Thursday, 15 October 2009

Iraq Replay III

From James Petras, The Power of Israel in the United States

Chapter 1: Who Fabricated the Iraq War Threat? The Jewish Lobby, Not Big Oil

Who Fabricated the Iraq War Threat?

The debate and criticism in the US Congress and media of the Bush Administration’s fabricated evidence of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and a host of other misconduct (lying to Congress, military tribunals in Guantanamo, torture in Abu Ghraib, CIA renditions, spying on Americans, and corruption in general) has finally reached the point of a Congressional attempt to generate an impeachment inquiry. [1] The initial investigation and testimony of top US military and civilian officials in the Pentagon and State Department, which revealed profound differences and divisions between themselves and the ‘political appointees’, has now been embellished by public statements against the Bush administration from retired generals, who claimed to reflect the views of the active military, and called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. [2] The testimony and evidence of the professionals’ revelations have been crucial to understanding the structure of real power in the Bush Administration, since it is in times of crisis and divisions in the governing class that we, the public, are given insights into who governs, and for whom. The ongoing debate, criticism, and division in Washington today provide just such instances.

After years of UN inspections, and a comprehensive 15-month search by the Iraq Survey Group, following thousands of searches and interviews by close to ten thousand US military, intelligence and scientific inspectors, it has been definitively demonstrated, and at last admitted by President George W. Bush, that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction (or even of useful national defense). This raised the key question: who in the Bush regime provided the fabricated evidence and for what purpose?

The initial response of the Bush apologists was to attribute the fabrications to ‘bureaucratic errors’ and ‘communication failures’ or as then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz cynically claimed, to the need to ‘secure a consensus for the war policy’. CIA Director Tenet became the self-confessed scapegoat for the ‘mistakes’. As the investigations progressed, however, testimony from a multiplicity of high level sources in the regime revealed that there were two channels of policy making and advisers, 1) the formal structure made up of career professional military and civilians in the Pentagon and State Department, and 2) a parallel structure within the Pentagon made up of political appointees. From all available evidence it was the ‘unofficial’ political advisers organized by Wolfowitz, Feith, and Rumsfeld in the Office of Special Plans (OSP) who were the source of the fabricated evidence, which was used to ‘justify’ the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The OSP, which only existed briefly from September 2002 to June 2003, was headed by Abram Shulsky and included other neo-conservatives, who had virtually no professional knowledge or qualification in intelligence and military affairs. Douglas Feith, then Undersecretary of Defense, and Paul Wolfowitz set up the OSP. Shulsky was an avid follower and protege of Richard Perle, the well-known militarist and long time supporter of military attacks on Arab regimes in the Middle East.

According to the testimony of a Pentagon insider, Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Near East and South Asia Division and Special Plans in the Pentagon, the ‘civil service and active duty military professionals were noticeably uninvolved in key areas’ of interest to Feith, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, namely Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Lieutenant Colonel Kwiatkowski went on to specify that ‘in terms of Israel and Iraq all primary staff work was conducted by political appointees, in the case of Israel a desk officer appointee from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and in the case of Iraq, Abe Shulsky.’ Equally important, the ex-Pentagon official addressed the existence of ‘cross-agency cliques’. She described how the members of a variety of neoconservative and pro-Israel organizations (Project for a New American Century, the Center for Security Policy, and the American Enterprise Institute), also held office in the Bush regime and only interacted among themselves across the various agencies. She pointed out that major decisions resulted from ‘groupthink’ -- the uncritical acceptance of prevailing points of view and the uncritical acceptance of extremely narrow and isolated views. Kwiatkowski was forced to resign by her chief after she told him that ‘some folks (the cliques and networks) in the Pentagon may be sitting beside Hussein in the war crimes tribunal’ for their destructive war and occupation policies.

What became very clear was that the OSP and its directors, Feith and Wolfowitz, were specifically responsible for the fabricated evidence of the ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ that justified the war on Iraq. The OSP and the other members of the networks that operated throughout key US agencies shared a rightwing pro-militarist ideology and were fanatically pro-Israel. Feith and Perle authored an infamous policy paper in 1996 for Likud Party extremist, Benjamin Netanyahu, entitled ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm’, which called for the destruction of Saddam Hussein and his replacement by a Hashemite monarch. The governments of Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iran would then have to be overthrown or destabilized, the paper asserted, in order for Israel to be secure in a kind of ‘Greater US-Israel Co-Prosperity Sphere.’ The finger clearly pointed to Zionist zealots who directed the OSP, like Abram Shulsky and Feith, as the source for the ‘phony intelligence’ which led to the war that Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld were seeking. The manner in which the Zionist zealots organized and acted - as a clique of arrogant like-minded fanatics hostile to any contrary viewpoints from the professional intelligence, civilian, and military officials - indicated that their loyalties and links were elsewhere, most evidently with the Sharon regime in Israel. As the Guardian’s Julian Borger wrote on July 17, 2003, the OSP ‘forged close ties to a parallel, ad hoc intelligence operation inside Ariel Sharon’s office in Israel specifically to bypass Mossad and provide the Bush administration with more alarmist reports on Saddam’s Iraq than Mossad was prepared to authorize.’ It is interesting to note that the influential rightwing Zionists in the Bush Administration actually provided ‘reports’ on Iraq which were at variance with reports from the Israeli Mossad, which did not believe that Iraq represented any ‘threat’ to the US or Israel. Mossad’s skepticism was shared by the CIA, now known to have advised the Bush administration on the non-existence of WMD. [3] With the primary intelligence agencies of Israel and the US advising otherwise, is it credible to presume that their negative findings on Iraqi WMD were overruled due to better information, and not to better clout?

