For Israel’s Sake

BY Salim Muwakkil

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In 1997, Douglas Feith authored a policy paper in which he urged Israel it re-occupy 'the areas under Palestinian Authority Control.'

The more we examine the disaster that is the Bush administration’s Middle East policy, the more apparent becomes the corrosive influence of Israel, or more accurately, of those U.S. officials acting on what they construe as Israel’s best interests. Yet Congress is oddly unwilling to bring any investigative focus on the role of Israel’s fervent supporters in instigating this deepening debacle.

What makes this issue especially crucial is the well-established link between the Bush administration’s neoconservative brain trust and Israel’s right-wing government. Two members of Bush’s neocon corps are now in the news for their attempts to warp intelligence to justify a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. In the past, both men (like many neocons) publicly advanced attacking Iraq to benefit Israel. The same group also has put Iran in their bomb-sights.

The two are Douglas Feith, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy between 2001 and 2005, and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff

According to a February report by acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble, Feith’s Office of Special Plans at the Pentagon took “inappropriate” actions to advance the assertion that al-Qaeda was working with Saddam Hussein – assertions that were not backed up by the nation’s intelligence agencies. In other words, Feith manipulated intelligence to justify an invasion.

Feith is a co-author of “Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing The Realm,” a strategy paper written in 1996 for Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu that urged a break away from the Oslo Peace Accords, a military defeat of the Palestinians, the removal of Saddam Hussein from power and the installation of a Hashemite king on the Iraqi throne. A co-author of “A Clean Break” was David Wurmser, Feith’s chief aide at the Pentagon.

A long time activist in right-wing Israeli politics, Feith wrote his own prescription for the Jewish state in a 1997 paper titled “A Strategy for Israel,” in which he urged Israel to re-occupy “the areas under Palestinian Authority control.” According to a 2005 book by New Yorker staff writer George Packer, a departing Colin Powell denounced Feith to President Bush as “a card-carrying member of the Likud.” Packer’s rigorously researched book, The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, provides a careful anatomy of this network of American “Likudniks.”

Feith’s office was still reeling from an earlier scandal, in which aide Lawrence Franklin was charged with passing classified information to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and to an intelligence official at the Israeli Embassy. The charge emerged from an extensive FBI investigation of the lobbying group.

Franklin, who worked in Feith’s Office of Special Plans, pleaded guilty and was convicted on three lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation in the FBI’s continuing probe. He was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison and fined $10,000.

Libby is officially charged with lying to the FBI and the grand jury about his talks with reporters outing CIA agent Valerie Plame. Unofficially, he is blamed for trying to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who, in February 2002, had investigated claims that Iraq sought uranium from Niger and found the story untrue. Wilson later wrote an op-ed in the New York Times suggesting Bush misled the American people to justify invading Iraq.

Libby, and by extension, Cheney’s office, sought to debunk Wilson by suggesting that Plame, his CIA-officer wife, sent him on a junket to Niger. This, of course, was to cast suspicions on his rejection of Bush’s alarmist claims about Iraq.

These are not just examples of neocon ideology gone wild, as Packer, himself a former supporter of the Bush invasion, points out in his somewhat rueful book. “The idea of realigning the Middle East by overthrowing Saddam Hussein was first proposed by a group of Jewish policy makers and intellectuals who were close to the Likud,” he writes. “And when the second President Bush looked around for a way to think about the uncharted era that began on September 11, 2001, there was one already available.”

These polices were designed with Israel in mind, as well as the United States. In fact, writes Packer, “For Feith and Wurmser, the security of Israel was probably the prime mover.” Such talk invariably sparks charges of anti-Semitism for suggesting the canard about Jews’ dual loyalties. However, the connections between Bush’s influential corps of neocons and Israel’s expansionist Likud Party are too obvious to ignore. These neocon ideologues have transformed the United States into a rogue state that is an echo of Israel; locked in a vicious cycle of occupation-resistance-revenge, steeped in belligerent militarism, globally isolated and loathed.

Congress’ willful ignorance of these links is a grievous malfeasance of duty. Where are progressive Democrats on this issue?


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Salim Muwakkil is a senior editor of In These Times, where he has worked since 1983. He is the host of The Salim Muwakkil show on WVON, Chicago's historic black radio station, and he wrote the text for the book HAROLD: Photographs from the Harold Washington Years.

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