Thursday, March 31, 2005

Credit and Blame, Where They're Due

It was heartening to see Marueen Dowd in today's New York Times point the spotlight on the matter of Iraq intelligence where it belongs -- the Pentagon. It was rather disheatening to see the lack of coverage in the rest of the mainstream media.

It was good the see the Christian Science Monitor cover the AIPAC spy case. Though readers of this blog won't find anything new there, and CSM is a pretty small-circulation publication, it might alert some other journalists to the case. It was rather appalling to see the lack of coverage in other major newspapers.

It's not like nobody else in the world of journalism has heard about the case, since many reporters and editors read Haaretz and The Forward. It's just a lack of courage to talk about the subject.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Background Reading: Serving Two Flags

For those of you who follow the neocons and/or Middle East closely, this may be old news, but for those of you who are new to these issues, this article by Stephen Green will be highly useful to fill you in on the history of the suspicions surrounding the neocons and counterintelligence concerns. How many Americans would believe that a guy (Stephen Bryen) who was observed offering classified information to the Israelis in 1978-79 was later appointed to a senior-level job in the Pentagon overseeing technology transfer, where he bypassed normal review by the State Department's Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs ("Pol Mil" for us inside-the-Beltway types) on weapons technology transfers to Israel? And, even now, he still has access to highly-classified information as a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), along with his good buddy Michael Ledeen. Even if they declined to prosecute Bryen, you'd think they'd at least make sure he never got a security clearance again? And there have been investigations of more prominent neocons as well, such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. (Another article mentioning Stephen Green is Laura Rozen's piece in The American Prospect about the FBI's soliciting Green's advice in their investigation last year.)

If there were similar questions of espionage surrounding, let's say for the sake of argument, a group of Chinese-American officials, do you think it would be swept under the rug like this has been for the past 35 years? And isn't it sort of ironic that the USCC, founded late in Clinton's second term in response to concerns about Chinese spying, was used as an excuse to give a Top Secret clearance to a guy observed passing classified information to Israel?

Also, speaking of background reading, for anyone new to this blog, be sure not to miss my posts on the Office of Special Plans and the current state of play in the FBI's investigation of AIPAC.

Disclaimer: While Stephen Green's article is good, I don't endorse all of the content on CounterPunch's website. I'm a pretty mainstream Democrat on most issues, and their politics are significantly to the left of mine.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Iraq WMD Intelligence Whitewash

One of the main headlines in the mainstream media today has been that the presidential commission investigating the intelligence failures regarding Iraq's WMD capabilities has issued its final report -- blaming the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community.

There may be some merit to this, but it seems that the scope of the investigation hobbled it from the start, since it looked only at the role of the agencies which are formally part of the intelligence community, and didn't look at the role of the Office of Special Plans or the Vice President's office. Now, with all of the rumblings about a backchannel from OSP directly into the White House for "intelligence" passed outside the normal channels, and pressure from these offices on the agencies of the formal intelligence community, an investigation which omits their role seems to be rather incomplete. That probably suits these guys just fine.

It also seems to suit the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee just fine as well, since he dropped the parallel congressional investigation of this aspect. As you may remember, it was agreed last summer that the second phase of the congressional investigation, focusing on political pressure, would be delayed until after the presidential election. Instead, it's been quietly dropped.

Unless there's some serious counterspin from the blogosphere very quickly (hence this post as a start), the conventional wisdom is going to be cemented that this was a "CIA mistake," without looking into the role of possible political pressure or intelligence backchannels. Are we going to let this happen?

Potential Action Item: If you have time to write a letter in regard to this story to your local newspaper, pointing out how flawed the scope of this investigation was, that would be a good start.

Winds of Change (Electronic, not Military)

Just wanted to note this article in the Washington Post briefly, for those of you who don't get the print edition.

I do believe democratic change will eventually come to the Arab world (just very different than our version), and there is an American contribution to this change: technology. Satellite television. Cell phones. Text messaging. The Internet. Blogs...

"Disruptive technologies" -- which allow people to converse about things which were heretofore taboo -- just like this blog.

Monday, March 28, 2005

They Haven't Sold Their Whole Agenda... Yet

I don't have time to post a lot this evening, but I thought this was worthy of mention: the fact that the "not an inch" crowd has started criticizing the Bush administration recently, and Condi Rice specifically. See this article by Rachel Neuwirth and this editorial in the The New York Sun. While I'm certainly not a fan of the Bush administration in any respect, I think it's important to note that there are still policy debates. The neocons have never sold their entire agenda to President Bush -- their intent is to sell it piece-by-piece. So, you have the odd situation of President Bush talking about getting back to the 'Roadmap', and trying to get Congress to give financial aid to help Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) strengthen the Palestinian Authority, while you have AIPAC, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), and the neocons inside and outside the administration trying to run interference and prevent these things.

Now don't get me wrong, again, I detest George W. Bush, and I think he's not the sharpest tool in the shed to begin with, which is why he likes to simplify complicated issues down to a comic book "good and evil" level -- but it is important to note that the neocons haven't gotten him to "buy in" to their entire agenda.

