The U.S. is the World’s Biggest Bully; And You Wonder Why Bully Trump Is Popular Among Some Americans

By Charles Derber and Yale Magrass, Truthout, Alternet, May 19, 2016

GOP leaders secretly admire and envy his power as a bully.

Donald Trump’s flagrant bullying — much denounced even by the Republican Party establishment, with both President Bushes refusing to endorse him – is no sign that he will lose the presidential nomination or election. The dirty secret is that GOP leaders secretly admire and envy his power as a bully. Worse, Trump’s bullying resonates not only with his hardcore supporters, but also to many in the elite classes and much of the population.

There has been endless elite and media bemoaning of Trump as a bully. Much of this misses the key point and is hypocritical, for Trump’s bullying is largely a reflection of the establishment’s own bullying and the centrality of bullying in our culture and society.

The mainstream media and party establishments say, “Isn’t it terrible that Trump is such a bully?” Many ordinary people say the same thing. But the truth is that Trump’s bullying is a deep part of US culture. If we look honestly in the mirror, we will likely see some reflection of Trump. This is especially true of the political and media establishments, who present themselves as being civil and anything but bullies.

The inconvenient truth is that bullying is embedded in our culture, our governing elites and our most powerful institutions: the military, the corporation and the state. Whatever our personal values, we all live in a bullying society — militarized capitalism — and must learn to play by its rules.

Many GOP leaders genuinely want to stop Trump. His threats of “riots,” his egging on of supporters to punch out protesters at rallies and the death threats by Trump’s most hardcore followers to wavering Republican delegates represent extreme bullying that is dangerous, because it threatens to expose the disguised bullying built into the Republican Party and the kind of capitalism and militarism it embraces.

The Republican Party’s neoconservative establishment embraces a global militarism that threatens and bullies all nations opposing US interests. And it embraces an unfettered, neoliberal capitalism with few restraints on corporations bullying workers and consumers. But these policies are packaged in moral ideals about preserving freedom and American exceptionalism. High-flown rhetoric hides the underlying GOP establishment’s commitment to institutionalized bullying. Although Trump preaches many of the same values, with a pledge to “make America great again,” he is embarrassingly explicit in his embrace of xenophobia, nativism and even torture.

Trump’s overt bullying threatens not just Republican leaders, but leaders of both party establishments because it draws attention to the subtler bullying that is commonplace within both parties. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, who could easily be described as the “Pentagon’s favorite Democrat,” is more hawkish than many generals. She favored the war in Iraq, the intervention in Libya, no-fly zones in Syria where Russian planes fly and more ground troops in the Middle East. She bullies domestically when she meets behind closed doors to raise millions of dollars from Wall Street and the oil industry, who need her support for fracking and oil drilling. The companies bully her in return, withdrawing funds if she interferes with their power and profit.

It is crucial to elites that their bullying be disguised as a legitimate practice that serves beneficent purposes. Faith in their rule can be maintained only if most of the population sees national militarism and corporate power not as bullying, but as “moral intervention” in the case of the military, and “protecting the good or efficient operation of the market” in the case of capitalism.

The common wisdom is that Trump’s bullying power is attractive only to his downwardly mobile and authoritarian white working-class male supporters. But when he makes bullying statements or threats toward women, people with disabilities, gay people, people of color, Muslims and whole countries, such as China and Mexico, he is saying what many within the elite — and many ordinary citizens — really think, but are hesitant to say publicly.

There is a great deal of ambivalence in the general public. Many Americans have begun to embrace an anti-bullying culture. This counterculture is particularly strong among groups such as women, LGBTQ people and people of color, who are frequently subject to systemic bullying. And many teachers at all levels of the education system endorse the anti-bullying culture and critique bullying’s authoritarian undertones.

But even these Americans still have to live in the existing system and must abide by its rules. Generals and soldiers alike have to embrace the bullying code of the military, learning to view state violence as “moral heroism.” Likewise, workers and managers seeking to survive and succeed in a corporate culture — and even supervisors in schools — cannot be sentimental about the use and abuse of power. Threats to workers, competitors and colleagues are part of the game, and those who can’t live by bullying often lose out.

Trump’s extreme bullying offends large groups that he targets, but the power he wins and projects is secretly admired by many, even those who would never vote for him. The doublethink of the GOP establishment is present in various forms throughout much of the population. Trump is too extreme for the majority to openly accept, and many will never vote for him. But there is a barely concealed recognition and admiration of how he is openly playing out a hidden code of bullying embedded deep in our culture and our dominant national institutions.

January 2016 poll of 1,689 working-class voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania by Working America, a labor group, showed that Trump was the favored candidate, getting more support than Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders combined. The reasons were less related to his policies than what one respondent called his “pugnacious personality.”

The nation will be in danger of “Trumpism” until we change the system that the establishment runs. We need to build a new, more democratic economy, end militarism and reject the authoritarianism of a bullying culture. Trumpism is just the visible tip of the bullying that drives our core institutions and culture.

Through his unvarnished bullying, Trump inadvertently begins to reveal the “civil bullying” built into our national institutions and everyday life. When people and pundits ask why such a bully has won so much power and so many votes, it can open up a discussion about the real nature and roots of bullying.

That conversation could be transformative. If led by progressive teachers, media and social movements seeking to end systemic economic and political violence in all forms, it may help transform the nation’s hidden system of bullying.

Copyright, Reprinted with permission.

Charles Derber and Yale Magrass are authors of the just-published book, Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society.

Political philosophy – Section One

 also see Political Philosophy – Section Two

Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country? by Tom Engelhardt, from TomDispatch,.March 25, 2015 … based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name. And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so….it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

Trump and the Transformation of Politics  by John Feffer,, by  Foreign Policy In Focus, August 27, 2016 - Excerpt – The current politic al order is coming apart… Illiberal populists all over the world are benefiting from three simultaneous backlashes. The history of political parties is rather boring. Not much has changed since the French Revolution, which produced the the terms “Left” and “Right” to reflect where people sat in the National Assembly. The early 20th century saw the rise of Communist parties on the far left. Shortly later, fascist parties began to emerge on the far right. Aside from these challenges from the margins, most countries have produced some version of a conservative (Christian Democrat, Republican) party and a liberal (Labor, Social Democratic) party. These parties have alternated in power, sometimes even ruling in coalition….full text

Perle Denies Any Neoconservative Influence in Bush Administration, February 19, 2009: — 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.”

