Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Continuing Demise of the Neoconservatives

I've mentioned the John Birchers from time to time and how it was fortunate that in their day they never got very far. Their motto at the time was: better dead than red. Unfortunately, the John Birchers did manage to lay the seed of a conservative ascendancy along with its rationalizations for increasingly bizarre ideas. In Glenn Greenwald's excellent post, which I'll get to in a moment, we're reminded of James Woolsey's rhetorical turn that we're now in world war four, the cold war having been the third world war. Right wing paranoia and trite phrases seem to be having their day. Real world wars of the past killed tens of millions. If we have a true third world war, it will kill hundreds of millions. The cute phrasing used by Woolsey is simply designed to make all-out military operations warm and fuzzy and therefore acceptable (and without much regard to the consequences).

The neoconservatives have followed in the footsteps of the John Birchers, but this time with the institutional advantages of the American Enterprise Institute and Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard. Despite enormous funding and a place at the table in Washington, something the John Birchers never quite achieved, the neoconservative movement is proof that money isn't everything. If the neoconservatives were a baseball team of wealthy dilettantes, they wouldn't be just dead last in their league with their horrendous batting average, they'd be disbanded for outright incompetence. But the neoconservatives are still trying to be players on the world stage with their 'better fright than right' schtick; unfortunately, they appear at times to still have the ear of Cheney, Rumsfeld and probably Bush.

Gleen Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory reminds us that the neoconservatives haven't yet run out of gas:
The American Enterprise Institute sits in the innermost belly of the neoconservative beast, boasting a list of resident "Scholars and Fellows" that includes Richard Perle, David Frum, Michael Ledeen, John Yoo, and Laurie Mylorie (who "has theorized that al Qaeda is an agency of Iraqi intelligence, that Saddam Hussein was behind the first bombing of the World Trade Center, and that Iraqi intelligence was linked to Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols"). Paul Wolfowitz and Irving Kristol, among many other similar Middle East warmongering types, are former AEI "resident scholars," and Lynne Cheney is still an active "Fellow."


This upcoming Thursday, at 11:00 a.m., the AEI is hosting a panel discussion called "National Security and Freedom of the Press." This is the premise of the discussion:
Increasingly in the past year, the news media have published classified information that exposed sensitive national security programs. In light of these revelations, concerns have been raised over the extent to which the publication of classified material affects American national security.

The AEI's current wish list features, at the very top, a military attack on Iran, followed by such subsidiary enabling measures as prosecuting journalists, strengthening domestic surveillance programs still further, and a reflexive defense of Israel as the highest imperative. To know what the last two, election-free years of a Bush administration would bring to this country in the absence of any Congressional checks, one should listen to the truly extremist desires of the AEI.

No doubt restricting the freedom of the press would make it more difficult to notice how often neoconservatives have gotten things wrong. And we might not notice curious people like Richard Perle who one day are deeply concerned about national security and the next day are racing off to Iraq to join in the privatization gold rush (instead of restricting the freedom of the press, can we have legislation preventing foreign policy types from making profits in the private sector until at least one year after a war is over?). And without a free press, we might have missed the long convoluted road of neoconservative logic.

In January of 2004, after three negative reports by American weapons inspectors, Bush shifted blame for the failure to find WMDs by accusing the CIA of exaggerating the existence of WMDs in Iraq which of course was the opposite of what many rank and file CIA analysts were saying in early 2002 before the process got politicized. Laurie Mylorie who published a book in 2003, Bush vs. the Beltway, accused the CIA of ignoring evidence of WMDs in Iraq. Here's a review that was written by David Corn in the LA Weekly:
The CIA is a rogue institution. It undermines national security. It was dishonest about the threat from Iraq. It hid the truth from the American public. It has plotted against other parts of the government. It has betrayed the country.