The other thing that's interesting about the Rachel Neuwirth article is her reference to Israel's "huge contributiuon to our security over the decades." Huh? Hasn't she thought at all about the whole issue of "why do the Arabs hate us?" Even during the Cold War, the "unsinkable aircraft carrier" nonsense ignored the fact that the Arab world, due to its Islamic character (and hence disdain for Soviet ideology), would have been naturally quite resistant to Soviet subversion/influence absent the Arab-Israeli conflict? For the record, I do think the U.S. should support Israel's security, but we should also support our own by pushing hard for a just two-state solution which would remove the ugly pictures most Arabs see from the West Bank every night on al-Jazeera. The feedback loop by which the Arab-Israeli conflict turns into Arab hatred for America is something frighteningly few Americans understand -- we need to fix that.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The AIPAC Investigation -- Current State of Play

I know you're taking one for the team here, Steve, but trust me, we'll take care of you. I already got a call from one of our board members, Bob Donorwitz, out in LA. He's in the publishing business -- will put you on as a VP at more than double your current salary, and not much work. As far as sentencing goes, it's just illegal receipt of classified information, not espionage -- you'll be out in a year or two, maybe not even get any jail time at all. I know you'd like the try an entrapment defense, Steve, but our lawyers tell us that the FBI has all their i's dotted and t's crossed -- they know how to do a sting without running afoul of the case law on entrapment. If you take this to trial, not only are you going to get your ass handed to you, but you're going to expose the organization to a lot of public scrutiny. They'll introduce the wiretap transcripts as evidence -- a lot of peripheral stuff. It'll get quoted on the evening news. Talking to folks on the Hill about Iraq, Iran. Steve, you understand this, we're not going to be nearly as effective if we get this sort of bright light shined on us, if we're put under a microscope. Trust me, Steve, we'll take care of you. Just don't screw us.

The above conversation is fictitous, of course, a literary device -- but I think it accurately illustrates the concerns AIPAC has, and the strategies they'll employ, to try to limit the damage from the FBI investigation. Their main focus will be political, rather than legal -- to minimize the amount of internal information about their activities which is disclosed to the public, because if everything the FBI knows about them gets out, they won't be very politically effective afterwards.

Let me recap briefly what is known publicly of the history of this:

On June 26, 2003, Larry Franklin (a career Pentagon official on Doug Feith's staff) was observed by FBI surveillance disclosing classified information on a proposed policy initiative to destabilize Iran at the Tivoli Restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. The AIPAC investigation apparently had been ongoing for some time, which is why there were FBI agents tailing the AIPAC staffers. Afterwards, as one would expect, the FBI obtained a wiretap warrant to monitor Larry Franklin, and picked him up in May 2004 disclosing classified information to Adam Ciralsky, a CBS News producer who had previously been an attorney with the CIA.

In June 2004, the FBI confronted Franklin about the evidence they had on him, and eventually obtained his agreement to cooperate in the investigation. Franklin then passed information, on July 21, 2004, to an AIPAC staffer at a Virginia mall, purporting to be on Iranian threats to Israeli agents operating in Iraq, which was then passed to Israeli intelligence -- a classic "sting" operation. Franklin also apparently called several other prominent neocons, including Richard Perle, Ahmed Chalabi's American advisor Francis Brooke, and Adam Ciralsky of CBS, who appear not to have taken the bait. The evidence of passing classified information to the Israelis gave the FBI the probable cause they needed to search AIPAC's offices and copy their computer files, which was accomplished in two raids in September and December 2004. Two AIPAC staffers, Director of Research Steve Rosen, and Iran expert Keith Weissman, were put on paid leave. Franklin himself apparently was eventually allowed to return to work at the Defense Department, but in another job and stripped of his security clearance (such "makework jobs" are a frequent result of government security clearance actions against career officials, since it's so hard to actually fire someone). It's also known that Franklin stopped cooperating with the FBI in late summer 2004, and retained Washington superlawyer Plato Cacheris as his defense counsel. (Franklin isn't rich - who is funding this?) Custody of the investigation was transferred last fall from the FBI's director of counterintelligence, David Szady, to Paul McNulty, a federal prosecutor in Alexandria, Virginia, and they took it to a grand jury in January 2005. The FBI doesn't usually go to a grand jury unless they're pretty sure they can obtain an indictment -- over 95% of federal grand jury hearings result in criminal charges. (Ed Black, the journalist who wrote the article I linked to in The Forward, is quite friendly to AIPAC, and has written sympathetically in the past about Ciralsky's security clearance fight with the CIA.)

