Water Man Spouts

Monday, July 24, 2006


"This world and yonder world are incessantly giving birth: every cause is a mother, its effect the child. When the effect is born, it too becomes a cause and gives birth to wonderous effects. These causes are generation on generation, but it needs a very well lighted eye to see the links in their chain." -- Jalal-ad-din Rumi, Persian Sufi poet
As the violence in Lebanon continues, the United States's support of Israeli policy stands out against the global call for a cease-fire. Condi Rice's trip seems less an attempt to find a diplomatic resoltion to the war, than an attempt to justify the administration's policy. I think it is important to examine what domestic group's agenda that Rice is advocating. My goal is not to focus on which side is right or wrong in the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, but rather, to consider the implications for the United States.
When we look at the Bush administration's policy in the Middle East, it is evident that it is largely the result of the influence of the group known as "neoconservatives." In the third book in his wonderful series on America in the King years, author Taylor Branch traces the genesis of the neconservative movement to the 1967 Six Day War. (At Cannan's Edge; Simon & Schuster; 2006; pages 615-624.) It is important to remember that 1967 marked a significant evolution in Martin's ministerial journey. On April 4, King delivered his greatest speech, "A Time to Break Silence" (aka "Beyond Vietnam") to the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, at the Riverside Church in New York City. In his presentation, King connected the racism in the United States to the government policy in Vietnam.
While the connecting of the Civil Rights movement with the Anti-War groups may seem mainstream today, at the time it was not. The speech led to King being attacked more viciously than at any previous time in his ministry. In "Let the Trumpet Sound" (Mentor; 1982; pages 416-423), University of Massachusetts Professor Stephen Oates documents the reaction:
"But in April, 1967, most of King's country supported the Vietnam War, and his address provoked a fusillade of abuse from all sides. The Jewish War Veterans of America blasted it as 'an extremist tirade' that belabored an 'ugly parallel' with the Germans, revealed 'an ignorance of the facts,' pandered to Ho Chi Minh, and insulted 'the intelligence of all Americans.' The FBI claimed that Stanley Levison had shaped if not written the Riverside speech, and bureau documents denigrate King as 'a traitor to his country and to his race.' Taking his cue from the FBI, a Johnson aide remarked that King's argument was 'right down the Commie line,' and Congressman Joe D. Waggonner, in communication with the White House and the bureau, charged on Capitol Hill that King's 'earlier training at such gatherings as the Communist Highlander Folk School has called him on to another Communist end, mobilizing support for Peking and Hanoi in their war against South Vietnam'."
Newsweek, Life, and the New York Times all attacked Martin savagely for his speech. A few black leaders did, as well. Most seemed to view King's speech as wrong not because the necessarily supported the war, but because it was, in the words of Ralph Bunche, "a very serious tactical error which will do much harm to the civil rights movement. (King) should realize that his anti-U.S. Vietnam crusade is bound to alienate many friends and supporters."
Chapter 35 of Branch's book describes how the movement King was attempting to lead splintered in May and June of '67. He documents how the Six Day War led a number of the civil rights movements' "friends and supporters" to break from King's call for nonviolence when it applied to people other than black Americans. He uses the example of the "Shactmanite base" which had provided union support for leaders such as Bayard Rustin, as being among those groups that splintered.
The reaction to the Six Day War in this country was significant. Branch writes that, "A warrior's exultation hardened the awakening of Jewish spirit. 'We grew so fast into a visible central power that the seeds of arrogance as well came in,' observed David Hartman. First news of Israel's deliverance prompted a vulgar outburst from Abe Fortas in his Supreme Court chambers: 'I'm going to decorate my office with Arab foreskins.' The implications of the war were so fantastic as to be hushed in numb realization ..... For three hours on Day Four, Israeli war planes strafed and torpedoed the plainly marked U.S.S. Liberty spy ship in international waters off the coast of Egypt, killing thirty-four American sailors, wounding 170. Official statements of regret would leave the orgin and anatomy of the attack shrouded in secrecy, as if both sides needed to muffle the reprecussions." (page 618)
Then, regarding within the civil rights movement, "Michael Harrington split with Shactman over Vietnam, and he coined the word 'neoconservative' for Shactman's coalition thrust. As the term gained currency in the intellectual beehive of Manhattan, it suggested strong military purpose with a utopian residue focused on Israel. The powerful neoconservative school in American politics would grow from a merger of labor-wing Shactmanites into the larger movement associated with Irving Kristol." (page 620)
