Iraq War – Timeline Highlights – 1965 to 2009

Timeline Highlights  (note – this is intended to provide broad background information for citizen education; it is not a complete account of all events or may meet some academic standards)

most information is from Context of ‘September 25-26, 2001 at HistoryCommons.org 

1965: Albert Wohlstetter, a professor at the University of Chicago and former RAND Analyst Gathers Young, Nascent Neoconservatives…many of whom are working and associating with the magazine publisher Irving Kristol… group includes Richard Perle, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Paul Wolfowitz. Wohlstetter, himself a protege of the Machiavellian academic Leo Strauss, is often considered the “intellectual godfather” of modern neoconservatism…Wohlstetter wielded a powerful influence on the US’s foreign policy during the heyday of the Cold War… He was such a powerful figure in his hundreds of briefings that he projected far more certainty than his facts actually supported. Though his facts and statistics were often completely wrong, he was so relentless and strident that his ideas gained more credence than they may have warranted. in 2007, “To join Team Wohlstetter, apparently, one had to embrace unquestioningly his worldviews, which eschewed old-fashioned intelligence as a basis for assessing the enemy’s intentions and military capabilities in favor of elaborate statistical models, probabilities, reasoning, systems analysis, and game theory…if you look down the road and see a war with, say, China, twenty years off, go to war now…It was a principle his acolytes would pursue for decades to come—with disastrous results.

Early 1970s: Neoconservatives Coalesce around Conservative Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop’ Jackson…neoconservatives, bound together by magazine publisher Irving Kristol react with horror to the ascendancy of the “McGovern liberals” in the Democratic Party, and turn to conservative senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA) for leadership…Jackson assembles a staff of bright, young, ideologically homogeneous staffers who will later become some of the most influential and powerful neoconservatives of their generation, including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz

1972 – 1976 Neoconservatives Work to Toughen US Policy towards Soviet Union and Influence US Foreign Policies

Early 1976 After George H. W. Bush becomes the head of the CIA he breaks with previous decisions and allow a coterie of neoconservative outsiders to pursue the allegations of Albert Wohlstetter that the CIA is seriously underestimating the threat the USSR poses to the US, allegations pushed by hardliners on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board….’Proves’ Soviets Far Ahead of US in Military, Nuclear CapabilitiesIdeology Trumps Facts – Neither Stoertz nor anyone else in the CIA appreciated how thoroughly Team B would let ideology and personalities override fact and real data

Late November, 1976: Team B Breaches Security to Successfully Whip up Fears of Soviet Threat

1977-1981: Nationalities Working Group Advocates Using Militant Islam Against Soviet Union

January 1981 – Ronald Reagan inaugurated as President of the United States

Early 1981: Richard Perle Assists Reagan’s Transition Team – places his associates in important national security positions and in the Department of Defense.”

Early 1981 and After: Reagan Categorically Opposed to Arms Control Agreements with Soviet Union; Advisers Reflect Oppositional Agenda

September 1981 through November 1983: Hardliners Block INF Arms Agreement

May 1982 and After: START Talks Supplant SALT Negotiations, Make No Progress

1984: Richard Perle Promotes Propaganda Campaign to Encourage Soviet Soldiers to Defect

October 11-12, 1986: Reagan, Gorbachev Almost Conclude Agreement to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons; Negotiations Founder on US Missile Defense Program

January 1988 – Inauguration of George H. W. Bush as president

1987-2004: Richard Perle Serves as Member of Defense Policy Board

Late March 1989 and After: Defense Secretary Cheney Advocates Enforced Regime Change in Soviet Union -When Dick Cheney becomes defense secretary he brings into the Pentagon a core group of young, ideological staffers with largely academic (not military) backgrounds. Many of these staffers are neoconservatives who once congregated around Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson; places them in the Pentagon’s policy directorate, under the supervision of Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, himself one of Jackson’s cadre. While most administrations leave the policy directorate to perform mundane tasks, Wolfowitz and his team have no interest in such. “They focused on geostrategic issues,” one of his Pentagon aides will recall. “They considered themselves conceptual.” Wolfowitz and his team are more than willing to reevaluate the most fundamental precepts of US foreign policy in their own terms, and in Cheney they have what reporters Franklin Foer and Spencer Ackerman call “a like-minded patron.” In 1991, Wolfowitz will describe his relationship to Cheney: “Intellectually, we’re very much on similar wavelengths.”

December 1991 – dissolution of the Soviet Union

1991-1997: Group of Foreign Policy Analysts Recommends Interventionist Policy

March 8, 1992: Raw US World Dominance Plan Is Leaked to the Media -The New York Times headline on March 8, 1992. The Defense Planning Guidance, “a blueprint for the department’s spending priorities in the aftermath of the first Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union,” is leaked to the New York Times. [New York Times, 3/8/1992;…Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) later says, “It is my opinion that [George W. Bush’s] plan for preemptive strikes was formed back at the end of the first Bush administration with that 1992 report.”

