Matthews revisits neocon ‘bomber boy’ saying Iraq war would be over in 2 months

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Chris Matthews minced no words introducing the neocon opposition to Hagel the other night:

Let me start with this, the folks who quack for Iraq have a knack for bad ideas. They pushed us into war ten years ago, they made their case with lies and half truths and flimflam. We had to get revenge for 9/11 so let’s attack Iraq even though it was al Qaeda that hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. We have to attack Iraq because we’ve got evidence they have weapons of mass destruction, WMD, even if there’s no evidence they have nuclear weapons and it would turn out they didn’t have chemical or biological either. We have to attack Iraq, the hawks, they promised it would bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad it was said. What we’ve got instead is the loss of even a chance for peace in the Middle East. Well, tonight the people who sold America the Iraq war are out selling more warfare in the Middle East. They want military action against Syria, they want war waged against Syria, and they want Chuck Hagel out of the way. Why? because he’s just the kind of guy who will ask, what should we have asked when W took us to war in Iraq? Is this really the smart thing to do for us?

How blunt and refreshing. Matthews interviews Sam Stein, political reporter at the Huffington Post, and reads from Stein’s Hagel article The Combustible Politics Of Obama’s Clearest Break From Bush before asking him what the neocons have in store for us. Note Stein’s last sentence here:

Matthews: [quoting Stein]: “The hardline GOPers and the neocons have unfulfilled plans — plans for Syria, Iran, and the greater Middle East. These plans, which envision almost endless conflict in the region, are in the main opposed by people such as Hagel.”

The sense that the vision is for almost an Orwellian war in Oceania as it was in 1984, endless war in the Middle East is that the prospect that the neocons hold for us?

Stein: I don’t know if it’s that stated but it certainly is underlining a lot of what we’re hearing about Hagel now. A lot of the media attention has been on some of the past statements involving the Jewish lobby as he called it, involving the gay ambassador to Luxembourg but those are sort of side shows and what this comes down to, and what Hagel’s critics would even admit, is the future of Obama’s foreign policy. Chuck Hagel in many ways represents the clearest break yet by this administration from the George W. Bush era foreign policy. Keep in mind the president continued a lot of these Bush era programs. We haven’t really had a substantive comprehensive conversation about what went wrong in iraq. Chuck Hagel’s nomination represents a clean break and I think that’s scary for a lot of neocons.

A Clean Break happens to be the title of an infamous neocon policy document originally prepared for the Israel government designed for Israel’s security . Given the topic, if Stein’s wording was coincidental, what a slip of the tongue it was.  Here’s Wiki’s description as well as a couple of the critiques they listed. It almost seems as if we’re still following the agenda of these bomber boys, as George Bush mockingly called Kristol and Charles Krauthammer.

(Wiki’s bold)

A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm (commonly known as the “Clean Break” report) is a policy document that was prepared in 1996 by a study group led by Richard Perle for Benjamin Netanyahu, the then Prime Minister of Israel.[1] The report explained a new approach to solving Israel‘s security problems in the Middle East with an emphasis on “Western values”. It has since been criticized for advocating an aggressive new policy including the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

According to the report’s preamble,[1] it was written by the Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000, which was a part of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Former United States Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle was the “Study Group Leader”, but the final report included ideas from James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Robert Loewenberg, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser.[2]


In 2006 commentator Karen Kwiatkowski pointed to the similarities between the proposed actions in the Clean Break document and the subsequent 2003 invasion of Iraq.[7] Soon after Phyllis Bennis pointed to the similarities between the proposals in the Clean Break document and the subsequent 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.[8]

In 2006 Sidney Blumenthal noted the paper’s relevance to potential Israeli bombing of Syria and Iran, writing that “In order to try to understand the neoconservative road map, senior national security professionals have begun circulating among themselves” the Clean Break “neocon manifesto.”[9] Soon after “Taki” of The American Conservative wrote that

“recently, Netanyahu suggested that President Bush had assured him Iran will be prevented from going nuclear. I take him at his word. Netanyahu seems to be the main mover in America’s official adoption of the 1996 white paper A Clean Break, authored by him and American fellow neocons, which aimed to aggressively remake the strategic environments of Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. As they say in boxing circles, three down, two to go.”[10]


An October 2003 editorial in The Nation criticized the Syria Accountability Act and connected it to the Clean Break report and authors:

“To properly understand the Syria Accountability Act, one has to go back to a 1996 document, ‘A Clean Break:….  ‘Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil,’ they wrote, calling for ‘striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper.’….

Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote in their controversial and critical “The Israel Lobby” article of March 2006, published in the London Review of Books that the Clean Break paper

“called for Israel to take steps to reorder the entire Middle East. Netanyahu did not follow their advice, but Feith, Perle and Wurmser were soon urging the Bush administration to pursue those same goals. The Ha’aretz columnist Akiva Eldar warned that Feith and Perle ‘are walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments … and Israeli interests’.”[14]

Sidney Blumenthal criticized the report, writing:

“Instead of trading land for peace, the neocons advocated tossing aside the Oslo agreements that established negotiations and demanding unconditional Palestinian acceptance of Likud’s terms, peace for peace. Rather than negotiations with Syria, they proposed weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. They also advanced a wild scenario to redefine Iraq. Then King Hussein of Jordan would somehow become its ruler; and somehow this Sunni monarch would gain control of the Iraqi Shiites, and through them wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria.[9]

There’s an amusing wrap up at 10:20 as Matthews asks why people listen to Bill Kristol on foreign policy, called him “a charmer, he’s brilliant, a great networker”  and played a clip of Kristol on C Span’s Washington Journal practically guaranteeing that the Iraq war would be over in two months. “Dead wrong”:

Kristol: Whatever else you can say about this war, let me make one point, George Bush is not fighting this like Vietnam. We don’t need to —

Guest: Saddam may be…

Kristol: But it’s not going to happen.

Host: Let me take a call —

Kristol: This is going to be a two-month war not an eight-year war.

[back to Hardball]

Matthews: It’s going to be a two-month war in Iraq. A hell of a predictor. Like Dick Morris making his predicts and Karl Rove. Dead wrong. What is the genius of Bill Kristol? I swear he’s got organizations all over the place, he’s everywhere, and yet he’s wrong a lot.

It’s a great clip, worth the watch.

(Hat tip Mondoweiss commenter Kathleen)

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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13 Responses

  1. gingershot
    January 10, 2013, 1:54 pm

    Man, it really feels like the dam is bursting and is now breaking over the little neocon community built in the shadow of the dam, just upstream from nice suburban SoCal neighborhoods of Apartheid Israel

  2. ckg
    January 10, 2013, 2:23 pm

    Is this the same Chris Matthews who, less than two months into the Iraq War, gushed over Bush’s leadership which “won the war”?
    That was when I stopped listening to him.

    • Kathleen
      January 10, 2013, 3:06 pm

      Sometimes I think Chris Matthews thinks the public does not actually listen to what he says. Or that google does not exist

  3. Kathleen
    January 10, 2013, 3:05 pm

    Since Monday Chris has been going at the Hagel nomination. Mon, Tues, Wed. All worth watching and listening. Sometimes I think Chris is bi polar. One night he will be saying that he reads Weekly Standard daily and that Kristol, Podheretz etc are so so smart. Then the next day Matthews will be ripping Kristol a new one. Go figure.

    I think during that interview with Stein and Beinart Chris said something like “I would support an attack on Iran if necessary” What the hell does that mean? Who calls the necessary? The Iraq false WMD claims team? The puppets spinning the IAEA reports on Iran? If the US or Israel were to heaven forbid attack Iran Chris Matthews would say later “I was always against an attack on Iran” Come on Matthews some of us actually listen and remember what you say.

    Although he has been great on this Hagel nomination. Getting down to the bones

  4. pabelmont
    January 10, 2013, 3:18 pm

    Gimme a break, a Clean Break. (Great line.)

  5. atime forpeace
    January 10, 2013, 5:47 pm

    I guess the neocons have finally got the plague.

  6. Kathleen
    January 10, 2013, 8:15 pm

    I keep wondering if Barney Frank is successful at hustling (the Governor of Mass said he had not even thought of Frank) Kerry’s Senate seat how much Franks vote against Hagel would effect Hagel’s chances? Frank has all ready come out in opposition of Hagel. Wonder what the numbers counters think

  7. American
    January 10, 2013, 8:50 pm

    Good job annie.

    It always was Clean Break , anyone who is familiar with it has been able to follow the trail all along.
    Saying Kristol and the neoziocons were wrong is a huge understatement…delusional is more like it.
    Really look at the Clean Break plan…it’s about trying to hammer square pegs into round holes.

    • Annie Robbins
      January 11, 2013, 1:50 am

      It always was Clean Break , anyone who is familiar with it has been able to follow the trail all along.

      i always keep in mind there are new people coming into the movement american. especially young people. i try to be mindful of that when writing these posts. heck there are probably young people who idolize max and have no idea he’s a chip off the ol block. there’s a history here and that is one thing i learned when i started out. that people had been doing what i’m doing decades before when i had no idea about i/p. so even if one person learns about the history of ‘a clean break’ from this ditty, that’s enough for me.

      the funny thing is i watched the video and didn’t even pick that reference up in the first viewing. it wasn’t til i was reading the the transcript it justed jumped out at me.

  8. atime forpeace
    January 11, 2013, 7:47 am

    Chris has been enboldened by his instinct to protect his Lord and Master, such a faithful pet deserves not much from me.

  9. Kathleen
    January 11, 2013, 8:33 am

    The blueprint for what has been going on in the middle east is not only the Clean Break plan but also clearly written out at the Project for A New American Century. Took me about three years starting in 2000 to read most of the letters, plans documents at that website. The plans are all there

  10. James Canning
    January 23, 2013, 2:43 pm

    Great piece.

  11. James Canning
    January 23, 2013, 2:47 pm

    As for Iraq being a “two-month war”, as predicted by Kristol, the war indeed would have been over in months if G W Bush had not so incredibly stupidly allowed the disbanding of the Iraqi army and security services. Overthrowing Saddam was indeed a matter of weeks.

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