The GOP’s History of ‘Hostage-Taking’

Special Report: For more than four decades, Democrats have tolerated Republican abuses, claiming accountability wouldn’t be “good for the country.” But this softness has only encouraged the kind of hardball behavior that has now taken the U.S. economy “hostage,” writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Since the 1960s, the Republican and Democratic parties have diverged in behavior as well as over issues such as war and social programs with the Republicans sometimes called the “daddy party” and the Democrats the “mommy party.” But if that analogy is followed, you would be talking about a very dysfunctional marriage.

More often than not in recent years, the Republicans have played the role of “abusive husband,” arriving home angry, busting up furniture and slapping around the wife and kids before passing out on the couch after which the Democratic “abused wife” tidies things up and tries to conceal bruises from the neighbors. Then, hubby arouses and the process begins again.

One might find this analogy unsettling, even unfair, but there is truth in it. Indeed, you could argue that the metaphor has sometimes moved beyond an abusive marriage to hostage-taking, as the Republican-daddy essentially takes the kids (America) hostage and demands capitulation from the Democratic-mommy.

Recently, the hostage metaphor has become popular in discussing how Republicans have dealt with Democrats during the Obama administration for instance, last summer’s debt ceiling showdown used to extract concessions on spending  and the past month’s obstruction of jobs bills with an eye toward a weakened President Barack Obama in the 2012 race. The h-word has even been uttered on the Senate floor by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

But Republican political “hostage-taking” is nothing new. The GOP has been playing this game since the days of Richard Nixon, who may have felt justified in adopting more ruthless tactics after losing a very narrow election to John F. Kennedy in 1960 amid allegations that Kennedy benefited from voter fraud in Illinois and Texas.

Though many historians dispute the significance of alleged fraud in the 1960 election, the notion that Nixon was robbed became an article of faith inside the GOP. Nixon grew even angrier after losing the California gubernatorial race in 1962, when he felt “kicked around” by the national press.

So, in 1968, facing another close presidential race, Nixon’s campaign escalated “hardball” tactics to a new level by essentially taking the half million U.S. soldiers in Vietnam hostage. The historical evidence is now clear that Nixon sabotaged President Lyndon Johnson’s Paris peace talks to block a settlement and deny Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey a last-minute bump in the polls.

Nixon’s emissaries pulled off this scheme by promising South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu a better deal than Johnson was prepared to offer, thus getting Thieu to boycott the Paris peace talks and killing prospects for bringing the divisive war to a quick end.

Johnson’s Lament

Based on documents and audiotapes from that era, we now know that Johnson was personally aware of Nixon’s “treason” Johnson’s term for it. Having bugged the South Vietnamese Embassy’s cable traffic and other communications, Johnson knew that Nixon’s campaign had dispatched Anna Chennault, a fiercely anti-communist Chinese-American, to carry Nixon’s proposal to Thieu.

Beginning in late October 1968, Johnson can be heard on the tapes complaining about this Republican gambit. However, his frustration builds as he learns more from intercepts about the back-channel contacts between Nixon’s operatives and South Vietnamese officials.

On Nov. 2 just three days before the election Thieu recanted on his tentative agreement to meet with the Viet Cong in Paris, putting the peace talks in jeopardy. On the same day, Johnson telephoned Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen to lay out some of the evidence and ask Dirksen to intervene with the Nixon campaign.

“The agent [Chennault] says she’s just talked to the boss in New Mexico and that he said that you must hold out, just hold on until after the election,” Johnson said in an apparent reference to a Nixon campaign plane that carried some of his top aides to New Mexico. “We know what Thieu is saying to them out there. We’re pretty well informed at both ends.”

Johnson then made a thinly veiled threat about going public with the information. “I don’t want to get this in the campaign,” Johnson said, adding: “They oughtn’t be doing this. This is treason.”

Dirksen responded, “I know.”

Johnson continued: “I think it would shock America if a principal candidate was playing with a source like this on a matter of this importance. I don’t want to do that [go public]. They ought to know that we know what they’re doing. I know who they’re talking to. I know what they’re saying.”

The President also stressed the stakes involved, noting that the movement toward negotiations in Paris had contributed to a lull in the violence.

“We’ve had 24 hours of relative peace,” Johnson said. “If Nixon keeps the South Vietnamese away from the [peace] conference, well, that’s going to be his responsibility. Up to this point, that’s why they’re not there. I had them signed onboard until this happened.”

Dirksen: “I better get in touch with him, I think.”

“They’re contacting a foreign power in the middle of a war,” Johnson said. “It’s a damn bad mistake. And I don’t want to say so. You just tell them that their people are messing around in this thing, and if they don’t want it on the front pages, they better quit it.”

Nixon’s Protestation

The next day, Nixon spoke directly to Johnson and professed his innocence.

“I didn’t say with your knowledge,” Johnson responded. “I hope it wasn’t.”

“Huh, no,” Nixon responded. “My God, I would never do anything to encourage Saigon not to come to the table. Good God, we want them over to Paris, we got to get them to Paris or you can’t have a peace.”

Nixon also insisted that he would do whatever President Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk wanted.

“I’m not trying to interfere with your conduct of it. I’ll only do what you and Rusk want me to do. We’ve got to get this goddamn war off the plate,” Nixon said, recognizing how tantalizingly close Johnson was to a peace deal. “The war apparently now is about where it could be brought to an end. The quicker the better. To hell with the political credit, believe me.”

However, the South Vietnamese boycott continued, and Johnson concluded that Nixon was playing a double game. Johnson also became aware that Christian Science Monitor reporter Saville Davis had gotten wind of the story. The President was tempted to confirm it.

Before doing so, however, Johnson consulted with Rusk and Defense Secretary Clark Clifford on Nov. 4, 1968. Both these pillars of the Washington Establishment advised against going public out of fear that it might reflect badly on the U.S. government.

“Some elements of the story are so shocking in their nature that I’m wondering whether it would be good for the country to disclose the story and then possibly have a certain individual [Nixon] elected,” Clifford said in a conference call. “It could cast his whole administration under such doubt that I think it would be inimical to our country’s interests.”

Instead of helping Davis confirm his information, Clifford and Rusk argued that the Johnson administration should make no comment, advice that Johnson accepted. He maintained his public silence on what Nixon was doing.

The next day, with Johnson unable to cite any clear progress toward ending the war, Nixon narrowly prevailed over Humphrey by about 500,000 votes or less than one percent of the ballots cast.

No Way Out

In the aftermath of the election, Johnson continued to privately confront Nixon with the evidence of Republican treachery, trying to get him to pressure the South Vietnamese leaders to reverse themselves and join the Paris peace talks.

On Nov. 8, Johnson recounted the evidence to Nixon and described the Republican motivation to disrupt the talks, speaking of himself in the third person.

“Johnson was going to have a bombing pause to try to elect Humphrey. They [the South Vietnamese] ought to hold out because Nixon will not sell you out like the Democrats sold out China,” Johnson said.

“I think they’ve been talking to [Vice President-elect Spiro] Agnew,” Johnson continued. “They’ve been quoting you [Nixon] indirectly, that the thing they ought to do is to just not show up at any [peace] conference and wait until you come into office.

“Now they’ve started that [boycott] and that’s bad. They’re killing Americans every day. I have that [story of the sabotage] documented. There’s not any question but that’s happening. That’s the story, Dick, and it’s a sordid story. I don’t want to say that to the country, because that’s not good.”

Faced with Johnson’s implied threat, Nixon promised to tell the South Vietnamese officials to reverse themselves and join the peace talks. However, the deal was done. There was no turning back because Thieu could then expose the secret arrangement with Nixon’s people. Nixon had to understand that it was more likely that Johnson would stay silent than that Thieu would.

Nixon bet right. Johnson failed to achieve the peace breakthrough he had hoped for before leaving office, but remained silent in his retirement. Following the advice of Rusk and Clifford, the Democrats were already playing the part of the “abused wife,” hiding the ugly truth from “outsiders.”

The U.S. participation in the Vietnam War continued for more than four years at a horrendous cost to both the United States and the people of Vietnam. Before the conflict was finally brought to an end, a million or more Vietnamese were estimated to have died along with an additional 20,763 U.S. dead and 111,230 wounded.

The war also divided the United States, turning parents against their own children. But Nixon continued searching for violent new ways to get Thieu the better deal that had been promised, including the invasion of Cambodia and heavier bombing of targets in North Vietnam.

Onward to Watergate

Meanwhile, to tamp down dissent in the United States, Nixon turned to a political spying operation against his enemies, targeting anti-war figures such as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and later his Democratic rivals.

In May 1972, Nixon’s “plumbers” planted bugs in the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee, apparently gleaning information about the last-minute strategies of the Democratic establishment to block the nomination of Sen. George McGovern, whom Nixon viewed as the easiest Democrat to beat. [For details on what Nixon got from the bugs, see Secrecy & Privilege.]

On June 17, 1972, when the “plumbers” returned to plant more listening devices, they were caught by Washington police. Nixon immediately took charge of the cover-up: issuing orders, brainstorming P.R. strategies and trying to blackmail Democrats with threats of embarrassing disclosures, including that President Johnson had bugged the Nixon campaign in 1968.

According to his own White House tapes, Nixon said he was told by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that Johnson had ordered the bugging of a Nixon campaign plane to ascertain who was undermining the Paris talks.

On July 1, 1972, White House aide Charles Colson touched off Nixon’s musings by noting that a newspaper column claimed that the Democrats had bugged Chennault’s telephones in 1968. Nixon pounced on Colson’s remark.

“Oh,” Nixon responded, “in ’68, they bugged our phones too.”

Colson: “And that this was ordered by Johnson.”

Nixon: “That’s right”

Colson: “And done through the FBI. My God, if we ever did anything like that you’d have the …”

Nixon: “Yes. For example, why didn’t we bug [the Democrats’ 1972 presidential nominee George] McGovern, because after all he’s affecting the peace negotiations?”

Colson: “Sure.”

Nixon: “That would be exactly the same thing.”

A Nixon Leak

Nixon’s complaint about Johnson bugging “our phones” in 1968 became a refrain as the Watergate scandal unfolded. Nixon wanted to use that information to pressure Johnson and Humphrey into twisting Democratic arms so the Watergate investigations would be stopped.

On Jan. 8, 1973, Nixon urged Haldeman to plant a story about the 1968 bugging in the Washington Star. “You don’t really have to have hard evidence, Bob,” Nixon told Haldeman. “You’re not trying to take this to court. All you have to do is to have it out, just put it out as authority, and the press will write the Goddamn story, and the Star will run it now.”