Leo Strauss and the “Crazies in the Basement” By Donald Archer,  OpEdNews Op Eds 4/24/2008 – From the beginning of his presidency, George W. Bush has surrounded himself with radical neo-conservatives, with what his father, the first President Bush, called “crazies in the basement.”   They have advised him on everything from political strategy to foreign policy.   What they have in common is the warped worldview of Leo Strauss: a charismatic and influential professor of political philosophy at the University of Chicago during the 1950s and 60s.…The ideology of Leo Strauss and the neo-conservatives is the antithesis of the Enlightenment wisdom that inspired the ideal, if not the actuality, of the American Revolution and the modern constitutional democracy—a liberal society that promotes and is maintained by critical thinking, a well-informed electorate, and an open, transparent government.     This is the ideological war now being fought.

The rise of American authoritarianism by Amanda Taub,, March 1, 2016  A niche group of political scientists may have uncovered what’s driving Donald Trump’s ascent. What they found has implications that go well beyond 2016. Trump has found the key to appealing to authoritarians, which makes him dangerous. The ability of any political party to respond to the anxieties of this group of people is very limited. Do we have institutions and structures in place to prevent the dark side of this growing trend? This is a long but essential article to read and understand.

The Progressive Movement and the Transformation of American Politics By Thomas G. West, Ph.D. and William A. Schambra, Heritage Foundation, 2007 Progressivism was the reform movement that ran from the late 19th century through the first decades of the 20th century, during which leading intellectuals and social reformers in the United States sought to address the economic, political, and cultural questions that had arisen in the context of the rapid changes brought with the Industrial Revolution and the growth of modern capitalism in America. The Progressives believed that these changes marked the end of the old order and required the creation of a new order appropriate for the new industrial age. There are, of course, many different representations of Progressivism: the literature of Upton Sinclair, the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the history of Charles Beard, the educational system of John Dewey. In politics and political thought, the movement is associated with political leaders such as Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt and thinkers such as Herbert Croly and Charles Merriam. Remarks by Thomas G. West: The thesis of our book, The Progressive Revolution in Politics and Political Science, is that Progressivism transformed American politics. What was that transformation? It was a total rejection in theory, and a partial rejection in practice, of the principles and policies on which America had been founded and on the basis of which the Civil War had been fought and won only a few years earlier. When I speak of Progressivism, I mean the movement that rose to prominence between about 1880 and 1920. In a moment I will turn to the content of the Progressive conception of politics and to the contrast between that approach and the tradition, stemming from the founding, that it aimed to replace. But I would like first to emphasize how different is the assessment of Progressivism presented in our book, The Progressive Revolution, from the understanding that prevails among most scholars…My own view is this: … the most important cause was a change in the prevailing understanding of justice among leading American intellectuals and, to a lesser extent, in the American people. Today’s liberalism and the policies that it has generated arose from a conscious repudiation of the principles of the American founding.

Iraq War – compilation of 9/11/14

“What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in [the Bush] administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne. What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war.” Barack Obama, State Senator from Illinois, 2002

How the Bush Administration Sold the War – and We Bought It by Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson, The Guardian, February 28, 2013

Presidential administration on 9/11/01 – President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Ari Fleischer, Scott McClellan, Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz plus Senator John McCain, Doug Feith, Marc Thiessen, Robert Kagan, William Kristol and more

The Project for the New American Century. By William Rivers Pitt, February 25, 2003,…The Project for the New American Century, or PNAC, is a Washington-based think tank created in 1997….desires and demands one thing: The establishment of a global American empire to bend the will of all nations… When [George W.] Bush assumed the Presidency, the men who created and nurtured the imperial dreams of PNAC became the men who run the Pentagon, the Defense Department and the White House…. On September 11th, the fellows from PNAC saw a door of opportunity open wide before them, and stormed right through it. The defense contractors who sup on American tax revenue will be handsomely paid for arming this new American empire. The corporations that own the news media will sell this eternal war at a profit, as viewership goes through the stratosphere when there is combat to be shown…Through it all, the bankrollers from the WTO and the IMF will be able to dictate financial terms to the entire planet… There will be adverse side effects. The siege mentality average Americans are suffering…will increase by orders of magnitude as our aggressions bring forth new terrorist attacks against the homeland. These attacks will require the implementation of the newly drafted Patriot Act II…The American economy will be ravaged by the need for increased defense spending…Many people, of course, will die. They will die from war and from want, from famine and disease. At home, the social fabric will be torn in ways that make the Reagan nightmares of crack addiction, homelessness and AIDS seem tame by comparison. This is the price to be paid for empire, and the men of PNAC who now control the fate and future of America are more than willing to pay it. For them, the benefits far outweigh the liabilities….

The Worst Mistake in U.S. History — America Will Never Recover from Bush’s Great Foreign Policy Disaster By Peter Van Buren, Tom Dispatch, March 7, 2013 

The totality of the Bush administration’s failure in Iraq is stunning by Ezra Klein,, June 17, 2014

Timeline highlights — Iraq War — 1965 to 2009 


Iraq War Cost U.S. More Than $2 Trillion, Could Grow to $6 Trillion, Says Watson Institute Study By Daniel Trotta, Reuters 3/14/13

The Duplicity of the Ideologues by Andrew J. Bacevich,,  June 4, 2014

How the US Press Lost its Way By Robert Parry, Consortium News,  May 21, 2012

10 Years After the Invasion: America Destroyed Iraq But Our War Crimes Remain Unacknowledged and Unpunished By Nicolas J.S. Davies, AlterNet, March 15, 2013   

Ten years of questions, outrage, tragedy, grief and change — The Iraq War by Phyllis Stenerson, e-letter of February 15, 2013

Tony Blair [and George Bush] should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu by Toby Helm, political editor, The Observer,  September 1, 2012

Neocons and the Iraq War: Their view then and now 10 years later By Eric Black,, March 15, 2013

Glenn Beck: ‘Liberals, You Were Right’ About Iraq War By Alana Horowitz, The Huffington Post 06/17/2014 …“From the beginning, most people on the left were against going into Iraq. I wasn’t.… Liberals, you were right. We shouldn’t have.” Glenn Beck

On Iraq, Echoes of 2003 by Nicholas Kristof, The Opinion Pages, New York Times, JUNE 18, 2014  …Our 2003 invasion of Iraq should be a warning that military force sometimes transforms a genuine problem into something worse. The war claimed 4,500 American lives and…500,000 Iraqi lives… latest estimate is that the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war will be $4 trillion. That’s a $35,000 tax on the average American household. The total would be enough to ensure that all children could attend preschool in the United States, that most people with AIDS worldwide could receive treatment, and that every child worldwide could attend school — for the next 83 years…