AIPAC's Likely Strategy
The main thing to understand about this case is that it has both legal and political levels. AIPAC's legal problems are only half the story -- they're also going to be extremely worried about having a spotlight shined on their activities, now that the FBI has been "inside their heads" for a couple of years. And, as Ed Black points out, it's political for the other side as well -- I agree with him that a lot of this can be seen as Washington's career national security bureaucracy using legal techniques to expose what many officials believe is undue Israeli (and pro-Israeli Americans) influence on U.S. foreign policy -- linked to the push for war in Iraq in 2001-2003, and to the current push for military action against Iran. It's also pretty clear that the motive for Larry Franklin (or whoever sent him) to pass the classified information on Iran policy wasn't so much espionage as it was to facilitate AIPAC lobbying in collusion with neocon hawks in the Pentagon advocating a policy of "regime change" against Iran.

It might be possible for Rosen and Weissman to mount a defense based on entrapment, but this seldom works in FBI stings, since the FBI knows the case law on entrapment, and makes sure to hew closely to "sting" techniques which legal precedent supports. But with the right jury, they might have a chance. For AIPAC, though, this would be a disaster. AIPAC is successful because the overwhelming majority of non-Jewish Americans have never heard of them. If the details of their activities on Capitol Hill were public, they wouldn't be nearly as effective. (For those of you who oppose my views -- I think even you would admit this to yourselves if you think about it. Would you want snippets of AIPAC officials discussing Iraq and Iran with congressional staff played on the evening news? Of course you wouldn't.)

AIPAC's strategy is likely to involve pushing for a plea bargain, to avoid a deeply embarrassing trial. The best case scenario for them would involve a gulity plea to illegal receipt of classified information by two of their employees, a couple days of press coverage, and an attempt to spin it as the result of (as they would have you see it) antisemitism among FBI agents, particularly David Szady.

One of the big unknowns about this case is what else they have found which hasn't been leaked to the press yet. This investigation has apparently been going on for years, and it's quite possible there's other people in potential legal jeopardy. Several people from Doug Feith's operation at the Pentagon have reportedly retained defense counsel.

The other wildcard is the issue of compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires lobbyists representing foreign interests to register with the Justice Department. AIPAC always has maintained that they are representing Americans, not the Israeli government, but they could be charged as an organization with failure to register if the FBI has evidence to the contrary.

Why do I follow this?
The reason I started blogging about this is that I think Americans have a right to discuss our foreign policy -- to have an open debate -- and that the diversion of U.S. military action in the post-9/11 era from hunting al-Qaeda to the invasion of Iraq (and now maybe military action against Iran) was heavily influenced by people in our government whose ties to Israel influence their thinking. I'm not the first person to say this -- actually, one of Condi Rice's top lieutenants at the State Department made a similar observation before he came back into government.

I understand that a lot of people in the American Jewish community are highly uncomfortable with any public dicussion of this -- on the logic that if that taboo is broken, it's a slippery slope to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and such. Frankly, though, I just don't buy that. All that folks like me are saying is that we should be able to discuss the Israel lobby the same way we can discuss other realities of American politics -- no different than pointing out the ability of the Miami Cuban lobby (which I know doesn't represent all Cuban-Americans views) in getting the U.S. to ignore our commercial interests and maintain an embargo against Cuba, or the influence of the Greek-American lobby on the balance of military assistance between Greece and Turkey, etc. And as I've said before, the taboo against discussing this is a large part of the reason we didn't have more debate in Congress before going to war in Iraq. AIPAC didn't formally take a position, but everyone who has friends on Capitol Hill knows that it wasn't any secret that they were pushing for votes for the resolution "unofficially." (The same way that they are now publicly supporting aid to the Palestinian Authority, but having Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) run interference for them, "unofficially." Kudos to Eric Alterman for the scoop on this.)

Before we ask Maj. Jones at al-Udeid to lead his squadron in raids against Parchin, Natanz, and Bushehr, we need to talk about this. Whose interests are we fighting for? Is America as threatened by Iran as Israel is? Maybe we are. But we need to be able to have this conversation.

(One interesting thing to note, my blog is now number fifteen in Google search results for "AIPAC," and I'm now starting to get a substantial number of web hits from the Google and Yahoo search engines, so as soon as the plea bargain or indictments are announced, and every smalltown newspaper editor, blogger, etc, in the country starts Googling AIPAC, it's going to get a lot of hits. If you agree with my position on having an open debate, that's a good thing -- and it's really my whole strategy behind the blog in the first place.)

PS- If you don't want to register to view the articles in The Forward, has a working password.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


The link in the title line is of interest, because it describes a concept that some of the neoconservtive crowd is pushing -- Eurabia -- basically that Europe has sold out to the Arabs because of rising Muslim immigrant populations. While the woman who maintains this site, an Egyptian Jew who now holds British citizenship but lives in Switzerland, isn't that well known, the ideas on it have been picked up by the neocon right in the United States, for example her article in National Review Online,, Niall Ferguson in The Hoover Digest, and Fox News.

Psst. Wanna hear a disturbing secret? The folks that most Americans saw as the Old Country, those with the most in common with us in terms of culture and values, the place where your great-great-grandfather came from in 1870 -- they're now the enemy. It really is just the U.S and Israel versus the vast Muslim hordes.