July 1992: Think Tank Publishes Book Proposing Policy of Unilateral Interventionism in the Name of Humanitarianism

Autumn 1992: Influential Neoconservative Academic Advocates Breaking Up Middle Eastern Countries, Including Iraq

November 1993 – Inauguration of Bill Clinton as president

July 8, 1996: Neoconservative Think Tank Advocates Aggressive Israeli Foreign Policy -The paper, whose lead author is neoconservative Richard Perle, is meant to advise the new, right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Other authors include…neoconservative Douglas Feith, who will be the prime architect of the Iraq war…Rebuilding Zionism by Abandoning Past Policies – It advocates making a complete break with past policies by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism.…” Aggressive, Militant Israeli Policy towards Arab Neighbors – …document urges the Israelis to aggressively seek the downfall of their Arab neighbors—especially Syria and Iraq—by exploiting the inherent tensions within and among the Arab States. The first step is to be the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. A war with Iraq will destabilize the entire Middle East, allowing governments in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and other countries to be replaced…‘Seeds of a New Vision’ – All these questions need not be answered right away, according to co-author Meyrav Wurmser. The document is “the beginning of thought,” she says, “… the seeds of a new vision.”

Similar to American Christian Right’s Vision – According to author Craig Unger, the ideology of “ACB” is, in essence, a secularized version of the theology of the American Christian Right. Christian Zionists insist that Jews were ordained by God to reclaim the Biblican land of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank; the paper asserts that claim as well. The paper echoes Christian fundamentalists by demanding “the unconditional acceptance of Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension.” Perle and his fellow neoconservatives want to push the boundaries even further: the Bible can be interpreted to countenance Jewish dominion over all or parts of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and even Saudi Arabia. Thusly, the authors claim that Israel and the US, by waging war against Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, would reshape the “strategic environment” in the Middle East and greatly expand Israel’s influence in the region.
Influence in Upcoming Bush Administration – Perle will later become chairman of President Bush’s influential Defense Policy Board and will be instrumental is moving Bush’s US policy toward war with Iraq after the 9/11 attacks, as will Feith and the Wurmsers.

Late Summer 1996: Neoconservatives Push for War with Iraq, Reshaping of Middle East to Favor Israel…At first, the offensive takes place in the pages of US newspapers and magazines. William Kristol and Robert Kagan write articles for the magazines Foreign Policy and the Weekly Standard; syndicated columnists Charles Krauthammer and A. M. Rosenthal use their columns to push the idea; Zalmay Khalilzad and Paul Wolfowitz pen op-eds for the Washington Post; “Clean Break” co-author David Wurmser writes op-eds for the Wall Street Journal and publishes a book, Tyranny’s Ally, in which he proposes that the US use its military to literally redraw the map of the Middle East (see Late Summer 1996). Neoconservatives are transforming Christian evangelicals’ argument that Americans are God’s “chosen people” into secular terms, and argue in their op-eds and articles that it is, in author Craig Unger’s words, the US’s “moral duty to project that greatness throughout the world—using American military power, if necessary.”

1997: Neoconservative Advocates Forcible, Bloody Retaking of Palestinian Land by Israel

November 12, 1997: Neoconservative Advocates Backing INC in Overthrowing Hussein

January 26, 1998: Neoconservative Think Tank Urges US to Attack Iraq -The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative think tank, publishes a letter to President Clinton urging war against Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein because he is a “hazard” to “a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil.” In a foretaste of what eventually happens, the letter calls for the US to go to war alone, attacks the United Nations, and says the US should not be “crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.” The letter is signed by many who will later lead the 2003 Iraq war. 10 of the 18 signatories later join the Bush Administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretaries of State Richard Armitage and Robert Zoellick, Undersecretaries of State John Bolton and Paula Dobriansky, presidential adviser for the Middle East Elliott Abrams, Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, and George W. Bush’s special Iraq envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Other signatories include William Bennett, Jeffrey Bergner, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Peter Rodman, William Schneider, Vin Weber, and James Woolsey… Clinton does heavily bomb Iraq in late 1998, but the bombing doesn’t last long .. The PNAC neoconservatives do not seriously expect Clinton to attack Iraq in any meaningful sense, author Craig Unger will observe in 2007. Instead, they are positioning themselves for the future.

February 19, 1998: Neoconservative Group Calls on US to Help Overthrow Hussein

The Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG), a bipartisan group made up largely of foreign policy specialists, sends an “Open Letter to the President” Largely Neoconservative in Makeup – Many of its co-signers will become the core of the Bush administration’s neoconservative-driven national security apparatus. These co-signers include Elliott Abrams, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Stephen Bryen, Douglas Feith, Frank Gaffney, Fred Ikle, Robert Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, William Kristol, Michael Ledeen, Bernard Lewis, Peter Rodman, Donald Rumsfeld, Gary Schmitt, Max Singer, Casper Weinberger, Paul Wolfowitz, David Wurmser, and Dov Zakheim. The CPSG is closely affiliated with both the neoconservative Project for the New American Century and the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), both of which boast Perle as a powerful and influential member.

