I've been hearing from friends who know this fellow
at Defense the one who's being tried in the media for leaking secrets
to AIPAC, an operation based in Washington that appears to be closely allied
to a foreign government.
According to published reports, Larry Franklin is the desk officer for Iran
and allegedly gave some draft of some plan to someone in the AIPAC/Israeli complex.
First and foremost, Mr. Franklin is innocent until proven guilty by
a court, not by the press. But Mr. Franklin's ordeal brings other issues to
mind as well. As all the commotion unfolds regarding this "mid-level official,"
it occurs to me that the "crime" he supposedly committed sharing
secrets with the Israelis is something his superiors are doing every
day quite legally, I hasten to add. And so I wonder, why are they hanging
this particular chap out to dry, twisting slowly in the wind?
In a word, why won't DoD Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary
Douglas Feith step up to the plate, acknowledge that what this guy allegedly
did was a minor microcosm of what they do, major league, big time, day in and
day out? They could easily make their exit, stage left (where they came from,
by the way) and join the crowd of former "Defense officials" in the
sewer that Beltway types, and Richer Perle in particular (according
to the NYT), all treat like their private hot tub?
Wolfowitz, and co. have all made it clear that they can chime in when Congressman
Tom DeLay sings, "I am an Israeli at heart." This widespread conviction
appears to be legal, if not entirely heartening, so what's the big deal? If
Franklin shared any information with the Israeli government or its AIPAC branch,
it was no different than walking down the hall to share it with Feith or Wolfowitz.
In fact, according to my LRC colleague
the Israelis have an inside track for getting information from the neocon crowd
at DoD all the time.
Remember, it was no accident that the intel "system" had to take
the fall for 9/11 in the reports of the 9/11 Commission and the intelligence
committees. No one dared to let the buck stop with Clinton or Bush. By unanimous
consent, the system is broken. So, when it comes to the Middle East, we have
to rely on the Israelis. Let's face it, from the U.S. government's point of
view, the Bush administration has to share secrets with Israel because the 9/11
Commission was right: our intelligence system is a disaster. Hence, we must
rely on our "only ally in the Middle East" to supply us with "reliable
intelligence" about the area.
As Howard Baker used to say, "Hey, that door swings both ways." We
are expected to share our secrets with them, too. Are we to pretend that payback
day never dawns?
In the view of this administration, Israel is one of the few reliable allies
we have left in the world, apart from Tonga and Tuvalu. Israel is certainly
a key partner in the neocon effort to revolutionize the Middle East and destroy
most of the existing governments there (excepting that of Israel, of course).
Furthermore, these two officials have it within their purview instantly to
declassify even the most top-secret material (with a few exceptions, to be sure)
to our most trustworthy allies in wartime. They can tell the Israelis just about
anything they want to. Remember how Condoleezza Rice was able, with the flick
of a finger, to declassify a top-secret document on her own initiative when
grilled by Mr. Ben-Veniste at the hearings of the 9/11 Commission? She did not
leave the room to call the CIA, or Mr. Cheney, or Mr. Tenet, or anybody, for
permission. She merely decided, on the fly, that she could divulge this highly-classified
material on her own authority.
That's how it works. And it happens all the time.
So why don't Wolfowitz and Feith act like gentlemen and take the credit, or
the blame, for all this? After all, they are the responsible officers in the
Pentagon for pursuing America's pro-Israel policy in the Middle East. Why stick
it to Franklin who is obviously merely a cog in the wheel, along with
the other 1,500 people in Mr. Feith's office who are tasked to pursue the same
policy? Why are they trotting out Mr. Franklin to take the fall for our intimate
relationship with Israel, in which top-secret sharing is apparently a necessity
for both sides? After all, any "secrets" in the Pentagon do not stay
"secret" from Israel for long: they either originated with Israeli
sources, or they were quickly shared at much higher levels than Larry Franklin
will ever reach.
This game has been played for a very long time, but the details are seldom
revealed to the public. General Vernon Walters provided some rare insight several
years ago, during the preparations for Senate confirmation hearings on his nomination
as Ambassador to (then) West Germany in 1989. I was the Republican Senate staffer
responsible for European hearings at the Foreign Relations Committee at the
time, and this is what he told me:
"You know, when I was at the UN, the Israelis told me, 'We'd like to
give you a prize. A million dollars. You know, come to Israel and give a speech
and receive the award.' Of course I told them no. And then they told me, 'Oh,
of course, you wouldn't have to take the money until you are finished with your
He chuckled he had a very hearty sense of humor, and a twinkling eye
and said, "I told them no, and that was the end of it."
Well, let's fast-forward fifteen years and assume that the more things have
changed, the more they have stayed the same. In that spirit, Messrs. Wolfowitz
and Feith have nothing to fear about their post-government livelihoods. I mean,
New Yorkers complain that they have to pay Bill Kristol $30,000 for one measly
speech, and he hasn't served in government for over ten years. Richer Perle
million from only one of his many clients for his services (which the Times
reports he might not have performed exceedingly well; it appears they want the
money back). If a mere UN ambassador could get a million $2 million in
today's dollars imagine how much the Number Two and Number Three at DoD
could get. (Note: of course, the offer to Walters was an invitation to commit
a felony. And, of course, "the Israelis" could have been lying. Details,
Speaking of lying, Larry Franklin didn't bamboozle the U.S. government into
a war we didn't want Feith and Wolfowitz did. They delivered the U.S.
into the war that we now learn (taking
Laura Bush at her word) even President Bush didn't want. And
now it is certain that there were no WMD.
These men don't have to worry about their futures. They should just worry about
the truth. People who have known Rumsfeld for decades insist that he's the perfect
gentleman. Well, Wolfowitz and Feith should learn from his example, take Larry
Franklin off the griddle, step up to the plate, and shuck the corn down to the
cob. Tell it like it is, and resign. Leave this mid-level career employee alone.
We hear a lot today about craven neocons and all the rest. Put that aside.
This has to do only with the way gentlemen should behave. Gentlemen don't let
their subordinates take the hit for what they've done. Truman wouldn't have
done that. Churchill wouldn't have. Step up to the plate, gentlemen. Richer
Perle and the cesspool called the Beltway hot tub are only a step away. You'll
make millions the first year, and many more thereafter. (Just don't get greedy
like Richer did. It might make even the most generous of benefactors uneasy).