That's what Bat Yeor and the neocons want you to believe. Now in her case, I genuinely have some empathy -- she grew up in an era marked by the Nasser coup in Egypt and the early years of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in which a previously thriving small Jewish community in Egypt's cities had their property confiscated and were hounded out of the country (and in many cases subjected to much worse abuses, including being executed on false charges). Bat Yeor seems to me to be carrying a lot of this baggage, which is understandable.

It's also true that, with increasing numbers of Muslim citizens in Europe, they are starting to wield some political power. But the real reasons for Europe's strong ties to the Arab world are rather practical calculations of national interest -- maintaining stability in a volitile close-by region to protect their own security, and the fact that Europe as a whole is a very large net oil importer (their only oil exporters are Norway and the U.K., and U.K. production is tailing off fast), which means that they have the same interest most of the rest of the world has in a stable supply of oil. They also have had enough experience trying to "civilize the natives" in that part of the world that they're less likely than Americans to buy into the idea that some sort of sweeping political change will democratize (and implicit in the necons thinking, Westernize) the Middle East any time soon. They deal with the Middle East through the lens of 'realpolitik', aware of their self-interest and without blinders or illusions. And to be frank about it, their limited relationship with Israel, in terms of 'realpolitik', is more or less doing Israel a favor -- Europe doesn't "need" anything that Israel is capable of supplying. Part of the reason as well is that there isn't the sort of large and organized Jewish community there that there is in the U.S. lobbying against their 'realpolitik' interests (and yes, I do know the reason for this is the single greatest crime in history -- the Holocaust -- but I'm speaking in practical terms of the situation which exists today).

Anyway, the idea the necons are trying to sell is to drive a wedge between the U.S. and our longtime European allies, and give us the impression that Israel isn't just our only real ally in the Middle East -- it's our only real ally in the worldwide war on Islam.

Now I agree that the U.S. needs to go out and use military force to go after groups like al-Qaeda, but talk of a "generational" war against Islam (especially in the absence of action to ameliorate the root causes of Arab grievances against the West, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) causes me to ask -- whose war is this anyway?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Web Traffic

For anyone who's curious, my number of visitors per day has been around 250-300 the last few days, and seems to have stabilized for the time being. I had received a phenomenal number of hits when I first announced this blog on DailyKos -- some from sites I'd rather not have links from. But now I think my readership is definitely of good quality -- domains from the last few days have included:,,, (the unclassified network intelligence professionals use to surf the web),,, etc. It also seems, given the increasing percentage of "no referrer" hits, to have been bookmarked by a lot of people.

If you think the content on this site is worthwhile, feel free to spread it any way you want. Consider it "in the public domain." There are a couple of sites which have posted and linked some of my posts, which is getting a wider readership for them, and I'm thankful for that -- my purpose in starting this blog is to contribute to a debate which I think is extremely important.

Speaking of traffic, just so the search engines and Technorati can index this, the names of the two AIPAC officials mentioned in my earlier post are Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. Might also be searched as Steven Rosen. I highly suspect those names are going to get hammered on the search engines pretty soon.

Neocons and Oil -- (a different and still nonsensical approach)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the neocons aren't in bed with Big Oil -- they want to manupulate the oil market in such as way as to harm the economic interests of Arab oil producers -- it's just a means to that end. Normally they're of a doctrinaire laissez-faire orientation on economic policy, but when "market solutions" benefit Arabs, they're all in favor of U.S. government intervention. In the Iraq war planning, that took the form of a (harebrained and impractical, as I pointed out) scheme to flood the market with Iraqi oil after the invasion, thwarted by the Iraqi insurgents and the total disinterest of the people who actually drill for oil -- Big Oil.

Now, since it was obvious that was going to fail by summer 2003, they're trying to sell the idea of cutting dependence on oil -- an objective which has a good deal of merit for some other reasons, though it's extremely unlikely that any such policy would make the U.S. completely "energy independant" any time in the foreseeable future. The organization is called the "Institute for the Analysis of Global Security" (IAGS), and (no surprise here) headed by an Israeli citizen. Conservatives pushing "green" technologies like solar power and windmills? Well, only NEOconservatives, the rest of the plain old conservatives are still in bed with Big Oil, at least on this issue.

Try googling "IAGS" and "Foundation for the Defense of Democracies" or "American Enterprise Institute." The co-sponsor a bunch of things, and appear to be more or less subsidiaries of AEI, for promotional purposes at least.

Anyway, the neocons couldn't give a sh-- about "green" energy or energy independence per se, what they want to do is "de-fund" Arab governments, whether that's by glutting the market or by reducing demand (both unlikely to happen, especially in today's tight oil market). What they hope to do is "heighten the contradictions" in Arab socities, which will hopefully (they think) lead to revolutions. There's a strange similarity to the extreme (Communist) left here -- the dialectic of history, the need to make things reach the breaking point so that sweeping change can occur, "heightening the contradictions" etc -- which isn't surprising since some of them spent their college years as fans of the extreme Left. (Hence, the "neo" part of neocons.)