Iraq Update – 2014


The First Iraq War Was Also Sold to the Public Based on a Pack of Lies by Joshua Holland,, June 27, 2014

Bush and Cheney are war criminals, says former Bush counterterrorism official by David Phillips, Las Vegas Democrat Examiner, May 29, 2014

The Worst Mistake in U.S. History — America Will Never Recover from Bush’s Great Foreign Policy Disaster By Peter Van Buren, Tom Dispatch, March 7, 2013 

Combat Veteran and Military Historian [Andrew Bacevich] Tells Bill Moyers, “No Way” Do We Go Back into Iraq – interview by Bill Moyers, Moyers and Company, posted on, June 20, 2014 Moyers…former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Elizabeth wrote a long essay in “The Wall Street Journal.” They say, “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many. Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is ‘ending’ the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as though wishing made it so…ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I’d say rarely has a major American newspaper published an op-ed that was so thoroughly shameless. Again, what is the cause? What was the catalyst of the instability that racks Iraq today? The simple answer is the one that Cheney and his daughter don’t want to mention: the unnecessary, misguided, and frankly immoral war launched by the United States in 2003. We destabilized Iraq. In many respects, we destabilized the larger region. And misfortune of Barack Obama is that he inherited this catastrophe, created by the previous administration….I think the contrast between what Cheney said in 1994 and what he says 20 years later is actually very illustrative of this point. And that is that what passes for foreign-policy debate today, is just nakedly partisan…For somebody like Vice President Cheney berating Barack Obama for somehow surrendering American leadership and in the course of doing that simply ignoring the record of the administration in which he served– that’s duplicity. That’s malicious partisanship.

The Collapsing Obama Doctrine By Dick Cheney And Liz Cheney , Opinion, Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2014   - ...Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many….

Iraq Is Coming Apart at the Seams — Here’s Our Essential Reader by Joshua Holland,, June 18, 2014

The totality of the Bush administration’s failure in Iraq is stunning by Ezra Klein,, June 17, 2014

Mainstream Media’s Echo Chamber on Iraq by Eric Alterman,, June 19, 2014 … Where were the watchdogs of the press?… No one denies that the truth was available at the time. Not all of it, of course, but enough to know that certain catastrophe lay down the road……the very same people who sold us the war are today trying to resell us the same damaged goods…Paul BremerDoug Feith …Marc Thiessen …Robert Kagan …William Kristol…Dick Cheney.

Glenn Beck: ‘Liberals, You Were Right’ About Iraq War By Alana Horowitz, The Huffington Post 06/17/2014 …”From the beginning, most people on the left were against going into Iraq. I wasn’t…. Liberals, you were right. We shouldn’t have.” Glenn Beck

On Iraq, Echoes of 2003 by Nicholas Kristof, The Opinion Pages, New York Times, JUNE 18, 2014  Is this 2014 or 2003? I’m flinching at a painful sense of déjà vu…Our 2003 invasion of Iraq should be a warning that military force sometimes transforms a genuine problem into something worse. The war claimed 4,500 American lives and…500,000 Iraqi lives… latest estimate is that the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war will be $4 trillion. That’s a $35,000 tax on the average American household. The total would be enough to ensure that all children could attend preschool in the United States, that most people with AIDS worldwide could receive treatment, and that every child worldwide could attend school — for the next 83 years. Instead, we financed a futile war that was like a Mobius strip, bringing us right back to an echo of where we started…The least surprising hawk is Dick Cheney, who in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article with his daughter Liz preserves an almost perfect record of being wrong. From the vice president who himself obtained every possible deferment to avoid Vietnam, who asserted “with absolute certainty” in 2002 that Saddam was making nuclear weapons, and insisted in 2005 that the Iraqi insurgency was in its “last throes,” we now have a blast at President Obama for failing to extinguish the continuing throes….Let’s acknowledge that hawks are right, that Iraq presents a serious problem. But is American military intervention really the best response at this time? Not at all.

The 25 Most Vicious Iraq War Profiteers The Iraq war is many things to different people. It is called a strategic blunder and a monstrous injustice and sometimes even a patriotic mission, much to the chagrin of rational human beings. For many big companies, however, the war is something far different: a lucrative cash-cow. The years-long, ongoing military effort has resurrected fears of the so-called “military-industrial complex.” Media pundits are outraged at private companies scooping up huge, no-questions-asked contracts to manufacture weapons, rebuild infrastructure, or anything else the government deems necessary to win (or plant its flag in Iraq). No matter what your stance on the war, it pays to know where your tax dollars are being spent. Following is a detailed rundown of the 25 companies squeezing the most profit from this controversial conflict. 1. Halliburton (a long string of military/KBR wartime partnerships, thanks in no small part to Dick Cheney’s former role with the parent company.) 2. Veritas Capital Fund/DynCorp 3. Washington Group International 4. Environmental Chemical 5. Aegis 6. International American Products………….

Big Shocker—Iraq War Architect Goes on ‘Meet the Press’ to Argue for Endless War By Laura Clawson, Daily Kos, posted on, June 16, 2014  The George W. Bush Iraq War sales team was out in force on the Sunday [June 16,2014] talk shows to explain that if President Obama had just made Iraq a truly endless war, everything would be fine and dandy over there now….How is it that after the destruction these people wrought—the horror in Iraq then and now, the deaths and injuries of American troops, the massive financial cost—they are still considered serious commentators whose opinions we should consider on this issue?

The Real Goal of Iraq War in 2003: Oil and Inciting Terrorism to Create Permanent Conflict by Steven Jonas, MD,, June 16, 2014   …Iraq. It is now teetering on the brink of even more disaster than it has been subject to since the US invasion…one of its original major justifications, other than the non-existent WMD, was that the War on Iraq was a part of the “War on Terror”…” But it was very much in the interests of those forces which forced the US into war to cement the “terror/fear” environment in the minds of the US people. And they certainly have achieved that goal, within the GOP/TP “base,” at least let’s connect the dots to see what was really happening. 1…Bush/Cheney lied the U.S. into war. 2. There was no post-war planning…the US eventually left Iraq, not with any kind of “victory” but because it was pushed out, by the very puppet government that Bush/Cheney set up. But the Permanent War Society, or at least the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War Society, is very much in play. In terms of its original objectives, regardless of what happens in the Middle East now, the War on Iraq can only be said to have resulted in a victory - for those who originally planned and prosecuted it.. full text

Pat Robertson unloads on Bush for latest Iraq crisis: ‘We were sold a bill of goods!’ By David Edwards,, June 16, 2014  Televangelist Pat Robertson on Monday blasted former President George W. Bush for selling Americans a “bill of goods” before the Iraq invasion, which led to the violence that is currently sweeping across the country….In the end, Robertson reckoned that there would be conflict in Iraq until an Antichrist appeared before the Second Coming of Christ. “They will continue to play out until such times that the Lord brings out of Babylon some evil Antichrist or something,” he remarked. video from CBN’s The 700 Club, broadcast June 16, 2014.