Haldeman, however, insisted on checking the facts. In The Haldeman Diaries, published in 1994, Haldeman included an entry dated Jan. 12, 1973, which contains his book’s only deletion for national security reasons.

“I talked to [former Attorney General John] Mitchell on the phone,” Haldeman wrote, “and he said [FBI official Cartha] DeLoach had told him he was up to date on the thing. … A Star reporter was making an inquiry in the last week or so, and LBJ got very hot and called Deke [DeLoach’s nickname], and said to him that if the Nixon people are going to play with this, that he would release [deleted material — national security], saying that our side was asking that certain things be done. …

“DeLoach took this as a direct threat from Johnson. … As he [DeLoach] recalls it, bugging was requested on the [Nixon campaign] planes, but was turned down, and all they did was check the phone calls, and put a tap on the Dragon Lady [Anna Chennault].”

In other words, a furious Johnson appeared finally prepared to disclose Nixon’s “treason.” However, ten days later, on Jan. 22, 1973, Johnson died of a heart attack. Haldeman apparently shelved Nixon’s 1968 bugging complaint as a non-starter.

On Jan. 27, 1973, Nixon agreed to Vietnam peace terms in Paris. The agreement was along the lines of what President Johnson had negotiated more than four years earlier. The U.S. military withdrew from South Vietnam but continued supplying Theiu’s forces, which proved incapable of standing on their own, finally collapsing in 1975.

The Watergate scandal of 1972-74 was the one time when the Democrats truly stood up to Republican bullying.

Although some leading Democrats, such as Democratic National Chairman Robert Strauss, opposed pursuing the scandal, enough courageous Democrats and responsible Republicans were shocked enough by Nixon’s abuses to keep the investigation pressing forward.

Finally, after the Washington Post exposed Nixon’s financial ties to the cover-up and after Democratic members of Congress elicited devastating testimony from White House insiders, the U.S. Supreme Court forced Nixon to relinquish some of his White House tapes containing more damning evidence. Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974.

However, what the Republicans learned from Watergate was not “don’t do it” but “cover it up more effectively.” Aided by right-wing financiers, the Republicans began building a media infrastructure to put out their own message to the public and funding attack groups that would target troublesome journalists and political figures.

October Surprise Case

The next round of Republican political hostage-taking centered on a case of actual hostage-taking. The evidence is now overwhelming that in 1980 as President Jimmy Carter was seeking reelection and was trying to free 52 American hostages who had been seized in Iran Republican operatives from Ronald Reagan’s campaign went behind Carter’s back to make contact with Iran’s leaders.

Reagan’s brain trust, especially campaign chief William Casey, saw the long-running crisis with Iran over the hostages as a powerful vulnerability for Carter but also a potential game-changer if Carter succeeded in engineering their release shortly before the election, as an “October Surprise.”

Over the past three decades, some two dozen witnesses including senior Iranian officials, top French intelligence officers, U.S. and Israeli intelligence operatives, the Russian government and even Palestine leader Yasir Arafat have confirmed the existence of a Republican initiative to interfere with Carter’s efforts to free the hostages.

In 1996, for instance, during a meeting in Gaza, Arafat personally told former President Carter that senior Republican emissaries approached the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1980 with a request that Arafat help broker a delay in the hostage release.

“You should know that in 1980 the Republicans approached me with an arms deal if I could arrange to keep the hostages in Iran until after the elections,” Arafat told Carter, according to historian Douglas Brinkley who was present. [Diplomatic History, Fall 1996]

Arafat’s spokesman Bassam Abu Sharif said the GOP gambit pursued other channels, too. In an interview with me in Tunis in 1990, Bassam indicated that Arafat learned upon reaching Iran in 1980 that the Republicans and the Iranians had made other arrangements for a delay in the hostage release.

“The offer [to Arafat] was, ‘if you block the release of hostages, then the White House would be open for the PLO’,” Bassam said. “I guess the same offer was given to others, and I believe that some accepted to do it and managed to block the release of hostages.”

In a little-noticed letter to the U.S. Congress, dated Dec. 17, 1992, former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr said he first learned of the Republican hostage initiative in July 1980.

Bani-Sadr said a nephew of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran’s supreme leader, returned from a meeting with an Iranian banker and CIA asset, Cyrus Hashemi, who had close ties to Casey and to Casey’s business associate, John Shaheen.

Bani-Sadr said the message from the Khomeini emissary was clear: Republicans were in league with elements of the CIA in an effort to undermine Carter and were demanding Iran’s help.

Bani-Sadr said the emissary “told me that if I do not accept this proposal they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my rivals.” The emissary added that the Republicans “have enormous influence in the CIA,” Bani-Sadr wrote. “Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination.”

Bani-Sadr said he resisted the GOP scheme, but the plan was accepted by the hard-line Khomeini faction. The American hostages remained captive through the Nov. 4, 1980, election which Reagan won handily. They were released immediately after Reagan was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981. [For more details, see Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Though some Carter advisers suspected Republican manipulation of the hostage crisis, the Democrats again kept silent. Only after the Iran-Contra scandal broke in 1986 and witnesses began talking about its origins did the 1980 story get fleshed out enough to compel Congress to take a closer look in 1991-92.

Again, however the Democrats feared that the evidence could endanger the fragile political relationships in Washington that enable governing to go forward. Once more, they chose to ignore the GOP machinations and, in some cases, literally hid the evidence. [For instance, see’s “Key October Surprise Evidence Hidden.”]

The Bush Years

Aggressive Nixon-style strategies carried over into the campaigns mounted by George H.W. Bush in 1988 and 1992. The elder Bush’s dark side would come out most glaringly when he was in what he called “campaign mode.”

The general election campaign against Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1988 stands as one of the nastiest in U.S. history, with Bush questioning Dukakis’s patriotism and playing the race card by exploiting Willie Horton, a black inmate who raped a white woman while he was on a Massachusetts prison furlough.

Bush charted a similar course in 1992, with the goal of destroying Bill Clinton’s reputation and winning reelection by political default. The strategy, managed by then-White House chief of staff James Baker, involved searching Clinton’s passport files looking for dirt to use against the Democratic candidate.

President Bush was personally involved in this “silver bullet” strategy aimed at portraying Clinton as disloyal to his country, possibly having collaborated with Soviet bloc intelligence.

In a later interview with federal prosecutors, Bush acknowledged that he was “nagging” his aides to push an investigation into Clinton’s student travels to the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. Bush also expressed strong interest in rumors that Clinton had sought to renounce his U.S. citizenship.

Bush described himself as “indignant” that his aides failed to discover more about Clinton’s student activities. But Bush stopped short of taking responsibility for the apparently illegal searches of Clinton’s passport records.

“Hypothetically speaking, President Bush advised that he would not have directed anyone to investigate the possibility that Clinton had renounced his citizenship because he would have relied on others to make this decision,” the FBI interview report read. “He [Bush] would have said something like, ‘Let’s get it out’ or ‘Hope the truth gets out’.”

The passport caper backfired in early October 1992 with disclosure of the State Department’s improper search of Clinton’s passport files, creating a scandal called “Passport-gate.” However, after Clinton defeated Bush, the Democrats chose not to press for a thorough examination.

When a special prosecutor was named to investigate “Passport-gate,” the outgoing Bush administration was lucky because right-wing judges had taken over the selection panel and picked Republican stalwart, Joseph diGenova, who proceeded to clear Bush and his top aides despite evidence of their guilt.


The largely unchecked Republican brazenness expanded into the actual counting of votes in Election 2000.

Though Democrat Al Gore won the national popular vote and stood to gain the presidency if a full recount of legally cast votes in Florida had been allowed, five Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court sided with George W. Bush and stopped the Florida recount, effectively handing Bush the presidency.

The Democrats again shied away from a full investigation of how Bush engineered his undemocratic selection as president, as did the national news media. The thinking was that a serious fact-finding effort would undercut Bush’s “legitimacy” and be harmful to the country.

Almost a year later, in November 2001, a group of eight large news organizations reached a similar conclusion after finishing a study of the uncounted Florida ballots and discovering that under any standard used for the notorious ballot chads dimpled, hanging or fully punched through Gore would have won if all ballots considered legal under Florida law were counted.

However, in the post 9/11 climate, the news organizations twisted their own findings to ratify Bush’s electoral victory rather than reveal that the electoral loser was in the White House. The Democrats stayed silent, too. [See’s “Gore’s Victory” or the book, Neck Deep.]

What the Republicans learned from this recurring dynamic was that bullying pays and that no one of significance in the U.S. political/media system is likely to stand up to you.

So, again, in 2004, Republicans and their right-wing allies smeared Democrat John Kerry, a Vietnam War hero, for his supposed cowardice. A well-funded right-wing group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth questioned Kerry’s medals, and at the GOP convention, Republican activists highlighted skepticism about the severity of Kerry’s war wounds by passing out “Purple Heart Band-Aids.”

The War on Obama

In 2008, Barack Obama got a taste of these Republican tactics with accusations about him “palling around with terrorists” and depicting him as an anti-American Muslim possibly born in Kenya. However, given the collapsing U.S. economy, Obama defeated Republican John McCain.

Still, Obama’s victory didn’t spare him a continuation of the smear tactics reverberating through the right-wing media echo chamber from talk radio to Fox News to corporate-funded Tea Party activists who brandished weapons at rallies and vowed to disrupt Obama’s efforts at governing.

Whereas the Democrats rallied behind Republican presidents at a time of national crisis as occurred with George W. Bush after 9/11 Republicans refused to do the same for Obama even in the face of the worst U.S. economic crisis since the Great Depression. The bad economy was simply an opportunity to regain power.

Congressional Republicans also detected a vulnerability in Obama’s vow to change the poisonous climate of Washington. GOP leaders understood that if they simply voted en bloc against pretty much whatever Obama proposed, the noxious gridlock would continue and the media would frame it as a “failure” by Obama to live up to a campaign pledge.

But the economy would remain Obama’s biggest threat. Though it went into freefall on George W. Bush’s watch with the Wall Street meltdown in September 2008, Republicans knew that if they could water down or sink Obama’s plans for putting Americans back to work, high unemployment would erode his support and likely mean a quick Republican resurgence.

