

The name of the organization these chaps had put together gives you some idea of what their objective was—the Project for the New American Century. It was another of the conservative think-tanks which, well-manured with corporate donations funneled through Tom Delay's K Street lobbying project and fertilized by resentment at the Democrat occupying the Oval Office that was rightfully theirs, proliferated like toadstools during Bill Clinton's presidency. The PNAC's Statement of Principles was signed by, in addition to those listed below, Governor Jeb Bush, former Vice-President Dan Quayle, Norman Podhoretz, future scapegoat I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Gary Bauer, Frank Gaffney and future Dark Lord Dick Cheney.

The drum on which this particular group beat was the prospect of a post-Cold War Pax Americana, when a new golden age was there for the taking, if only the United States would exert itself, take advantage of it's status as the last superpower, and mold the world into its own image. William Kristol and Robert Kagan actually described it as "neo-Reaganite" and a "benevolent global hegemony" in their July-August 1996 article in Foreign Affairs.

I'm no fan of Robert Burns—anyone who writes an ode to a haggis has got to be mentally suspect, if not bloody barking mad—but he has one bit of wisdom that has become proverbial. "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley."

The letter's text (the whole thing is here at the PNAC's website) concluded with the following four paragraphs:

Such uncertainty will, by itself, have a seriously destabilizing effect on the entire Middle East. It hardly needs to be added that if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will all be put at hazard. As you have rightly declared, Mr. President, the security of the world in the first part of the 21st century will be determined largely by how we handle this threat.

Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.

We urge you to articulate this aim, and to turn your Administration's attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts. Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater. We believe the U.S. has the authority under existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.

We urge you to act decisively. If you act now to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. or its allies, you will be acting in the most fundamental national security interests of the country. If we accept a course of weakness and drift, we put our interests and our future at risk.

Translation: The oil's in danger. Iraq delenda est. Screw the UN. You're chicken if you do anything else.

The letter's signers were:

Elliott Abrams, who during the Reagan administration was deeply involved in the Iran-Contra arms deal. He later served as President W's Special Assistant for Near East and North African Affairs and Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy. He allegedly approved, if not directly managed, the failed 2002 coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, as well as meddling extensively in Israeli/Palestinian affairs.

Richard L. Armitage, a former foreign policy advisor to President Reagan, as well as an Assistant Secretary of Defense who specialized in Mideast security issues. He was Deputy Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005. Pakistan's military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharaff, later claimed that Armitage threatened to "bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age" if Musharaff did not cooperate in hunting down Al Quaeda. Armitage left public office in 2005, and is currently chairman of the board of ConocoPhillips, one of the world's largest oil and energy companies. In September 2006, Armitage also admitted to leaking CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity, which had the effect of eviscerating a years-long covert operation aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

William J. Bennett, formerly Reagan's Secretary of Education and Bush 41's drug czar. A noted conservative writer and pundit, he is conspicuous for his writings espousing a conservative view of what public morality should be, as well as his role in the so-called 'culture wars' against gay rights, gangsta rap, public schools, and other supposed affronts to public decency and the traditional American family, including expressing support for the beheading of drug dealers. His habit of high-stakes gambling, which included losing millions of dollars at Las Vegas casinos, became public knowledge in 2003.

Jeffrey Bergner, an academic (Ph. D in economics and adjunct professor at Georgetown), Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, and longtime lobbyist on behalf of foreign interests, including Chinese and Taiwanese industries.