Monday, March 21, 2005

Let Them Eat Yellowcake

One thing I've always found rather bothersome (among many things in the Bush administration) is the lack of a serious investigation of the origins of the forged documents purporting to be about uranium yellowcake sales from Niger to Iraq. Those documents didn't create themselves -- someone forged them, and someone had a motive to forge them. Someone was carrying out a deception operation to try to convince the U.S. (and the West more broadly) that the Baathist regime in Iraq had restarted its nuclear program. But who? We know that they entered the pipeline through Italian military intelligence (SISMI) in late 2001, and echoed around Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA and MI6, in the months after that.

Who had a motive? Well, the fact that the Israeli government and Iraqi exiles both wanted the U.S. to invade Iraq was well known, as with the American neocons. I don't pretend to know who did it, but given the standard investigative questions law enforcement agencies usually start with, American neocons themselves seem the most likely suspects, especially Michael Ledeen. He visited Rome for the meeting with Ghorbanifar et al in right around the time the Niger forgeries first entered the system, and senior officials of SISMI took part in those meetings with Ledeen. He also knew some of these people quite well, as he had lived there for a couple of years in the 1970s when he was writing for the New Republic, and frequently cited "Italian intelligence sources" in his articles. It's also interesting to note that Ghorbanifar lives in France, not Italy, why not just meet with him in France? And why involve officials from SISMI? Does this mean that he was somehow involved? I don't know. But he does seem to have 1) a motive, 2) have been at the scene of the crime around the time it happened, and 3) know some of the other people involved.

Some people have suggested that the Israelis might have done it themselves. I'm almost certain they didn't. First, while it was clear that the Israeli govenment would be favorably disposed to the U.S. taking out Saddam, I don't think they would risk the damage the U.S.-Israel relationship which could result if such a deception operation were exposed. Second, if they did it, they wouldn't have done such an amateurish job of forging the documents themselves.

What I do suspect is that the American neocons did it for them, as the Ledeen/Rhode/Franklin timeline suggests may have been the case. The American people deserve a full investigation.

Since Michael Ledeen sometimes posts on blogs, like here and here maybe he can grace us with his presence and explain himself. But I'd rather have him do it under oath on Capitol Hill. Why are Dems on the Hill letting this go? Whether my theory is right or not, somebody out there clearly was running a deception operation against the U.S. government designed to get us into Iraq. Don't we want to know who?

Who gets the Chalabi role in the sequel? -- Manucher Ghorbanifar?

Laura Rozen has another piece in The American Prospect today, and as usual it's very good, and brings out quite a bit of new information.

One of the questions about the "next phase" in Iran has always been who the neocons would use for the "Chalabi role" -- the Westernized English-speaking Iraqi/Iranian who would tell them what they want to hear ("the Iraqi/Iranian people want an American invasion to liberate them from the Baathist dictator/clerical regime and will welcome you with flowers/pistachios -- you can almost make a MadLib off this!") and give them juicy "intelligence" about the awe-inspiring threat posed by the government the neocons want to take down.

We've known for some time that Michael Ledeen, Harold Rhode, and Larry Franklin had met with Ghorbanifar in Europe in late 2001. This article fleshes out his current links to Washington, including connections to Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) via Fereidoun Mahdavi (one of the Shah's former ministers), and a possible backchannel by which Ghorbanifar deals directly with the White House.

Daily Kos

Friday, March 18, 2005

AIPAC Suspends Two Top Officials

This hasn't gotten covered in the American MSM yet (since they tend to be reluctant to cover the subject in general), but AIPAC the pro-Israel (and generally pro-Likud) lobbying group has put two top officials on paid leave who were targets of the FBI's espionage investigation. These are the two who had met with Larry Franklin of Doug Feith's office at the Pentagon last year and passed them calssified information regarding plans to destabilize Iran. The FBI took their evidence to a grand jury in early January, so it's possible this thing is nearing a decision on indictments. More background on the probe is available in this piece from The American Prospect.

The pro-AIPAC crowd is likely going to try to win the PR battle by trying to deflect attention onto the FBI's Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, David Szady. My thoughts on this are available on my blog. Basically, I think this is, more or less, the Chewbacca Defense.

I know a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about the Israel/Likud lobby's connection to the push for the war in Iraq (and now Iran and maybe Syria), but this is important, and I think it needs to come out into the open, and be discussed.

Daily Kos

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Why AIPAC is Feared

For most members of Congress, U.S. foreign policy on the Middle East has traditionally been a pretty peripheral issue. Only since September 11th, and the invasion of Iraq, has it taken on the importance it has now for most politicians.

There's always been a tendency for most member to choose the path of least resistance, and everyone in Washington understands that, if you vote against AIPAC's wishes, the Israel lobby has tools to punish you. I'm going to offer an illustration here of how this works -- based on the experience on Rep. Earl Hilliard (D-AL), an African American congressman from Alabama who lost his seat in 2002 after voting against AIPAC positions on a couple of issues. Yes, I know that this wasn't the only issue brought up in the campaign, but I think what I'm going to illustrate here gives a good example of why AIPAC is feared on Capitol Hill.

