The accusation that Maureen Dowd is an anti-Semite for saying that the slithering neocons dragged us into a terrible war reminded me of a piece of largely-suppressed recent history, the assault on the neocons in the biography of Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, by Karen DeYoung.
In this long excerpt from Soldier, DeYoung, a veteran Washington Post reporter, describes Powell’s sense of futility in pushing the peace process in Israel/Palestine after 9/11, because he wanted to address a central source of Muslims’ anger toward the U.S. Powell was opposed by the neoconservatives– whom he describes in terms of their support for Israel.
In his new ‘with us or against us’ view of the world, Powell thought Bush tended to see the Israeli-Palestinian situation in black-and-white terms — ‘Sharon good, Arafat bad.” Powell felt the need to constantly remind the president of the stakes involved for U.S. security and international alliances. Cheney and Rumsfeld, neither of whom seemed to have a visceral feeling about the issue beyond the domestic political price of involvement, now argued that Bush might appear irresolute in the war on terrorism if he didn’t stand firm against the Palestinians. For many top Defense Department ideologues– Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of Planning Douglas Feith and Feith’s deputy, William J. Luti, along with Richard Perle–the conflict fell squarely within the parameters of the worldwide antiterrorist crusade Bush had launched. Any pressure on Israel to negotiate with Arafat amounted to appeasement of terrorists and a betrayal of a leading U.S. ally. In their view, whatever sustenance Palestinian militants drew from dictatorships such as Syria, Iran and Iraq made it all the more important to go after these regimes. Once they were replaced with democratic governments, the Mideast swamp would dry up.
Powell referred to Rumsfeld’s team as the “JINSA crowd.” JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affaris, was a Washington-based organization that equated U.S. national security with strong backing for Israel’s needs. Feith, a Washington lawyer who had actively opposed Mideast peace talks for most of his career, had served on its board, as had Perle and Cheney.
To Mideast experts at the State Department… those views reflected an upside-down and dangerous reading of the situation. Justifiably or not, the plight of the Palestinians was a rallying cry throughout the Muslim world….
[F]or Powell, it became an exercise in futility… by the time of Bush’s June 2002 speech, plans for an invasion of Iraq were well under way, drowning out any argument about the importance of making real progress on the peace process before invading an Arab country.
Instead, Bush came to subscribe to the belief long espoused by neoconservatives that Baghdad was a first and necessary stop on the road to peace in Jerusalem. in a combination of ideological conviction and economic realpolitik, they posited that the replacement of one Arab dictatorship with a democracy would break the region’s autocratic tradition and serve asa transforming example for the rest… As Richard Perle explained…
The neoconservative thesis reinforced Bush’s own post-September 11 belief that his administration has a singular ‘calling,’ as the president often describe it, to rid the world of terrorists and replace dictators with democrats, by force if necessary. “I think the JINSA crowd had a lot to say about it,” Powell later reflected on the White House’s attitude toward the peace process. Bush “saw Sharon fighting terrorism, he saw bombs going off in Israel. That affected him deeply. Israel was a democracy! Freedom! And he saw all of these Arab states that were not democracies.”
Yes let’s not forget Bush’s messianism. This passage of course also supports Chris Matthews’s belief that the neocons “pushed” Bush into an “idiotic” war. And Walt and Mearsheimer’s contention that the neocons were a component of the Israel lobby.