Their strategy of angry and consistent disruption worked wonders. In Election 2010, the Republicans regained the House and narrowed the Democratic majority in the Senate. Excited Republicans looked to a continuation of obstructionism as the key to regaining the White House in 2012.

After Election 2010, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky brazenly explained the strategy: the GOP would make it “our top political priority over the next two years to deny President Obama a second term in office.”

Over the past year, McConnell’s declaration became a battle cry for the Republicans as they engaged in brinksmanship that repeatedly shook the fragile economy. When economic indicators began to perk up last spring, the Republicans forced a showdown over the debt ceiling that slowed down the recovery even more and led to a downgrading of U.S. government securities.

As stubborn joblessness remained a severe crisis, the Republicans marched in lockstep this fall against any Obama plan for putting Americans back to work.

Democrats began to recognize the obvious: the Republicans understood that a lousy economy was their best route back to full power in Washington, although Senate Majority Leader Reid tried to put most of the blame on Tea Party extremists. “That faction of the Republican Party is holding our economy hostage,” Reid declared.

But this hostage-taking is nothing new. It has been a successful Republican tactic dating back to 1968 when Nixon took the Vietnam War and half a million U.S. soldiers hostage, through 1980 when Reagan took the Iran hostage crisis hostage, through George W. Bush taking the electoral process hostage in 2000, through today as the 14 million unemployed Americans and the millions more who are barely holding on have become the latest hostages.

Yet, Democrats still do not seem to have learned the dangers of tolerating this kind of behavior. Trying to hide the historical truth “for the good of the country” has not truly been good for the country, any more than a battered wife really helps her family by covering up the acts of an abusive husband.

Indeed, making excuses and looking the other way only encourages more of the dangerous behavior. Some Americans even gravitate to the tough-guy bully when the alternative is a weak-kneed appeaser.

Though it appears that President Obama and progressive activists may have finally begun to stand up and speak out against what the Republicans and their policies have wrought, there remains much more to be done, both in explaining what’s at stakes now and understanding what has happened over the past 43 years.

[For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

Giving Rick Perry a Second Look

Texas Gov. Rick Perry may hope that Republican voters give him a second look if they tire of hearing about Herman Cain’s sexual harassment troubles. But Michael Winship says the voters should really focus on Perry’s troubling record as an enabler of crony capitalism.

By Michael Winship

I’m at sea this week — literally, for once — and learning helpful nautical stuff. For example, the old, three-mile limit for territorial waters was established in 1702 as the maximum distance a cannon ball could reach when fired from shore.

It’s even more useful to gain some distance from political events back on the mainland. Much of the week before this was spent chairing an international meeting of writers from a dozen or so countries. Combined, seeing ourselves as others see us, both experiences are revelatory.

One theme that prevails is a general mystification over many Americans’ propensity for the outright rejection of anything that’s not instantly comprehended.

Talking with a couple from Calgary, the Canadians expressed their incredulity that relatives in the States were so vehemently opposed to President Barack Obama’s health care and jobs programs “when they haven’t even bothered to read anything about them.”

For another, you realize yet again how bizarre our system of campaigns and elections seems when viewed by those from abroad — even though these days the rest of the world isn’t exactly the picture of mental health either.

Something like our media frenzy over the harassment charges swirling around Herman Cain — mired as those accusations appear to be in years of hubris and egotism on his part and our consuming national neurosis when it comes to all things involving sex or race — seems distinctly odd.

Whether or not the Rick Perry campaign is behind any of the leaks surrounding Herman Cain’s alleged improprieties, the distraction certainly made the Texas governor, as the website Talking Points Memo reported, the “luckiest presidential candidate in the universe this week.”

Up to now, the governor has been experiencing the most dramatic crash from electoral hero to goat since Tennessee’s Fred Thompson ran his presidential campaign’s pick-up truck off the road four years ago.

The Cain scrutiny helped draw attention from Perry’s plummeting poll numbers and his wacky address last week at that dinner held by New Hampshire’s Cornerstone Action, a group of social conservatives with a notoriously anti-gay agenda.

The speech came off more like Open Mike Night at Chuckles Comedy Club than High Noon on Inauguration Day 2013. (You can see the highlights here:

In the words of Jon Stewart, “Best-case scenario, that dude’s hammered. Worst-case scenario, that is Perry sober, and every time we’ve seen him previously, he’s been hammered.” I prefer to think that Perry decided, “What the hell, this campaign’s going nowhere, might as well let it all hang out.”

Or maybe he suffers from a case of premature election burn-out, like Robert Redford’s character in 1972 movie The Candidate, reeling from one too many iterations of his stump speech, blathering: “Can’t any longer play off black against old, young against poor. This country cannot house its houseless, feed its foodless,” and so on.

Of course, these are idle distractions from what we really should be paying attention to: candidates’ positions on the issues and their prior track records as business leaders or officeholders. And blahblahblah, I can hear you tuning out now.

Luckily, though, when it comes to Rick Perry at least, in the tradition of such greats of journalism as Ronnie Dugger and Molly Ivins, we continue to have fine investigative reporting coming out of the state of Texas.  Reporters there care — even when you don’t.

They’ve been covering Perry and his stewardship as governor with an intensity as white hot as Tiger Beat’s recording of the day-to-day tribulations of Justin Bieber. Certainly, ounce for ounce, Perry has greater entertainment value.

The non-profit, non-partisan Texas Tribune, for example, features on its webpage an exhaustive “Perrypedia,” which offers the latest on all things Rick.

The publication recently noted that “Perry’s presidential campaign hinges on one overarching message: that states perform best when left to their own devices and federal regulators should butt out. Yet during his decade-long tenure in the governor’s office, Perry and his staff repeatedly downplayed the severity of abuse and neglect allegations at Texas’ state-run institutions for the disabled — until conditions became so dire that the U.S. attorney general was forced to intervene.”

Two years after that Justice Department investigation found violations of civil rights and avoidable deaths, “a Texas Tribune review of facility monitoring reports and employee disciplinary records shows mistreatment is still relatively commonplace.

“And though there’s been some evidence of improvement, the state’s federally designated disability watchdog group Disability Rights says that halfway into the five-year settlement agreement, not even a quarter of its requirements have been met.”

A couple of months ago, the Houston Chronicle ran a terrific, four-part series, “Perry’s Texas,” examining the deteriorating condition of the state’s infrastructure during the governor’s tenure.

And the Oct. 22 edition of the Austin American-Statesman took a closer look at Perry’s time as state agriculture commissioner during the 1990s. The paper’s Laylan Copelin reported, “Over his eight years as Texas’ farmer-in-chief, Perry oversaw a loan guarantee program with so many defaults that the state had to stop guaranteeing bank loans to startups in agribusiness and eventually bailed out the program with taxpayer money.

“The state auditor panned Perry’s claims of creating jobs and criticized Perry and his fellow board members at the Texas Agricultural Finance Authority for not following their own lending guidelines. …

“Even as the first alarms were sounded, Perry defended the program, saying no taxpayer money was at risk, blaming others and claiming he had fixed it. It only got worse.”

Guaranteeing risky business loans with public money is a familiar tune — all together, let me hear you say Solyndra. But instead of solar energy schemes, during Perry’s watch, “Entrepreneurs lined up for money to spin cotton into yarn, process meats, develop cotton insulation, market canna bulbs to wholesale nurseries and sell pinto beans as a ready-to-eat frozen meal, to name a few.”

Forewarned is forearmed. These and other reports from Texas journalists present Rick Perry as the poster boy for conservative humorist and essayist P.J. O’Rourke famous description of Republicans as “the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”

Unsensational as it may be to all but the wonkiest, more attention to all candidates’ public records serves us far better than the latest private gossip and innuendo. Sorry, the salt air must be going to my head. Land ho.

Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos and president of the Writers Guild of America, East, is senior writer of the new public television series, “Moyers & Company,” premiering in January 2012.

Assessing Obama’s ‘Peace’ Moves

Exclusive: American neocons are accusing President Barack Obama of “losing” Iraq with his final troop withdrawal and some anti-war activists are encouraged by his possible strategy shift away from combat in Afghanistan. So, is there a sea change underway in the course of the U.S. ship of state, asks Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In another step toward bringing George W. Bush’s two major wars to an end, the Obama administration is planning to transition the U.S. military role in Afghanistan to mostly advising and training Afghan troops rather than engaging in large-scale combat operations.

Although the shift revealed to several U.S. news organizations does not necessarily mean a speed-up in the scheduled troop withdrawal by 2014, it does suggest that President Barack Obama wants to follow up his removal of all U.S. troops from Iraq next month with a phase-down of the decade-long Afghan War.

The two developments represent a defeat for the neocons, who have long advocated an unapologetic American imperialism especially in Muslim lands, and a victory for the American anti-war movement, which has joined with the Occupy Wall Street protests in calling for a redirection of budget priorities away from coddling bankers and spending on wars to programs to create jobs and rebuild the middle-class.

The American Left is often hesitant to see anything positive in incremental changes like the pullout from Iraq and the combat shift in Afghanistan preferring to focus on the dark clouds, not the silver linings but some anti-war activists have found reason to cheer the recent shift in the political winds.

“If we don’t understand that we are beginning to move things in the right direction, many among us will lose heart and others will miscalculate,” wrote anti-war activist David Swanson. “Why leak this proposal now [about reducing combat in Afghanistan]? What has changed is that people in the United States, and in Europe as well, are in the streets, the squares, and the parks.

“On a daily basis marches through DC streets are shouting, ‘How do you fix the deficit? End the wars, tax the rich!’ The media coverage has changed. It is the passion and the action that has changed in this moment.”

Besides the nationwide protests, another change is in the make-up of the Obama administration’s national security hierarchy. Finally, the President has gotten rid of many holdovers from the Bush administration, such as Robert Gates at Defense and the old high command in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Though some on the Left have criticized Leon Panetta both for his stewardship at the CIA and his statements as the new Defense Secretary Panetta has been a behind-the-scenes force in transitioning American war policies from large-scale conflicts to more targeted Special Forces operations.

In essence, the contingent within the Obama administration that favors limited counter-terror operations instead of major military occupations has gained the upper hand. In 2009, Gates and the military high command prevailed in the policy debates on the Afghan War, largely by resisting Obama’s repeated requests for an exit strategy and proposing only an escalation.

When Obama consented to a 30,000 troop “surge” in late 2009, it was widely interpreted that the Gates/Pentagon faction (supported by Obama’s hawkish Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) had won out over Vice President Joe Biden and others who opposed the large-scale escalation and wanted a concentration on Special Forces attacks against suspected terrorists.