The Jewish Lobby, Not Big Oil

Contrary to the view of most American progressives that oil, and specifically the interests of Big Oil, is the primary mover, there is no evidence that the major US oil corporations pressured Congress or promoted the war in Iraq or the current confrontation with Iran. To the contrary: there is plenty of evidence that they are very uneasy about the losses that may result from an Israeli attack on Iran. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to suppose that Big Oil is far from happy about taking the rap for all that is happening in the Middle East, particularly when it combines with public anger at high gas prices, and leads to Senate inquiries.

There is an abundance of evidence for the past 15 years that:

1. The oil companies did not promote a war policy.
2. The wars have prejudiced their interests, operations and agreements with prominent Arab and Islamic regimes in the region.
3. The interests of the oil companies have been sacrificed to the state interests of Israel.
4. The power of the pro-Israel lobbies exceeds that of the oil companies in shaping US Middle East policy.

A thorough search through the publications and lobbying activities of the oil industry and the pro-Israel lobbies over the past decade reveals an overwhelming amount of documentation demonstrating that the Jewish lobbies were far more pro-war than the oil industry. Moreover the public records of the oil industry demonstrate a high level of economic co-operation with all the Arab states and increasing market integration. In contrast the public pronouncements, publications, and activities of the most economically powerful and influential pro-Israel Jewish lobbies were directed toward increasing US government hostility to the Arab countries, including exerting maximum pressure in favor of the war in Iraq, a boycott or military attack on Iran, and US backing for Israeli assassination and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

The most striking illustration of Jewish power in shaping US policy in the Middle East against the interest of Big Oil is demonstrated in US-Iran policy. As the Financial Times notes: ‘International oil companies are putting multi-billion dollar projects in Iran on hold, concerned about the diplomatic standoff [sic] [US economic-military threats] over the country’s nuclear programme’. [4] In fact, as Michael Klare pointed out:

No doubt the major U.S. energy companies would love to be working with Iran today in developing these vast oil and gas supplies. At present, however, they are prohibited from doing so by Executive Order (EO) 12959, signed by President Clinton in 1995 and renewed by President Bush in March 2004. [5]

Despite the fact that billions of dollars in oil, gas and petro-chemical contracts are in play, the pro-Israel lobby has influenced Congress to bar all major US oil companies from investing in Iran. Through its all-out campaign in the US Congress and Administration, the US-Jewish-Israeli lobby has created a warlike climate which now goes counter to the interests of all the world’s major oil companies including BP, the UK-based gas company, SASOL (South Africa), Royal Dutch Shell, Total of France, and others.

A question to ponder is whether ‘war for oil’ is the same as ‘war in the interests of Big Oil.’ Writing in the prestigious French monthly, Le Monde Diplomatique, in April 2003, Yahya Sadowski argued:

As part of their grand plan for using a ‘liberated’ Iraq as a base from which to promote democracy and capitalism across the Middle East, [the Neocons] want Baghdad to explore for new reserves, rapidly increase production capacity and quickly flood the world market with Iraqi oil. They know that this would lead to an oil price crash, driving it to $15 a barrel or less. They hope that this collapse will stimulate economic growth in the US and the West, finally destroy Opec (the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries), wreck the economies of ‘rogue states’ (Iran, Syria, Libya), and create more opportunities for ‘regime change’ and democratisation...

