As war clouds loom over the political landscape and the propaganda wafts thickly from the major news media, we have to ask: Where does all of this come from? Who is behind the rush to war?
Pat Buchanan has utilized a useful phrase to describe the origins of this bloodlust: the War Party. This term is taken out of an unfortunate chapter in American history and transmogrified into a generic term for those who advocate the advent of an American Empire. It is a useful phrase for a polemicist, but perhaps one that masks more than it reveals. What is the “War Party,” exactly? Or, rather, who?
The answer to that question could fill a volume of some heft. For our purposes, however, a general overview of the different species of war birds is instructive. Our war birds are a transnational phenomenon, one that is pretty much restricted to the upper reaches of the elites in government, the media, academia, and the corporate world. These migratory creatures do not really belong to any single country, certainly not America: Indeed, foreign lobbyists are a major category of war bird, and, of these, Israel’s are surely the most visible.
The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the Center for Security Policy (CSP) are two key links in Israel’s propaganda operation in the United States, and their role in calling for a “total war” against the Arab world, as JINSA?honcho Michael Ledeen puts it, is at the core of the War Party’s propaganda apparatus. JINSA’s strategic outlook is outlined on their website: “Only one think-tank puts the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship first—JINSA” (emphasis in original).
For this reason, we must look askance at JINSA’s penetration of the Bush administration and, particularly, of the civilian higher reaches of the Department of Defense. Former JINSA board members include Vice President Dick Cheney, John Bolton, and Douglas Feith (now undersecretary of policy at the Defense Department). As Jason Vest writes in the Nation:
For this crew, “regime change” by any means necessary in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority is an urgent imperative. Anyone who dissents—be it Colin Powell’s State Department, the CIA or career military officers—is committing heresy against articles of faith that effectively hold there is no difference between US and Israeli national security interests, and that the only way to assure continued safety and prosperity for both countries is through hegemony in the Middle East—a hegemony achieved with the traditional cold war recipe of feints, force, clientism and covert action.
Vest cites “a veteran intelligence officer” who opines:
Whenever you see someone identified in print or on TV as being with the Center for Security Policy or JINSA championing a position on the grounds of ideology or principle—which they are unquestionably doing with conviction—you are, nonetheless, not informed that they’re also providing a sort of cover for other ideologues who just happen to stand to profit from hewing to the Likudnik and Pax Americana lines.
In other words, these organizations are merely fronts for covert Israeli activities in the United States. Their main objective is to inculcate the Israeli view of what American foreign policy ought to be: to wage war on the entire Arab world, regardless of the consequences for the United States.
A subset of the Israeli lobby is the Turkish lobby. That Turkey’s longstanding strategic and military alliance with Israel has been a cornerstone of Israeli foreign policy is central to understanding U.S. policy in the region. JINSA and the CSP have played an important role in this effort, working tirelessly to keep American tax dollars flowing to Turkey. The effort has certainly been a success: Turkey has climbed to third place on the foreign-aid hit parade, below only Israel and Egypt.
That the Israeli and Turkish lobbies are two wings of the same bird is underscored by the activities of Richard Perle, a JINSA/CSP founding advisor, who raked in a total of $231,000 between 1990 and 1994 doing Ankara’s (or somebody’s) bidding in Washington. The Nation cites various Turkish media reports that Perle “sold the idea for the new [lobbying] company to Turgut Ozal, Turkey’s [former] Prime Minister at a meeting in New York [in May 1999].” According to the Wall Street Journal, Perle did not comply with the requirements of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, however, because he was only “chairman of the firm’s advisory board,” a body consisting of a single individual—Richard Perle.
While the relatively open activities of Ankara’s amen corner are aggressive and intrusive by any measure, the underground efforts on behalf of Ankara may prove the Turkish lobby’s undoing. On October 25, 2002, 60 Minutes detailed the case of Sibel Edmonds, who was once employed as a translator of wiretaps and other intercepted data and was fired when she tried to expose an effort by Turkish intelligence to recruit her. Jan Dickerson, a fellow translator, tried to get Edmonds to delete or alter her translations of a particular target under surveillance, an organization for which Dickerson herself had once worked. According to Edmonds, Dickerson and her husband (a U.S. military officer on active duty) had tried to recruit her into their spy organization, and, when she refused, they threatened her life and the safety of her family.