Gates and the commanders, such as Gen. David Petraeus, then tried to put the best face on the Afghan “surge” much as they had on the Iraq War “surge” in 2007 but whatever security gains were achieved in Afghanistan were fragile at best and came at a steep cost in lives and money.

The killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2 overseen by CIA Director Panetta was hailed as an achievement of the more targeted military approach, and Gates’s departure at the end of June removed one of the most effective advocates for “surge” strategies.

Gates’s replacement, Panetta, quickly disappointed some on the Left with his spirited defense of the Pentagon’s budget, but it may be a case of watching what he does, not what he says. He bucked the generals when he began talking about a modest stay-behind force in Iraq of only 3,000 to 5,000 “trainers” instead of at least 18,000 as the commanders wanted.

Again, some on the Left decried Panetta for even proposing this modest training force, but that missed the point. Once the number had been reduced to several thousand, the value of such a small contingent was quickly outweighed by the political and security risks involved in leaving those troops behind.

President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki could then cite a disagreement over whether the U.S. troops would have immunity from prosecution to settle on a complete withdrawal.

‘Who Lost Iraq?’

While some on the American Left have doubted the significance of Obama’s final Iraq withdrawal next month, the American Right and especially the neocons have complained loudly. On Friday, Charles Krauthammer, part of the Washington Post’s vast stable of neocon writers, framed the attack on Obama as “Who lost Iraq?”

To make the case of blaming Obama, Krauthammer relied on the neocon-constructed narrative of the Iraq War: that after a string of early mistakes, the war was “won” by George W. Bush’s “surge” in 2007 and that Bush’s “status of forces agreement” with Iraq, which called for the U.S. troop withdrawal by 2011, was always meant to be modified to permit a permanent U.S. military presence.

The notion of the “successful surge” leading to “victory at last” was largely mythical the reasons for the decline in Iraqi political violence related more to other factors, including the recognition that the U.S. military occupation was finally coming to an end but the “surge” narrative has been useful in cleansing the neocons of the blood and waste caused by the neocon-driven Iraq invasion in 2003.

Now, a new chapter of this neocon Iraq War narrative is being written by Krauthammer and others that the Iraq War had been “won” but that Obama and his antiwar allies then stabbed “the troops” in the back by squandering their hard-fought “victory.”

Krauthammer wrote: “When [Obama] became president in January 2009, he was handed a war that was won. The surge had succeeded. Obama was left with but a single task: Negotiate a new status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) to reinforce these gains and create a strategic partnership with the Arab world’s only democracy. He blew it.

“Negotiations, such as they were, finally collapsed last month. There is no agreement, no partnership. As of Dec. 31, the U.S. military presence in Iraq will be liquidated.

“Three years, two abject failures. The first was the administration’s inability, at the height of American post-surge power, to broker a centrist nationalist coalition governed by the major blocs, one predominantly Shiite (Maliki’s), one predominantly Sunni (Ayad Allawi’s), one Kurdish …

“The second failure was the SOFA itself. U.S. commanders recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan and 54,000 in Germany. The president rejected those proposals, choosing instead a level of 3,000 to 5,000 troops.

“A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself …  The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal.”

Krauthammer concluded: “Three years and a won war had given Obama the opportunity to establish a lasting strategic alliance with the Arab world’s second most important power. He failed, though he hardly tried very hard. Indeed, he portrays the evacuation as a success, the fulfillment of a campaign promise.

“Obama was to usher in an era of not hard power, not soft power, but smart power. Which turns out in Iraq to be . . . no power. Years from now, we will be asking not ‘Who lost Iraq?’, that already is clear, but ‘Why?’”

Strategic Defeat

In other words, Krauthammer and the neocons “get” what is happening, even though they twist it to fit their propaganda needs. The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq does represent a defeat for the kind of U.S. imperialism that the neocons have long advocated and a victory for Americans who have opposed military adventures (and for the Iraqi people who resisted the occupation).

But the truth behind Krauthammer’s imperious question “who lost Iraq?” is this: the war in Iraq was “lost” as soon as it was begun in March 2003 at least once it became clear that the Iraqis would resist a U.S. military conquest.

Yes, Bush’s occupation of Iraq was bungled, too, but it was the determination of the Iraqi people not to accept their status as a modern-day colony and as a base for U.S. power projection in the Middle East that doomed the neocons’ imperial project. Millions of Americans also joined in rejecting an illegal war as well as the neocons’ hubristic vision of a “New American Century.”

Nevertheless, the neocons have now chosen to frame the issue of this strategic U.S. defeat in Iraq as a case of disloyal or feckless Americans, including President Obama, undermining U.S. national security, much as similar “who lost” attack lines were used by the Right regarding China in the 1940s and Vietnam in the 1970s.

There are many ugly parallels in history to this blame-game approach. Adolf Hitler exploited mythology about Jews and other “disloyal” Germans betraying the nation during World War I as part of his propaganda to establish Nazi political supremacy in the 1930s.

Now, the neocons are trying to build on their own myth of a war “won” but then “betrayed” as justification for ousting Obama from office in 2012 and restoring neocon domination of American foreign policy under a President Mitt Romney or a President Rick Perry.

To do this, the neocons must count on the sloppy thinking of the mainstream news media, getting U.S. journalists to “recall” the wonders of the “successful surge,” the conventional wisdom that was happily embraced in 2008 although it never was true. [For more on the “surge” myth, see’s “Two Dangerous Bush-Cheney Myths.”]

The other wild card for the neocons’ “who lost Iraq?” propaganda theme is the revitalized American Left, finally merging the twin issues of wasteful military spending and financial policies benefiting the richest one percent.

If the Left can get past its historic trait of seeing the glass as always half empty rather than sometimes half full, it might recognize — as David Swanson suggests — that some progress is finally being made.

[For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

End of the Reagan Narrative?

Exclusive: Election 2012 may turn on whether Ronald Reagan’s narrative of evil government and beneficent tax cuts for the rich has finally run its course and has been replaced by a new narrative demanding government intervention to save the American middle-class, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

As yet another statue of Ronald Reagan is unveiled a $1 million one at Washington’s National Airport which was renamed in his honor in the mid-1990s the key question about the 40th president is whether his long and destructive era is finally coming to an end.

More than any other political figure, it was Ronald Reagan who put America on its present course toward stunning income inequality and into a brave new world of deregulated industries, which were then able to exploit lax government controls to devastate the economy.

It was Reagan who experimented with “supply side economics” which held that slashing the top marginal tax rates for the rich by half or more would eliminate the federal deficit and supposedly help everyone by letting the extra money at the top trickle down.

It was Reagan who declared that “government is the problem” and convinced many middle-class Americans especially white men that they should despise “big government” as a threat to their liberty and trust their financial security to the kindness, wisdom and generosity of corporate chieftains.

It was Reagan who demanded a massive reinvestment in the U.S. military, even as America’s principal adversary, the Soviet Union, was in rapid decline. Reagan also allied the United States with some of the world’s most brutal regimes and insurgent movements, as long as they identified themselves as “anti-communist.”

It also was Reagan who transformed the Republican Party into a political organization disdainful of science and empiricism and devoted to retaining its power at almost any price. For Reagan and his P.R. team, the goal was always “perception management,” controlling how average Americans saw the world, not how it actually was. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

Though it may be true that the current crop of Republicans is even more extreme than Reagan, that is mostly because today’s GOPers have dropped the few nuances that Reagan retained because of the political constraints that he faced. Three decades into Reagan’s transformation of America, the Right’s accumulated power has allowed the embrace of even more radical positions.

As an implicit acknowledgement of Reagan’s continued spell over the U.S. population, Democrats often try to find some common ground with the beloved Gipper, often using the phrase “even Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have gone that far.” But the truth is that Reagan composed the political music that today’s Republican Party plays.

The personable Reagan was the Pied Piper who led middle-class Americans dancing happily toward their own oblivion. Without him, it is hard to envision why so many downwardly mobile Americans would rally to the Tea Party and its demands for lower taxes on the already rich and fewer regulations on today’s corporate masters of the universe.

When the only realistic way to restrain the immense power of the rich and the corporations is through a democratized and energized federal government, Reagan’s memory instead inspires the Tea Party and many typical Americans to demand that government get out of the way.

Beginning of the End?

Yet, the question today is whether the days of Reagan’s enduring narrative are finally coming to a close. Has the Occupy Wall Street movement, which protests the gross economic inequality that Reaganism wrought, eclipsed the Reaganesque Tea Party?

The OWS narrative is that Reagan’s (and George W. Bush’s) tax cuts for the rich and the deregulation of Wall Street (that had bipartisan support)  greased the skids for the nation sliding into the current swamp of concentrated wealth at the top and a shrinking middle-class.

Though the “Occupy” activists have so far shunned laying out specific policy recommendations, they have hoisted signs that demand that the coddling of corporations end, that the rich pay their fair share, and that the United States commit itself to becoming a more equitable society.

That goal can only be achieved by redistributing some of that concentrated wealth, by rebuilding the middle-class and by restoring jobs that disappeared over the past few decades as U.S. corporations either sought cheaper labor abroad or boosted productivity by replacing manpower with machines.

Reagan and the “free-marketers” who followed him encouraged these trends by incentivizing greed via sharply lower income taxes for the rich and by negotiating “free trade” agreements with low-wage countries.

Suddenly, the wealthy who had seen about 70 percent of their top tranche of income recycled back into American society through income taxes were getting to keep more than twice as much under Reagan-era reductions in the progressive tax rates. That prompted corporate chieftains to push for much higher pay for themselves, since they could keep much more of it, even as they took steps to hold down the pay of their employees.

To jack-up profits even more, U.S.-based companies shipped millions of factory jobs overseas. And, as capital gains taxes were slashed, too, investors kept even more money than those who earned their pay from work, explaining why multi-billionaire investor Warren Buffett could pay a lower tax rate than his secretary.

The consequences on the United States from these three decades under various forms of Reaganomics (including the neo-liberalism of Bill Clinton and the full Reagan restoration under George W. Bush) are now apparent: massive federal debt for the public sector and major concentrations of wealth in the private sector.

These twin factors have fed two competing political movements: one, identified with the Tea Party, demands sharp cuts in government spending on domestic programs and even fewer regulations on business, and the other, associated with Occupy Wall Street, implicitly favors higher taxes on the rich to fund jobs and tighter government controls on reckless gambling by the banks.

