Fourteen months ago, after the 3rd Infantry Division
and Marines swept into Baghdad, Washington was at the feet of the neoconservatives
who had been plotting and propagandizing for an invasion for years.
A celebratory breakfast was held at the American Enterprise Institute think
tank, where William Kristol, Richard Perle and Michael Ledeen held forth in
a spirit of joyous anticipation of wars and victories to come. At a dinner party
at the vice president's mansion, Kenneth ("Cakewalk") Adelman, Lewis I. "Scooter"
Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, and Paul Wolfowitz toasted one another and the
president. As the '60s song went, "Those were the days, my friend, we thought
they'd never end."
Now, enmeshed in a guerrilla war, Americans are demanding to know who told
us we would be welcomed with garlands of flowers. Who said our troops would
come home in a year? Who said democracy would flourish across the Arab world?
Who misled us about the weapons of mass destruction? Who lied us into war?
But the neocons may be facing problems more serious than entering the history
books alongside the Whiz Kids of the McNamara era who got it wrong in Vietnam
and left 58,000 behind. Some War Party leaders may see careers cashiered and
According to The New York Times, U.S. intelligence officials claim that
Ahmad Chalabi informed the top Iranian agent in Baghdad that the Americans had
broken their top secret code and were reading their messages to Tehran. Chalabi
reportedly told his Iranian contact he got this intel from a high American official
who was drunk.
According to writer Sidney Blumenthal, the FBI is now visiting AEI to interrogate
scholars in residence to learn who leaked word we had broken the Iranian code
– to Chalabi, who is emerging as the Alger Hiss of the neoconservatives.
Another question is whether Chalabi was being used all along by Tehran to goad
the United States into invading Iraq, thus opening the door to a Shi'ite regime
in Baghdad, which, with Shi'ite Iran, might control the Persian Gulf and its
oil treasures in perpetuity.
If so, this Iranian coup would rank with Bismarck's doctoring of the Ems telegram
to goad Napoleon III into a war that cost him his throne and Alsace-Lorraine,
and united Germany behind a Prussian king whom Bismarck would have crowned Kaiser
in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.
The White House dumping of Chalabi represents a rout for the neocons, who had
all their chips on this pony. For Chalabi had promised them that, once installed
in power, he would recognize Israel and resurrect the old Mosul-to-Haifa pipeline.
Another scandal on the back burner that could explode and spill over before
November is the Justice Department's investigation into the White House leak
of the CIA identity of the wife of former Ambassador Joe Wilson. That leak was
a retaliatory strike on Wilson for an op-ed in The New York Times that
undermined Bush's claim in his 2003 State of the Union Address that Iraq was
seeking uranium for nuclear weapons in the African nation of Niger.
Apparently, Justice is not only seeking to identify the leakers, but looking
at the possibility that FBI investigators were misled or lied to. President
Bush has himself hired outside counsel. As ever, it is not the offense, but
the cover-up that ensnares them.
Then there is the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. This appears to be working its
way up the chain of command toward the E-Ring of the Pentagon and even the West
Wing of the White House. If orders went out to ignore the Geneva Convention,
and prisoners who had nothing to do with terrorism were abused or tortured,
or died in captivity, famous heads could roll.
Later this summer, the 9-11 commission reports. It seems certain to single
out Wolfowitz and administration neoconservatives along the line of argument
of Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies – for an obsession with Iraq
that blinded the White House to the real and present danger of bin Laden and
Beyond this, the national press, cable TV and the Internet are still flush
with stories of how, in a secret Pentagon intel shop, neocons "cherry-picked"
the prewar intelligence and "stove-piped" it up to Cheney's office, where it
was inserted into the addresses of President Bush.
The Night of the Long Knives has begun. The military and CIA are stabbing the
neocons front, back and center, laying responsibility on them for the mess in
Iraq. Meanwhile, the Balkan wars of the American Right have reignited, with
even the normally quiescent Beltway conservatives scrambling to get clear of
the neocon encampment before the tomahawking begins.
But a larger matter looms than the cashiering of ideologues and apparatchiks
whose time has come and gone. If Bush's "world democratic revolution" and "Pax
Americana" are out, what is in?
What is our post-Iraq foreign policy to be? After we come home from Iraq, how
far does retrenchment go? If the neocons are being stuffed into the Hefty bags
of history, who moves up next?
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