John Bolton, a one-time Young Republican (Goldwater campaign, '64) held several positions in the Justice Department and State Department during the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations, including Assistant Attorney General and several jobs with the Agency for International Development (USAID). His time in the Justice Department saw him involved with Iran-Contra and matters of executive privilege, which he defended rigorously even under dubious circumstances. He spent most of the Clinton years working at think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and PNAC, and was named Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security in 2001. For a diplomat, he is conspicuously undiplomatic, and is given to throwing the US's weight around and misrepresenting intelligence information even when dealing with allies (q.v the 4/12/05 Senate testimony by Carl W. Ford, Jr.). W nominated him to be Ambassador to the UN in March 2005, which has been reviled due to Bolton's open contempt for the UN. Bolton was never confirmed as ambassador due to strong opposition from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and spent over a year and a half in an 'acting' capacity before being replaced by Zalmay Khalilzad (see below). Bush then made an end-run of very questionable legality around the confirmation process by nominating Bolton as Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Paula Dobriansky, a conservative intellectual, academic, and pundit who has served Reagan, Bush 41, and W as, among other things, Associate Director for Policy and Programs at the United States Information Agency, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, and Under-Secretary of State for Democracy & Global Affairs, which is her current capacity, in addition to serving as special envoys to a number of places. For you conspiracy theory fans, an actual living, breathing member of the Trilateral Commission. She is probably most conspicuous for her tenacious defense of the United States against the Kyoto agreement.

Francis Fukuyama, an academic specializing in foreign policy and political philosophy, a disciple of Samuel Huntington (of "Clash of Civilizations" infamy). Fukuyama's most famous book is decidedly whiggish The End of History and the Last Man, (1992) in which he argues that the whole of world history is an evolutionary struggle between political ideologies, and that this historical process effectively 'ended' when the West emerged victorious from the Cold War, leaving liberal capitalist democracy as the sum total of humanity's social evolution. Although he was initially a fierce supporter of the invasion of Iraq, he has since repudiated the Iraq War, called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, and criticized the current administration for grievously 'misunderestimating' the Iraq debacle.

Robert Kagan, one of the PNAC's first organizers, worked at the State Department's Bureau of Inter-American Affairs and was a speechwriter for Secretary of State George P. Shultz. He has written extensively for The New Republic, Washington Post, and Weekly Standard. He is currently married to the US ambassador to NATO and lives in Brussels, Belgium.

Zalmay Khalilzad, born in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, immigrated to the US as a high school exchange student. From 1979 to 1989, he was an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affair, as well as being an advisor to Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Carter Administration's architect of the policy supporting the Afghan Mujahadeen. From 1985 to 1989, he was a State Department advisor on Afghan affairs, and then Deputy Undersecretary for Policy Planning under Bush 41. He spent the Clinton years working at the RAND corporation before being picked by W for a series of jobs in the Defense and State departments, including the position of Ambassador at Large for Free Iraqis, which he was given in 2002, with the task of coordinating "preparations for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq." From the fall of 2001 until the summer of 2005 he was first Special Envoy and then Ambassador to Afghanistan, in which capacity he ran several significant parts of the Afghan government, including drafting the constitution and overseeing elections. He served as ambassador to Iraq from June 2005 until March 2007, when he was appointed and confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations, much to the relief of people who were sick of Bolton.

William Kristol, an academic and pundit with a background in political philosophy, and both a social and economic conservative. He served as Bill Bennett's chief of staff as Secretary of Education during the Reagan era, and later as chief of staff for Vice President Dan Quayle during the Bush 41 administration, earning the nickname "Quayle's Brain." He was a very influential Republican strategist during the Clinton years, including developing much of the Contract with America and coordinating the strategy to defeat the Clinton health-care reform through the simple expedient of getting Republican leaders such as Bob Dole to flatly deny that a health care crisis even existed. He founded the Weekly Standard in 1994, with lavish funding from conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and frequently straddles the line between government and media, such as when he wrote W's second inaugural speech and then published articles praising it. He continues to support the Iraq war, and publicly advocates a unilateral attack on Iran.