Edmonds appealed to her supervisors, who refused to investigate—then fired her. Senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy are raising a stink about this on Capitol Hill, but the power of the Turko-Israeli lobby has been sufficient to keep this out of public view.
Edmonds’ lawyers allege that “Since our client reported these allegations to the FBI earlier this year the FBI has engaged in an ongoing unethical and illegal cover-up. Only after being pressured by the Senate Judiciary Committee has the FBI apparently finally admitted that our client’s major whistleblower concerns have been confirmed.” But what is being done about it? Why is Dickerson still employed as a translator, and why has Edmonds not been reinstated? What kind of treason is being covered up by the FBI, and why is the Justice Department not conducting a criminal investigation?
So far in this strange affair, the sole target of the U.S. government’s wrath has been a brave woman who stood up to spies and saboteurs, defied them when they threatened her, and did her patriotic duty by turning them in. “The front-line of the war on terrorism has been directly undermined by the FBI’s failures to act on our client’s reports,” said Edmonds’ lawyers. “The FBI failed to promptly [sic] correct these problems and instead waged war against its own whistleblower. This is unforgivable in the post-9/11 world.”
Other war birds are domestic in origin. Under the rubric of building “global democracy,” platoons of think tanks and “research centers” have sprung up like mushrooms after a rain, amply nurtured by the post-Cold War triumphalism of neoconservative ideologues and a rich infusion of corporate dollars.
One example is the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, cofounded by Bruce P. Jackson and Randy Scheunemann. The end of the Cold War did not deter NATO partisans and profiteers from pursuing the expansion of the archaic alliance. Indeed, it seemed to embolden them, and that was certainly the case with Mr. Jackson, who, by day, earned a six-figure salary as vice president in charge of strategy and planning for Lockheed Martin. We must not assume, of course, that Jackson is one of the famed Merchants of Death, whose lobbying activities are just a shameless grab for market share. The Dallas Morning News reassures us:
By now, most close observers have dismissed the notion that Mr. Jackson is an arms merchant in do-gooder disguise. U.S. and European officials insist they have never known him to suggest, even indirectly, that new NATO members or nations trying to join should buy fighter aircraft or other weapons.
What the Dallas Morning News does not tell us is that candidates for NATO membership must upgrade their military capabilities to a degree that none of them could ever manage without U.S. financial assistance. Is it any surprise that Lockheed’s officer in charge of strategy is pursuing this particular tactic to get contracts and access to a veritable cornucopia of taxpayer dollars?
Scheunemann, executive director of the NATO expansion committee, is president of Orion Strategies LLC, which has represented energy interests as well as the International Business and Energy Development Corp., the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and something called “Motivation Inc.” Naturally, he is a registered agent of Lockheed Martin. He served as policy and intelligence advisor to Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and Trent Lott from 1993 to 1998.
The Committee to Expand NATO has now morphed into the Project on Transitional Democracies—with Jackson and Scheunemann still at the helm. The project celebrates the woozy triumphalism of global democracy with special emphasis on Southeastern Europe. Its mission statement declares:
The Project on Transitional Democracies has been organized to exploit the opportunities to accelerate democratic reform and integration which we believe will exist in the broader Euro-Atlantic region over the next decade. The Project is a multi-year endeavor aimed at accelerating the pace of reform in Europe’s post-1989 democracies and advancing the date for the integration of these democracies into the institutions of the Euro-Atlantic.
“Exploit” is truly the word to describe what the Jackson-Scheunemann team has done in the cause of NATO expansion. By the time you read this, as many as seven new members will have been admitted to the NATO alliance. Rumania and Bulgaria have recently been added to the list of five original nominees: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, and Slovakia. All will be required to undergo a thorough military upgrade to the basic standards of the alliance. As the Boston Business Journal reported on October 23, 2002: “The U.S. wants NATO members to increase their military budgets to at least 2 percent of gross domestic product. The U.S. spends about 3 percent, while about half the alliance’s members are below 2 percent and the NATO-wide average is 2.1 percent, according to the State Department.”