The Iraq Mess: Place Blame Where It Is Deserved John Cassidy, The New Yorker, June 13, 2014  …we have reached the moment that skeptics of the 2003 United States invasion warned about all along: the implosion of the country, and, possibly, the entire region…President Obama and his military advisers are scrambling to come up with a response…the blame game has already begun…“Could all of this have been avoided? The answer is absolutely yes.”  McCain is right; it could have been avoided. If, in the aftermath of 9/11, President George W. Bush had treated the arguments of Doug Feith, McCain, and other advocates of the Iraq War with the disdain they deserved, we (and the Iraqis) wouldn’t be where we are today…greatest mistake was the initial one. In invading Iraq and toppling Saddam, the Bush Administration opened Pandora’s Box. Given what has happened since 2003, it is almost comical to read the prewar prognostications of the neocons and paleocons for what would happen after Saddam was gone. There was talk of turning Iraq into a democratic model for other Middle Eastern countries…The irony is painfully acute. Eleven years ago, in response to a terrorist attack by a group of anti-American religious fanatics, the United States invaded an Arab country with hardly any jihadis, or very few of them, to overthrow a secular dictator. Today, with much blood and money having been spent, northern and western Iraq is full of jihadis, and the U.S. government is figuring out how to prevent them from overrunning the rest of the country.…the October, 2011, decision, which had the overwhelming support of the American public, will be relitigated. That’s a legitimate debate to have. But it shouldn’t be allowed to distract from the broader truth, which is that Iraqis and the rest of us are still living with the consequences of the initial determinations made by President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and their colleagues. The Iraq invasion and occupation was ill-conceived, ill-executed, and ill-fated. It had terrible consequences not just for Iraq but for many other countries. It illustrated the limits of American military power—the opposite of what it was intended to do—and it helped accomplish what Osama bin Laden could never have achieved on his own: drawing the United States and its allies into an open-ended global battle with militant Islam. When you hear Feith and other architects of the Iraq invasion criticizing Obama for cutting and running, it is well to remember that.

Real Goal of Iraq War in 2003: Oil and Inciting Terrorism to Create Permanent Conflict by Steven Jonas, MD,, June 16, 2014

The Iraq War Was Launched to Own the Country, Not to Liberate It by MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT, June  17, 2014 Mini-excerpt – You can start with the profoundly tragic irony that the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Iraq War of 2003 created a terrorist threat instead of ending one…With the power vaccum opened up by the US overthrow of Hussein, the groups labeled as terrorists started amassing in Iraq in the absence of a centralized government outside of the US military…If there is another 9/11, as [Senator Lindsay] Graham forecasts, it is because of the false narrative and war crimes that he and others promoted at the behest of the Bush administration. The terrorist threat did not exist in Iraq until Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld decided to try to own it – and in doing so, broke it.  

A refresher course on Iraq for Republican revisionists by Bruce Lindner, June 17, 2014

“What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in [the Bush] administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne,” he said. “What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war.” Barack Obama, State Senator from Illinois, 2002

Statement by Sen. Wellstone regarding military action against Iraq delivered on the floor of the senate October 3, 2002. YouTube

Former Envoy Pipes Up in Conservative Chorus of ‘Told You So’ on Iraq By JENNIFER STEINHAUER, New York Times, JUNE 18, 2014 …John R. Bolton…the opinionated, galvanic former United States ambassador to the United Nations … is among the cavalcade of neoconservatives newly emerged on cable television and in hawkish policy seminars to say “We told you so” on Iraq…Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol …what amounts to a homecoming week for the Bush administration…Mr. Wolfowitz, a deputy defense secretary under Mr. Bush who is widely viewed as an architect of the Iraq war, echoed Mr. Bolton on MSNBC, saying that he was not the architect of the war but that if he had been, “things would have been run very differently.”…For Mr. Bolton, a regular contributor to Fox News, the current crisis is a new opportunity to criticize Mr. Obama’s foreign policy as fecklesshis views are a balm to traditional conservatives in Congress and beyond who worry about the ascent of libertarians within the party, like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who lean more isolationist.He has been a good, clear voice on peace through strength,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, of Mr. Bolton. “Some people in our party are to the left of Obama on foreign policy, and we are pushing back.”…“He oversaw some of the most disastrous foreign policy decisions in American history,” said Lincoln Chafee, the Democratic governor of Rhode Island, who at the time was a Republican senator whose objection to Mr. Bolton helped block his nomination, and who has no regrets. “He has just been wrong on every issue.”…

The War in Iraq Cost $4 Trillion and Enormous Loss of Life: 8 Warmongers Who Would Take Us Back by Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet, June 13, 2014  The Iraq War hawks are back. And they have two knee-jerk ways of seeing the convulsions in Iraq where Sunni militants have seized cities from Syria to Baghdad’s doorstep, killing government workers and civilians, and grabbing weapons from a vanishing Iraqi Army. First, it is always President Obama’s fault; and second, the U.S. must return to war, despite what has been one of the biggest debacles in American military history. Hawks are only happy when we are at war, fueling the military-industrial complex as U.S. soldiers die and platoons of maimed veterans return home to underfunded medical care…the same warmongering editorial pages and many of the same writers who gladly carried the water for Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Ari Fleischer, Scott McClellan are back at it…1. Senator John McCain 2. Senator Lindsey Graham 3. House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon 4. Former George W. Bush Speechwriter Micheal Gerson 5. Wall Street Journal Columnist Daniel Henninger 7. The Weekly Standard’s Max Boot 8. Washington Post Columnist Jennifer Rubin … George W. Bush’s war of choice in Iraq lit a time bomb that has cost trillions of taxpayer dollars, killed thousands of U.S. soldiers, maimed 320,000 with brain injuries, and left more than 650,000 Iraqis dead. Despite everything the U.S. has tried, Iraq is still falling into chaos and civil war of its own making. Yet America’s war hawks want us to go back in, for ridiculous reasons that can only make a bad situation worse.