May 29, 1998: PNAC Calls on Republican Congressional Leaders to Assert US Interests in Persian Gulf

July 1998: Rumsfeld Commission Wildly Inflates Threat from Iran, North Korea

February 1999: David Wurmser Urges US to Support Insurgency in Iraq

2000: Michael Ledeen: Leaders May Have to ‘Enter into Evil’ under Certain Circumstances

In his book, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership, neoconservative Michael Ledeen measures modern leaders against Machiavelli’s rules for leadership and concludes that “[e]ven after a half a millennium, Machiavelli’s advice to leaders is as contemporary as tomorrow… if new and more virtuous leaders do not emerge, it is only a matter of time before we are either dominated by our enemies or sink into a more profound crisis.” Such a situation, he explains, would put the US in the “same desperate crisis that drove Machiavelli to call for a new dictator to set things aright.” He adds, “In either case, we need Machiavellian wisdom and leadership… the ends may justify the means. In some situations, “[i]n order to achieve the most noble accomplishments, the leader may have to ‘enter into evil….the Christian god sanctions this view. Machiavelli, he notes approvingly, wrote: “I believe that the greatest good that one can do, and the most gratifying to God is that which one does for one’s country.” Ledeen thus adds: “Since it is the highest good, the defense of the country is one of those extreme situation in which a leader is justified in committing evil.”

September 2000: Neoconservative Think Tank PNAC Writes ‘Blueprint’ for ‘Global Pax Americana’

People involved in the 2000 PNAC report: Vice President Cheney, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Cheney Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim, and author Eliot Cohen….The document, titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century, was written for the George W. Bush team even before the 2000 presidential election…Plans to Overthrow Iraqi GovernmentThe report calls itself a “blueprint for maintaining global US preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.”…The report calls for the control of space through a new “US Space Forces,” the political control of the internet, the subversion of any growth in political power of even close allies, and advocates “regime change” in China, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran and other countries. It also mentions that “advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool”
‘A New Pearl Harbor’ – However, PNAC complains that thes changes are likely to take a long time, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/12/2003]
Bush Will Claim a ‘Humble’ Foreign Policy Stance – One month later during a presidential debate with Al Gore, Bush will assert that he wants a “humble” foreign policy in the Middle East and says he is against toppling Saddam Hussein in Iraq because it smacks of “nation building” . Around the same time, Cheney will similarly defend Bush’s position of maintaining President Clinton’s policy not to attack Iraq, asserting that the US should not act as though “we were an imperialist power, willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world, taking down governments.” [Washington Post, 1/12/2002] Author Craig Unger will later comment, “Only a few people who had read the papers put forth by the Project for a New American Century might have guessed a far more radical policy had been developed.” [Salon, 3/15/2004] A British member of Parliament will later say of the PNAC report, “This is a blueprint for US world domination—a new world order of their making. These are the thought processes of fantasist Americans who want to control the world.” [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/7/2002] Both PNAC and its strategy plan for Bush are almost virtually ignored by the media until a few weeks before the start of the Iraq war (see February-March 20, 2003).

November 1, 2000: David Wurmser Urges US and Israel To ‘Strike Fatally’ Against Arab Radicalism

Late December 2000 and Early January 2001: Bush Transition Teams Install Neoconservatives in Key Offices – The Bush team moves into Washington. Neoconservative Zalmay Khalilzad heads the Pentagon transition team, and he ensures that plenty of his friends and colleagues move into the civilian offices of the Defense Department. Four of the most influential advocates for the US overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein—Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, and Abram Shulsky—are waiting to learn where they will serve in the department. But Vice President Cheney is still concerned with ensuring the placement of his own colleagues and cronies who will help him build what many will call the “imperial presidency…

January 22, 2001 and After: Neoconservatives Begin Push for Invasion of Iraq -An orchestrated push in the media begins to make the case for the need to invade Iraq…

March, 2001: Perle Says Hussein Has Weapons of Mass Destruction -Defense Policy Board chairman and prominent neoconservative Richard Perle tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Does Saddam [Hussein] now have weapons of mass destruction? Sure he does.…. And, unless you believe that we’ve uncovered everything, you have to assume there is more than we’re able to report.” Perle fails to offer any evidence of his claims to the senators, and fails to provide evidence from UN inspectors that shows virtually all of Iraq’s WMD stockpiles and programs have long since been destroyed.

Shortly After September 11, 2001: Perle Says Iraq ‘Has to Pay a Price for’ 9/11

September 15, 2001: President Bush Tells Neoconservative Adviser that US Will Attack Iraq after Afghanistan – During a morning meeting with advisers at Camp David, President Bush indicated that he wanted to focus on attacking Afghanistan first, and then look at the issue of attacking Iraq later …Bush told Perle at Camp David that once Afghanistan had been dealt with, it would be Iraq’s turn.”

September 19-20, 2001: Defense Policy Board Discusses Advisability of Attacking Iraq

September 20, 2001: Neoconservative Think Tank Demands Bush Invade Iraq ‘Even if Evidence Does Not Link Iraq Directly’ to 9/11 Attacks; Also Demand Attacks against Syria, Iran, Hezbollah

September 24, 2001: Neoconservative Columnists Advocate Overthrow of Hussein as Part of a ‘Larger War’ to Reestablish US ‘Dominance’ in Middle East

September 25-26, 2001: Neoconservative Commentator Kristol Advocates Regime Change in Iraq, Slams Powell – Neoconservative commentator and publisher William Kristol writes that the US must implement “regime change where possible” throughout the Middle East, and especially in Iraq. He excoriates Secretary of State Colin Powell for being against such an aggressive policy…

October 29, 2001: Neoconservative Scholar: ‘This Is Total War’ – Michael Ledeen, speaking at an event sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), states: “No stages. This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq… this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war… our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

November 14, 2001: Neoconservative Foreign Policy Adviser Perle Says Iraq War Should Alert Other Nations: ‘You’re Next’