The danger for the Republicans is that they have gone pretty much all in with the Tea Party. Some top Republicans are even advocating raising income taxes on the poor and middle-class in order to fund more tax cuts for the rich.

So, if the momentum shifts from the Tea Party side to the Occupy Wall Street side, Republicans could find themselves caught in a dangerous crosscurrent. They must hope that the Reagan narrative hostile to government and favorable to the rich isn’t swept away before the November 2012 elections.

On the other hand, it is less clear that the Democrats will benefit substantially from a more anti-corporate tide, since they have done their best over the past several decades to muddy the waters regarding their differences with Reaganism, not wanting to be labeled “tax-and-spenders” or “anti-business.”

Still, as careful as many Democrats have been to stay in the middle of the mainstream, President Barack Obama and others have at least offered some limited proposals for raising taxes on the rich to pay for infrastructure investments and other jobs programs. That could put them in position to be pulled along by a favorable public current.

As imperfect a test as Election 2012 is sure to be, it seems likely to offer some measure of whether the Reagan narrative has finally run its course.

[For more on related topics, see’s “Reagan’s Greed Is Good Folly” and “How Greed Destroys America” or Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

Why the Left Won’t Accept Success

Exclusive: A curious feature of the American Left is its resistance to recognize its own successes. So, even as President Barack Obama is bringing the eight-year U.S. occupation of Iraq to an end, some on the Left refuse to celebrate, as Robert Parry reports.

By Robert Parry

Last Friday, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would complete the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq by Christmas, a development that you might have thought the anti-war Left would cheer.

But that’s not been the case for some activists, at least based on a sampling of the writings that I’ve been sent. Instead of celebrating the success of the anti-war movement in bringing this war to an end, I’ve been reading commentaries either insisting that it’s all a trick or giving the credit to President George W. Bush.

It appears that some don’t want to accept that the anti-war movement has won a hard-fought victory and that Obama’s election was a factor. It’s almost as if the fact that something has been achieved through the deeply flawed U.S. political system threatens a preferred political analysis, which holds that nothing good can happen.

So, instead of giving credit to the many Americans who protested the war or who found ways to explain its injustice to the public, some activists are stressing the negative, noting that security contractors will remain to protect the U.S. Embassy or that U.S. corporations will still try to sell weapons systems and exploit Iraq’s oil reserves.

Others observe that the Iraqi government negotiated the “status of forces agreement” setting the timetable for a drawdown of U.S. troops with President Bush in late 2008 and thus President Obama should get no credit. He should just be denounced for not ending the war sooner.

But these arguments largely miss the point. This final withdrawal of U.S. troops at the insistence of the Iraqi government and with Obama’s acquiescence is a very big deal. Oddly, it is being acknowledged more by the Right than the Left, with prominent Republicans condemning Obama’s announcement as an admission of U.S. defeat.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared, “The president has announced what will be seen by historians as a decisive defeat for the U.S. in Iraq.”

The neocons are furious because they saw Bush’s SOFA as only a holding action and expected that the U.S. government would twist the arms of the Iraqis to get them to accept a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. The neocons are now condemning Obama for not doing so.

After all, Bush would not have made the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad the largest in the world, along with over-sized consulates in other Iraqi cities, if the neocons did not expect to turn Iraq into something of an American colony, a home for U.S. military bases to threaten other countries in the region, such as Iran and Syria.

Now, with the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, the neocon dream of U.S.-controlled bases in Iraq has been dashed and the diplomatic outposts are already being downsized. The gargantuan embassy complex in Baghdad may well be viewed in the future as more a monument to American hubris than a hub of U.S. intervention.

Bloody Folly

When the last U.S. convoys rush to the Kuwaiti border in December, the world will see the event for what it is, a stunning reversal for America’s imperial overreach, a $1 trillion neocon folly that killed nearly 4,500 U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Yet, instead of driving home that important lesson, some on the Left seem to prefer insisting that this historic defeat is just an illusion or that the anti-war movement (including Obama’s election) had nothing to do with the outcome.

Perhaps that’s because it’s fashionable these days to say that elections don’t matter. Yet, one only has to think about what the U.S. approach toward Iraq would have been under a President John McCain or even a President Hillary Clinton.

Because Obama had built his political career largely on his opposition to the Iraq War while McCain and Clinton were eager war supporters Obama had a lot to lose if he reneged on his campaign promise and left behind a sizeable contingent of U.S. troops. In the end, he didn’t push very hard to maintain a U.S. troop footprint in Iraq.

Obama’s election, therefore, marked a significant turning point in the difficult struggle to bring this ill-begotten war to a close. It shows how anti-war dissent and electoral politics can combine however imperfectly to get results. Achieving an outcome may take time and surely is frustrating, but victories can be won.

So, this could be a time to cheer the many people who stood up against the ugly pro-war pressures of 2002-03, the likes of weapons inspector Scott Ritter, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, members of Code Pink, the many bloggers who spoke truth to power, the young people who marched in the streets, and many more.

However, some activists prefer to see the U.S. government as all-powerful and thus certain to find some way to transform this ignominious defeat into permanent political control of Iraq. But history has shown us that sometimes imperial powers simply lose.

The Vietnam Precedent

I witnessed something similar after the Vietnam War, when it became conventional wisdom inside much of the Left that the many years of anti-war marches, teach-ins and reaching out to the public via media had failed to make much of a difference.

Many progressives bought into the Nixon administration’s insistence that the powers-that-be paid little heed to the “bums” as President Richard Nixon once called the anti-war protesters. So, when the war was finally brought to an end in the 1970s, the Left denied itself much sense of success.

It would take many more years before documents and books from Nixon’s White House tapes to The Haldeman Diaries would reveal how big a concern the anti-war movement was to the nation’s leaders, including the thin-skinned Nixon who undid his own presidency by overreacting to anti-war whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and setting the stage for the Watergate scandal.

Yet, the American Left not only failed to appreciate its success, but many progressives especially those with money absorbed the false lesson that the anti-war movement had been largely unsuccessful.

Thus, it became a relatively easy sell to persuade progressives to dismantle the infrastructure that had brought millions of Americans into the anti-war fold.

The “underground press,” including promising outlets such as Ramparts magazine and the Dispatch News wire service, were shut down for lack of funding. Other outlets were sold off either to profit-oriented corporations, as happened to Boston’s WBCN, or handed off to neoconservatives, like The New Republic.

Largely abandoning a national media structure, the Left turned to “local organizing” as the key to the future, under the slogan “think globally, act locally.”

Meanwhile, the Right observed the actual success of the Left during the civil rights and anti-war eras and modeled a movement that copied the Left’s strategies, focusing heavily on building media outreach to the American people and constructing a political movement with national messages.

The result was that these two ideological ships passed in the night, the Left throwing its media advantage overboard and the Right loading on as much media power as possible. The consequences should now be apparent.

Over the past several decades, the Right has achieved a political dominance that the inherent quality of its positions wouldn’t justify, while the Left largely lost touch with the broad American population and drifted toward irrelevance.

It turned out that local organizing while admirable doesn’t match the value of framing a way of understanding the world and aggressively pushing those ideas to the public. Only recently relying mostly on underfunded Web sites and unorthodox protests like Occupy Wall Street has the Left begun to recreate its approach of the 1960s.

Faulty Analysis

The danger to the Left now from misinterpreting its anti-war success once more this time regarding Iraq is that the faulty analysis will again drive future actions.

By refusing to recognize the value of Obama’s election as, in part, an expression of the nation’s anti-war sentiments, the Left could veer off into a rejection of electoral politics altogether arguing there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Obama and, say, Mitt Romney or Rick Perry, either of whom would restore the neocons to their place of preeminence in U.S. foreign policy.

Yes, I know Obama’s numerous missteps. Indeed, I have written critically about them. For instance, he kept on too many Bush holdovers, appointed too many Democratic neocon-lites, failed to conduct investigations into the Bush administration’s war crimes, and escalated the war in Afghanistan (although he has begun to reverse that course).

I’m also aware of the deep flaws in the U.S. political process, especially since the right-wing-controlled Supreme Court opened the floodgates to secret corporate financing of the political process.

The national news media is also skewed heavily to the right, with CNN seeing nothing wrong in collaborating with Tea Party extremists, while NPR can’t tolerate an anchor for an opera show participating in pro-democracy protests in Washington.

Nevertheless, as distorted as it by money, the electoral system is how the United States apportions power and especially through the office of the presidency that power can do enormous harm through actions such as war or inaction on issues like global warming.

If nothing else, the American people have a responsibility to mitigate that damage by voting for the candidate likely to do the least damage. That may not sound inspiring but millions of innocent lives and conceivably the future of the planet can be lost if the wrong choice is made.

However, some on the American Left operate under what might be called “the vanity of perfectionism,” the notion that what’s most important is to have the “perfect” analysis even if its consequences are destructive to mankind.

Thus, flawed political leaders who compromise are judged as no better than extremely dangerous ones who would initiate wars like the bloody mess in Iraq or who would ignore long-term threats like global warming.

In Campaign 2000, Al Gore had shortcomings, but he was not the same as George W. Bush. To pretend otherwise was not only wrongheaded, it was reckless. It kept the race close enough for Bush to steal the White House.

The result was that many people died unnecessarily and the future of the planet was put at greater risk by Bush’s hostility to warnings about global warming.

The JFK Model

Campaign 2012 and Obama’s reelection bid will also have some historical parallels to the expected reelection race of John F. Kennedy in 1964.

Many Vietnam War scholars have argued that Kennedy, who made his own hawkish blunders with the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and an early escalation in Vietnam, had learned his lessons and would have withdrawn U.S. troops from Vietnam if he’d won a second term.

Instead, Kennedy was gunned down by an assassin in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, and his troop withdrawal never occurred. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, dispatched hundreds of thousands of more soldiers to Vietnam, making the human catastrophe in Indochina much worse.

Like Kennedy, Obama has faced a steep learning curve as president and has made his share of mistakes. But his completion of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and his timetable for phasing out a U.S. combat role in Afghanistan by 2014 suggest that he is following a JFK-like trajectory.

Except this time, what might reverse the course of history would be Obama’s electoral defeat in 2012. Republican front-runners, including Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, have made clear that they would again pursue a muscular neocon agenda with higher military spending and insistence on U.S. global dominance.

Romney has turned to prominent neocons to write his foreign policy manifesto, entitled “An American Century,” a tribute to the neocon Project for a New American Century, which provided the ideological framework for the invasion of Iraq.

