Prevaricator President Backed by Weirdo Zealots & Zionists
The weird men behind George W Bush's war
Published 07 April 2003
Imagine a new British invasion of Egypt orchestrated by the followers of Ian Paisley, and you will have some idea of what is happening in Washington. Michael Lind dissects a neoconservative coup
America's allies and enemies alike are baffled. What is going on in the United States? Who is making foreign policy? And what are they trying to achieve? Quasi-Marxist explanations involving big oil or American capitalism are mistaken. Yes, American oil companies and contractors will accept the spoils of the kill in Iraq. But the oil business, with its Arabist bias, did not push for this war any more than it supports the Bush administration's close alliance with Ariel Sharon.
...The core group now in charge consists of neoconservative defence intellectuals (they are called "neoconservatives" because many of them started off as anti-Stalinist leftists or liberals before moving to the far right). Inside the government, the chief defence intellectuals include Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence. He is the defence mastermind of the Bush administration; Donald Rumsfeld is an elderly figurehead who holds the position of defence secretary only because Wolfowitz himself is too controversial. Others include Douglas Feith, the number three at the Pentagon; Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a Wolfowitz protege who is Cheney's chief of staff; John R Bolton, a right-winger assigned to the State Department to keep Colin Powell in check; and Elliott Abrams, recently appointed to head Middle East policy at the National Security Council. On the outside are James Woolsey, the former CIA director, who has tried repeatedly to link both 9/11 and the anthrax letters in the US to Saddam Hussein, and Richard Perle, who has just resigned from his unpaid defence department advisory post after a lobbying scandal. Most of these "experts" never served in the military. But their headquarters is now the civilian defence secretary's office, where these Republican political appointees are despised and distrusted by the largely Republican career soldiers.
The neo-con defence intellectuals, as well as being in or around the actual Pentagon, are at the centre of a metaphorical "pentagon" of the Israel lobby and the religious right, plus conservative think-tanks, foundations and media empires. Think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) provide homes for neo-con "in-and-outers" when they are out of government (Perle is a fellow at AEI). The money comes not so much from corporations as from decades-old conservative foundations, such as the Bradley and Olin foundations, which spend down the estates of long-dead tycoons. Neoconservative foreign policy does not reflect business interests in any direct way. The neo-cons are ideologues, not opportunists....
The Israel lobby itself is divided into Jewish and Christian wings. Wolfowitz and Feith have close ties to the Jewish-American Israel lobby. Wolfowitz, who has relatives in Israel, has served as the Bush administration's liaison to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Feith was given an award by the Zionist Organisation of America, citing him as a "pro-Israel activist". While out of power in the Clinton years, Feith collaborating with Perle, co-authored for Likud a policy paper that advised the Israeli government to end the Oslo peace process, reoccupy the territories and crush Yasser Arafat's government.
Such experts are not typical of Jewish-Americans, who mostly voted for Gore in 2000. The most fervent supporters of Likud in the Republican electorate are southern Protestant fundamentalists. The religious right believes that God gave all of Palestine to the Jews, and fundamentalist congregations spend millions to subsidise Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
The final corner of the neoconservative pentagon is occupied by several right-wing media empires, with roots - odd as it seems - in the Commonwealth and South Korea. Rupert Murdoch disseminates propaganda through his Fox Television network. His magazine the Weekly Standard, edited by William Kristol, the former chief of staff of Dan Quayle (vice-president, 1989-93), acts as a mouthpiece for defence intellectuals such as Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith and Woolsey as well as for Sharon's government. The National Interest (of which I was executive editor, 1991-94) is now funded by Conrad Black, who owns the Jerusalem Post and the Hollinger empire in Britain and Canada.
Strangest of all is the media network centred on the Washington Times - owned by the South Korean messiah (and ex-convict) the Reverend Sun Myung Moon - which owns the newswire UPI. UPI is now run by John O'Sullivan, the ghost-writer for Margaret Thatcher who once worked as an editor for Conrad Black in Canada. Through such channels, the "Gotcha!" style of right-wing British journalism, as well as its Europhobic substance, have contaminated the US conservative movement....
So that is the bizarre story of how neoconservatives took over Washington and steered the US into a Middle Eastern war unrelated to any plausible threat to the US and opposed by the public of every country in the world except Israel. The frightening thing is the role of happenstance and personality. After the al-Qaeda attacks, any US president would likely have gone to war to topple Bin Laden's Taliban protectors in Afghanistan. But everything that the US has done since then would have been different had America's 18th-century electoral rules not given Bush the presidency and had Cheney not used the transition period to turn the foreign policy executive into a PNAC reunion.
For a British equivalent, one would have to imagine a Tory government, with Downing Street and Whitehall controlled by followers of Reverend Ian Paisley, extreme Eurosceptics, empire loyalists and Blimpish military types - all determined, for a variety of strategic or religious reasons, to invade Egypt. Their aim would be to regain the Suez Canal as the first step in a campaign to restore the British empire. Yes, it really is that weird.
Michael Lind, the Whitehead Fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC, is the author of Made in Texas: George W Bush and the southern takeover of American politics. The book is reviewed on page 52