November 18-19, 2001: Perle: US to ‘Absolutely’ Go After Iraq for 9/11

November 20, 2001: Neoconservative: US Must Realize It Is Involved in ‘World War IV’ – Neoconservative professor Eliot Cohen writes that the Afghan war is misnamed. It should be, he says, the latest salvo in “World War IV

November 29-30, 2001: Neoconservative Group Encourages Bush Administration to Invade Iraq as First Step to Dominating Middle East

December 7, 2001: Neoconservative Michael Ledeen Argues in Favor of Perpetual War against the Muslim Worldn – Michael Ledeen, an avid admirer of Machiavelli, argues in a piece published by National Review Online that the US must be “imperious, ruthless, and relentless” against the Muslim world until there has been “total surrender.” Any attempt on the part of the US to be “reasonable” or “evenhanded” will only empower Islamic militants, he asserts. He writes: “We will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away, and every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle.” The piece is republished in the Jewish World Review four days later.

February 2002: Neoconservative: Bush Must Attack Numerous Arab Nations to Fight, Win ‘World War IV’ against Terrorism – Norman Podhoretz, the editor of the neoconservative magazine Commentary, writes a call to arms called “How to Win World War IV.” For Podhoretz, the US has already won World War III—the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Now, he asserts, it is time to win the war against Islamist terrorism. The US must embrace this war against civilizations, and President Bush must accept that it is his mission “to fight World War IV—the war against militant Islam.”

April 2002: Neoconservatives Say War against Iraq Is about Redrawing ‘Geopolitical Map of the Middle East’

April 23, 2002: Neoconservative: US Should ‘Pick Up Some Small, Crappy Little Country and Throw It against the Wall’ – In a column for the National Review advocating the immediate overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, neoconservative Jonah Goldberg praises his fellow neoconservative Michael Ledeen and urges the US to implement what he calls the “Ledeen Doctrine,” which he paraphrases as: “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small, crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

May 2002: Wilson Breaks Decade-Long Silence to Speak out against Iraq War – Former ambassador Joseph Wilson participates in the annual conference of the American Turkish Council. One of the keynote speakers is Richard Perle, the neoconservative head of the Defense Policy Board and the chief author of the 1996 position paper “A Clean Break,” which argued for the forcible redrawing of the political map of the Middle East. In 1996, Perle had called for the overthrow of the Iraqi government. At the conference, Perle makes the same call. Wilson will later recall being deeply troubled by Perle’s “fire and brimstone” speech. The next afternoon, when Wilson is scheduled to speak, he voices his concerns over Perle’s position. Although he had journeyed to Niger to learn the truth or falsity about the Iraq-Niger uranium claims he has not spoken publicly about Iraq in over a decade. He does so because he urgently feels that Perle’s views need to be countered. “No decision is more important than that to send a nation’s sons and daughters to a foreign land in order to kill and perhaps die for their country,” he will write. “As a democracy, we are all participants in that decision. Not to speak out would amount to complicity in whatever decision was taken.” … Wilson will later write: “As I discovered while debating the issue, the prowar advocates were little inclined to listen to the views of others. They had made up their minds long ago, and now it was a matter of ramming their agenda through the decision-making process.”

August 6, 2002: Prominent Neoconservative Wants to Turn Middle East into ‘Cauldron’ of Violence

August 16, 2002: Perle: Bush’s War Rhetoric Makes Invasion Necessary – Neoconservative Richard Perle, the head of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, says that the Bush administration has expended so much time and effort in making its case for war against Iraq that it has no other choice except to invade. He says, “The failure to take on Saddam [Hussein]… would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism.” In 2006, author Frank Rich interprets Perle’s words, writing: “If Bush didn’t get rid of Saddam after all this saber rattling, he will look like the biggest wimp since—well, his father. If he didn’t do it soon, after all these months of swagger, he would destroy his credibility and hurt the country’s.”

September 4, 2002: Neoconservative Michael Ledeen Advocates Overthrow of Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian, and Saudi Arabian Governments – Neoconservative Michael Ledeen argues in a piece published by the Wall Street Journal that the US must not limit the next military strike to Iraq alone. Rather, according to Ledeen, the US “should instead be talking about using all our political, moral, and military genius to support a vast democratic revolution to liberate all the peoples of the Middle East from tyranny.” In addition to Iraq, he says, the governments of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia must also be overthrown. “Stability is an unworthy American mission, and a misleading concept to boot. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia; we want things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize.”

November 2002-December 2002: Abrams Leads Secretive Neocon Planning Group for Iraq Occupation – Elliott Abrams, a well-known neoconservative and former Iran-Contra figure, leads one of a dozen Bush administration working groups charged with drafting post-invasion plans…the group is very secretive… It refuses “to brief not only top State Department officials but also aides of Gen. Tommy Franks, the commanding officer of the US Central Command [CENTCOM], about what it is doing.” Instead it stovepipes its work to its contacts in the White House. Sources in the State Department and CIA believe that one of the group’s apparent aims is reducing the influence of the State Department, CIA and the United Nations in post-Saddam Iraq. These critics also question “why a convicted felon [Abrams], pardoned or not, is being allowed to help shape policy.”  Sources in the State Department and CIA believe that one of the group’s apparent aims is reducing the influence of the State Department, CIA and the United Nations in post-Saddam Iraq…

November 12, 2002: Neoconservative Writer Recommends US Invade Iran First – Neoconservative Michael Ledeen recommends that the US invade Iraq—but only after invading Iran and overthrowing that nation’s government.

