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.
According to the report’s preamble, 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.
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. Soon after Phyllis Bennis pointed to the similarities between the proposals in the Clean Break document and the subsequent 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.
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.” 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.”
“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.’….
“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’.”
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.“
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)