Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Hidden amongst the obvious scandals of Chimpy and The Boys lies this bombshell waiting for somebody in the mainstream to hit with a big hammer:
Taken collectively, what these officials describe and what is already on the public record suggests the existence of a disciplined network of zealous, like-minded individuals. Centered in Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith's office and around Richard Perle in the Defense Policy Board in the Pentagon, this exclusive group of officials operates under the aegis of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney.

This network includes high-level political appointees, such as Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who are scattered around several other key bureaucracies, notably in the State Department, the NSC staff and, most importantly, in Cheney's office.

Cheney, of course, has a direct link to Bush (and all the heads of agencies), while his powerful chief of staff and national security adviser, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, also enjoys exceptional access and influence. Indeed, the two men's frequent visits (as well as those of another DPB member, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich) to CIA headquarters before the Iraq war have been cited by retired and anonymous intelligence officers as having actively intimidated analysts who disagreed with the more sensational assessments about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda produced by Feith's office.

Oliver North and his cohorts used the proceeds to sustain the Nicaraguan contras -- U.S.-sponsored rebels fighting Managua's left-wing government -- in defiance of both a congressional ban and of official U.S. policy as enunciated by the State Department and President Ronald Reagan. It was never clear whether Reagan understood, let alone approved, the operation. As with Reagan, in this case, too, it is difficult to determine whether Bush -- or even his NSC director, Condoleezza Rice -- fully understands, let alone approves, of what the hawks are doing.

There was some hint of a parallel policy apparatus dating back just after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It was known early on, for example, that the Pentagon leadership, without notice to the State Department, the NSC or the CIA, convened its advisory DPB, headed by Richard Perle, to discuss attacking Iraq within days of the attacks. The three agencies were also kept in the dark about a mission undertaken immediately afterward by former CIA director and DPB member James Woolsey to London to gather intelligence about possible links between Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, a move that suggested that the CIA or the Pentagon's own Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) could not be trusted.

While Woolsey's trip recalls the more benign shenanigans of the Iran-Contra crowd, consider some of the more recent press reports.

Item One: Iran-Contra alumnus and close Perle associate Michael Ledeen has renewed ties with his old acquaintance, Manichur Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms merchant who became the key link between the NSC's Oliver North, the operational head of Iran-Contra, and the so-called "moderates" in the Islamic Republic. But to what end?

It appears that certain elements in the Pentagon leadership, specifically Douglas Feith, are trying to sabotage sensitive talks between Teheran and the State Department to promote cooperation over Al Qaeda and other pressing issues affecting Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pentagon clique thinks Ledeen's old friend Ghorbanifar can help, according to Newsday, which reported August 8 that two of Feith's senior aides -- without notice to the other agencies -- have held several meetings with the Iranian, whom the CIA has long considered "an intelligence fabricator and nuisance."

Go read the rest of this one.