November 20, 2002: Perle: UN Won’t Find Iraqi Weapons Because They Are So Well Hidden; US Will Attack Even If No Weapons Found – Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Policy Board, attends a meeting on global security with members of the British Parliament… Peter Kilfoyle, a former defense minister and Labour backbencher, tells the Mirror: “America is duping the world into believing it supports these inspections. President Bush intends to go to war even if inspectors find nothing. This make a mockery of the whole process and exposes America’s real determination to bomb Iraq.”

January 9, 2003: US Rejects British Suggestions to Put Off Iraq War

February 2003: Prominent Neoconservatives Argue Iraq War Is Really about US World Dominance – Prominent neoconservatives William Kristol and Lawrence F. Kaplan publish the book The War Over Iraq advocating a US invasion of that country. In the book’s introduction, they assert: “We stand at the cusp of a new historical era.… This is a decisive moment.… The decision about what course to take in dealing with Iraq is particularly significant because it is so clearly about more than Iraq. It is about more even than the future of the Middle East and the war on terror. It is about what sort of role the United States intends to play in the world in the twenty-first century.”

February 13, 2003: Neoconservative Ledeen Says Iraq Invasion Could Be ‘War to Remake the World’

February 15 – worldwide anti-war protest

February 25, 2003: Neoconservative Foreign Policy Adviser Says UN Weapons Inspectors Being ‘Seriously Deceived’ by Iraqis

March 19, 2003: Neoconservative: ‘Iraq Is a Battle, Not a War’ – Neoconservative Michael Ledeen, in an op-ed entitled “One Battle in a Wider War,” echoes the thinking of other neoconservatives when he writes that other Middle Eastern countries, specifically Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, must also be invaded by the US. “Once upon a time, it might have been possible to deal with Iraq alone, without having to face the murderous forces of the other terror masters in Tehran, Damascus, and [Riyadh], but that time has passed,” he writes. “Iraq is a battle, not a war. We have to win the war, and the only way to do that is to bring down the terror masters, and spread freedom throughout the region.”

March 19/20, 2003 – Invasion begins

May 1, 2003 Mission accomplished/continuesYouTube of speech, explanation that President did not actually say “Mission Accomplished” but that it was on a sign not approved by the White House. The President said “Mission continues.”

March 27, 2003: Accused of Profiteering, Perle Resigns from Pentagon Advisory Panel Chairmanship – Embroiled in controversy over multiple conflicts of interests, Richard Perle resigns his position as chairman of the Defense Advisory Panel (DAP). His resignation is the result of criticism of his mix of business activities as an investor, consultant, lobbyist, and political advocacy as an adviser to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In the weeks prior to his resignation, the New Yorker revealed that Perle’s venture capital firm, Trireme Partners LP, solicited funds from Saudi financiers, despite Perle’s vociferous criticisms of the Saudi government

January 24, 2004: Perle Takes Part in Rally for Iran; Denies Knowledge of Connections to MEK

February 19, 2009: Perle Denies Any Neoconservative Influence in Bush Administration – In a speech at the Nixon Center, neoconservative guru Richard Perle attempts to drastically rewrite the history of the Bush administration and his role in the invasion of Iraq. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank writes that listening to Perle gave him “a sense of falling down the rabbit hole.” Milbank notes: “In real life, Perle was the ideological architect of the Iraq war and of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack…But at yesterday’s forum of foreign policy intellectuals, he created a fantastic world in which: Perle is not a neoconservative. Neoconservatives do not exist. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn’t be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.”

http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a09252601kristoltimes

Florence and the Drones

By DAVID BROOKS, New York Times

This winter I’m taking part in a great course at Yale called Grand Strategy. We’re reading strategic thought from Sun Tzu and Pericles straight through to Churchill and George F. Kennan. This week we read Machiavelli.

Machiavelli is a tonic because he counteracts the sentiments of our age. We’re awash in TV news segments celebrating the human spirit, but Machiavelli had a lower estimation of our worth. “For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain,” he writes in “The Prince.”

“It needs to be taken for granted that all men are wicked and that they will always give vent to the malignity that is in their minds when opportunity offers,” he adds in “The Discourses.”

The conventional view is that Machiavelli believed that since people are brutes then everything is permitted. Leaders should do anything they can to hold power. The ends justify the means.

In fact, Machiavelli was a moralistic thinker. He wrote movingly of his love for his city, Florence. His vision of a great and unified Italy was romantic and idealistic. He barely goes a page without some appeal to honor and virtue.

He just had a different concept of political virtue. It would be nice, he writes, if a political leader could practice the Christian virtues like charity, mercy and gentleness and still provide for his people. But, in the real world, that’s usually not possible. In the real world, a great leader is called upon to create a civilized order for the city he serves. To create that order, to defeat the forces of anarchy and savagery, the virtuous leader is compelled to do hard things, to take, as it were, the sins of the situation upon himself.

The leader who does good things cannot always be good himself. Sometimes bad acts produce good outcomes. Sometimes a leader has to love his country more than his soul.

