Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, October 13, 2006

  Your Think Tank's war

Laura Rozen has a rather remarkable post about the genesis of the Iraq War, which has gotten virtually no attention. That's all the more surprising because she's discussing allegations made in Bob Woodward's new book, which people have been pawing over frantically for inside information about how and why the White House has failed in Iraq.

This particular passage from State of Denial did in fact receive a certain amount of attention about four days ago, after Julie Bosman of the NYT commented on it. Her interest, which has been reflected in virtually everything subsequently written about the passage, was in the ethics of the journalists and pundits who, Woodward says, took part in a secret strategy session organized by the Cheney adminstration. Until now all the figures named have kept their participation in the session (indeed, the very existence of the session) secret, though they have been commenting publicly and writing about the events that they helped to shape in this meeting.

The meeting of November 29, 2001 was organized to supply the Cheney administration with a plan for what to do with the Middle East. The presumption, evidently, was that the U.S. should do something with, or to, the Middle East after the invasion of Afghanistan. The talkers and the scribblers at the meeting were supposed to identify whom to do something to. Bosman quotes Robert Kaplan (of The Atlantic) saying that he and the other participants wrote up “a forceful summary of some of the best pro-war arguments at the time.” This document became an important contribution to the Cheney administration's plan for screwing up the Middle East in subsequent years.

I won't bother to discuss the ethics of 'journalists' who secretly help to formulate government policy, nor the fact that in this case it amounted to framing a case for invading a foreign country. It's enough to note that this group included Reuel Marc Gerecht, of all people. Further commentary is unnecessary.

I'm also not going to discuss the important point raised by Steve Clemons, who wonders whether this secret meeting violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act. That's a proper subject for people who are smarter than me.

I will however highlight something important that has been overlooked, in so far as anybody is paying attention to this story. Here I'll quote Laura Rozen's distillation of Woodward:

At Wolfowitz's request, American Enterprise Institute president Christopher Demuth "recruited a dozen people. [Bernard Lewis, Mark Palmer, Fareed Zakaria, Fouad Ajami, James Q. Wilson, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Steve Herbits among them]. He later said they agreed to serve only 'if I promised it would all be kept secret.' ... On Thursday night, November 29, 2001, Demuth assembled the group at a secure conference center in Virginia for a weekend of discussions ... DeMuth was surprised at the consensus among his group. He stayed up late Sunday night distilling their thoughts into a seven page, single-spaced document, called 'Delta of Terrorism.' ... 'The general analysis was that Egypt and Saudi Arabia ... were the key, but the problems there are intractable. Iran is more important...' But Iran was similarly difficult to envision dealing with... But Saddam Hussein was different, weaker, more vulnerable... 'We concluded that a confrontation with Saddam was inevitable. ... We agreed that Saddam would have to leave the scene before the problem would be addressed.' ... Copies of the memo, straight from the neoconservative playbook, were hand-delivered to the war cabinet members. In at least some cases, it was given a SECRET classification. Cheney was pleased with the memo, and it had a strong impact on President Bush ..."

It's the nature of the report itself, now classified, that strikes me as most outlandish. The American Enterprise all-stars came to an agreement that the Middle Eastern countries that were most problematic for the U.S. were Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

What did they propose to do about Egypt and Saudi Arabia? In perfect neo-con fashion, they changed the subject. Egypt and Saudi Arabia were too hard to figure out. They couldn't identify a plan for Egypt and Saudi Arabia. So they forgot about Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Change the subject: Iran. Iran was dangerous too.

What did they propose to do about Iran? In perfect neo-con fashion, they changed the subject. Iran was too hard to figure out. They couldn't identify a plan for Iran. So they forgot about Iran.

Change the subject: Iraq. Iraq wasn't particularly dangerous. But Iraq was weak and vulnerable. What did they propose to do about Iraq? In perfect neo-con fashion, they decided to invade it.

Ponder this for a moment. The American Enterprise Institute is, in the parlance of our times, a "Think Tank". So this classified plan, a roadmap to hell, was the best product of neo-con "thinking". In the parlance of our times.


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