A number of books detail the neoconservative movement in the years following its genesis, as it would take shape through the offices of Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson and Abraham Ribicoff. In "A Pretext for War" (Anchor Books; 2004), James Bamford writes, "Among Jackson's greatest supporters were members of the neoconservative movement. Predominantly Jewish, they were turned off by the counterculture movements of the 1960s, disillusioned with the Great Society, offended by the 'anti-American' sentiments of the left, and fearful of the expansionist aims of the United Nations. At the core of the movement was a small but prolific band of sedentary intellectuals and think tank warriors .... they wrote longingly of a muscular expansion of American power and influence around the world, a rollback of communism and an end to detente with the Soviets, and the creation of a seamless bond between Israel's interests and America's military and foreign policy." (page 272)
Senator Jackson produced impressive results for Israel."In fiscal year 1970, Israel received military credits from the United States worth $30 million. But thanks to a Jackson amendment, the next year the amount sky-rocketed to $545 million. By 1974, it had reached an extraordinary $2.2 billion, more than seventy times what it had been just four years earlier." (Bamford; page 273)
Senator Jackson was associated with a former RAND consultant, Albert Wohlstetter, who was employed at the University of Chicago. From their Political Science Department, Wohlstetter worked on nuclear weapons research, and in opposition to detente and disarmament. He had what has been described as a "cultlike following among some of his students and others within the right-wing establishment." (Bamford; page 275) Wohlstetter would bring people such as Paul Wolfowitz into the neoconservative movement. This influence moved the neoconservatives from the camp of democratic hawks like Jackson and Moynihan to the necroconservative growth within the republican party in the 1980s.
The mestatasis of neoconservatism involved bringing a number of people from the Jackson-Wohltetter cult into the Reagan and Bush1 administration. These include Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, I. Lewis Libby, and Paul Wolfowitz. These individuals were all closely associated with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. They were all outraged when President Bush1 ended the first Gulf War without taking out Saddam and setting up a neocon-friendly government in Iraq.
In 1992, Wolfowitz and Libby prepared a memo for Defense Secretary Cheney that called for an intensely aggressive military strategy for the US that would "set the nation's direction for the next century." The memo was leaked to the public, and there was a harsh response. President Bush1 distanced himself from the proposed policies, and for a time, it "was seemingly forgotten. But in September 2002, with Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Libby restored to power, theWolfowitz memo reappeared in an official document released by the White House, titled The National Security Strategy of the United States." (Patrick Buchanan; Where the Right Went Wrong; Thomas Dunne Books; 2004; page 44)
In the Clinton years, the neoconservatives continued to advocate for the US to take agressive military actions in the Middle East.This included the signing of a proposal in 1998, that President Clinton remove Saddam from power, as part of a Project for a New American Century (PNAC).
Also, Feith, Perle and David Wurmser became advisors to Israel, and recommended an invasion of Lebanon that would set the stage for actions against Syria and Iran. The plan was called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm. They advocated using the pretext of a threat of WMD to cover the real purpose of preemptive invasions. (Bamford; 260-264)
These positions are consistent with a list that John Dean included in his book "Worse Than watergate" to describe neoconservative beliefs and tactics. The list came from Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul. It contains the following:
-- They believe in preemptive war and the naked use of military force to achieve any desired ends.
-- They are very willing to use force to impose American ideals.
-- They openly endorse the idea of an American empire, and .... call for imperialism.
--They are willing to redraw the map of the Middle East by force, while unconditionally supporting Israel.
--They believe the ends justify the means in politics.
-- They believe lying is necessary for the state to survive.
-- They believe certain facts should only be known by the political elite, and withheld from the general public. (page 103)
It is worth noting that Joseph Wilson identified the neoconservative cells within the Bush administration as being those that both lied our nation into war in Iraq, and who participated in the operation to damage him and his wife. (See pages431-435 of "The Politics of Truth.") By no small coincidence, many of the same cast of characters is found in the neocon-AIPAC spy scandal, in which US military secrets involving Iran were provided to Israeli intelligence.
It is also worth noting that by the summer of 2004, when many of the fiscal and social conservatives in the republican party were beginning to recognize the damage the neoconservatives had done to this country, William Kristol told the New York Times of a new strategy. "If we have to make common cause with the more hawkish liberals and fight the conservatives, that is fine with me, too. I will take Bush over Kerry, but Kerry over Buchanan .... If you read the last few issues of the Weekly Standard, it has as much or more in common with the liberal hawks than with traditional conservatives." He described the concept of a neoliberal as "neoconservative who has been mugged by reality in Iraq."
As democrats and progressives watch the violence in Iraq, we should take note of how certain forces try to frame the issues. We don't want to be mugged by neoliberals.


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