In the 2000, election, Hilliard had faced a challenge from Artur Davis in the Democratic primary. It wasn't very well-financed, as you can see from the data on his donor list. Note that he got almost no funds from out-of-state.

Davis's 2002 campaign, however, was characterized by a remarkable avalanche of out-of-state contributions. He raised over $315,000 in New York, over $61,000 in New Jersey, over $58,000 in California, and over $21,000 in Connecticut. Maybe in such an exciting race, he also had some people in neighboring states interested in backing him? Well, here's the data for Mississippi. One zip code (10021) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan gave more than triple what he got from donors in Georgia.

Now I know it's politically incorrect, but go back to the donor data and look at the surnames. Sure, some of these people may not be members of AIPAC, but it's clear that the majority of them contributed in response to Earl Hilliard's record on AIPAC's issues. Kinda self explanatory, eh?

AIPAC only has around 60,000 members, and that's only about 1% of the total number of Jews in the United States. They also tend to back relatively conservative positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict which are to the right of the position of the majority of the American Jewish community. Their tensions with the Labor governments in the 1990s over the Oslo Accords were well-known. Despite their small numbers though, they have influence in Washington which goes beyond what you'd expect from such a small constituency.

The "Jewish vote" is actually a pretty small factor, regardless of what folks like the Republican Jewish Coalition will tell you. Most American Jews live in a few states, and with the exception of Florida, none of those states is at all competitive in presidential elections. Bush got 24% of the Jewish vote in 2004, up from 20% in 2000, but most American Jews identify with the Democrats, for a number of reasons, and there doesn't seem to be much likelihood that a small shift in the Jewish vote could tip a presidential election. Florida is the only possible exception. Needless to say, very few congressmen and senators would have their races come out differently as a result of a shift of a few percent in Jewish votes or turnout. And again, a lot of (probably most) American Jews don't agree with all of AIPAC's policy positions, even though they support Israel.

Anyway, the bottom line is this -- AIPAC is feared because they're able to mobilize and coorindate a couple tens of thousands of key donors. For most elected officials in Washington, the calculation is simple -- toe the AIPAC line, and get some help courting out-of-state donors -- or vote against them, and potentially face a tsunami of cash flowing to your opponent. In most cases, members aren't that concerned with the Middle East anyway, and it's much easier to take the path of least resistance.

But what happens when the issues they're pushing on are of huge importance, like policy toward Iran? See what's featured in the center of their 'issues' page. They don't even need to go bang on Joe Congressman's door -- it's clear the policy outcome they want to achieve.

And it wasn't exactly a secret that the Israel lobby was pushing for regime change in Iraq.

I know that some are going to be annoyed that I'm even raising this, but as we head into a year where we may end up debating an expansion of the war beyond Iraq, I think we need to be able to have a frank discussion of how political pressure groups may be influencing that debate, and how people who oppose their position can counter their influence.

If you found this post of interest, take a look at my blog, The Gorilla in the Room. (i.e. the one you're not supposed to talk about) I posted a bunch of new stuff today. You may also want to take a look at my previous post on the The Office of Special Plans.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Michael Rubin's (AEI) Hypocrisy (on Iraq / Iran)

This is a case of contradiction which I'm guessing Michael Rubin has been aware of ever since he read this story in the American Prospect last November, Cloak and Swagger: The Larry Franklin Spy Probe Reveals an Escalating Fight Over Control of Iran Policy, and has been hoping nobody would call him on. To the best of my knowledge, nobody else had juxtaposed these two articles and pointed out Rubin's hypocrisy.

The following is a passage from an article Rubin wrote in the National Review Online in May 2004 (after he left government service) You Must Be Likud!, in which he throws out charges of antisemitism against people who have criticized the neoconservatives. In this passage, he quotes fellow neocon Max Boot to the effect that, if they were truly acting with Israel's interests in mind, they would have pushed for an attack on Iran, not Iraq:

The news is not all bad. Several scholars have addressed the creeping anti-Semitism in the current discourse. Max Boot, Olin Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, published an excellent essay in the January/February 2004 edition of Foreign Policy in which he called the charge "a malicious myth" the argument that neoconservatives were "Jews who serve the interests of Israel." Boot explained, "With varying degrees of delicacy, everyone from fringe U.S. presidential candidates Lyndon LaRouche and Patrick Buchanan to European news outlets such as the BBC and Le Monde have used neocon as a synonym for Jew, focusing on Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliot Cohen, and others with obvious Jewish names." Boot continued, "In the 1980s, they were the leading proponents of democratization in places as disparate as Nicaragua, Poland, and South Korea. In the 1990s, they were the most ardent champions of interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo-missions designed to rescue Muslims, not Jews. Today neocons agitate for democracy in China (even as Israel has sold arms to Beijing!) and against the abuse of Christians in Sudan. Their advocacy of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan is entirely consistent with this long track record. If neocons were agents of Likud, they would have advocated an invasion not of Iraq or Afghanistan but of Iran, which Israel considers to be the biggest threat to its own security."