That’s not the latest lefty screed against the spooks. This critique is the central point of a new book written by a darling of the neoconservative claque running much of President Bush’s foreign policy. In Bush vs. the Beltway, Laurie Mylroie, an adjunct fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute (neocon HQ), offers a j’accuse-like indictment summed up by this slim volume’s subtitle: “How the CIA and the State Department Tried To Stop the War on Terror.” Mylroie charges that a conspiracy of head-in-the-sand intelligence analysts and don’t-rock-the-boat foreign service apparatchiks covered up, ignored and dismissed evidence that Saddam Hussein orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and that al Qaeda has been a front for Iraqi intelligence. Moreover, she claims that midlevel CIA bureaucrats — no names, of course — were able to thwart Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and others from presenting the best possible case for war against Iraq.

In other words, according to Mylorie, poor Bush was wrongly being told by the CIA that there wasn't much evidence for the case he was making against Iraq. Essentially, Mylorie was saying that the intelligence community was withholding evidence. And Richard Perle and James Woolsey both endorsed her premise; their words are right there on the back of the hardcover version of the book. And yet, several months later, in 2004, Bush found it politically convenient to say it was the CIA that had exaggerated the evidence. Well, we all know now that Bush didn't have any evidence in the first place. What he did have were neoconservative fantasies and the word of Dick Cheney. And, oh yes, a marketing plan in the late summer of 2002, not unlike the one he and his neoconservative friends seem anxious to peddle for Iran (readers should keep in mind that Bush in 2002 had hoped to provoke Saddam Hussein into war but he never took the bait—Bush cranked up the domestic rhetoric and we simply invaded; this time Bush's hands are far more tied than they were in 2002 but it's possible Bush may be doing something of the same sort this time, hoping to provoke the Iranians and hoping, that unlike Saddam Hussein, they'll take the bait, making it a sure thing that he'll get his war) .

Time after time, the neoconservatives have been wrong or have just outright misled the American people and they want to restrict the freedom of the press to make sure we don't continue to discover their blunders, dishonest statements and fantasies. It's a free country and the neoconservatives can say all they want and their wealthy right wing contributors can keep paying them their bloated salaries, but it's time for our nation to reject the flawed analysis and disastrous foreign policy ideas of the neoconservatives. And it's time for some accountability.


Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

"But the neoconservatives are still trying to be players on the world stage with their 'better fright than right' schtick; unfortunately, they appear at times to still have the ear of Cheney, Rumsfeld and probably Bush."

Cheney and Rumsfeld have been neocon sparkplugs for decades. Bush was an empty vessel into which they poured their toxic tonic in '99 and 2000, as I understand it. Any more, he's very much a sparkplug, too. He's certainly not an innocent being influenced by evil Svengalis.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

On the larger point, you couldn't be more correct.

It's not unlike the Soviets and their theoriticians, who substituted Marxist truths and realities in what they called the dialectic, for the truths and realities most people could observe.

What's so scary is the realization that our democratic system absolutely requires a reasonably well informed electorate. But then you see how disinterested, busy and distracted so many Americans are most of the time. Only in crisis do some critical matters receive widespread, focused public attention.

No less scary is how soft-spoken, knowledgeable, dedicated and seemingly reasonable people such as Richard Perle or, earlier on, Paul Wolfowitz, can go on a TV talk show and suck in a not terribly sophisticated and well-informed audience, where other countries and foreign relations are concerned.

Limiting the relatively tame, submissive corporate media we have now would really fix us up.

A good example: Recently, a regular commenter at Oh!pinion who generally supports Bush & Co. seemed surprised at my contention the Iranians have indicated repeatedly they want direct talks with U.S. leaders. I responded with a quote from one of Trudy Rubin's recent columns citing three occasions when the Iranians called for direct talks.

Sure enough, the official neocon line is that the Iranians are irrational terrorist types who can't be trusted to bargain in good faith or keep their end of agreements.

I want to know when and how we've put that to the test.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

S.W., great comments, particularly the second one. Of course, there have been no meaningful negotiations with the Iranians. The best opportunity was probably right after 9/11; Iran had no use for Osama bin Laden or al Qaida and it would have been the right moment for a world shifting dialogue like Nixon in Russia or China. Bush blew the moment off.

2:23 AM  

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