Since a leader is forced by circumstances to do morally suspect things, Machiavelli at least wants him to do them effectively. Machiavelli is full of advice. If you have to do something cruel, do it fast; if you get to do something generous, do it slowly. If you lead a country, you have more to fear from the scheming elites than the masses, so you should try to form an alliance with the people against the aristocracy.

When you read Machiavelli, you realize how lucky we are. Unlike 16th-century Florence, we have a good Constitution that channels conflict. We have manners, respect for law and social trust that softens behavior, at least a bit. Even in the realm of foreign affairs, we’ve inherited an international order that restrains conflict. Our ancestors behaved savagely to build our world, so we don’t have to.

But it’s still not possible to rule with perfectly clean hands. There are still terrorists out there, hiding in the shadows and plotting to kill Americans. So even today’s leaders face the Machiavellian choice: Do I have to be brutal to protect the people I serve? Do I have to use drones, which sometimes kill innocent children, in order to thwart terror and save the lives of my own?

When Barack Obama was a senator, he wasn’t compelled to confront the brutal logic of leadership. Now in office, he’s thrown into the Machiavellian world. He’s decided, correctly, that we are in a long war against Al Qaeda; that drone strikes do effectively kill terrorists; that, in fact, they inflict fewer civilian deaths than bombing campaigns, boots on the ground or any practical alternative; that, in fact, civilian death rates are dropping sharply as the C.I.A. gets better at this. Acting brutally abroad saves lives at home.

Still, there’s another aspect of Machiavellian thought relevant to the drone debate. This is a core weakness in his thought. He puts too much faith in the self-restraint of his leaders. Machiavelli tells us that men are venal self-deceivers, but then he gives his Prince permission to do all these monstrous things, trusting him not to get carried away or turn into a monster himself.

Our founders were more careful. Our founders understood that leaders are as venal and untrustworthy as anybody else. They abhorred concentrated power, and they set up checks and balances to disperse it.

Our drone policy should take account of our founders’ superior realism. Drone strikes are so easy, hidden and abstract. There should be some independent judicial panel to review the kill lists. There should be an independent panel of former military and intelligence officers issuing reports on the program’s efficacy.

If you take Machiavelli’s tough-minded view of human nature, you have to be brutal to your enemies — but you also have to set up skeptical checks on the people you empower to destroy them.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/opinion/brooks-florence-and-the-drones.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130208&_r=0

Bush’s failed Machiavelli messes up big time

by Andrew Sullivan, Times/UK, March 25, 2007

If you have a reputation for being a Machiavellian, you aren’t one. That was Machiavelli’s view, at least. The key to all successful power-mongers, he argued, is the appearance of innocence, and a reputation for honesty and benevolence. Underneath, of course, you’re stitching the system up.

So it doesn’t take a genius to realise that if Niccolo were around today he would laugh heartily at the idea that Karl Rove is a master of the art of ruthless politics.

President George W Bush’s right-hand man has a reputation as one of the nastiest, toughest players in the business. Last week Congress prepared but did not deliver a subpoena to have him testify about the highly suspicious firing of eight allegedly independent US attorneys in battle-ground states. He is regarded as being at the centre of the outing of Valerie Plame, the former covert CIA agent.

A true Machiavellian would never be associated with these tawdry and counterproductive political manoeuvres. A true Machiavellian would keep his eyes on the big power moves while coming off like Mother Teresa.

But just as Rove has become entangled in petty scandal, he has bungled the bigger strategy as well. Six years into the Bush presidency Rove’s fantasy of a permanent Republican majority is fast becoming a B-movie of a broken political movement.

The myth of Rove’s political brilliance is not hard to dispel. He has often picked the easiest and sleaziest short-term tactic over the more difficult long-term strategy. He began his career race-baiting and liberal-bashing a moribund Democratic party in the Deep South. It wasn’t hard to fell those teetering timbers in the 1970s and 1980s.

Yes he shepherded Bush to be governor of Texas in the 1990s, but again the political winds were strongly behind him. Texas had been trending Republican ever since the Lyndon B Johnson era, and Rove found in Bush a congenial and single-minded fellow to occupy a relatively weak executive office.

Rove does deserve credit for creating an aura of inevitability around Bush in 1999 and 2000, and for sliming John McCain in the South Carolina primary (after a near-fatal setback for Bush in New Hampshire). But much of the credit for Bush’s eventual razor-thin victory goes to Al Gore.

Even so, Rove actually advised Bush to stop campaigning the weekend before the vote, and suppressed a drunk-driving record that emerged very late in the campaign and nearly derailed the entire effort. These tactical errors made Bush’s victory a statistical rounding error.

Then came what in retrospect seems the stupidest decision made in a very long time in American politics. Rove advised a moderate, congenial and compassionate Republican, elected with a minority of the popular vote, to forget about retaining the political centre. Rove believed that appealing to moderates was a fool’s game when there were millions of alienated evangelical voters waiting to be tapped.

“Play to the base” was Rove’s mantra — and he could create what he called a “permanent majority”. If four or five million fundamentalists who had previously never voted could be marshalled into a new political movement, victory would be his. The rest could be bribed with large amounts of government spending (cash for churches, pills for the elderly, tax breaks for big business, tariffs for steel, subsidies for agriculture).

