Paul Pillar on Charlie Rose
An important new book on the Iraq war published by Columbia University Press, written by a former longtime CIA official, contains a dual loyalty charge against the neoconservatives, saying that some of them had Israeli interests and not just American interests “at heart” in pushing the war. The charge concludes a section that names Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Paul Wolfowitz as former Bush officials who cared about Israel.
Author Paul Pillar has a stellar Establishment reputation. He held several senior positions at the CIA and National Intelligence Council, serving during the Iraq war. Now a professor at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, he has published a sharp critique of the war effort, titled Intelligence and US Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform.
I got the book yesterday and find that it repeatedly attacks the neoconservatives for hatching the plans for this disastrous war, which was then executed by “assertive nationalists,” Rumsfeld and Cheney. Pillar calls them a “cabal.”
The Iraq adventure was initiated by a small number of neoconservative intellectuals and assertive nationalists, ultimately backed by George W. Bush’s gut. The numbers were small enough for Powell’s longtime assistant Lawrence Wilkerson to refer plausibly to a “cabal” as being responsible for the war.
Pillar is hardest on the neoconservative ideology of using force to spread democracy in the Arab world. He devotes many pages to exploring, and exploding, these ideas.
He singles out former Bush aides David Wurmser, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz for their roles in fomenting the war and though he says that talking about Israeli security as a motive is the “third rail of American politics,” he concludes that “sympathy for Israel and its interests” played an important role in the war plans.
Specifically, in a four-page section titled “Israel,” conveniently overlooked by the NYT Book Review of the book, Pillar cites Feith, Perle and Wurmser for assisting Netanyahu in the late 90s with the “Clean Break” policy paper that urged the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the outsourcing of the Palestinian problem to Jordan. Though he does not say that all three men are Jewish, Pillar quotes these religious words by those neocons in that plan, rejecting the idea of land for peace:
“Our claim to the land to which we have clung for hope for 2000 years–is legitimate and noble.”
Pillar then states that Feith’s “dedication to Israeli interests had an intensely personal foundation,” describing the annihilation of his father Dalck’s whole family in Poland during the Holocaust.
Pillar describes Wolfowitz as “another architect of the Iraq war with connections to Israel” and offers that his sister moved to Israel and he was celebrated by the Jerusalem Post as a strong supporter of Israel.
Pillar’s section on the Israel interests concludes thusly:
Sympathy for Israeli interests probably was not the principal motivator of the decision to launch the Iraq War, but it did play an important supporting role….[S]ome policymakers probably gave less attention or weight than U.S. interests warranted to, say, the American human and material resources required for the post invasion occupation of Iraq because they had Israeli interests (or their particular conception of those interests) and not just U.S. interests at heart.