August 7, 2002

Saudi Arabia, Jordan targets of Israel Firsters

You've really got to hand it to the neocons: they sure know how to conduct a bang-up propaganda campaign. The leak of a "briefing" to the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, which targeted the Saudis as the real locus of world terrorism, is all over the place: not only the Washington Post, but MSNBC, Fox News, the BBC, and out over the wires. The document, labeled "top secret" and "classified," according to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is described in the Post:

"A briefing given last month to a top Pentagon advisory board described Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States, and recommended that U.S. officials give it an ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States."

It's refreshing to see that the War Party is finally coming out of the closet, so to speak, with its real aims and ambitions. We knew that all the pious palaver about a "war on terrorism," and the export of "democracy," was just a lot of malarkey, but it's nice to have them come right out and say so. As I said all along, a war against the Saudis and the outright seizure of the Saudi oil fields is what the neocon-Big Oil-Bushian axis of aggression is really gunning for.

It's interesting to see that the conspiracy theory being pushed by the Rand Corp. briefing is quite similar to the vague mishmosh of arbitrary assertions and undocumented accusations circulating in the form of Forbidden Truth, a book by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, and published by The Nation, which was aptly described by the Los Angeles Times as

"A dense, conspiracy-minded portrait of Saudi-dominated banks, companies and tycoons, all allegedly interconnected, that they maintain have helped fund Bin Laden's holy war."

The point of the book is that the Bush administration was supposedly appeasing the Taliban right up until the last moment: Brisard and Dasquie are essentially saying that the Bushies let 9/11 happen because of a "softness" on the Saudis. "Since the 18th century," Brisard and Dasquie aver, "Saudi Arabia, has been focused on conquering the world." The author of the controversial briefing, Laurent Murawiec, a Rand Corporation analyst, put the same thesis another way:

"'The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader, Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies.' … A talking point attached to the last of 24 briefing slides went even further, describing Saudi Arabia as 'the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent' in the Middle East.'"

Remember how the Democrats went ballistic when the Saudis started raising the issue of a US military withdrawal from the Kingdom? Senator Joe Lieberman has gone so far as to declaim that a "theological iron curtain" has descended across the Middle East – and he doesn't mean Israel. The not-so-hidden subtext of all this is that the Democrats can always bring up the Bush family's links to Saudi oil interests. The killer is that the Democrats don't have to say a word….

What we're seeing, here, is a left-right squeeze play, with the Bushies in the middle. It is, in reality, a form of political blackmail, a warning shot fired over the bow – by the ostensibly Republican neocons, and not the Democrats.

What better way to blindside the Bushies than from within their own camp – that is, from the neocons, who have no party loyalty except to the War Party. If the Democrats will provide them with a bigger, bloodier war to fight – one in which more Arabs are likely to perish than in a piddling invasion of Iraq – well, then, why not?

Neoconservative foreign policy analyst Richard Perle, the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, wears many hats: he is widely known as a foreign policy academician, he appears on TV as a "former Reagan administration official," and is often treated in the media as having quasi-official status in the present administration. In a fascinating piece in The American Prospect on Perle, the one-man war propaganda machine, and his relations with the Bushies, Joshua Micah Marshall points out the dual role played by the man they call the "Prince of Darkness":

"So how is Perle able to play both sides of the street? One prerequisite is the continued acquiescence of Rumsfeld. 'I think Rumsfeld has loved this stuff,' says one of Perle's former Reagan-administration colleagues, though whether Rumsfeld's go-ahead for these rants is explicit or implicit is anyone's guess."

Rumsfeld, however, wants us to believe that he's plenty steamed up about this leak:

"Clearly, somebody decided that it was a good idea to take something that was that potentially controversial – I almost said inflammatory – and give it to a newspaper, even though the meeting was a classified meeting and a closed meeting of the Defense Policy Board."

The leak was "clearly harmful," he complained, and doesn't really represent the majority view of the policy board. I especially liked this Associated Press report of Rummy's displeasure:

"The defense secretary's harshest comments were aimed at those responsible for leaking the report. He says this probably came from someone who wanted to appear important."

But not really important, you see – or, at least, not important enough to be tracked down by requiring all members of the Defense Policy Board to submit to a polygraph test. If they can ask it of Congress, then why not demand it of the members of what was once a bureaucratic backwater and is now, apparently, the Mordor of the War Party?

It doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to home in on the likeliest suspect in this latest case of "leaked" classified information: none other than the chairman of this phony Defense Policy "board," a man whose appointment to a sensitive position has been confirmed by no one. Perle was essentially sneaked in the back door of this administration, and has been allowed to run rampant ever since – and he and his fellow neocons are active on more than one front....