So, the question now is whether the American Left will learn from these past experiences and recognize that as difficult and as imperfect as it was the movement to get the United States out of Iraq succeeded.

[For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

Neocons Blame Obama for Iraq Disaster

Exclusive: In two months, the Iraq War at least the eight-year U.S. phase will be over. President Barack Obama promises the last troops will be home for the holidays. Then, Americans may finally reflect on this bloody imperial disaster. So the neocons are busy rewriting the war’s narrative, Robert Parry reports.

By Robert Parry

With President Barack Obama’s announcement of a complete U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, the neoconservative editors of the Washington Post immediately got to work rewriting the narrative of the Iraq War, shifting the blame for the eight-year strategic disaster onto him.

That is the message of Sunday’s lead editorial in which the Post joins with the neocon-advised Republican presidential candidates in setting Obama up for the fall in the likely event that the horrendous political violence in Iraq gets even worse.

The solution favored by the Post’s editors and the Republicans is to continue the U.S. military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, just as they want a similar open-ended war in Afghanistan and sought a more aggressive U.S. military role in Libya. Simply put: Spare no expense in the blood of U.S. soldiers and the dollars of U.S. taxpayers.

And, since the neocons retain enormous influence in the opinion circles of Official Washington, they will likely have a great deal of success in rewriting the history of the Iraq War into one that depicts a brilliant neocon “victory” squandered by the reckless “peaceniks” surrounding Obama.

The neocon message is this: If only Obama had listened to us like George W. Bush did everything would have worked out just wonderfully. However, since he didn’t, Obama will have to shoulder the blame for what the world will see as a humiliating U.S. retreat from Iraq.

The neocon corollary is that only a Republican president most likely Mitt Romney or Rick Perry can restore American grandeur in the world. Both Romney and Perry have surrounded themselves with neocon advisers, such as Eliot Cohen and Robert Kagan who are guiding Romney’s foreign policy.

Romney essentially contracted out his foreign policy to the neocons who produced his campaign manifesto, “An American Century.” The title is an homage to the neocon Project for the New American Century, which in the 1990s built the ideological framework for the Iraq War and other violent “regime change” strategies pursued by Bush.

Cohen, who wrote the manifesto’s foreword, was a founding member of the Project for the New American Century and a protégé of prominent neocons Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle.

Upbraiding Romney

On the campaign trail, Romney briefly deviated from the prescribed neocon path with comments that U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be withdrawn “as soon as we possibly can” and that the war showed Americans “cannot fight another nation’s war of independence.” He was promptly upbraided by the Post’s editors and quickly fell back into line.

So, after Obama’s announcement on Friday that the remaining U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year, Romney lashed out with a harsh denunciation fashioned by his neocon team. He said Obama let his decision be driven either by “naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government.”

Also toeing the neocon line, Perry charged that Obama had put “political expediency ahead of sound military and security judgment” in agreeing to leave Iraq.

Then, on Sunday, the Post’s neocon editors joined the furor, portraying Obama’s withdrawal as shortsighted and foolhardy.

The editorial noted that the war will end for U.S. soldiers, but “Iraqi insurgents, including al-Qaeda, continue to wage war against the country’s fragile democratic government; Iran sponsors its own militias and has been accelerating its effort to dominate its neighbor.

“Mr. Obama’s decision to carry out a complete withdrawal sharply increases the risk that painfully won security gains in Iraq will come undone; that Iran will be handed a crucial strategic advantage in its regional cold war with the United States; and that a potentially invaluable U.S. alliance with an emerging Iraqi democracy will wither.”

The Post’s editors claimed that Obama had given in to political advisers who wanted him to fulfill his campaign pledge of a complete U.S. military withdrawal, rather than heed the advice of military commanders who wanted to extend the U.S. occupation with 18,000 or so troops.

The Post wrote: “The next year or two will show whether that calculation is correct. In the meantime Mr. Obama will surely boast on the campaign trail, as he did Friday at the White House, that he has fulfilled his 2008 pledge ‘to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.’ End it will, for Americans if not for Iraqis; as for ‘responsible,’ count us among the doubters.”

In other words, the Post’s editors, who propagandized for the Iraq invasion in 2002-03 by repeating the Bush administration’s false claims about Iraq’s WMD and links to al-Qaeda, have now distanced themselves from any responsibility for the strategic disaster that the Iraq War has created.

You see, by extending the U.S. occupation indefinitely even in defiance of conditions set by the Iraqi government Washington could presumably hold off the day when Americans will fully recognize what a catastrophe the Iraq War was. As long as that day could be postponed, the neocons could hold themselves out as worthy foreign policy experts.

But now the day is fast approaching when the U.S. occupation will end and the full scope of the dismal failure will become apparent. So, the ever-clever neocons are shape-shifting the Iraq War narrative to pass the blame for the $1 trillion catastrophe and the deaths of nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis onto Obama.

[For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

Selling Out the Tea Partiers

Tea Party leaders have joined Fox News in ridiculing Occupy Wall Street while calling for even  less regulation of the banks and still lower taxes on the rich but Irving Wesley Hall is one Tea Partier who is questioning these “leaders” and finding common ground with the anti-Wall Street protests.

By Irving Wesley Hall

I encourage my fellow Tea Partiers to reach out to their neighbors in Occupy Wall Street. We’re on the same side.

Supporters of the Norwich and Otsego County Tea Parties [in central New York] will remember me. In 2009, we hit the streets together over shared outrage at the bipartisan $800 billion taxpayer bailout of Wall Street.  I presented the Memorial Day keynote address from the grandstand in Norwich’s community park.

The following Independence Day I mounted the hay wagon in front of Losie’s Gun Shop on Route 23 in Oneonta to address the Otsego Tea Party about taking back America. The Oneonta, New York, Daily Star published my speech as “What’s Good for GM Is Now Good for China.” As a member of the Southern Tier Tea Party in Binghamton I made a similar presentation in 2011.

My point was simple. The problem is not big federal government but Wall Street’s financial stranglehold on our government.

I compared the power of the East India Company of Boston Tea Party fame to Goldman Sachs today, although the former at least profited from tea, while today’s investment bankers profit primarily off other people’s money.

In the cold winter of 1773 our patriots attacked the ships of the East India Company because, like Goldman Sachs today, it was a transnational monopoly that avoided taxes. How? King George III was a shareholder.

I described how — over the last 40 years — Wall Street destroyed America’s industrial heartland, sent our jobs abroad, decimated unions, and flat-lined wages. Speculators relentlessly drove up prices for our food, housing, fuel and medical care.

Despite this cruel profiteering, folks in Central New York still believed in the American Dream.   We worked hard, sacrificed and saved our dollars, but Wall Street stole our savings and pensions through the 401(k) scam.

We worked even harder but were forced to borrow and mortgage for our kids’ educations, medical bills and, often, basic necessities. Then Wall Street ripped us off again with the subprime mortgage scam, credit card rip-offs and college loan racket.

They’re sucking the life out of us, young, old and in-between.

I warned my fellow Tea Partiers that soon we elders would have nothing left but Social Security and Medicare. However, I could not have predicted in 2009 that “we” would “win” the 2010 election and Fox News would feature so-called “Tea Party” Republicans trying to help Wall Street scam Social Security and destroy Medicare, too.

Where did all our money go? The total aggregate wealth in the U.S. is around $75 trillion. The top 1 percent own roughly 40 percent of that amount. The remaining 60 percent is shared unequally among the other 300 million of us.

Did you know that the average Bush-Obama tax cut for one of the richest 1 percent was greater than the average annual income of one of the remaining 99 percent? The nominal value of all Wall Street derivatives contracts is $600 trillion.

Yet Fox’s callused “Tea Party” Republicans have the nerve to demand that we starve our elderly poor to rescue our desperate flood victims!

I warned my Tea Party neighbors in 2009 that Fox News was not a reliable source of information. Most of the corporate media represent the interests and views of Wall Street. Bank and corporate directorates are interlocked. But Fox pushed an extreme agenda on the Tea Party, tragically with success.

Within months of our first non-partisan protests Rupert Murdoch’s empire sucked our national Tea Party right into the Republican Party billionaires’ machine. Today Fox picks the six-figure- income national Tea Party “spokespeople” to defend Wall Street in our name. Nobody interviews us.

We may be advanced in years, but have we lost all memory?

Since the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations started on Sept. 17, some Tea Partiers have turned off Fox News and begun to consult other sources of information besides the corporate media. After all, didn’t the Tea Party start the protests against Wall Street?

But I regret to say that Fox still has a few of us folks convinced that black is white and white is black. How else can we explain how they convinced us in 2009 that Wall Street was out of control, but in 2011 they’ve convinced us that the toothless Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations are a communist plot?

Unionized public workers were the heroes of 9/11. Now according to Fox’s millionaire talking heads they’re social parasites. Why should we dance to Fox’s tune? Owner Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is international. His values and lifestyle are repugnant to our hard-working families. His people have no loyalty to America.

Why do you think Fox attacks this generation of anti-Wall Street protesters? Why are their protests against Wall Street’s control of Washington the exact opposite of ours? Because Murdoch is a master of divide and conquer. Patriotic Americans should reject his manipulation, turn off Fox News, and start thinking for themselves.

I’ve pleaded for two years with Tea Parties around the Southern Tier that the Tea Party is headed for bitter irrelevance after the next election. We can escape that fate only if we change from an old folks club addicted to Fox News and start recruiting young people on the basis of the Tea Party’s three core principles: 1) fiscal responsibility; 2) limited constitutional government; and 3) the ideal of free markets.

Can anyone disagree that Wall Street is the greatest enemy of all three? Is supporting the banks with trillions of dollars of public funds while tens of millions of hard-working folks lose their jobs, homes and health insurance fiscally responsible?

Did you know that the CEO of Bank of America destroyed a half trillion dollars of his own shareholders’ assets just to increase his yearly bonus?

The Founding Fathers would be aghast to see Wall Street lobbyists making the laws, billionaires choosing our candidates, and weapons profiteers driving the Republic into endless foreign wars.

Can you imagine George Washington weeping as hundreds of thousands of crippled vets return home to a jobless economy after fighting opponents of our military occupation who see us as their King George III?

Wall Street has not only destroyed American industrial might and millions of small investors but also wiped out hundreds of thousands of small businesses, the heart and soul of free market capitalism. I recall the heartbreak when my father’s little hardware store was closed down after the arrival in town of Sears and Montgomery Ward.

