National Review Online, 8/14/03, Michael Ledeen addresses
his apparently controversial dealings with his "old friend
quite like seeing Ledeen write from a position of relative weakness,
especially given how much face time he has gotten in the last
couple of years. Ledeen, who David Frum claims has scored up to
$25 million for his advocacy of US action against the Iranian
"mullahcracy," feels it necessary in the safe space
of NR's website to address his dealings with Iranian "private
citizens" and how they were misrepresented by unnamed "overzealous
kicks, let's review some of that "overzealous scribbling,"
specifically the August 8 report in the Sydney Morning Herald
entitled "Arms Dealers in Talks with US Officials about
Iran." The SMH
dispatch reported the claim that "Administration officials
said at least two Pentagon officials working for the Undersecretary
of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, have held "several"
meetings with Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iranian middleman in United
States arms-for-hostage shipments to Iran in the mid-1980s."
Along the same lines, a "senior Administration official identified
two of the Defense officials who met Mr Ghorbanifar as Harold
Rhode, Mr Feith's top Middle East specialist, and Larry Franklin,
a Defence Intelligence Agency analyst on loan to the undersecretary's
the two liaisons mentioned in the Australian paper's report, the
most interesting for Ledeen watchers is Mr. Rhode. As the report
points out, "Mr Rhode recently acted as a liaison between
Mr Feith's office, which drafted much of the Administration's
post-Iraq planning, and Ahmed Chalabi, a former Iraqi exile groomed
for leadership by the Pentagon. Mr Rhode is a protege of Michael
Ledeen, who was a National Security Council consultant in the
mid 1980s when he introduced Mr Ghorbanifar to Oliver North, a
NSC aide, and others in the opening stages of the Iran-Contra
affair. It is understood Mr Ledeen reopened the Ghorbanifar channel
with Mr Feith's staff."
if that isn't a shot across Mr. Ledeen's bow, I don't know what
is. The feisty internationalist gives as good as he gets, however,
making out the Ghorbanifar affair to be nothing so much as a tempest
in a teapot. "The journalists in Washington ran around chasing
their own very short tails for several days until they concluded
a) that people talking to people isn't much of a story and b)
it seems to be about turf, not anything serious, and c) it really
doesn't lead anywhere."
couple of points here from this writer: People talking to people,
as Ledeen so chastely puts it, is very much a story. Consider
how many of the Terror War investigations are predicated on something
as simple as some potential evil doer having some confirmed evildoers
phone number in his address book. We wouldn't hear news dispatches
about "terrorist chatter" if conversations weren't monitored,
catalogued, and examined for problematic tropes. Along those lines,
"turf" isn't "anything serious"? Since when?
Do I need to send Mr. Ledeen a copy of the first two Godfather
movies, a Mobb Deep album, and copies of The Art of War
and The Prince to show him otherwise? Turf is everything,
whether in the freewheeling world of street gangs or the more
structured milieu of policy discussion. To pretend otherwise is
to play one's readers for marks, but Mr. Ledeen has never had
problems in that regard.
NRO piece very early on becomes an attack on those who
would limit the Pentagon's ability to go into business for itself,
without the sanction of State. "The implication of the complaint
about Pentagon officials' conversations is that it's okay for
our diplomats to talk to the official representatives of the murderous
mullahcracy in Tehran, with an eye to establishing some form of
rapprochement, but it's not okay for midlevel Iran experts at
DoD to talk to private Iranians to enhance our understanding about
what's going on inside Iran, and what the Iranian regime is going,
or planning to do, to Americans and our friends and allies. Why
should that be so? One would think that any such conversations
should be praised, not leaked to death."
but what else can be expected from Ledeen in this case. He undercuts
statecraft as "rapprochement," because it apparently
is beneath the US to negotiate with the "murderous mullahcracy."
Meanwhile, Ledeen makes some hazy claims about what those mullahs
intend to do to Americans, adding that conversations with "private
Iranians" should be "praised, not leaked to death."
