As the neoconservatives have been wrong about
almost everything in the past six years, it would seem logical to assume that
their political demise is imminent. But nothing could be further from the truth:
the neocons in government, though admittedly declining in number, continue to
be supported by a huge and devoted infrastructure in the media, think tanks,
institutes, and universities. The neocon domination of the editorial pages of
most major newspapers and magazines continues, and even the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting has a board controlled by five Republican appointees chaired
Feldman Halpern, who, prior to her appointment in 2005, complained that
public television and radio exhibited an anti-Israel bias. The neocons, much
more than traditional conservatives and liberals, continue to be adept at networking
and getting their message across, even if that message has frequently been mugged
by reality. If you turn on a television and are invited to learn the views of
an "expert" on foreign policy, that expert is likely to be a neocon.
The Association for Intelligence Officers,
formerly known as the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, appears to
be a recent acquisition to the neocon foreign policy lineup. AFIO, as it is
most commonly referred to, was founded in 1975 to counter widespread criticism
of the intelligence community coming from the media and Congress. It is registered
with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity and has generally been a positive
force, seeing its primary mission as educational. AFIO claims that it has 5,000
members in 24 active chapters, most of whom are not former or current intelligence
officers. It is not, in fact, necessary to be an actual intelligence officer
to be a member of AFIO.
AFIO is sponsoring a symposium
later this month in Tyson's Corner, Va. The gathering is being advertised
as an "AFIO Counter Jihad Symposium" and its theme is "The Resurgence
of the Worldwide Islamic Jihad against the West: Understanding and Needed Response."
In a line underneath the description of the theme appears "'America… Convert
to Islam, or die,' Osama bin Laden, 2007." In its promotional literature,
AFIO describes the symposium at "the most important symposium of our 32
years," noting that the "Islamic Jihadists" are "choking
off freedom in Europe" and are also "here in this country plotting
and gathering strength."
Lest anyone be confused by what this is all about, there is an extensive list
of speakers that includes many prominent neocons. Featured are Daniel Pipes,
Frank Gaffney, Nonie Darwish, and James Woolsey, all of whom reject accommodation
with the world's estimated 1.5 billion Muslims. Insofar as could be determined
from available biographies, not a single one of the symposium's speakers has
spent any time in Arab countries as a working intelligence officer. Most seem
to have little direct knowledge of the Muslim world's languages or cultures.
This might disappoint attendees interested in actually learning something about
terrorism and the appropriate response to it as related to the intelligence
The stridently anti-Islamic tone of the symposium is particularly disturbing,
as it promotes the idea that dealing with Muslims is either undesirable or pointless.
The promotional literature's headlines are simplistic, and the acceptance of
never ending conflict as a remedy to the terrorism problem is flat-out wrong
and has only served to make the U.S. less secure since 9/11. Moderate Muslims
seeking to marginalize terrorists actually do exist, and a symposium that is
not concerned with balance or context unfairly portrays the Islamic world as
a monolithic enemy of civilization. Ironically, it is hard to imagine a genuine
former intelligence officer who has worked in the Arab or Muslim world who would
agree with the Manichean view expressed in the symposium's promotional material.
Woolsey is perhaps the most interesting participant. A lawyer by training,
he had no intelligence experience before being appointed CIA director by Bill
Clinton in 1993. His tenure was spectacularly unsuccessful. He never met privately
with Clinton after being named director. Two years later he was replaced by
John Deutch. Since his departure from Langley he has been increasingly drawn
to the neocon camp and is currently associated with the Washington Institute
for Near East Policy and the Project for a New American Century. On several
occasions in the last two years, most often when he has been in Israel, he has
called for the release of Jonathan Pollard from prison, something that most
real intelligence officers would strongly oppose. Speaking on National Public
Radio, Woolsey has also denied that Israel spies on the United States, an assertion
that is absolutely incorrect. Woolsey was also outspoken in his support of the
Iraq misadventure, and there have been reports that he personally profited from
it through his association with Beltway bandit Booz Allen Hamilton. He has also
called for war against both Syria and Iran and believes that there should be
a "World War IV" to deal with the Islamic problem.