Now, what makes this such amazing hypocrisy is that Michael Rubin, before he took off his government hat, had authored a draft National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) advocating a policy of regime change against Iran:

The classified document that Franklin allegedly passed to AIPAC concerned a controversial proposal by Pentagon hard-liners to destabilize Iran. The latest iteration of the national-security presidential directive was drafted by a Pentagon civilian and avid neocon, Michael Rubin, who hoped it would be adopted as official policy by the Bush administration. But in mid-June, Bush's national-security advisers canceled consideration of the draft, partly in response to resistance from some at the State Department and the National Security Council, according to a recent memo written by Rubin and obtained by The American Prospect. No doubt also contributing to the administration's decision was the swelling insurgency and chaos of postwar Iraq.

Rubin, in his early 30s, is a relative newcomer to the neoconservative circles in which he is playing an increasingly prominent role. Once the Iraq and Iran desk officer in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and later a Coalition Provisional Authority adviser in Iraq, these days the Yale-educated Ph.D. hangs his hat at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and serves as editor for controversial Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes' magazine, The Middle East Quarterly.

In an article published in the Republican-oriented quarterly Ripon Forum in June, Rubin suggests that the administration resolve its Iran waffling by turning against the current regime. "In 1953 and 1979," he wrote, "Washington supported an unpopular Iranian government against the will of the people. The United States should not make the same mistake three times." In other words, President Bush should step up his public condemnation of the Iranian regime and break off all contact with it in hopes of spurring a swelling of the Iranian pro-democracy movement. In short, Rubin, like his fellow Iran hawks, urges the administration to make regime change in Iran its official policy.

This invocation of "moral clarity" has a long intellectual pedigree among neoconservatives. It's the same argument they made to Ronald Reagan about the Soviet Union more than 20 years ago. "If we could bring down the Soviet empire by inspiring and supporting a small percentage of the people," Michael Ledeen, a chief neoconservative advocate of regime change in Iran and freedom scholar at AEI, recently wrote in the National Review, "surely the chances of successful revolution in Iran are more likely."

Was it to this end that Franklin was allegedly observed by the FBI passing the draft NSPD on Iran to AIPAC? Was he trying to inform AIPAC, or Israel, about the contents of the draft NSPD? Or rather, and perhaps more plausibly, was he trying to enlist the powerful Washington lobbying organization in advocating for a Iran-destabilization policy? In other words, is the Franklin case really about espionage, or is it a glimpse into the ugly sausage-making process by which Middle East policy gets decided in Washington and, in particular, in the Bush administration.

Now think about the sequence of events here: Rubin 1) writes a policy paper as a government official advocating destabilizing Iran, 2) someone else from his office leaks it to AIPAC (can't prove Rubin knew about Franklin, but it's suspicous to say the least) so they can pressure the rest of the Bush administration on the issue, 3) Rubin leaves government service, and then 4) writes an article arguing that if the neocons were really acting for Israel's interests, they would have gone after Iran, so people accusing them of such for pushing for the liberation of Iraq are antisemites.

Daily Kos

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Senate Intelligence Committee Drops Iraq Intel Investigation!

This story hasn't received much attention that I know of, so I wanted to post a diary to spread the word.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), released a partial report on the investigation of how the U.S. intelligence community got it wrong on Iraq in July 2004. It was agreed at the time that the more politically sensitive questions -- did the administration put pressure on them to skew the results to support invading Iraq? -- would be left for a second report, after the presidential election. Now, Roberts is trying to quietly drop that line of inquiry, potentially shielding those who were responsible for any malfeasance which took place.

The question of pressure, from Cheney's office, the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, etc is critical to getting at the truth of why we're bogged down in Iraq today. The public has a right to know. There also is the question of motivations, particularly in the case of the Office of Special Plans, which is rendered particularly interesting by the fact that several of the key people in Douglas Feith's shop at the Pentagon have retained defense counsel as a result of the FBI investigation which is looking into possible Israeli espionage.

Obviously, raising the possibility that there was some sort of "agents of influence" operation is a very touchy subject, but I believe the public has a right to know. What evidence did the Senate investigation come up with regarding pressure on the intelligence community, or phony intelligence which was "stovepiped" into the White House from the Pentagon through Cheney's office?

I'm disappointed that this hasn't received more coverage (and action) from the blogosphere. We really all need to be calling our congresspersons and senators and demanding that the investigation continue and publish a publicly available report. The public has a right to know the whole story of how we got into Iraq, wherever that leads, particularly as the question of a possible war with Iran looms on the horizon, with documents related to Iran policy one of the main issues in the espionage investigation.

Daily Kos

"Outing" the Neocons: The Office of Special Plans

One of the very interesting aspects of the Office of Special Plans, not mentioned in the mainstream press very much, is the composition of its core staff -- most of the key people assembled at working staff levels were Jews with far-right views. The few who weren't were from closely-allied groups, like right wing Lebanese Christians. To borrow Bill Clinton's phrase describing his cabinet -- it didn't exactly "look like America." Now I'm certainly not saying that all (or even many) American Jews who work in government have dual loyalty issues -- most clearly have an undivided loyalty first and foremost to the United States. But some of the people Feith brought in had unusually strong ties to Israel, including one official who had emigrated as a young adult hoping to be an Israeli diplomat.