Multinational companies - giants such as ExxonMobil, British Petroleum, Shell, Total and Chevron-Texaco - have diversified sources of production and have less to fear from a price collapse. But the US administration does not listen to them (most are not even American). When Bush Junior was elected, they lobbied hard for a repeal of the Iran-Libya sanctions act and other embargos that curbed their expansion of holdings in the Middle East. The Bush team rebuffed their pleas and Vice-President Dick Cheney produced his 2001 national energy policy that focused on opening new areas within the US for energy exploration. [6]

... Multinational oil companies, US and other, have plenty to be ashamed of, from their despoliation of the Niger Delta to their support for state terrorism in Indonesia. But they have not been pushing for a war against Iraq. The Bush administration planned its campaign against Baghdad without input from these companies, and apparently without a clue about the basics of oil economics. [7]

The neo-con objective of bringing down OPEC (while achieving access to oil for Israel) was foiled by the dismal state of the Iraqi oil infrastructure, after the impact of a decade of international sanctions (as Sadowski argued), and by the Iraqi resistance, [8] which has rendered the prospect of any bonanza from Iraqi oil revenues moot.

To understand the central role of the Zionist ideologues in shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere, it is important to frame it in the context of US-Israel relations and the powerful influence of the pro-Israel lobby inside of the US. As Patrick Seal described them in the liberal US weekly, The Nation, ‘The Friends of Ariel Sharon (among the Jewish pro-Israel zealots) loath Arabs and Muslims... What they wished for was an improvement in Israel’s military and strategic environment’.

The US invasion of Iraq and its aggressive military posture toward most Arab regimes in the Middle East made the names of these Zionist policymakers known to the world. Wolfowitz and Feith were second and third in command of the Pentagon. Their proteges in the OPS included

Abram Shulsky, Richard Perle, then chairman of the Defense Policy Board, and Elliot Abrams (a defender of the Guatemalan genocide of the 1980’s), then Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs for the National Security Council. Washington's most influential pro-Israel zealots include William Kristol and Robert Kagan of The Weekly Standard, the Pipes family and a large number of pro-Israel institutes which work closely with and share the outlook of the rightwing Zionists in the Pentagon. The consensus among US critics of the Bush Administration is that ‘9/11 provided the right-wing Zionist zealots with a unique chance to harness US Middle East policy and military power in Israel’s interest and succeeded in getting the United States to apply the doctrine of pre-emptive war to Israel’s enemies’. [9] The evidence implicating the US Zionists in the war policy was so overwhelming that even the mainstream Zionist organizations refrained from crying ‘anti-Semitism’.

Concerned more with Israeli supremacy than US military losses, the zealous Zionists ignored the emerging quagmire of the US military in Iraq, and went on to plan new wars targeting Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia, raising a whole new series of ‘intelligence reports’ accusing the Arab countries of funding, protecting and promoting terrorism. Their prefabricated intelligence continued to flow while they were in government office, and does so even today.

As US military casualties mount daily in Iraq, with an unofficial estimate of 2579 US deaths by August 1st, 2006, [10] as the military costs of the war near $300 billion [11] and further undermine the US economy, the American public has become disenchanted with the Bush Administration. As the public investigations proceeded, the operations of the OSP, and the identity of its architects and propagandists who promoted the US war against Iraq and for Israel’s supremacy were made public.

Yet what might have been anticipated as a harsh and righteous backlash by the American public against the neo-conservative Zionist ideologues and their networks in and out of the government in general is only slowly mounting - and may not rise sufficiently swiftly to deflect their plans for a forthcoming war against Iran. True, the OSP has been shut down, Paul Wolfowitz has been forced out of the Pentagon and moved to the World Bank, [12] Douglas Feith seems set to find a niche in academia, [13] and Richard Perle has resigned his chairmanship of the Defense Policy Board. But Elliot Abrams’ star is on the ascendant, [14] Donald Rumsfeld, however attacked by his own generals, remains under presidential protection in the Department of Defense, Dick Cheney remains in the saddle, and the Bush Administration has moved on to target Iran in terms and processes startlingly similar to those which preceded the war against Iraq.

Though the understanding of the general public appears to have moved beyond the original official reasons for war (WMDs, the presence of Al Qaeda, and ‘bringing democracy’), and even beyond its supplemental pretexts (regime change, human rights), the present focus of both public and progressive criticism is directed largely towards the interests of Big Oil or ‘empire’ as the source of the conflict. The notion that the US went to war against Iraq for the greater good of Israel remains largely absent from commentary in the major media.

A very small number of progressive Jews raised serious questions about the uncritical support of Israel by mainstream Jewish organizations and were sharply critical of the Zionist zealots in the Pentagon. However, in the wake of the firestorm ignited by the publication of the Mearsheimer and Walt article, ‘The Israel Lobby’ in the London Review in March 2006, it seems clear that the extent of Israeli influence not only on US Middle East policy, but on America’s democratic political institutions and processes as a whole poses a much greater problem for progressive Americans, especially since most progressive Jews went into denial - denying the relevance of the essay, and denying the power of the Jewish Lobby to impact American foreign policy, a point that will be more fully elaborated in a later chapter.

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