The Duplicity of the Ideologues by Andrew J. Bacevich,,  June 4, 2014

Previous postings about Iraq War

10 Years After the Invasion: America Destroyed Iraq But Our War Crimes Remain Unacknowledged and Unpunished

About the Iraq tragedy — commentary and information

Lessons from the Iraq War tragedy - e-letter of March 20, 2013

Reflections on Iraq tragedy compiled by Phyllis Stenerson,

Lessons from Iraq tragedy — excerpts

Iraq War excerpts updated 3–30-13

Timeline highlights — Iraq War — 1965 to 2009

Ten years of questions, outrage, tragedy, grief and change — The Iraq War, e-letter of Feb­ru­ary 15, 2013

Prince of Darkness denies own existence — Richard Perle by Dana Milbank, Washington Post, February 20, 2009 

10 Years After the Invasion: America Destroyed Iraq But Our War Crimes Remain Unacknowledged and Unpunished By Nicolas J.S. Davies, AlterNet, March 15, 2013   

Ten years of questions, outrage, tragedy, grief and change — The Iraq War by Phyllis Stenerson, e-letter of February 15, 2013

Tony Blair [and George Bush] should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu by Toby Helm, political editor, The Observer,  1 September 1, 2012

Ten Years — A decade in American democracy — Editorial, September 2011 Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN — September 2011 - Editorial by Phyllis Stenerson  

The Attack-Syria Coalition: Brought to You By the Same People Who Gave Us the Iraq Debacle By Samer Araabi, Right Web,, October 15, 2012

Romney’s Neocon Foreign Policy: Written by Those Who Ignored al Qaeda Threat 



Prince of Darkness Denies Own Existence

by Dana Milbank, Washington Post, February 20, 2009

Listening to neoconservative mastermind Richard Perle at the Nixon Center yesterday, there was a sense of falling down the rabbit hole.

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:

1. Perle is not a neoconservative.

2. Neoconservatives do not exist.

3. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn’t be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.

“There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy,” Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. “It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy.”

So what about the 1996 report he co-authored that is widely seen as the cornerstone of neoconservative foreign policy? “My name was on it because I signed up for the study group,” Perle explained. “I didn’t approve it. I didn’t read it.”

Mm-hmm. And the two letters to the president, signed by Perle, giving a “moral” basis to Middle East policy and demanding military means to remove Saddam Hussein? “I don’t have the letters in front of me,” Perle replied.

Right. And the Bush administration National Security Strategy, enshrining the neoconservative themes of preemptive war and using American power to spread freedom? “I don’t know whether President Bush ever read any of those statements,” Perle maintained. “My guess is he didn’t.”

The Prince of Darkness — so dubbed during his days opposing arms control in the Reagan Pentagon — was not about to let details get in the way of his argument that “50 million conspiracy theorists have it wrong,” as the subtitle of his article for National Interest put it. “I see a number of people here who believe and have expressed themselves abundantly that there is a neoconservative foreign policy and it was the policy that dominated the Bush administration, and they ascribe to it responsibility for the deplorable state of the world,” Perle told the foreign policy luminaries at yesterday’s lunch. “None of that is true, of course.”

Of course.

He had been a leading cheerleader for the Iraq war, predicting that the effort would take few troops and last only a few days, and that Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction. Perle was chairman of Bush’s Defense Policy Board — and the president clearly took the advice of Perle and his fellow neocons. And Perle, in turn, said back then that Bush “knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Yesterday, however, Perle said Bush’s foreign policy had “no philosophical underpinnings and certainly nothing like the demonic influence of neoconservatives that is alleged.” He also took issue with the common view that neocons favored using American might to spread democratic values. “There’s no documentation!” he argued. “I can’t find a single example of a neoconservative supposed to have influence over the Bush administration arguing that we should impose democracy by force.”

Those in the room were skeptical of Perle’s efforts to recast himself as a pragmatist.

Richard Burt, who clashed with Perle in the Reagan administration, took issue with “this argument that neoconservatism maybe actually doesn’t exist.” He reminded Perle of the longtime rift between foreign policy realists and neoconservative interventionists. “You’ve got to kind of acknowledge there is a neoconservative school of thought,” Burt challenged.

“I don’t accept the approach, not at all,” the Prince of Darkness replied.

Jacob Heilbrunn of National Interest asked Perle to square his newfound realism with the rather idealistic title of his book, “An End to Evil.”

“We had a publisher who chose the title,” Perle claimed, adding: “There’s hardly an ideology in that book.” (An excerpt: “There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust. This book is a manual for victory.”)

Regardless of the title, Heilbrunn pursued, how could so many people — including lapsed neoconservative Francis Fukuyama — all be so wrong about what neoconservatives represent?

“It’s not surprising that a lot of people get something wrong,” Perle reasoned.

At times, the Prince of Darkness turned on his questioners. Fielding a question from the Financial Times, he said that the newspaper “propagated this myth of neoconservative influence.” He informed Stefan Halper of Cambridge University that “you have contributed significantly to this mythology.”

“There are some 5,000 footnotes,” Halper replied. “Documents that you’ve signed.”

But documents did not deter denials. “I’ve never advocated attacking Iran,” he said, to a few chuckles. “Regime change does not imply military force, at least not when I use the term,” he said, to raised eyebrows. Accusations that neoconservatives manipulated intelligence on Iraq? “There’s no truth to it.” At one point, he argued that the word “neoconservative” has been used as an anti-Semitic slur, just moments after complaining that prominent figures such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — Christians both — had been grouped in with the neoconservatives.

“I don’t know that I persuaded anyone,” Perle speculated when the session ended.

No worries, said the moderator. “You certainly kept us all entertained.”

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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 

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.”

The Attack-Syria Coalition: Brought to You By the Same People Who Gave Us the Iraq Debacle

By Samer Araabi [2], Right Web [1] /, October 15, 2012

In late September 2001, less than 10 days after the 9/11 attacks, the Project for the New American Century [3] (PNAC)—a group of prominent neoconservatives, liberal interventionists, and members of the religious right who advocated a host of U.S.-led regime changes in the Middle East—drafted a letter to President George W. Bush, commending his promise to “go after terrorism wherever we find it in the world” and offering a number of recommendations for the remainder of the president’s term.[1] [4] The steps outlined in the letter were prescient in predicting Bush’s foreign policy priorities (and to a lesser extent, the priorities of his successor, Barack Obama).[2] [5]

In addition to their advocacy positions on Iraq (invade immediately),Israel (support unconditionally), and military spending (abide “no hesitation in requesting whatever funds for defense are needed”), the signatories urged a tougher stance on Hezbollah, as well as its state sponsors in Damascus and Tehran.