Daniel Pipes is the director of the Middle East Forum and a founder of Campus
Watch, which monitors university professors critical of Israel. He is a longtime
apologist for Israel and a former official at the State and Defense Departments.
Middle East Forum describes itself as a think tank on Middle Eastern issues
but in reality only supports a pro-Israel agenda. In an April 2002 interview,
Pipes asserted that a video showing Israeli police brutalization of peacefully
demonstrating Israeli Arabs was morally acceptable because "they want the
destruction of Israel," which he later qualified with "90 percent
do." Pipes also argues that terrorist attacks are a defining aspiration
of militant Islam. Regarding terrorism in general, he has written that "all
Muslims are suspect." He has also said that "moderate Muslims do not
exist." Pipes was an outspoken supporter of invading Iraq. He now supports
Israeli military action against Syria and Lebanon and a military strike against
Iran to destroy its nuclear program. Pipes also is concerned that the "enfranchisement"
of Muslims will threaten Jews in America, and he has said of efforts to recruit
Muslims to join the Republican Party that "there's
lots wrong with trying to foist radical fringe elements as natural Republicans."
Frank J. Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), speaks
of Israel "defending itself in the war on terrorism" against "a
terrorist proto-state's efforts to destroy our democratic ally." The "terrorist
proto-state" is the Palestinians. CSP is one of the most active organizations
promoting the Israeli agenda. Gaffney has described former Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon as a "man of peace through restraint." A CSP Web site
once denounced Saudi Arabian attempts to influence foreign policy in the United
States, quoting "veteran congressional investigator" Herbert Romerstein
as saying the "FBI should be planting informants in these groups and monitoring
them." The comment is particularly ironic given the level of Israeli influence
over U.S. foreign policy, which does not appear to concern Gaffney.
A major contributor to Gaffney is Irving Moskowitz, a Miami-based 76-year-old
physician who made a fortune building hospitals in California and then a second
fortune building strip-mall bingo halls. Moskowitz believes that peace talks
between Israel and the Arabs are suicide for Israel, so he supports numerous
right-wing Israeli groups. Gaffney benignly describes Moskowitz's extremist
views as an "alternative view … not well represented among established
Jewish institutions." Some Israeli peace advocates believe that he is in
fact the major funder of anti-peace movements inside their country.
In an apparent effort to demonstrate diversity, the one AFIO speaker who was
raised as a Muslim is, to borrow a phrase, "self-hating." Nonie Darwish
is the author of Now
They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War
on Terror. Born and raised in Egypt, she is a founder of Arabs for Israel.
Darwish has referred disparagingly to "the Middle Eastern Islamic culture
and the propaganda of hatred taught to children from birth." She now claims
to be a Christian and a conservative Republican. Darwish's critique of Islam
and her conversion is likely genuine, but AFIO might have better served its
expected audience by providing an alternative view from one of the many millions
of Muslims who are devout but reject violence directed against Christians and
In separate correspondence, AFIO has indicated that it is not interested in
dialogue with Muslims or in presenting any balanced view of the problems that
beset the Middle East. An inquiry made to AFIO by a potential attendee to the
symposium expressing concern that Daniel Pipes in particular is outspokenly
anti-Muslim produced an interesting response from Elizabeth Bancroft, the organization's
executive director. Bancroft denounced the inquiry as "politically correct
rubbish" and went on to refer to it and similar letters as "hand-wringing
weep-pieces for multiculturalism." One suspects that she may also be responsible
for the Sept. 11 letter alerting AFIO members to the upcoming symposium in which
she referred to the "often unattainable" experts who would be speaking.
Hopefully they will have attained something by the time the conference starts.
Elizabeth undeniably has a way with words.