As the radical wing of the War Party sets the Saudis in its sights, they are also taking aim at King Abdullah of Jordan, who, incredibly, stands accused by the Jerusalem Post of being little more than Saddam's sock-puppet:

"The Bush administration has acquired evidence that Jordan's King Abdullah II, once a cornerstone of US policy against Iraq, is in fact working closely with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, according to senior political sources here."

"Working closely" – to do what? The article doesn't say, leaving the reader free to imagine the worst: poison gas? Chemical warfare? An Iraqi-Jordanian nuke?

"The sources declined to indicate the precise nature of the evidence, but they say it is damning and irrefutable."

Well, then, I guess that settles it. Who needs evidence – says the Jersusalem Post -- where Arabs are concerned? Just take our word for it.

In spite of the long history of US-Jordanian friendship, intimately bound up with the Hashemite monarchy, and loyal Jordanian cooperation with the US in rooting out Al Qaeda, not even the most pro-American ruler in the Middle East – arguably far more pro-American than Ariel Sharon – is immune to the anti-Arab smear campaign. The New York Sun dutifully ran the Jerusalem Post story verbatim on page one, and an editorial asking "Who Lost Jordan?":

"The report that the Jordanian king, Abdullah, is passing sensitive American intelligence material to Saddam Hussein, and that Abdullah recently accepted a gift of three Porsche automobiles from Saddam's son Uday, is enough to make our hair stand on end."

As we all know, that kind of hair action is caused by an excess of static electricity, and static is precisely what this kind of groundless accusation is designed to generate. While admitting that the sources were unnamed, as was the evidence, the Sun insists that we have reason to be suspicious:

"Given the history of close relations between the Hashemite Kingdom and the Central Intelligence Agency, it strikes us that some of the time the American Senate has been spending lately on devising reasons to delay liberating Iraq could be devoted more profitably to some oversight hearings on who lost Jordan."

I'll bet Jordanian links to the CIA aren't as close as the relationship between certain American media outlets and the Mossad, but let's not go there. Let's look, instead, at the pattern that is beginning to emerge. First, it was the media campaign against the Saudis, and now this crude attempt to smear King Abdullah: what we are witnessing is the latest chapter in an ongoing attempt to effect a radical turnabout in US policy. While American generals are in open revolt against the idea of taking on the entire Arab world, and occupying not only Iraq but also much of the Middle East, the neocons are mounting a counter-attack in the form of these not-so-mysterious "leaks" that just happen to slime our most prominent Arab allies.

Note the evolution of Bush's Middle East stance, from admonishing the Israelis and telling them they'd better withdraw from the West Bank, to what often seems like unconditional support for Israel's war of conquest. But it hasn't been enough for America's Likudniks, and their nutball "Christian Zionist" allies, who will never be satisfied until US foreign policy perfectly resembles Israel's – on a much grander scale.

I would also note a similar evolution of the "war on terrorism." In the beginning, it was Colin Powell who was telling us that the whole operation was to be tightly focused on eliminating Al Qaeda – the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attack. It has taken the Bush administration less than a year to go off on a complete tangent. As we approach the first anniversary of the 9/11 horror, all linkage of US war aims to Al Qaeda – and to that morning in September – has been completely abandoned.

Instead, American policy has done a 180 degree turn, from assembling a broad coalition against Bin Ladenism within the Arab world to narrowing our allies to include only Israel, Turkey, and a few of the smaller Gulf sheikdoms. We don't hear much, these days, about Osama, except vague rumors spread by government officials that he's dead. Instead, we are treated to a daily drum-roll of alleged "threats" coming out of Baghdad, all of them about as solid as the accusations against the King of Jordan – and nearly all of them emanating from the same source.

We hear endless accusations about Saddam's alleged "weapons of mass destruction," but little about the direction these weapons are likely to be pointed in. New York is not threatened by devastation from Saddam's Scuds, and neither is Riyadh or Amman, but Tel Aviv is another matter. The idea that Iraq represents a threat to the US or any of its Arab neighbors is a joke. This point has been made by Jordan's Abdullah again and again, including during his recent visit to Washington, where he met with the President – which is why the War Party has decided that he has to go.

This new turn in US policy, away from a "war on terrorism" and toward a war against the entire Arab world, benefits one and only one country in the region, and that is Israel. The Bush administration has been slowly moving in this direction, but now the War Party is demanding a pick-up in the pace. As Israel gets ready to ethnically cleanse the occupied territores, and drive the Palestinians into Jordan, Sharon requires a pretext, or enough of a diversion so that the world can avert its eyes. After all, what will the conquest of the West Bank by the IDF seem like against the backdrop of a US seizure of Iraq, the Saudi peninsula, and no doubt a few hunks of Iran?

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.