In the letter, they argued that “any war against terrorism must target Hezbollah,” and urged the administration to “demand that Iran and Syria immediately cease all military, financial, and political support for Hezbollah and its operations. Should Iran and Syria refuse to comply, the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation against these known state sponsors of terrorism.”

Today, as Syria remains mired in a seemingly limitless spiral of violence, the question arises—what has become of this attack-Syria coalition and what, if anything, has changed in its view of U.S. intervention?

Target: Syria

Because of the many ties between PNAC and the Bush administration, it came as little surprise to close observers that the Bush administration eventually followed much of the letter’s advice with respect to Syria.[3] [6] After supporting the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, the Bush administration capitalized on the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri to galvanize political opposition to Hezbollah (and Syria by proxy), culminating in the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanese territory.

Donald Rumsfeld [7], then Secretary of Defense, produced a “Road Map for Syria” proposing a number of military options for weakening the Syrian regime, including “docking an aircraft carrier within Syrian territorial waters” and “using proxies to undermine Syrian intelligence agents inside Lebanon.”[4] [8] Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell presented Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad with a long list of U.S. demands, including that Syria cooperate in the “war on terrorism” in Iraq, end its support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, and withdraw its troops from Lebanon.[5] [9]

The administration’s pressure was highly effective in the heady days after Hariri’s assassination, and the Assad regime scrambled to provide the Bush administration with an acceptable counteroffer to prevent a second “regime change” in the region. Bahjat Suleiman, the chief of the internal branch of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate, took the unprecedented step of publishing an article in the Lebanese daily al-Safir, where he outlined a course of action that could be acceptable to the Syrian regime. In the article, he implied that Assad would be willing to rein in Hezbollah, control Palestinian armed groups and Salafi extremists in Lebanon, and secure Iraq’s long border with Syriain order to guarantee the regime’s preservation.[6] [10]

The offer fell on deaf ears. Fresh off the invasion of Iraq, U.S.neoconservatives and their allies were optimistic that strong and uncompromising force— and unconditional support for the enemies of their enemies—would be sufficient to reshape the regional order. “There’s no reason to think engagement with Syria will bring about any change,” said letter signatory Richard Perle [11] in 2006. He argued that Syria “has never been weaker, and we should take advantage of that.”[7] [12]

Assad Rebounds

Backed into a corner and facing an existential crisis unlike any it had previously experienced, the regime chose instead to double down and force Washington’s hand. Assad worked to subvert the U.S.experiment in the Middle East, exploiting Syria’s proximity to Iraqand Lebanonto undermine the Bush administration’s cornerstone projects. Syrian intelligence services suddenly began to wreak havoc along the Syrian-Iraqi border, while political machinations in Lebanonhelped the regime regain the upper hand in the Lebanese parliament.[8] [13]

The tide quickly turned againstWashingtonas an increasing number of complicating factors undermined its regional leverage. The implosion ofIraq, the rebounding political power ofSyria’s allies inLebanon, the deteriorating state ofAfghanistan, and growing discontent at home forced the Bush administration to retreat from its hardline anti-Syrian approach. Thus assured of its safety,Damascusquickly reverted to its old ways.

The neoconservative-led PNAC coalition that had once pushed for a unified and hard-fisted approach to redesigning the Middle East was also crumbling [14] in the face of these and other failures.

Though much of the beltway intelligentsia originally supported the “war on terror” in all its iterations, ensuing disasters deeply undermined the neoconservative ideology as well as its liberal interventionist counterpart. Some of the original signatories of the letter, like Francis Fukuyama [15],[9] [16] became deeply critical of the Bush administration’s policies; others, however, maintained a strong allegiance to their hawkish worldview and continued to defend it against any perceived modifications by the Obama administration.

The ongoing crisis inSyria, however, has become something of a litmus test for these individuals, and the coalition has begun to resemble its old self. But the emerging consensus amongWashington’sSyriahawks belies the complexity of the circumstances surroundingSyria’s spiraling civil war, the difficulty of pro-war ideologues to adapt to modern international conflicts, and the dangers of the zero-sum approach toSyriacurrently circulating throughWashington.

Syria Redux

PNAC’s dyed-in-the-wool neoconservatives—the ideologues most responsible for the formulation of the Bush doctrine—have mostly stayed true to the priorities laid forth in the PNAC letter, and they’ve found new energy in calling for regime change in Syria. Most of the signatories to that September 2011 letter—including the likes of William Kristol [17], Jeffrey Bergner [18], Seth Cropsey [19], Midge Decter [20], Thomas Donnelly [21], Nicholas Eberstadt [22], Aaron Friedberg [23], Jeffrey Gedmin [24], Rueul Marc Gerecht [25], Robert Kagan [26], Charles Krauthammer [27], John Lehman [28], Clifford May [29],Richard Perle [30], Norman Podhoretz [31], and Gary Schmitt [32]—have largely kept their initial worldview intact, even if their earlier predictions for a Middle East “democratized” by American arms has proved dramatically off mark.

Many of these same individuals and their fellow travelers are at the forefront of the current push to escalate Syria’s ongoing civil war, arguing that active U.S. support for Syrian rebels—or outright military intervention—would hasten the fall of Bashar Al-Assad and maximize U.S. interests. A recent [33] New York Times op-ed by Max Boot [34], a frequent PNAC letter signatory, and Michael Doran [35], a Bush National Security Council member, is a case in point. In promoting direct U.S. intervention in Syria, the authors—remarkably—were unable to identify any negative consequences of such engagement, instead identifying a plethora of positive developments for U.S. interests, such as improving ties with Turkey, “diminishing” Iran, and “equipping reliable partners” within Syria’s internal opposition.

In February, many of the same individuals who signed the September 2001 PNAC letter—this time operating under the mantle of successor organizations like the Foreign Policy Initiative [36] and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies [37]—penned a missive to President Barack Obama, arguing that the only way to “win” the civil war, and ensure that Syrian security forces do not regain the upper hand, is to supply the Syrian opposition movement with sufficient capital, weapons, and intelligence to overwhelm government forces on the battlefield. The signers urged Obama to “immediately establish safe zones within Syrian territory,” as well as to “provide a full range of direct assistance, including self-defense aid to the [Free Syrian Army].”[10] [38]

The neoconservative establishment, along with a growing number of liberal interventionist allies, explicitly rejected all overtures for negotiation and compromise. They consistently mocked or undermined efforts by the United Nations and the Arab League to mediate the dispute and reach a diplomatic settlement, warning that “the United States cannot continue to defer its strategic and moral responsibilities in Syriato regional actors such as the Arab League, or to wait for consent from the Assad regime’s protectors, Russiaand China.”[11] [39]

“If we were being serious in the Middle East,” William Kristol recently said on Bill Bennett [40]’s “Morning inAmerica” radio program, “we would be using air strikes inSyria [and] we would topple the Assad regime.”

