Aug 7 (IPS) - An ad hoc office under U.S.
Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas
Feith appears to have acted as the key base
for an informal network of mostly neo-conservative
political appointees that circumvented normal
inter-agency channels to lead the push for
war against Iraq.
Office of Special Plans (OSP), which worked
alongside the Near East and South Asia (NESA)
bureau in Feith's domain, was originally created
by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to review raw information
collected by the official U.S. intelligence
agencies for connections between Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
intelligence officials from the State Department,
the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), and
the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have
long charged that the two offices exaggerated
and manipulated intelligence about Iraq before
passing it along to the White House.
key personnel who worked in both NESA and
OSP were part of a broader network of neo-conservative
ideologues and activists who worked with other
Bush political appointees scattered around
the national-security bureaucracy to move
the country to war, according to retired Lt
Col Karen Kwiatkowski, who was assigned to
NESA from May 2002 through February 2003.
heads of NESA and OSP were Deputy Undersecretary
William Luti and Abram Shulsky, respectively.
appointees who worked with them in both offices
included Michael Rubin, a Middle East specialist
previously with the neo-conservative American
Enterprise Institute (AEI); David Schenker,
previously with the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy (WINEP); Michael Makovsky;
an expert on neo-con icon Winston Churchill
and the younger brother of David Makovsky,
a senior WINEP fellow and former executive
editor of pro-Likud 'Jerusalem Post'; and
Chris Lehman, the brother of the John Lehman,
a prominent neo-conservative who served as
secretary of the navy under Ronald Reagan,
according to Kwiatkowski.
with Feith, all of the political appointees
have in common a close identification with
the views of the right-wing Likud Party in
whose law partner is a spokesman for the settlement
movement in Israel, has long been a fierce
opponent of the Oslo peace process, while
WINEP has acted as the think tank for the
most powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington,
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC), which generally follows a Likud line.
like Feith, several of the appointees were
protéeges of Richard Perle, an AEI fellow
who doubles as chairman until last April of
Rumsfeld's unpaid Defense Policy Board (DPB),
whose members were appointed by Feith, also
had an office in the Pentagon one floor below
the NESA offices.
Luti, a retired naval officer, was a prot?g?
of another DPB board member also based at
AEI, former Republican Speaker of the House
of Representatives Newt Gingrich. Luti in
turn hired Ret Col William Bruner, a former
Gingrich staffer, and Chris Straub, a retired
lieutenant colonel, anti-abortion activist,
and former staffer on the Senate Intelligence
working for Luti was another naval officer,
Yousef Aboul-Enein, whose main job was to
pore over Arabic-language newspapers and CIA
transcripts of radio broadcasts to find evidence
of ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein
that may have been overlooked by the intelligence
agencies, and a DIA officer named John Trigilio.
Feith, both offices worked closely with Perle,
Gingrich, and two other DPB members and major
war boosters -- former CIA director James
Woolsey and Kenneth Adelman -- in ensuring
that the "intelligence" they developed reached
a wide public audience outside the bureaucracy.
also debriefed "defectors" handled by the
Iraqi National Congress (INC), an opposition
umbrella group headed by Ahmed Chalabi, a
long-time friend of Perle, whom the intelligence
agencies generally wrote off as an unreliable
would draw up 'talking points' they would
use and distribute to their friends", said
Kwiatkowski. "But the talking points would
be changed continually, not because of new
intel (intelligence), but because the press
was poking holes in what was in the memos".
offices fed information directly and indirectly
to sympathetic media outlets, including the
Rupert Murdoch-owned 'Weekly Standard' and
FoxNews Network, as well as the editorial
pages of the 'Wall Street Journal' and syndicated
columnists, such as Charles Krauthammer.
inter-agency discussions, Feith and the two
offices communicated almost exclusively with
like-minded allies in other agencies, rather
than with their official counterparts, including
even the DIA in the Pentagon, according to
than working with the State Department's Bureau
of Intelligence and Research, its Near Eastern
Affairs bureau, or even its Iraq desk, for
example, they preferred to work through Undersecretary
of State for Arms Control and International
Security (and former AEI executive vice president)
John Bolton; Michael Wurmser (another Perle
protéege at AEI who staffed the predecessor
to OSP); and Deputy Assistant Secretary of
State for Near East Affairs, Elizabeth Cheney,
the daughter of the Vice President Dick Cheney.
the National Security Council (NSC), they
communicated mainly with Stephen Hadley, the
deputy national security adviser, until Elliott
Abrams, a dyed-in-the-wool neo-con with close
ties to Feith and Perle, was appointed last
December as the NSC's top Middle East aide.
worked really hard for Abrams; he was a necessary
link", Kwiatkowski told IPS Wednesday. "The
day he got (the appointment), they were whooping
and hollering, 'We got him in, we got him
rarely communicated directly with the CIA,
leaving that to political heavyweights, including
Gingrich, who is reported to have made several
trips to the CIA headquarters, and, more importantly,
I Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick
Cheney's chief of staff and national security
to recent published reports, CIA analysts
felt these visits were designed to put pressure
on them to tailor their analyses more to the
liking of administration hawks.
some cases, NESA and OSP even prepared memos
specifically for Cheney and Libby, something
unheard of in previous administration because
the lines of authority in the Vice President's
office and the Pentagon are entirely separate.
"Luti sometimes would say, 'I've got to do
this for Scooter' ", said Kwiatkowski. "It
looked like Cheney's office was pulling the
said she could not confirm published reports
that OSP worked with a similar ad hoc group
in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office.
she recounts one incident in which she helped
escort a group of half a dozen Israelis, including
several generals, from the first floor reception
area to Feith's office. "We just followed
them, because they knew exactly where they
were going and moving fast".
the group arrived, she noted the book which
all visitors are required to sign under special
regulations that took effect after the Sep.
11, 2001 attacks. "I asked his secretary,
'Do you want these guys to sign in'? She said,
'No, these guys don't have to sign in' ".
It occurred to her, she said, that the office
may have deliberately not wanted to maintain
a record of the meeting.
added that OSP and MESA personnel were already
discussing the possibility of "going after
Iran" after the war in Iraq last January and
that articles by Michael Ledeen, another AEI
fellow and Perle associate who has been calling
for the U.S. to work for "regime change" in
Tehran since late 2001, were given much attention
in the two offices.
and Morris Amitay, a former head of AIPAC,
recently created the Coalition for Democracy
in Iran (CDI) to lobby for a more aggressive
policy there. Their move coincided with suggestions
by Sharon that Washington adopt a more confrontational
policy vis-a-vis Teheran.
recently said it was prepared to turn over
five senior al-Qaeda figures, including the
son of Osama bin Laden, who are currently
in its custody if Washington permanently shuts
down an Iraqi-based Iranian rebel group that
is listed as a terrorist organisation by the
officials, particularly Feith's office, have
reportedly opposed the deal, which had been
favoured by the State Department, because
of the possibility that the group, the Mujahadeen
Khalq, might be useful in putting pressure
on Tehran. (END/2003)
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