David Rose is reporting in Vanity Fair that back in 2004, nearly 3 years before the U.S. included Sunnis in efforts to end the insurgency in Iraq, Sunnis reached out to the Americans and were rebuffed. Rose says it was neocons who blocked the overtures. His account turns partly on Ken Wischkaemper, a Texas agricultural businessman who had contracted to the Coalition Provisional Authority and was approached by leading Sunnis:
Wischkaemper’s first attempt to foster high-level U.S. contacts fell on barren ground. Unschooled in the neoconservative ideology that dominated the civilian side of the Pentagon, he approached the Jerusalem-based attorney Marc Zell and asked Zell to arrange a meeting with his former law partner, Douglas J. Feith, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for policy. Feith, like his immediate boss, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, had no desire to reach out to the Sunnis. He blamed them for keeping Saddam in power, and considered one of the occupation’s goals to be reducing their influence. (Feith says today that he cannot recollect an approach on behalf of Wischkaemper.) The neoconservatives, together with President Bush, were convinced that empowering the Shiites at the Sunnis’ expense would help pacify not only Iraq but also the entire Arab world. “In their view,” says James Clad, “the Shia could lead the way toward an ‘Islamic reformation’ that would finally separate religion from politics.”
….Why did these two promising initiatives die in the cradle? In retrospect, the lost opportunity is made at once more haunting and more ironic by the fact that the idea behind the initiatives was once regarded favorably by Donald Rumsfeld himself. The historian Mark Perry has obtained access to internal Pentagon documents that chart the progress of earlier proposals for curbing the insurgency by working with the Sunni tribes. One is a classified memo to Rumsfeld that advocated a policy of rapprochement as early as October 2003. It was written by Major General Ronald L. Burgess, the intelligence director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Rumsfeld was reportedly sympathetic to the concept. But according to a Pentagon official who has reviewed the documentary record, the U.S. military and civilian leadership in Baghdad ignored the memo entirely, while a copy sent to Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, was returned to Burgess with a handwritten comment: “They are Nazis!” Wolfowitz says today that, while he often did refer to ideological Ba’thists as Nazis, he cannot recall this particular incident."
Note that Wischkaemper approaches Feith through his former partner, a religious ideologue, Marc Zell, who moved his family from the States to the Etzion bloc of religious settlements in "Judea" a decade ago. Zell doesn't even believe in the term West Bank. Wolfowitz lived in Israel for a time, per Wikipedia. Feith, whose father's family was wiped out in the Holocaust, has often expressed Zionist sentiment, says the same thing about the West Bank in that link. Again I ask, what was the religious/Zionist component to the neocons' disastrous hold on foreign policy? (Thanks to Susie Kneedler)