It has sometimes been noted that the neoconservatives,
conspicuously absent on the battlefield, excel at the Washington infighting
that enabled their ascent in the first place. Marine and Army combat units
are justifiably proud of never leaving a comrade behind on the battlefield.
Neocons adhere to a somewhat different philosophy, namely putting the boot in
to an erstwhile ally who has faltered in the struggle for global hegemony and
lost his usefulness. When Francis Fukuyama could no longer see the sense in
what was going on in Iraq and said so publicly, he was excoriated by his former
friends at the American Enterprise Institute. Donald Rumsfeld, who did everything
the neocons wanted and more, also fell (or was pushed) under the wheels when
the Mesopotamian adventure turned out to be somewhat less than Club Med on the
Euphrates. No less a sage than Richard Perle, while conceding that Rumsfeld
had kicked Iraqi butt during the April 2003 invasion, suggested ominously that
the defense secretary had somehow failed in his execution of the remainder of
the Iraq plan, which had been carefully crafted by leading neocon intellectual
Paul Wolfowitz of "oil revenue will pay for reconstruction" fame.
But within the neocon pantheon of the great and not so great there is one man
who stands out for sheer class, integrity, and intellectual rigor: Douglas J.
Feith, the former undersecretary of defense for policy. Feith's scholarly attributes
are surely confirmed by his position as visiting professor at Georgetown University,
where he and fellow deep thinker George Tenet reportedly dazzle undergraduates.
Feith, who claims to be an admirer of Edmund Burke, oddly has never quite understood
that his hero abhorred the political and social disruption that came out of
the French Revolution. As creating disorder became something of a piece de
resistance at Feith's Pentagon, Doug might well be regarded as the anti-Burke.
Feith, whose pretentiousness frequently matched his way of expressing himself,
described as "not often on point," might have deserved the stinging
rebuke from Gen. Tommy Franks, who called him "the f*cking stupidest guy
on the face of the earth."
And now, for everyone who was disappointed by the ultimate Harry Potter book
or the latest recommendation from Oprah, Doug Feith is preparing to explain
himself in his own words through a massive 688-page
tome that goes on sale April 8. It is reported that lines are already forming
on Times Square preparing to storm Borders Books at midnight on the 7th
to seize the very first copies of War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at
the Dawn of the War on Terrorism as they roll hot off the presses. In passing
it is interesting to note that Doug and his Georgetown buddy George "At
the Center of the Storm" Tenet both have written books with titles suggesting
that they were valiant helmsmen making the hard decisions guiding the ship of
state. That the ship of state is now on the rocks and sinking rapidly is apparently
a side issue, as George netted $4 million for his book deal and one assumes
that Doug has been similarly well endowed by Harper Collins.
Doug's thesis is not completely clear because the book has not yet come out,
but the title is suggestive in its evocation of the "War on Terrorism."
No intelligence officer and few who have seriously thought about national security
would concede that any such thing actually does or can exist, but Feith is clearly
impervious to outside opinion. Some pre-publication reviews provide insights
into the general argument of the book, which the Washington Post calls
a "massive score-settling work." It is quite simple: Dough Feith was
right, and everyone who disagreed with him was wrong. Feith concedes no error
on his part, ever. In fact, everyone else in the administration was wrong except
for Doug and his two Defense Department bosses, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.
Not only were the "others" wrong, they stabbed both President George
W. Bush and the Pentagon in the back. It's a familiar tale, the stab in the
back that doomed the kaiser's 1918 spring offensive, the treacherous fifth column
inside Madrid, the yellow-dog press that denied Americans victory both in Korea
and Vietnam. In Feith's vision the traitors are the secretary of state, the
National Security Council, and the CIA, all of which "undermined"
the president and his stalwart band of brothers at the Pentagon.
In Feith's curious version of reality, the decision to invade Iraq was the
right one because Saddam was "a bloodthirsty megalomaniac," elevating
at a stroke the disposal of megalomaniacs to a United States national interest.
Feith concedes that there were "serious errors" in the planning surrounding
the invasion and the initial phases of the occupation, though the errors were
made by others. He reportedly does not address the fact that in the lead-up
to war his office was pumping out false and misleading intelligence subsequently
judged by the Pentagon inspector general as "inappropriate." Most
others would consider his action illegal and even treasonous in that it may
have involved collusion with a foreign government, Israel. The intelligence,
which contradicted information obtained by CIA and the State Department, was
used to justify the invasion.
Saddam Hussein posed no threat whatsoever to the United States, and Feith's
efforts helped make sure that the numerous dissenting voices in the government
in 2002-3 were silenced when they tried to slow the rush to war. It is particularly
ironic that Feith's book claims that he was forced to develop intelligence on
Iraq because the CIA was "politicizing" its own reports, something
that his own Office of Special Plans did regularly. Feith further pillories
the CIA by claiming that it ignored possible links between al-Qaeda and Saddam
Hussein, links that did not exist except on the editorial pages of The Weekly
Standard and in Feith's fevered imagination.
Doug is particularly scornful of Colin Powell, who publicly appeared to be
a voice of moderation. Feith does not like moderation, and he refers to Powell
as a "dove." Powell "downplayed" the threat posed by Iraq
while never opposing the actual invasion, according to Feith. Powell also is
blamed for failing to convince France, Germany, and Turkey to support the Iraq
war effort, conveniently ignoring that popular sentiment in all three countries
was overwhelmingly opposed to joining the United States on its fool's errand.
Feith also takes shots at his nemesis Tommy Franks, whom he accuses of having
no interest in postwar planning; at Condoleezza Rice for failing to coordinate
policy; and at Paul Bremer for doing more harm than good while in Iraq. All
of those charges are more than a little bit true, but it is interesting how
Feith completely exonerates both himself and the Pentagon for the massive failures
in judgment that characterized the Iraq fiasco.
Doug claims that his plan to establish an Iraqi Interim Authority that would
have shared power between U.S. officials and appointed Iraqis, many of whom
would have been exiles, would have worked but for the sabotage carried out by
disloyal subordinates at the State Department and CIA. Ahmed Chalabi, who provided
reams of false information to justify the war in the first place, would have
undoubtedly been one of those appointees. Feith calls the opposition to Chalabi
"pathological," but it is more likely true that everyone else was
seeing what he chose to ignore. Chalabi has been convicted of massive bank fraud
in Jordan, is considered an intelligence fabricator both by the CIA and State
Department, and is generally believed to be a double agent who was working for
the Iranian intelligence service at the same time as he was "assisting"
the U.S. occupation in Iraq.
It is to be hoped that Feith's book, featuring a photo of a pensive and scholarly
looking Doug on the back of the dust jacket, will soon be featured in the remainder
section at Barnes & Noble marked down to $1.99. One expects that Barnes
& Noble will have the good sense to categorize it as fiction.