Evolving Militarization

Though Obama has been reticent to embrace full-on militarization of the conflict—preferring instead an approach that relies more on diplomatic pressure and crippling economic sanctions—the continued stalemate has nudged policymakers ever closer to openly arming the rebels [41]. Already the administration has steadily increased the military capabilities of the armed opposition elements, drifting away from its original policy of providing diplomatic support only.

Though this escalation has significantly narrowed the possibilities for any diplomatic solution to the conflict, foreign policy hawks have chided the administration for not going further. In a column for the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer lambasted Obama for seeking international support against Syria“as he stands by and watches Syriaburn.”[12] [42]

In an earlier column, Krauthammer wrote that “the fate of the Assad regime is geopolitically crucial” in the campaign to undermine Iran: “Imperial regimes can crack when they are driven out of their major foreign outposts…[and] the fall of Bashar al-Assad’s Syria could be similarly ominous for Iran.” As in the 2001 letter, he argued that all America’s regional ambitions can be met, “so long as we do not compromise with Russiaor relent until Assad falls.”[13] [43]

Similarly, Rueul Marc Gerecht used the pages of the Wall Street Journal to chastise the Obama administration’s inaction and advocate a “a muscular CIA operation…to pour anti-tank, antiaircraft, and anti-personnel weaponry through gaping holes in the regime’s border security.” Gerecht acknowledged that such a policy would mirror the Syrian regime’s own machinations in 2006, when it “encouraged suicide bombers and other lethal cross-border trade against the Iraq.”[14] [44]

The parallels withWashington’s approach toSyriain 2006 are both ominous and telling. In effect, the same approach of uncompromising militancy is being advocated by the same individuals, and all indications point to a similarly disastrous outcome.

The Syrian National Council, along with its supporters in Washington, has decided that there can be no compromise with the Assad regime.[15] [45] The Syrian government, as it did the last time it faced total intransigence inWashington, has adopted a similarly uncompromising stance. Faced with the prospect of annihilation, Assad has refused to acknowledge the demands of the protestors, and has met every challenge with overwhelming violence. In so doing, it has confirmed for the armed opposition that the Assad regime has no intention for dialogue, compromise, or reform, and the only remaining option is a zero-sum fight to the death.

Considering the scope and horror of the regime’s massacres in the past two years alone, this conclusion may seem reasonable. But it overlooks—and in many ways undermines—alternative approaches that have been drowned out by the same voices that called forSyria’s destruction less than a decade ago.

Looking Forward

The illegitimacy of the Syrian regime is beyond question, but the manner and process of its ouster are not. The armed opposition appears to enjoy limited popular legitimacy,[16] [46] in part because it has committed its own share of atrocities[15] [47] and has been deeply compromised by its affiliations withTurkey,Saudi Arabia,Qatar, and theUnited States.

Popular movements within the country have offered a number of alternative pathways out of the conflict. Syrians on both sides have put down their weapons and started channels of dialogue to find a way out of their current impasse.[18] [48]Even the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), the grassroots groups most responsible for organizing the uprising, have publicly stated that dialogue with the regime is the only credible way to pull the country out of civil war. A statement issued by the LCC in July emphasized “the importance of ending the military and intelligence solution and immediately transitioning to the political process.”[19] [49]

The Syrian revolution remains one in which the vast majority of participants simply want freedom, dignity, and an escape from the brutality of the Assad regime. However, an overreliance on the military capabilities of an unrepresentative few is unlikely to bring about such an outcome. Instead it has produced an even more intransigent government and an opposition that is ever more dependent on the support of foreign powers, with both sides fully committed to the total annihilation of the other.

As the violence escalates, the window for dialogue narrows, and voices from the diaspora calling for maximalist objectives will only serve to narrow these opportunities further. The same individuals who squandered an opportunity to weaken Assad’s grip on power in 2006 have embarked on a similar course of action five years later, with no real modifications but the same grand expectations.

The result, as before, is likely to be one in which everyone loses.


[1] [50] William Kristol et al., Project for the New American Century, September 20, 2001, [51]

[2] [52] Marc A. Thiessen, “The Obama-Bush doctrine,” The Washington Post, May 31, 2012, [53]

[3] [54] PBS Frontline, “Chronology: The Evolution of the Bush Doctrine,” Public Broadcasting Service, [55]

[4] [56] [57]

[5] [58] Nqoula Nasif, “Mq TaqaluhWashington wa Dimashq ‘an Muhadathat Burns,” Al-Nahar, May 5, 2003.

[6] [59] Bahjat Sulaiman, “Suriya wa-l-Tahdidat al-Amerkiya,” al-Safir, May 15, 2003.

[7] [60] H.D.S. Greenway, “The Return of the Neocons,”Boston Globe, December 13, 2005.

[8] [61] Bassel F. Salloukh, “Demystifying Syrian Foreign Policy under Bashar al-Asad,” Demystifying Syria, Saqi Books,London, 2009.

[9] [62] Francis Fukuyama, “The Neoconservative Moment,” The National Interest, June 1, 2004, [63]

[10] [64] Khaira Abaza et. al., “Foreign Policy Experts Urge President Obama to Take Immediate Action in Syria,” Foreign Policy Institute, February 17, 2012, [65]

[11] [66] Ibid.