So Bush cut taxes, turned on the spending spigot and stuck to a strictly religious line on social policy: no new federal embryonic stem cell research, judicial appointments designed to reverse the Roe vs Wade case that established women’s right to abortion, a constitutional amendment to ban civil recognition of gay couples and a clumsy attempt to play politics with Terri Schiavo, a woman in Florida in a permanent vegetative state.

Bush’s response to 9/11 fell exactly into this Rovian pattern. Some war leaders respond to an attack by bringing the opposition party into their cabinet (as Winston Churchill did) and creating a government of national unity. Bush did the opposite, forging a war policy solely in the executive branch, sidelining the Senate and then running a mid-term election strategy by accusing Democrats of being soft on terror. It worked in the short term. But by the 2004 election the strains were beginning to show. Mistakes in Iraq were not viewed as national faults, to be corrected, but as the president’s sole responsibility, to be denied.

In wartime, Americans tend to back their president: those reelected to a second term do so with big majorities. Bush, thanks to Rove, broke this pattern, gaining a mere 51% in wartime with an economy goosed by Keynesian spending. Yes, he won — and he was lucky again in his opponents. But the basic structure was weak.

Just how weak is beginning to become clear. The Rove coalition has no viable candidate for 2008. Rudy Giuliani is a social liberal; McCain loathes the Rove base, and the feeling is mutual; Mitt Romney was only very recently boasting that he would be more pro-gay than Edward Kennedy. Evangelicals are splitting between those who want to keep their focus on sexual issues and those who want to take a more public stand on issues such as the environment and torture.

The mismanaged war has removed the Republicans’ advantage on national security. The younger generation is overwhelmingly Democratic. I remember when it was actually cool to be conservative. Those days are gone. In 2002 the parties were tied at 43% each across all Americans. After five more years of Bush, according to a survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center released last week, the Democrats have 50% support compared with the Republicans’ 35%.

The survey also found big drops in religious intensity and big increases in the percentage eager to see government play a larger role in taking care of the poor. One of Rove’s ideological legacies may be the revival of old-school liberalism.

What Rove has also done by centring the Republican party in the Deep South is alienate many moderates and centre-right voters in the Rocky Mountains and Midwest. A state such as Colorado that was once evenly split now looks increasingly Democratic. California — the state of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon — was abandoned long ago. And the one issue that really fires up the white base of the Republican party is hostility to illegal immigration. But a policy like that could turn off the huge and growing Hispanic vote, isolating the Republicans even further into a white, narrow and angry image.

Rove, in other words, may be on the verge of a historic realignment of the kind he used to boast of. He may indeed have created a new and permanent majority — but for the Democrats, not the Republicans. Machiavelli would be unimpressed.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/andrew_sullivan/article1563268.ece

What Would Machiavelli Do? The Big Lie Lives On by Thom Hartmann

CommonDreams.org, August 26, 2004 

Excerpt 

There is nothing new about the Swift Boat ads.
German filmmaker Fritz Kippler, one of Goebbels’ most effective propagandists, once said that two steps were necessary to promote a Big Lie so the majority of the people in a nation would believe it. The first was to reduce an issue to a simple black-and-white choice that “even the most feebleminded could understand.” The second was to repeat the oversimplification over and over. If these two steps were followed, people would always come to believe the Big Lie…
 

The Big Lie is alive and well today in the United States of America, and what’s most troubling about it is the basic premise that underlies its use. In order for somebody to undertake a Big Lie, they must first believe Niccolo Machiavelli’s premise (in “The Prince,” 1532) that the end justifies the means…
Believing that the end justifies the means is the ultimate slippery slope. It will ultimately kill any noble goal, because even if the goal is achieved, it will have been corrupted along the way by the means used to accomplish it… 
like George W. Bush repeatedly asserting that he had to invade Iraq because of WMDs and because Saddam “threw out the weapons inspectors”…trying to accomplish a “good” by using the means of an “evil” like a Big Lie inherently corrupts the good.
Now the Bush campaign and its allies are encouraging a new series of Big Lie techniques to assail John Kerry’s Vietnam War record…Swift Boat ads

Thus, there is no equivalence between the MoveOn (and other) ads and the Swift Boat ads, moral or otherwise. Truths and issues – however unpleasant – cannot be weighed on the same scale as lies and character assassination, explicit or implicit…
 

Techniques, interestingly enough, that have an uncanny resemblance to character smears used by the Bush family against Michael Dukakis in 1988, against Ann Richards in 1994, against John McCain in 2000, and against Max Cleland in 2002.
 

Lee Atwater, on his deathbed, realized that the “ends justifies the means” technique of campaigning he had unleashed on behalf of the Bush family was both immoral and harmful to American democracy.

…Atwater’s spiritual and political protege, Karl Rove, soldiers on. Big Lies are emerging from Bush allies with startling regularity, and old Big Lies are being resurrected almost daily, most on right-wing talk radio.
 

The most alarming contrast in the election of 2004 isn’t between the conservative Bush and liberal Kerry. It’s between those who will use any means to get and hold power, and those who are unwilling to engage in the Big Lie.
 

History tells us that, over the short term, the Big Lie usually works. Over the long term, though, the damage it does – both to those who use it, and to the society on which it is inflicted – is incalculable.