Richard Perle, who worked for the Reagan administration as an assistant Secretary of Defense and worked on the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee from 1987 to 2004. He opposed the Carter-era arms reduction agreements with the Soviets. He was one of the first public figures to credit Osama Bin Laden with the September 11 attacks, even before the US intelligence community had conclusive proof. Perle was one of the Bush administration's principal architects of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and had actually advocated invading Iraq with only 40,000 troops, objecting to Gen. Eric Shinseki's estimate that 660,000 troops would be needed. He is also the principal architect of the 'Bush doctrine' of preemptive strikes. Perle has also been accused repeatedly of profiting from conflicts of interest while working in the Reagan and W administrations, by accepting bribes or working as a consultant on behalf of companies selling military equipment to the Defense Department in which he was a senior official. He remains in government service, although his actual position is not clear.

Peter W. Rodman, a political scientist and longtime government official, he served as Director of the State Department Policy Planning Staff, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and NSC Counselor during the Reagan and Bush 41 years. From 1990 to 1999 he was a senior editor at The National Review. He served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs from July 2001 until March 2007, when he left to become a Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution. Rodman is a perennial Reagan hagiographer, praising US intervention and meddling in Afghanistan, Grenada, and Angola.

Donald Flippin' Rumsfeld………… do you even have to ask? He was Reagan's official envoy to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and oversaw the sale of lots of weapons to Iraq.

William Schneider Jr., who served as an Undersecretary of State during the Reagan administration. During the late 1990s he formed a political action group that sponsored the idea that Iraq was working on ballistic missiles that could hit the US. He currently chairs the Defense Science Board and is one of the chief advocates of using nuclear weapons in preemptive first-strike attacks.

John Vincent Weber, a former newspaper publisher and Congressional PR flack who served as a Representative from Minnesota's 6th and 2nd District from 1981–1993. He spent the 1990s as a Republican strategist and lobbyist, in which capacity he remains. His clients include a large number of major defense contractors. He is also chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy, a private, nonprofit organization. He frequently works for election campaigns, including the 2004 Bush/Cheney reelection and the current Romney campaign.

Paul Wolfowitz, who has been working in government since the Nixon administration, when he was a young analyst involved in the first set of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I). During the Carter administration he worked for the Defense Department on developing 'limited contingency' operations in the Third World. The Reagan administration appointed him Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, with a staff that included Lewis Libby, Francis Fukuyama, Dennis Ross, Alan Keyes, Zalmay Khalilzad, Stephen Sestanovich and James Roche, a group that would be responsible for defining the administration's long-term foreign policy goals, which meant blunt confrontationalism with the Soviets, lavish defense spending, and global interventionism, both overt and covert. Wolfowitz was shuttled over to the State Department in 1982, eventually serving as ambassador to Indonesia from 1985 to 1989. Under Bush 41, he served as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, under Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, in which capacity he oversaw much of the diplomacy and logistics that went into the Gulf War. He and his assistant, Scooter Libby, then wrote the Defense Planning Guidance, a planning rubric emphasizing preemptive and unilateral military actions, and intended to "set the nation's direction for the next century." This document was generally interpreted in military and diplomatic circles as a blueprint for U.S. hegemony. During the Clinton years he taught at Johns Hopkins University, as well as serving as a policy advisor to a number of Republican figures such as Bob Dole and a lobbyist and consultant for the defense contractor Northrop Grumman. He also wrote most of the 1998 PNAC letter, and a 90-page report entitled Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century, advocating the redeployment of U.S. troops in permanent bases in strategic locations throughout the world where they can be ready to act to protect U.S. interests abroad. The election of W brought him back into government as Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2005, overseeing much of the War on Terror, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq. Like Rumsfeld and Perle, he effectively overruled and forced into retirement General Shinseki, who publicly disagreed with them on the number of troops necessary to overthrow Saddam Hussein and occupy Iraq. Wolfowitz was nominated as to be head of the World Bank in the spring of 2005, and was accepted in that role after much diplomatic arm-twisting. He resigned from the World Bank in July 2007, and was replaced by Robert Zoellick.