This represents a huge bonanza for the arms industry, and the fantastic success of this Jackson-and-Scheunemann production has led to the formation of yet another front group. The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (Bruce P. Jackson, chairman, and Randy Scheunemann, executive director) is teaming up with the Bush administration to “build public support” for an attack on Iraq, according to a November 2, 2002, article in the Washington Post. As polls show support for the President’s planned “regime change” in Baghdad rapidly declining, the committee seeks to “regain the momentum and prepare the political ground” for war. Working closely with the administration, the “liberationists” behind the committee are mobilizing to conduct “briefings” of key foreign-policy pressure groups, policy wonks, and talking heads, with National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, as their contacts in the White House. This mixture of the public and the private mirrors the quasi-official organizational status of the NATO expansion campaign, which cosponsored and paid for the big 1999 NATO anniversary bash in Washington, where bureaucrats and diplomats were wined and dined by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and nine other defense contractors, each of whom shelled out $250,000 to celebrate. A Republican Congress will probably ignore any allegations that government resources are being allocated to fund the committee’s effort to drum up popular support for the war on Iraq.
The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq is the Potemkin village of the War Party, designed to create the illusion that the American majority wants a war that benefits only a privileged elite and their foreign-lobbyist friends. It is the offspring of the marriage of neoconservatism and the military-industrial complex—a pathetic creature that could not survive without the elaborate life-support system created by its corporate sponsors, who pump millions into its operations.
Working in unison, three major factions—the neoconservative advocates of global “democracy,” Israel’s amen corner in the United States, and the corporate beneficiaries of an Iraqi invasion—are trying desperately to push us into war. If they accomplish their goal, it will not happen because of a public outcry for war with Iraq. Instead, they will succeed by applying pressure in all the right places—pressure brought to bear not only on the White House and Capitol Hill but on a media already cowed by post-September 11 “patriotic” correctness. This new p.c. forbids any reference to U.S. foreign policy as enabling—even motivating—terrorist activities directed against America. And, of course, any reference to the influence of Israel is “antisemitic.” They hate us, not because we propped up despots, including Saddam and the shah and the House of Saud, but because we are so wonderful.
The Israeli lobby, with the evangelical “dispensationalists” in the Republican Party, has but one goal in mind: that war should start as soon as possible, in order to put an end to the Palestinian problem. The annexation of the occupied territories and the expulsion of the Palestinians into Jordan is no longer a fringe view but the program of a rapidly growing movement within Israel. Only the United States, however, can make it possible—by invading Iraq, destabilizing the entire region, and kicking up enough dust to serve as cover.
The Turks, and such secondary allies of the Anglo-American-Israeli triple alliance as India, stand to benefit in the same way: Ankara dreams of extending its influence to the Caucasian steppes as far as Afghanistan and fulfilling the dream of a reunited Ottoman Empire. The Hindu nationalists of New Delhi hope to destroy their archenemy, Pakistan, and, in the process, consolidate India’s role as the regional power in Southern Asia—with American support.
Israel, Turkey, and India all have similar goals: the creation of a Greater Israel, a Greater Turkey, a Greater India—mini-empires in the “shadow of the hegemon.”
On the domestic front, the players are motivated by money and power—not necessarily in that order. The Republican politicians profit by looking “tough on terrorism,” while the Lockheed Martin/Boeing/Raytheon Axis of Corporate Evil rakes in plenty of dough.
The great problem of the war birds, however, is that they are a tiny minority, and they are up against a formidable enemy: the natural isolationism of the American people. The Founding Fathers, in advising their descendants to stay out of foreign quarrels and to avoid, as George Washington put it, “excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another,” were not imposing an abstract principle on an unwilling people; they were merely expressing the essence of the American character.