A free people cannot live under a government that is owned by the top 1 percent. Not according to the three principles of the Tea Party. And, my Tea Party friends, that’s exactly what Occupy Wall Street is saying.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, fellow patriots, and this applies to the folks I’ve met in the Norwich, Otsego and the Southern Tier Tea Parties.

In two years of Tea Party meetings in three counties, I never met more than five souls under 40 years of age. Now millions of young people and folks of all ages have joined our cause. I’m jumping for joy. So should every veteran of our groundbreaking Tea Party anti-Wall Street protests of 2009.

Occupy Wall Street protests are taking place in over 1,000 communities nationwide and 80 countries. Join them now and embrace your neighbors for taking up our banner.

I learned one thing since 2009. We Tea Partiers have plenty to contribute to Occupy Wall Street!

When I spoke to hundreds of Tea Partiers outside the gun shop two years ago, I counted hands. How many faced a bleak future because Wall Street stole their retirement savings and destroyed their home equity investment? Almost every hand went up.

How many could manage the cost of a catastrophic family medical emergency? One lonely hand.

We are part of the American 99 percent the young people are fighting for!

Now I know what you’re thinking.  Fox News tells us that Occupy Wall Street folks are a bunch of anti-American, fascist, communist, socialist, progressive, lazy, and violent would-be terrorists with poor toilet training. Worse — they don’t know what they want!

Hello! This is the story broadcast by corporate media that lied us into Iraq, never tell the truth about the economy and that trivialize every election as a breathless horse race between two equally irrelevant clubs of windbags.

And they demand that we the 99 percent come up immediately with the answers to clean up the mess the media and the 1 percent created?

Fox’s disinformation, fear-mongering, scape-goating, name-calling, personal attacks these tactics are the response of frightened rich people the 1 percent whose only hope to keep their ill-gotten gains is to dumb down enough of us 99 percent so badly that some will oppose their own families’ interests.

Divide and conquer, that’s what ruling minorities have done since Biblical times. Read the Gospels.

Fox’s hate-mongering appeals only to the stubbornly deluded Americans among us. Sadly, it’s the way the American elites and their supporters welcome every new generation of idealistic young people. That was how “patriotic conservatives” greeted our brave defense of the Constitution and Bill of Rights fifty years ago in San Francisco,

It’s like the reaction of the emperor’s courtiers and subjects when the kid blurts out “The emperor has no clothes.” That’s why I feel compassion for my Tea Party neighbors who still buy into Wall Street’s propaganda despite their own economic suffering.

Let’s face it. Most Americans are emerging from a period of denial while the reality of another Great Depression sets in. We’re like abused spouses who finally wake up and confront our abusers. The “left” got suckered by Obama in 2008; the “right” suckered by the Republicans in 2010.  That’s an interesting coincidence, isn’t it?

Are we going to hold our noses and swallow a repeat performance next year?

All of us Left, Right and in-between have been hoodwinked. The American Empire is crumbling, exhausting its resources billions every day in ever-expanding quagmires hunting down shadowy “terrorists” and creating new enemies to justify the Pentagon’s looting our treasury. Wall Street’s globalized capitalism is destroying mother earth.

We confront an epic economic emergency, a shamelessly greedy and arrogant ruling class, and a hopelessly broken political system. The executive, legislative and judicial branches have all been corrupted by the rich 1 percent. Stunned Americans are falling into the hell of a Third World country.

And don’t we know it! The polls reveal that we have lost hope and respect for the leaders of both parties. Obama’s and Congress’s approval ratings share rings in the toilet.

No one should be surprised that “Take Back America” picket signs are equally popular with the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. Let’s take it back together and share it.

Leaders failed us.All we have is each other. We are all the 99 percent!

Just suppose local Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street folks agreed on just three demands that we know are supported by the overwhelming majority of our neighbors? What if we presented them to all candidates for local, state and federal offices, and we refused to work or vote for them unless they agreed to implement the popular will immediately after taking office?

Odds are they’ll all agree with us. Then we can work for whichever candidate represents our other values. Of course, after the election, success will depend on how well we work together, organize voters, hold joint demonstrations outside debates and Town Hall Meetings, and raise our combined voices inside too!

Together, we can let them know what we will do if they lie and betray us again!

Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street: Don’t Fight! Unite!

Irving Wesley Hall is the author of the political satire, The Einstein Sisters Bag the Flying Monkeys, a hilarious primer on Christian Zionism along with Albert Einstein’s great-great-granddaughters‘ passionate defense of one secular and democratic state for all Israeli and Palestinian people. He is also executive producer of the documentary, Onward, Christian Zionists. His web site, “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore!” celebrates the 50th anniversary of the May 1960 San Francisco student protests against the McCarthyite House Committee on Un-American Activities, during which he was arrested. Visit for details and his biography.

Ending the Iraq Catastrophe

Exclusive: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told President Barack Obama that U.S. troops wouldn’t have immunity from Iraqi laws after December, forcing the last thousands of American soldiers to leave. That signals the end of the Iraq War and the start of the U.S. battle over what the war’s lessons were, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

President Barack Obama will talk about “a promise kept” as he brings the last U.S. troops in Iraq “home for the holidays”; the neocons will try to spin the war’s outcome as “victory” — albeit one endangered by Obama’s complete withdrawal — but the hard truth is that the Iraq War has been a largely self-inflicted strategic defeat for the United States.

When the last U.S. convoys race for the Kuwaiti border in December, they will be as much in retreat as the Soviet army was when it withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. And, like the staggering Soviet Union then, the United States is reeling now from economic dislocations exacerbated by the overreach of empire.

Of course, the United States is not likely to undergo the political collapse that interred the Soviet system two years after its Afghan debacle ended, but Washington’s vast overspending on imperial ambitions since World War II of which Iraq was one of the more egregious examples has buried the American Dream for many millions of Americans.

When all the costs are finally tallied including caring for wounded veterans the price tag for the Iraq War will surely exceed $1 trillion. Yet, Iraq totters as a failed state, crippled in its ability to meet the basic needs of its people and torn by sectarian violence. The big strategic winner, as the U.S. leaves, appears to be Iran with many of its Shiite allies now in top jobs in Iraq.

Plus, President George W. Bush’s premature pivot from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002-03 allowed the Afghan War to drag on inconclusively, now passing the decade mark and costing hundreds of billions of dollars more.

The human cost, too, has been sickening, with nearly 4,500 American soldiers killed in Iraq and more than 1,800 dead in Afghanistan. The untallied death tolls for Iraqis and Afghans are even grimmer, with estimates of their fatalities in the hundreds of thousands.

Yet, the history did not have to go this way. This disaster was not inevitable. It was a catastrophe of choice.

Even after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration had chances to negotiate with the Taliban government in Afghanistan for the capture of al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. And even if a peaceful resolution were not possible, the opportunities were there in late 2001 to capture or kill bin Laden when he was holed up in the Tora Bora mountain range.

Instead, the headstrong Bush and the ambitious neoconservatives who surrounded him lost focus on al-Qaeda and concentrated on the dream of “regime change” in Iraq, Syria and Iran and then the isolation of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine.

Once the top names on Israel’s enemies list had been erased, the thinking went, the Palestinians and other nearby Arabs would have no choice but to accept peace terms dictated by Israeli hard-liners. And, the victorious Bush would stand astride the Middle East as a modern-day Alexander the Great, a “war president” of historic majesty.

Hailing Bush

The hubris indeed the madness of this plan may now be apparent to many, but a decade ago, this scheme of violently reshaping the Middle East was quite the rage in Washington. The major news media oohed and aahed over Bush and his famous “gut,” while the haughty neocons were the toast of the town.

When Bush’s war bandwagon rolled past with the neocons at the controls nearly everyone who mattered clambered onboard, from star Democratic senators like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to the brightest lights of the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, and on and on.

Those of us who raised doubts about the legality or the practicality of this dangerous adventure were ostracized as pariahs, people to be ignored or ridiculed. We were the sorts who simply didn’t believe in “American exceptionalism.”

Much as the economic wizards of the last decade insisted that the old laws of economics had been banished by newfangled financial instruments, like credit default swaps, the neocon ideologues believed that America’s super-high-tech military machine was invulnerable to the crude roadside bombs that simple Arabs might be able to build.

That these parallel examples of arrogance on Wall Street and in Washington reached similarly destructive ends represents the core lesson of the Bush-43 era, a teaching moment that the neocons, the bankers and their various defenders in media and politics don’t want the average American to absorb.

As for the Iraq War along with the final rush to the Kuwaiti border in December and the tearful reunions at American airports before Christmas there will be endless efforts to explain away the debacle as some sort of vague success or at least a contributing factor in the unrelated uprisings of this year’s Arab Spring.

We will hear that the 4,500 U.S. soldiers did not die in vain and that to suggest otherwise is hurtful to the troops and their families.

But the painful reality is that they did die in vain. They died not for the protection of the American Republic or even for the security of the Homeland. They died for what the Nuremberg Tribunal deemed the “supreme international crime,” a war of aggression. They died for a destructive and crazy ideological vision.

The soldiers can be pitied for their pointless sacrifice. Without doubt, most were motivated by patriotism and a fierce determination to “do the job” assigned to them by the nation’s leaders. It is “the leaders” and their enablers who deserve the blame.

Yet, the final tragedy of the Iraq War as with the Wall Street crash is that the real perpetrators seem beyond the reach of law, accountability or even public humiliation.

George W. Bush sits in a place of honor at Texas Rangers games. Vice President Dick Cheney is hailed as an icon by the American Right. Except for a handful of low-level soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison, no one has been punished for authorizing the torture of detainees.

The unabashed neoconservatives are still holding down lucrative think-tank jobs (and some key posts in the Obama administration). They regularly opine on the op-ed pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times. They are recruited by leading Republican presidential candidates.

Mitt Romney entrusted neocons to write the “white paper” on his future foreign policy. Last month, Rick Perry joined with the neocons in berating Obama for deviating even slightly from the demands of Israel’s Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Mideast peace negotiations.

After Obama’s announcement on Friday, Romney took the neocon line in denouncing Obama for not negotiating an open-ended U.S. military presence in Iraq. Romney said the President’s decision was driven either by “naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government.”

Also in line with the neocon desire for permanent U.S. military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, Perry claimed that Obama had put “political expediency ahead of sound military and security judgment” in agreeing to leave Iraq.