R. James Woolsey, a former military staff officer who served as an advisor on the U.S. Delegation to the SALT 1 talks in 1969 and 1970, General Counsel to the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1970-1973, Under Secretary of the Navy under Carter, Delegate at Large to the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) and Nuclear and Space Arms Talks in1983-1986, Ambassador to the Negotiation on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, 1989-1991. He served as Director of Central Intelligence from 1993 to 1995, during which time he had a famously strained relationship with President Clinton. He is currently in the private sector, working for the management and policy consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, whose clients include government and defense contractors and who are a frequent first stop for military officers looking to break into the private sector. Woolsey is noted for asserting that the US is currently engaged in "World War IV" during speaking engagements.

Robert B. Zoellick, who started out as a lawyer before entering government service, working mostly in the Treasury Department from 1985 until 1992, and running the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) from 1992 until 1997. As the U.S. Trade Representative from 2001 to 2005, he helped ram the Central American Free Trade Agreement into effect over the objections of, well, everyone except Washington and big business. He replaced Richard Armitage as Deputy Secretary of State from 2005 until 2007, following which he replaced Paul Wolfowitz as the head of the World Bank. He has also been, in a private capacity, a consultant, president of Goldman-Sachs, and a board member of Enron. He is a devout believer in free trade as a general good to the extent that it coincides with the interests of the United States.

When you see who signed off on this letter and who's in charge now, is it any surprise that we've gotten to where we are now?

Just as a footnote to the above, a number of these people, including Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, George H.W. Bush, and Donald Rumsfeld, were involved with an internal review program in the intelligence community during the Ford and Carter administrations that known as "Team B," which routinely second-guessed and overruled intelligence professionals. Team B claimed, sometimes without any evidence, that the Soviet Union posed a more significant threat than the information supported, and vigorously opposed any sort of negotiations, international mediation, or détente. Sound familiar?

It really is kind of amusing how so many of these people have similar stories—came in with Reagan, ruled the world for twelve years under Reagan and Bush 41, but then Clinton somehow won and they found themselves basically exiled just when the Soviets had collapsed and the brass ring was in sight. Then when W gets elected, for our sins, they're all coming in from the cold and trying to pretend Clinton never happened.

Does it worry you that so many of these people are just floating along under the radar, with one foot in the government and the other in private ideological think tanks? It's still an open question to me whether the US government's heavy dependence on appointed officials in the State, Defense, and Justice departments is a strength or a weakness. We also have proof that they deliberately and knowingly misled our actual elected representatives on a slew of issues, most notably Iraq and the WMD issue. How much accountability is there for people like Richard Perle, when most of the country's citizenry don't even know he exists, even when he's basically making decisions that guide national policy and, not to put too fine a point on it, deciding who lives and who dies?

There's been a great deal said about a group called "the Vulcans," who were W's foreign policy advisor group (i.e. the smart kids from whom he snuck the answers) during the 2000 election. The group included Condoleezza Rice, Richard Armitage, Robert Blackwill, Stephen Hadley (now National Security Advisor), Richard Perle, Dov S. Zakheim (now Comptroller of the Pentagon), Robert Zoellick and Paul Wolfowitz, with Dick Cheney, George P. Shultz, and Colin Powell floating around the fringers. After the election, all the members of the Vulcans received key positions in the new Bush administration. James Mann wrote a book in 2004, titled Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, in which he argues that the roots of the Iraq war and the War on Terror, as well as the rest of Bush's disastrously unilateral and abrasive foreign policy can be attributed to the people who surrounded him. He misses one point, though—although the group did refer to themselves as the Vulcans, Vulcan was not the Roman god of war, but the crippled god of smiths and craftsmen.

Mars was the god of war, so if you want to be precise, these people aren't Vulcans, they're Martians.

And to think they laugh at David Icke for claiming we're ruled by a secret cabal of 12-foot-tall alien lizards. Just for shits and giggles, yes, most of the people listed here really are members of the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

I'd pick the lizards over the Martians. That is, unless they're the red men of Barsoom…..

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