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Go After Saddam, Bush's Right-Wing Advisory Council Says

by Jim Lobe

Strongly opposed by Washington's closest European allies
(IPS) WASHINGTON -- A determined band of self-styled Cold War intellectuals, heedless of U.S. allies and officials, continues to push President George W. Bush to extend his war against terrorism at least until he deposes Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

At the center of this effort is the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a network that includes key members of Bush's national security team and their associates in government and the media.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the group has intensified its public and behind-the-scenes efforts to bring about Saddam's removal.

In an open letter to Bush that has become their current mission statement, 38 PNAC associates urged Saddam's ouster "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the (Sept. 11) attack." Lebanon, Syria, Iran and the Palestinian Authority should be punished, they added, if these do not take immediate steps to shut down "terrorists," such as Hezbollah and Hamas, opposed to Israel.

Washington's closest European allies strongly oppose the idea of going after Saddam in the absence of credible evidence tying the Iraqi leader to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Loyal Arab allies -- including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan -- have warned that an attack on Baghdad would make their continued support politically impossible and would risk setting the entire region aflame.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, backed by heavy-hitters from Bush's father's administration, has argued that even talking about widening the war would be counter-productive at a time when Washington is desperately trying to rally faltering Arab support for its efforts in Afghanistan. Powell's cohorts include former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Secretary of State James Baker.

Within the administration, the most visible advocate of attacking Iraq is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Ten years ago, as defense undersecretary, he clashed with Powell over whether to send U.S. forces all the way to Baghdad after evicting Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

Revolving door from rightwing thinktanks to goverment
Behind Wolfowitz lies a network of veteran Washington hands whose political savvy, talent for polemics and bureaucratic intrigue, media and intelligence contacts, and lust for ideological combat have made them a formidable influence on foreign policy for almost 30 years.

Their core is made up of "neo-conservatives" -- former Democrats, often passionately committed to Israel, who broke with the party over the Vietnam War and moved steadily to the right. They recruited prominent New Republicans, like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as fellow travelers.

The best-known members of the network include former UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, "End of History" guru Francis Fukuyama, former CIA chief James Woolsey, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

The more influential in the policy realm include administration insiders like Wolfowitz; Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby; Iran-Contra veteran Elliott Abrams, now Bush's top aide for global issues, democracy, and human rights; Douglas Feith, the defense undersecretary for policy; and Richard Perle, who currently heads the Defense Policy Board.

William Kristol, former Vice President Dan Quayle's chief of staff and currently editor of Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard, is perhaps the group's most public agitator.

In the neo-conservatives' view, the United States is a force for good in the world; it has a moral responsibility to exert that force; its military power should be dominant; it should be engaged globally but never be constrained by multilateral commitments from taking unilateral action in pursuit of its interests and values; and it should have a strategic alliance with Israel. Saddam must go, they argue, because he is a threat to Israel, and also Saudi Arabia, and because he has hoarded -- and used -- weapons of mass destruction.

Ardent supporters of U.S. military intervention, few neo-cons have served in the armed forces; fewer still have ever been elected to public office. Numerous polls show that large majorities of the public repudiate their main principles -- especially their ceaseless quest for global military dominance and contempt for the United Nations and multilateralism more generally.

Many have worked in Congress or the national security bureaucracy and, when not in government, have perched at rightwing think tanks, notably the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation, or at law firms.

Institutionally, they have gone through several incarnations although their writings invariably have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the American Jewish Committee's "Commentary" magazine.

Wolfowitz and Perle worked for the Committee to Maintain a Prudent Defense Policy, formed in 1969 to support construction of an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system and then defeat the ABM treaty.

In the early 1970s, they formed the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM) to thwart anti-Vietnam War elements in the Democratic Party and promote the presidential candidacy of super-hawk Senator Henry Jackson, for whom they, Feith, and Abrams worked.

CDM activists were pivotal in scuttling a major nuclear arms agreement worked out in 1975 by then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with Moscow. In the process, they aligned themselves with right-wingers like Donald Rumsfeld, a Gerald Ford administration official who now is Bush's defence secretary.

Two days after Jimmy Carter's 1976 election as president, they resurrected a Cold War relic, the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), to block any effort to revive détente and arms control with the Soviet Union.

In 1981, those few CPD activists who were not recruited into Ronald Reagan's administration created the Committee for the Free World (CFW), which worked to erode Soviet rule in Eastern Europe, build support here and abroad for Star Wars and the U.S. military build-up, and promote U.S.-backed insurgencies throughout the Third World.

During the elder Bush's administration, however, they were regarded as too shrill, dangerously interventionist and, during the Gulf War, too sympathetic to Israel's Likud party.

In 1992, Wolfowitz and Libby, both in high Pentagon posts under the protection of then-Pentagon chief Dick Cheney, drafted a strategy paper calling for Washington to maintain its sole superpower status indefinitely to deter "potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." But more powerful forces in the administration, particularly Scowcroft, Baker, and then Joint Chiefs chairman Powell, forced a major re-write.

Many of the Wolfowitz-Libby principles now have reappeared in the founding document of the network's latest reincarnation, PNAC, which was put together in 1997 by its chairman, Kristol, and his Weekly Standard colleague and former Reagan public diplomacy operative Bob Kagan.

The 25 signers of its statement of principles include key members of the current national security team: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Libby, Wolfowitz, Abrams, several others in the Pentagon and National Security Council, and Bush's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

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Albion Monitor November 12, 2001 (

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