[12] [67] Charles Krauthammer, “While Syria Burns,” The Washington Post, April 26, 2012, [68]

[13] [69] Charles Krauthammer, “Syria: It’s not just about freedom,” The Washington Post, February 2, 2012,–its-not-just-about-freedom/2012/02/02/gIQAYVhVlQ_story.html [70]

[14] [71] Reuel Marc Gerecht, “To Topple Assad, Unleash the CIA,” The Wall Street Journal July 11, 2012, [72]

[15] [73] Agencies, “Syrian opposition ‘will negotiate with government officials once Assad goes,” The Guardian, August 5, 2012, [74]

[16] [75] Al Jazeera, “Civilians plead with Syrian fighters,” Al, October 3, 2012, [76]

[17] [77] Ian Black, “Syrian rebels accused of war crimes,” The Guardian, September 17, 2012, [78]

[18] [79] Phyllis Bennis, “Syrian Uprising Morphs Into Regional and Global Wars,” Institute for Policy Studies, August 10, 2012, [80]

[19] [81] “Joint Statement on Conditions for Talks,” Local Coordination Committees, May 15, 2011, [82]

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The Neocon Revival By DAVID BROOKS, New York Times, August 1, 2013

Prince of Darkness Denies Own Existence by Dana Milbank, Washington Post, February 20, 2009

The Attack-Syria Coalition: Brought to You By the Same People Who Gave Us the Iraq Debacle

Mitt Romney Blurts Out the Truth About Neo-Conservatism by Linda McQuaig,Toronto Star, September 28, 2012 – Excerpt – …the Republican presidential candidate [Romney] told the $50,000-a-platers what they wanted to hear: that he hasn’t any intention of helping the 47 per cent of Americans too poor to pay income tax. “My job is not to worry about those people.” With this truthfulness caught on tape, Romney has probably done more than incinerate his own presidential bid. He has so vividly exposed the cynicism and greed that lies at the heart of what is now called “conservatism” that he may have inadvertently begun its undoing. Once upon a time, “conservative” could be used to describe people — Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark — who had a vision of society in which a privileged elite dominated but also had a responsibility to less fortunate citizens and to the broader “public good.” But about 30 years ago, a new breed of “conservative” slithered onto the political scene. Stealing the moniker of conservatism, this new breed embraced the inequality of traditional conservatism (driving it skyward) while unburdening itself of the responsibility for others and the public good. This new breed has proved itself to be self-centered, greedy and indifferent to the public good.John Kenne th Galbraith cut to the essence when he described this “modern” conservative as engaged in “the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”…There never was intellectual honesty or coherence to modern conservatism….It’s time we stopped treating modern conservatives as proponents of a legitimate political philosophy and started treating them as greedy profiteers who — at least until now — have pulled off the biggest heist in modern times.

Romney’s Neocon Foreign Policy Written by Those Who Ignored al Qaeda Threat

What do neocons have to do with Obama? by Jacob Bronsther

Neoconservatism’s Godfather by Michael Schaffer,, September 21, 2009

The Neocon Revolution and American Militarism by Andrew J. Bacevich,, April 22, 2005

Introducing PNAC 2.0 Progress Report, March 31, 2009 



Neoconservatism’s Godfather by Michael Schaffer, September 21, 2009

Irving Kristol never wrote much about his views on the hereafter. Still, it’s a pretty safe to assume that, if the neoconservative luminary were designing his own posthumous system of eternal judgments, the dearly departed would go either straight up or straight down. No bickering at the Pearl Gates, no temporizing over purgatory, for this guy. Even after he journeyed from Trotskyite left to Reagan-era right, Kristol carried the Manichean world view of the radical revolutionary. In such a view, ideological foes are not just people you disagree with, not just folks who get some issues wrong: They’re enemies, to be beaten back with any weapon available. They are bad. 

“I no longer had to pretend to believe — what in my heart I could no longer believe — that liberals were wrong because they subscribe to this or that erroneous opinion on this or that topic,” he wrote of his political conversion. “No — liberals were wrong, liberals are wrong, because they are liberals.” And that’s that. 

Kristol’s death September 18, 2009 was met with a predictably nostalgic response at the intersection of politics and ideas. The 89-year-old was, after all, a bona fide cosmopolitan intellectual. For some, especially those who focused more on his genial personality than his harsh, pugilistic writings, the contrast presented yet another occasion to mourn the loss of civility in American politics. 

But for all his personal bonhomie and all his written paeans to purportedly endangered bourgeois manners, civility wasn’t really Irving Kristol’s issue. This was intellectual war, and you were either with the forces of moral anarchy or you were against them. In that reductive spirit, which has taken over not just the protest fringe of the far right but also the leading thinkers of Kristol’s adopted political party, here’s a shorter obituary for the Godfather of Neoconservatism.

He was bad. 

Oh, sure, you could be all liberal and relativistic and morally unclear about it and say that Kristol’s arrival in the Republican orbit helped the political right evolve from a world of business-booster Babbitts to a movement with its own scholarly researchers of public policy — a change that led, for better or worse, to a great many of the policy innovations in Washington over the past 30 years (and not just those embraced by GOP presidents). 

But the old revolutionary style poisons this legacy. Kristol’s own words about the magazine he ran suggest that the real issue wasn’t scholarship: “Among the core social scientists around The Public Interest there were no economists…. This explains my own rather cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or fiscal problems. The task, as I saw it, was to create a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority, which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority – so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.”  

The goal, then, was power, and for a long time the neoconservative movement was a great success. It’s easy to overstate the role any writer plays in politics. But the well-articulated feelings that led to Kristol’s break with the left — the feeling that liberals had become hostile to excellence and good citizenship and entrepreneurship and middle-class religion — also elected a generation of GOP politicians. Reminding voters of those Silent Majority emotions became a quadrennial Republican quest, aided by whatever polarizing issue could be ginned up to help with the task. 

Today, perpetual backlash against the academics, the bureaucrats and the well-heeled liberals Kristol ominously labeled a “new class” has become a politics of diminishing returns. The GOP is shut out of power, reduced to a Southern-dominated minority in Congress. Those decades of neocon thinking, finally put in practice during George W. Bush’s administration, led American voters to boot the Republicans out. Kristol, in retrospect, was better at articulating opposition than proposition. The fixation on liberalism’s wretchedness helped bring conservatism out of the wilderness, but ultimately failed those who shared Kristol’s desire to build a Republican majority. 

Of course, liberal-hating is having a good year all the same. Kristol’s eulogists like to contrast the worldly intellectual with the Glenn Beck types who question the president’s citizenship. Should they? 

Like many who broke with the left during the 1960s, Kristol was shaped by the era’s social disorder. In riot and crime and social decay, he found the unlikely fingerprints of  mainstream liberals, allegedly respectable leaders whom he believed encouraged, or failed to condemn, the chaos. After a summer of town-hall rowdiness, after months of protesters waving apocalyptic, xenophobic signs at tea party rallies, after the sorry spectacle of a right-wing congressman heckling the president of the United States, it’s fair to look at the craziness and seek out enablers, too. And in the culture-war style, the willingness to subordinate intellectual rigor to the goal of winning right away, and the sense of total political battle, this unlikely Republican’s legacy is, alas, all too easy to spot. 

Michael Schaffer writes the Grim Reader column, which appears Friday in Obit. He is the author of One Nation Under Dog, about culture and the American pet industry