One question: who would praise those discussions if they weren't
not Richard Armitage, who Ledeen lambastes for never repenting
for his claim that "Iran is a Democracy." Ledeen has
it in for Armitage to such a degree that he embraces "conspiracy
theory." intimating that State's desire for Iran to turn
over "captured Al Qaeda terrorists" is prima facie absurd;
after all, those terrorists were operating out of Iran, which
to Ledeen is proof that Tehran sanctioned their actions.
knows better than to make this argument. If terrorists operating
out of an area were proof in itself that said area's government
sanctioned their dastardly deeds, then the US regime itself would
come under fierce scrutiny. As would that of Canada and every
other country in the world. The bromide that "one man's terrorist
is another man's freedom fighter" bears a special relevance
here, as there will always be people in the Middle East, Europe,
and even in the US who believe that Al Qaeda operations are legitimate
defenses of personal sovereignty against a Leviathan state and
the marauders under its employ.
from Ledeen: "We are doing nothing to support the desperate
efforts of the Iranian people to free themselves from the mullahs,
despite the almost daily flow of proof that this is one of the
world's most odious tyrannies, that the regime scorns even minimal
standards of human rights and, for example, recently bludgeoned
a female Canadian journalist to death and then even denied her
son the fulfillment of his obligation to arrange for a proper
burial in her own country."
regrettable that a "femal Canadian journalist" was "bludgeoned,"
but is that really the business of the United States? Michael
Ledeen is a one-trick pony, as the above passage illustrates.
His specialty is shrill tub thumping, in which he makes emotional
appeals on specious grounds to justify reckless, untenable foreign
policy initiatives. Perhaps it should be said: if the journalist
in question couldn't handle her own business, maybe she should've
stayed out of Iran.
saves some of his most bilious language for Secretary of State
Colin Powell, who only months ago mortgaged a good chunk of his
soul to assemble the "Coalition of the Willing." Ledeen
"asks" Powell the following, seemingly rhetorical questions:
"Why do you find the Iranian people so uniquely unworthy
of support in their efforts to be free? Why do you use phrases
like "family squabble" to describe mass murder and systematic
repression in Iran, when you used much stronger language to (accurately)
describe a similar regime in Iraq?"
Powell understands what much of the military brass does. Perhaps
Powell is aware of how perilously overextended American troops
are, and, rather than starting a fight the US is ill-positioned
to finish, he realizes that the mullahs must be tolerated, because
it is damned hard to liberate the world when the news is full
of reports of the disillusionment of American troops.
don't tell that to Ledeen, who even now exhorts President Bush
toward more military adventurism. "The hell of it all is
that this president has it right, and has had it right from the
beginning. He knows Iran is at the heart of the Axis of Evil.
He knows that America, because of its very essence as the embodiment
of the democratic evolution, must support the fight for freedom
in Iran. He says it all the time, only to have many of the others
"conspiracy theory" from Ledeen, who stops short of
ascribing motivations to the "gainsayers." Do they hate
America? Are they Islamofascist dupes? Inquiring minds want to
know, but Ledeen realizes that, with scant proof that the Powell/Armitage
wing's willingness to negotiate with Tehran stems from anything
more nefarious than knowing the limits of the US military, he's
better off just throwing bombs and seeing if anyone blows up in
Ledeen is a dangerous animal, a laptop bombardier, a thug with
a hidden agenda and a security clearance. It is no coincidence
that the 8/14 column, like so many of his others, closes with
an exhortation to the President. "Faster, please," it
always goes. He talks of military confrontation with Iran, which
will be ugly like nothing since the Korean war, like he's a frat
boy trying to get laid. Ledeen is a risible presence on the American
scene, and this column hopes that his enemies in Washington find
a way to take him to task for reckless, foolish talk that will
lead to the death of more Americans and further diffusion of the
Administration's credibility. This columnist, however, is not
holding his breath waiting for Ledeen to get his just deserts.