 

Full text 

There is nothing new about the Swift Boat ads.
German filmmaker Fritz Kippler, one of Goebbels’ most effective propagandists, once said that two steps were necessary to promote a Big Lie so the majority of the people in a nation would believe it. The first was to reduce an issue to a simple black-and-white choice that “even the most feebleminded could understand.” The second was to repeat the oversimplification over and over. If these two steps were followed, people would always come to believe the Big Lie.
 

In Kippler’s day, the best example of his application of the principle was his 1940 movie “Campaign in Poland,” which argued that the Polish people were suffering under tyranny – a tyranny that would someday threaten Germany – and that the German people could either allow this cancer to fester, or preemptively “liberate” Poland. Hitler took the “strong and decisive” path, the movie suggested, to liberate Poland, even though after the invasion little evidence was found that Polandrepresented any threat whatsoever to the powerful German Reich. The movie was Hitler’s way of saying that invading Polandwas the right thing to do, and that, in retrospect, he would have done it again.
 

The Big Lie is alive and well today in the United States of America, and what’s most troubling about it is the basic premise that underlies its use. In order for somebody to undertake a Big Lie, they must first believe Niccolo Machiavelli’s premise (in “The Prince,” 1532) that the end justifies the means.

Hitler, after all, claimed to have based everything he did on the virtuous goal of uniting Europe- and then the world – in a thousand-year era of peace, foreshadowed in the Bible. If you believe that a thousand years of peace is such a noble end that any means is justified to reach it, it’s a short leap to eugenics, preemptive wars, torture of dissidents and prisoners, and mass murder.
 

Believing that the end justifies the means is the ultimate slippery slope. It will ultimately kill any noble goal, because even if the goal is achieved, it will have been corrupted along the way by the means used to accomplish it.
 

In fiction, it’s the story of Mary Shelley’s good Doctor Frankenstein’s attempt to conquer mortality, of Darth Vader’s misuse of the Force, and of the tragic consequence of the inquisitive Dr. Jeckyll’s attempt to understand good and evil going tragically wrong when, as Robert Louis Stevenson notes, he wrote, “I had gone to bed Henry Jekyll, I had awakened Edward Hyde.”
 

In real life, it’s the story of the many tinpot dictators around the world who quote Jefferson while enforcing a brutal rule, of power industry executives pushing for lax mercury rules to “help the American economy,” of the legion of lobbyists who work daily to corrupt democracy in the good name of GMOs, pharmaceuticals, and the insurance industry (among others).
 

Gandhi, Jesus, and Buddha all warned us about it, as did Tolstoy, Tolkien, Hemmingway, and Kafka.
 

Be it “small sins” like Nader getting into bed with Republicans to get on state ballots, or “big sins” like George W. Bush repeatedly asserting that he had to invade Iraq because of WMDs and because Saddam “threw out the weapons inspectors” (something Saddam never did – inspectors were removed by Clinton in 1998 and by Bush in 2003), trying to accomplish a “good” by using the means of an “evil” like a Big Lie inherently corrupts the good.
 

Now the Bush campaign and its allies are encouraging a new series of Big Lie techniques to assail John Kerry’s Vietnam War record. With a smug assurance of damage done to the enemy, George W. Bush refused to address specifically the misrepresentations in the ads, and called for “the end of all 527s,” a goal he cynically knows unachievable in this election cycle.
 

Defenders of the Bush campaign are overrunning the media, trying to imply equivalence between the Swift Boat ads and the many “attack” ads run by anti-Bush 527 organizations over previous months. But the Bush campaign has never disputed the truthfulness of charges against him (loss of jobs, ruinousIraq policy, environmental despoliation, etc.) in previous 527 ads.

Thus, there is no equivalence between the MoveOn (and other) ads and the Swift Boat ads, moral or otherwise. Truths and issues – however unpleasant – cannot be weighed on the same scale as lies and character assassination, explicit or implicit.
 

This is why the Kerry campaign is not complaining about attacks per se – those are to be expected in politics – but about Big Lie techniques used in these particular attacks. Techniques, interestingly enough, that have an uncanny resemblance to character smears used by the Bush family against Michael Dukakis in 1988, against Ann Richards in 1994, against John McCain in 2000, and against Max Cleland in 2002.

Lee Atwater, on his deathbed, realized that the “ends justifies the means” technique of campaigning he had unleashed on behalf of the Bush family was both immoral and harmful to American democracy.

“In 1988, fighting Dukakis, I said that I ‘would strip the bark off the little bastard’ and ‘make Willie Horton his [Dukakis'] running mate,’” Atwatersaid. “I am sorry for both statements: the first for its naked cruelty, the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not. Mostly I am sorry for the way I thought of other people. Like a good general, I had treated everyone who wasn’t with me as against me.”
 

But Atwater‘s spiritual and political prot?g?, Karl Rove, soldiers on. Big Lies are emerging from Bush allies with startling regularity, and old Big Lies are being resurrected almost daily, most on right-wing talk radio.
 

The most alarming contrast in the election of 2004 isn’t between the conservative Bush and liberal Kerry. It’s between those who will use any means to get and hold power, and those who are unwilling to engage in the Big Lie.
 

History tells us that, over the short term, the Big Lie usually works. Over the long term, though, the damage it does – both to those who use it, and to the society on which it is inflicted – is incalculable.

Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight,” “Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights,” “We The People: A Call To Take Back America,” and “What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To Democracy.”

http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0826-02.htm