The national debate, which the indictment of Irving Lewis Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice has aroused in the mass media, has failed to address the most basic questions concerning the deep structural context, which influenced his felonious behavior. The most superficial explanation was that Libby, by exposing Valerie Plame (a CIA employee), acted out of revenge to punish her husband Wilson for exposing the lies put forth by Bush about Iraq’s “importation” of uranium from Niger. Other journalists claim that Libby acted to cover up the fabrications to go to war. The assertion however raises a deeper question — who were the fabricators of war propaganda, who was Libby protecting? And not only the “fabricators of war”, but the strategic planners, speech-makers and architects of war who acted hand in hand with the propagandists and the journalists who disseminated the propaganda? What is the link between all these high- level functionaries, propagandists and journalists?
Equally important given the positions of power which this cabal occupied, and the influence they exercised in the mass media as well as in designing strategic policy, what forces were engaged in bringing criminal charges against a key operative of the cabal?
Libby’s rise to power was part and parcel of the ascendancy of the neo-conservatives to the summits of US policymaking. Libby was a student, protégé, and collaborator with Paul Wolfowitz for over 25 years. Libby along with Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Douglas Feith, Kagan, Cohen, Rubin, Pollack, Chertoff, Fleisher, Kristol, Marc Grossman, Shumsky and a host of other political operators were long term believers and aggressive proponents of a virulently militaristic tendency of Zionism linked with the rightwing Likud Party of Israel. Early in the 1980’s, Wolfowitz and Feith were charged with passing confidential documents to Israel, the latter temporarily losing his security clearance.
The ideologues begin their “Long March” through the institutions of the state. In some cases, advisers to rightwing pro-Israel congressmen, others in the lower levels of the Pentagon and State Department, in other cases as academics or leaders of conservative think tanks in Washington during the Reagan and Bush senior regimes. With the election of Bush in 2001, they moved into major strategic positions in the government, and as the principal ideologues and propagandists for a sequence of wars against Arab adversaries of the Israeli State. Leading neocons, like Libby, drew up a war strategy for the Likud government in 1996, and then recycled the document for the US war against Iraq before and immediately after 9/11/01. Along with their rise to the most influential positions of power in the Bush administration, the neocons attracted new recruits, like New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
What is striking about the operations of the ‘cabal’ is the very open and direct way in which they operated: former Director of the National Security Agency (under Reagan) Lt. General William Odom, retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (former chief of staff of Powell), retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, National Security Adviser to President George Bush (the First) Brent Scowcroft, and numerous disenchanted officials, including veterans of the intelligence agencies, high level observers, and former diplomats openly criticized the neocon takeover of US policy and the close relationship between them and Israeli officals.
In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Wolfowitz and Libby were the architects of the military strategy for Rumsfeld and Cheney, their bosses. Douglas Feith established the “Office of Special Planning” to fabricate the lies to justify the war. Judith Miller, David Frum and Ari Fleisher served to disseminate the lies and war propaganda through articles, interviews, press conferences, and speechwriting for President Bush.
The neocons pushed to manipulate and marginalize many of the key institutions in the US imperial state. To circumvent intelligence from the CIA that didn’t promote the Israeli agenda of war with Iraq, neocon Douglas Feith (number 3 in the Pentagon) established the Office of Special Planning, which fabricated propaganda and channeled it directly to the President’s Office bypassing and marginalizing any critical review from the CIA. Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld marginalized the leading generals, promoting nondescript “loyalists” and outsiders to the top positions, and discarding any advice which opposed or conflicted with their plans for war with Iraq. The Secretary of State referred to a speech prepared for him by Libby as “bullshit” because of its falsehoods. His chief aide, Colonel Wilkerson has written disparagingly of the cabal, which marginalized the State Department including his boss Powell.
The prosecution of Libby however reveals the intense internal struggle over the control of the US imperial state between the neocons and the traditional leaders of its major institutions. Along with the indictment of Libby by a grand jury at the request of the special prosecutor, the FBI has arrested the two leading policy makers of the most influential pro-Israeli lobby (AIPAC) for spying for the State of Israel. These are not simply isolated actions by individual officials or investigators. To have proceeded against Libby and AIPAC leaders , they had to have powerful institutional backing; otherwise the investigations would have been terminated even before they began.
The CIA is deeply offended by the neocon usurpation of their intelligence role, their direct channels to the President, their loyalty to Israel. The military is extremely angry at their exclusion from the councils of government over questions of war, the disastrous war policy which have depleted the armed forces of recruits, devastated troop morale, and the neocons’ grotesque ignorance of the costs of a colonial occupation. It is no wonder that General Tommy Frank referred to Douglas Feith as “the stupidest bastard I have ever met.”
The current institutional war recalls an earlier conflict between the rightwing Senator Joseph McCarthy and the Defense Department. At the time during the mid 1950’s, Senator McCarty was accumulating power first by purging trade unions, Hollywood, the universities, and promoting likeminded conservative officials. He successfully extended his investigations and purges to the State Department and finally tried to do the same to the military. It was here that Senator McCarthy met his Waterloo, his attack backfired, the Army stood its ground, refuted his accusations and discredited his fabrications and grab for power.
In the meantime, the neocons are not at all daunted by the trials of their colleagues in AIPAC and the Vice President’s office: they are pressing straight ahead for the US to attack Syria and Iran, via economic sanctions and military bombing. On October 30, 2005 the former head of the Israel Secret Police (Shin Bet) told AIPAC to escalate their campaign to pressure in the US to attack Iran (Israel National News.com). There was a near unanimous vote in the US Congress in favor of economic sanctions against Syria. Despite mass demonstrations, and because of a ‘captured’ congress, it appears paradoxically that the only force capable of defeating the neocon juggernaut, like the earlier Joe McCarthy, are powerful voices in the state threatened by new disastrous wars not of their making.
JAMES PETRAS, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50 year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in brazil and argentina and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed). His new book with Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements and the State: Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina, will be published in October 2005. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org