David Schenker -- brought in shortly after 9/11 from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which is closely affiliated with AIPAC.

David Wurmser -- brought in from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), he was one of the authors of the Clean Break paper, which was an advice piece for Binyamin Netanyahu on how to move past the Oslo peace process, retain the West Bank permanently, and undermine the governments of Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Note the wording about "Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, 'peace for peace,' is a solid basis for the future. " No Palestinian state. The "remaking" of the Middle East will allow Israel to "transcend" its enemies, rather than have to make territorial concessions. Get into Iraq --> undermine Syria and Iran --> this changes the strategic environment to allow Israel to keep the West Bank. Wurmser, along with Michael Maloof, was part of the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, which was the unit Feith set up to try to backfill an al-Qaeda/Saddam connection and feed that story into the White House. He's also the husband of Meyrav Wurmser, who runs the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an organization which translates selectively from the Arabic language press in order to paint the Arab world in a bad light and discount the idea of negotiating with the Palestinians, along with Col. Yigal Carmon, formerly with Israeli military intelligence.

Michael Rubin -- also went to OSP from AEI, and after later doing a stint working under Paul Bremer in Baghdad, he's now back at AEI, writing about how awful a job Paul Bremer did there, from a neocon perspective. Rubin also is sort of the designated attack dog for the AEI crowd -- writing a lot in the National Review Online about the supposed "antisemitism" of anyone who dares to criticize them.

Michael Maloof -- he's actually not a political appointee, but a career civil servant -- of Lebanese Christian background. His work before was on technology transfer, not the Middle East or intelligence analysis. Maloof lost his security clearances after a gun registered to him was found in the luggage of Imad el-Hage, a Lebanese arms dealer with ties to Gen. Michel Aoun. Maloof is close to the far-right falangist ideological current in Lebanon which seeks to destabilize Syria.

Michael Makovsky -- most of the information above has appeared elsewhere in the blogosphere, but I have dug up some new (actually, too old to have been found) information on Makovsky. Michael Makovsky was a recent Ph.D. in history brought in to work on Iraqi oil issues (no previous oil experience! -- in such an oil industry heavy administration -- but the war wasn't about oil -- and Republicans with close ties to Big Oil tend not to be Jewish). In 1989, after working as a staffer for Sen. John Danforth, he had emigrated to Israel, according to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (too old to have a web link, but it's available on Lexis/Nexis, where I found it). He said he wanted to serve as an Israeli diplomat, after serving in the Israeli Army, though he said he didn't intend to renounce his American citizenship. (It's definitely the same Michael Makovsky, since the article refers to his older brother David Makovsky, who is now a senior fellow at WINEP.) I can't find any reference to him having served as an Israeli diplomat, so that probably never came through for him, but it does make you wonder if the security clearance people were aware of this article when they did his background check. There a USA Today article from 1995 about the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin which quotes a Michael Makovsky who was a resident of a West Bank settlement and a friend of Yigal Amir, the assassin, though I'm not 100% sure it's the same person, since the ages cited in the two articles don't mesh -- but the only other Michael Makovsky I've found is a Czech soccer player, so I think it's likely him. I don't mean to imply that he supported the assassination, since his comments in the article don't say that -- if it was the same person -- but it does suggest that he was associating with a very ideological "radical right" crowd during his years there. I've also run across web links (since taken down) which linked Makovsky to the right-wing "Betar" organization while he was living in the UK as a student. Betar is a 'revisionist Zionist' territorial maximalist group founded by (drum roll please) Dalck Feith, the father of Douglas Feith, which has youth/campus organizations in the US and UK. One does wonder how Feith or his underlings must have had to browbeat the security clearance people into not asking about Makovsky's very apparent foreign loyaly questions.

Anyway, my point here is that Feith and company built the office which was to plan and "make the sales pitch" for the war around people with very strong ties to Israel, and it certainly didn't "look like America." It wasn't even a very representative sample of American Jews or the pro-Israel community. It was ideologues committed to Israel retaining the West Bank, and a strategic reordering of the region which would make that possible.

I don't think the folks with the yellow ribbons on their pickup trucks out in Red America realize that.

Several of these people also have "lawyered up" in the face of the FBI probe of AIPAC and Larry Franklin, which suggests that they see themselves in possible legal jeopardy.

Now honestly, if most Americans had been aware of what I've just stated above about the background of the people (at mid-level staff levels) who were putting together the plans for war against Iraq -- don't you think people would have questioned their motivations a bit more? We need to keep this in mind as we head toward war with Iran. Some of these people are still working in the Bush administration, and Michael Rubin was reportedly the author of the Iran policy paper that Larry Franklin leaked to AIPAC -- probably to facilitate AIPAC's orchestration of political pressure to bring about the desired policy outcome.

Daily Kos