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Imagining the End of the Neo-Cons PDF Print E-mail
Peace News
Friday, 23 June 2006 07:34

Imagining the End of the Neo-Cons

AG - Patrick Seale - These hopes, dreams, and utopian predictions have all proved vain and without substance for one important reason: Pro-Israeli foreign policy hawks remain strongly entrenched inside the Bush Administration where, in conjunction with an array of supportive right-wing think-tanks, they continue to shape U.S. policy, especially on the Middle East.


With the media detailing the Bush administration's domestic and international banking and financing manoeuvres as weapons in "the war on terror," Patrick Seale introduces the neocons managing this aspect of U.S. foreign policy.

Neocons Still Run the Show in Washington

Patrick Seale

Agence Global
June 23, 2006

? 2006 Patrick Seale
[Republished at PEJ News with permission of Agence Global]

There was a time when it looked as if Washington's neocons were in full retreat, discredited by the catastrophe in Iraq. The cabal of pro-Israeli foreign policy hawks at the heart of the Bush Administration were beginning to face sharp criticism. They were blamed for having carried the United States into war on false, and even fraudulent, premises.

As the huge costs of the war mounted, the notion of reshaping the Middle East's political order by armed force -- to suit U.S. and Israeli interests under the cover of promoting 'democracy' -- had, for many observers, come to seem a grotesque confidence trick.

At the same time, an acrimonious debate started in the United States about the role of Israel's legion of American lobbyists in influencing American Middle East policy in an anti-Arab and pro-Israeli direction. A trigger for this debate was a lengthy paper, highly-critical of the Israel lobby, which two prominent American academics, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, published last March. Their work aroused a storm of protest from Israeli sympathisers, and continues to be the subject of fierce controversy.

In the meantime, however, several Washington's warmongers had moved -- or been moved -- to other jobs. Paul Wolfowitz, the main architect of the Iraq war, had left the Pentagon for the presidency of the World Bank. His side-kick, Douglas Feith -- whose Office of Special Plans had hyped false intelligence about Saddam's WMD -- had also left the Pentagon. Richard Perle -- a leading advocate of the idea that American military power should be used to destroy Israel's enemies -- had been stripped of his chairmanship of the Defence Policy Board.

The fiery John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, who had been the scourge of "rogue regimes" and Arab radicals, was appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, where his many critics hoped he would do less harm.

It was even thought that the appointment of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State in the second Bush administration would serve to moderate the aggressive nationalism and war-like instincts of Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and even those of President George W. Bush himself.

Some pundits were even beginning to predict a change in American foreign policy as Washington woke up to the great hostility its policies had aroused around the world.

Optimists even suggested that the notions which had so far underpinned Bush's foreign policy would now be reassessed and, in some cases, discarded -- notions, for example, of American empire, of U.S. world domination through armed force, of the right to resort to pre-emptive war, of contempt for international treaties and international institutions, of reshaping and imposing democracy on the Middle East.

It was even thought that the neocons' central belief -- that American and Israeli security interests were identical -- would now be re-examined, and that America might adopt a more balanced posture in the Middle East.

Some wishful thinkers even dared to hope that America, chastened by the Iraq war, would rediscover the liberal, generous, internationalist values that had guaranteed American popularity and American leadership after the Second World War.

These hopes, dreams and utopian predictions have all proved vain and without substance for one important reason: Pro-Israeli foreign policy hawks remain strongly entrenched inside the Bush Administration where, in conjunction with an array of supportive right-wing think-tanks, they continue to shape U.S. policy, especially on the Middle East.

Men like Eliott Abrams, director of Middle East affairs at the National Security Council; David Wurmser, Vice-President Cheney's Middle East adviser, and John Hannah, Cheney's chief-of-staff, remain active and influential.

In addition, two other senior American officials -- closely allied to the neocon camp -- now play a central role in America's self-proclaimed Global War on Terror and its bitter contest with Arab and Muslim opponents.

Stuart Levey, Under Secretary at the U.S. Treasury's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, and Robert Joseph, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs at the State Department (John Bolton's old job) are spearheading America's campaign against Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas.

In the run up to the Iraq war, Robert Joseph was the U.S. government official responsible for inserting into President Bush's 2003 state of the union speech the fraudulent allegation that Iraq had bought uranium from Niger. This charge played a key role in convincing Congress and the public that war against Saddam Hussein was necessary.

Joseph is well known for his association with pro-Israeli think tanks in Washington, such as Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy. He is an advocate of pre-emptive first strikes -- including the use of nuclear weapons -- against hostile states that might be seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

His often repeated argument is that America's "new adversaries [Iran?] seek only enough destructive power to blackmail us so that we will not come to the help of our friends [Israel?] who then become victims of aggression."

Judging from their speeches, activities and testimonies to Congressional committees, both Levey and Joseph are Israel-centric hard-liners, determined to shatter the Iranian and Syrian economies and cut off the flow of funds to all Islamic movements, organisations and charities -- and in particular, of course, to Hamas, the democratically-elected Palestinian government.

On a recent visit to Britain and France, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made no secret of his wish to see the end of the Hamas government. "I want this terrorist government to collapse," he told the French daily, Le Figaro, on 13 June, "so that civilised people may take control and reconstruct the [Palestinian] Authority?"

Stuart Levey is doing his very best to satisfy Olmert's wishes. As he told a House of Representatives sub-committee, his Office remains "fully committed to combating terrorist financing in all its forms and wherever it may occur."

"We do not measure success," he said, "by the number of laws put on the books but by changes made on the ground. Real progress will come in the form of border stops, cash seizures, account blockings, and arrests."

Levey has not commented on the recent Hamas success in bringing $22m in cash across the border from Egypt into Gaza in a dozen suitcases.

Parroting Israeli leaders, Robert Joseph has warned that Iran's nuclear program is approaching a "point of no-return" and that a nuclear-armed Iran "cannot be tolerated." Together with Levey, he has been blackmailing and threatening foreign banks with fines and lost business if they continue dealing with Iran.

"I think there is a real and growing sense," Joseph said recently, "that there's a risk associated with doing business with Iran, with lending Iran more money, or providing it with a line of credit."

Fearing American reprisals, several major international banks -- like UBS, Credit Suisse, ABN AMRO and HSBC -- have already ended their operations in Iran. At the same time, a U.S. campaign is underway to destroy the Commercial Bank of Syria by preventing any international financial dealings with it, directly or indirectly, in either dollars or euros.

One of the greatest scandals of the present situation is that Arab banks -- fearful of being boycotted and punished by the United States as supporters of terrorism -- have refused to transfer money to the starving Palestinians. Even the proposed European aid package has first to be approved by Israel. In the words of an Israeli spokesman, Mark Regev, it must give Hamas "neither legitimacy nor recognition."

These then are among the reasons for thinking that the United States is still a very long way from rethinking its foreign policy. In Washington, the neocons still reign supreme.

Patrick Seale
is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

? 2006 Patrick Seale

Released: 23 June 2006
Word Count: 1,257
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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation and The American Prospect, as well as expert commentary by William Beeman, Richard Bulliet, Juan Cole, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 June 2006 07:34

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