(Though the “status of forces agreement” that set the stage for U.S. withdrawal was negotiated by Bush — as a way to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after 2008 — his military advisers had expected that a new SOFA would be put in place before the 2011 deadline so a U.S. military presence could continue.)

According to opinion polls, it also seems likely that the neocons will follow the victorious Republican nominee whoever that is back into the White House in 2013. Just as the Wall Street bankers landed on their feet, so too do the neocons.

Meanwhile, the handful in Official Washington who did question or criticize the Iraq invasion won few if any plaudits. The nature of the Establishment is to cast out anyone who deviates from the conventional wisdom, even if the person later turns out to be correct. Independent-minded skeptics are not viewed as having foresight or courage; they are deemed kooky and deviant.

At the major news organizations, virtually no one has been hired for getting the Iraq story right, while there has been almost zero accountability among the herd of leading pundits who were stampeded to war with falsehoods about Iraq’s WMD and lies about ties to al-Qaeda.

So, the battle over the next couple of months will be: how to interpret the catastrophe in Iraq. The neocons and the mainstream press will fight hard to make the defeat look like victory. To do otherwise, we’ll be told, would be to insult the troops who sacrificed so much.

But the greater danger is that the real lessons won’t be learned, that Americans will shield themselves from the ugly realities of what the war unleashed and that the key perpetrators will be empowered again, in 2012, to do it all over.

[For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

Petraeus’s CIA Steers Obama on Policy

Exclusive: President Barack Obama may have thought appointing David Petraeus as CIA director was a political masterstroke, keeping the ambitious ex-general inside the tent. But Petraeus’s close ties to the neocons may now be undercutting Obama’s policy goals, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The Obama administration is having trouble overcoming skepticism about its allegations that Iran’s Quds spy agency devised a buffoonish plot to murder the Saudi ambassador in Washington. Part of the trouble is the lingering credibility crisis from the bogus WMD charges about Iraq, but that is compounded by what appears to be a re-politicized CIA.

Whatever credibility the CIA has rebuilt in the nine years since it embraced the neoconservative falsehoods about Iraq hiding stockpiles of unconventional weapons is now jeopardized by the activism being shown by its new director, retired Gen. David Petraeus, known as a hard-liner on Iran and a strong ally of the neocons.

Last week, Petraeus found himself caught up in a controversy over whether his top aides were implementing a new analytical approach designed to skew intelligence reporting on the Afghan War to make it more favorable to the ex-general’s insistence that measurable progress is being made there.

The Associated Press reported on Oct. 14 that “the CIA is giving the military a greater say in the debate over how the war in Afghanistan is going by allowing battlefield commanders to weigh into the analysis at early stages.”

The article prompted an angry denial from Petraeus, who sent his response to CIA personnel in a blast e-mail and then had it published at the CIA’s Web site.

While not challenging the AP’s central point that the military would have “a greater say” the thin-skinned Petraeus attacked the suggestion that the change “was somehow designed to impose a military viewpoint on our analysis. That is flat wrong.”

Petraeus also noted that the change was “put in place by Michael Morell when he was Acting Director” before Petraeus assumed the post on Sept. 6. But it was obvious for months that Petraeus would get the job and Morell is known as a bureaucrat sensitive to the whims of those above him.

Morell also knew that Petraeus had bristled at the CIA’s gloomier assessments of Afghan War progress while then-Gen. Petraeus was pushing a rosier analysis with the help of his influential neocon friends, such as Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations and Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute.

In 2009, Petraeus granted Boot and Kagan extraordinary access to U.S. field commanders, and the pair returned home with glowing reports of Afghan War progress if only President Barack Obama would send more troops. It doesn’t take a seasoned yes man like Morell to know which way the wind is now blowing at CIA headquarters. [For more on Morell, see’s “Rise of Another CIA Yes Man.”]

While acknowledging that more military input would be injected into the CIA’s analytical process, Petraeus told CIA employees that “the change will in no way undermine the objectivity of DI [Directorate of Intelligence] analysis on the war in Afghanistan. We will still ‘call it like we see it,’ but now with even better ground truth.”

Yet even more than other government officials, CIA employees are expert at reading between the lines. And the message from their new boss couldn’t be clearer: he wants analysis that hews more closely to his political desires.

Getting Iran

Though shoring up the Afghan War is one Petraeus (and neocon) priority, an even more important objective is stoking the fires against Iran. So, when the Obama administration initially balked at the bizarre accusations about Iran plotting to murder the Saudi ambassador, it was Petraeus’s CIA that pushed the charges.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, a favored recipient of official CIA leaks, reported that “one big reason [top U.S. officials became convinced the plot was real] is that CIA and other intelligence agencies gathered information corroborating the informant’s juicy allegations and showing that the plot had support from the top leadership of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the covert action arm of the Iranian government.”

Ignatius added that, “it was this intelligence collected in Iran” that swung the balance. But Ignatius offered no examples of what that intelligence was.

The FBI’s amended criminal complaint also lacks any direct evidence that the Iranian government approved the plot, and the case boils down to the word of Iranian-American used-car salesman Mansour Arbabsiar and an unidentified paid informant of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Arbabsiar, who agreed right after his arrest to become a cooperating FBI witness, presumably in exchange for lenient treatment, is one of the two people charged in the purported plot. The other is Arbabsiar’s supposed contact in Iran, Gholam Shakuri, allegedly a Quds operative.

But the real target of the case appears to be Abdul Reza Shahlai, an alleged deputy commander in the Quds Force. Arbabsiar supposedly claims to be Shahlai’s “cousin.”

U.S. officials have long regarded Shahlai as a key liaison between Quds and Iraq’s Mahdi Army of the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. In that role, Shahlai drew Petraeus’s wrath as U.S. troops under Petraeus’s command faced violent reversals in Iraq.

In 2008, Petraeus suffered a rare public embarrassment when he planned to give a briefing about captured Iranian weapons in Karbala, Iraq, as proof of Iran’s key role in fomenting Iraqi instability. But American munitions experts pulled the rug out from under him when they concluded that they couldn’t credibly tie the weapons to Iran.

Even, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki described the allegations as “based on speculation.”

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the new Petraeus-led CIA was eager to jump into the dispute about the implausible plot to kill the Saudi ambassador and lay the blame on the retired general’s old nemesis, Shahlai.

Who Is Shakuri?

The Iranians added more murkiness to the convoluted plot this week with press reports that Arbabsiar’s co-defendant, Gholam Shakuri, has no connection to Quds but instead is a member of Mujahedeen Khalq, a violent organization dedicated to overthrowing the Iranian government.

Iranian news outlets citing Interpol, the international agency that coordinates information for the police of many countries — reported that Shakuri, who is still at large, travels on forged passports and was last seen in Washington and at Camp Ashraf, the Mujahedeen Khalq’s base inside Iraq.

Though U.S. officials pooh-poohed the Iranian reports as disinformation, Interpol responded to press inquiries with a refusal to comment.

Of course, spy tradecraft is largely about concealing who is who, so operatives can work in the gray area of deniability. That’s the whole point to make the relationship between an individual and a government unclear.

That is also why the CIA’s decision to weigh in on the side of pinning the murder plot on Iran’s government was so critical. The CIA is the U.S. government’s expert on such matters. Though the CIA has not detailed the reasons behind its conclusion, the analysis appears to rest on the methods used in transferring funds.

But there also remain curious omissions in what has so far been made public about the case against Iran. For instance, after the FBI detained car salesman Arbabsiar, he was told to place pretext calls to Shakuri seeking to implicate him more directly in the plot.

According to the FBI complaint, the two men discussed a “Chevrolet” purchase supposedly being negotiated with Mexican underworld figures. FBI Special Agent O. Robert Woloszyn said he understood from Arbabsiar that “Chevrolet” was the code word for the assassination, but nothing in the conversation addresses any specifics of a murder plot.

So, the levels of uncertainty extend not only to the implausibility of the plot that the Iranian government would undertake the risks of a high-profile assassination in the U.S. capital and entrust the killing to a car salesman with no apparent training in rudimentary intelligence tradecraft and with no hesitancy to become an FBI witness.

There is also the murkiness of the recorded conversations between Arbabsiar and Shakuri and now there is the uncertainty about who Shakuri actually is.

On top of that there is the dog-that-didn’t-bark omission in the U.S. allegations: why did the FBI not have Arbabsiar place a pretext phone call to his “cousin,” Abdul Reza Shahlai, the presumed “big fish” in the plot?

Shahlai is not explicitly identified in the FBI complaint and no known criminal charges have been lodged against him. However, the U.S. Treasury Department subjected him, along with Shakuri and two other purported Quds Force officials, to new financial sanctions. In Treasury’s statement, Shahlai is accused of having “coordinated this operation.”

New Doubts

Adding to the doubts about the case is the new recognition that Petraeus, who has a longstanding animus toward Shahlai, is now at the head of the American spy agency that tipped the balance in favor of the Obama administration taking the plot accusations seriously.

The larger significance of the CIA joining the “get-Iran” camp may be that the still-influential American neocons have gained a powerful institutional ally in their determination to bring U.S. policy in line with Israeli government claims that a reckless Iran, especially with a nuclear program, poses an “existential threat.”

If Petraeus’s CIA can change how the White House and the Justice Department view the seemingly preposterous claims about an Iranian murder plot in Washington, it follows that a CIA shift in its longstanding skepticism about Iran’s intent to build a nuclear bomb could align the Obama administration with Israeli intentions on bombing Iran’s nuclear sites.

There are also indications that Petraeus’s leadership has halted the CIA’s activities in backchannel contacts with Iran. The CIA under former director Leon Panetta had served as Obama’s hub of those contacts, aimed at finding ways to reduce tensions between the two countries.

However, with Panetta moving to Defense Secretary and Petraeus replacing him as CIA director, it now appears those backchannels are being shut down.

President Obama also may have underestimated Petraeus’s ties to the neocons. During his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the four-star general developed cozy (even dependent) relationships with high-powered neoconservatives, such as Max Boot and Frederick Kagan.

For instance, early in 2009, Petraeus personally arranged for Boot, Kagan and Kimberly Kagan to get extraordinary access during a trip to Afghanistan.

“Fears of impending disaster are hard to sustain, however, if you actually spend some time in Afghanistan, as we did recently at the invitation of General David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command,” they wrote upon their return.

“Using helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and bone-jarring armored vehicles, we spent eight days traveling from the snow-capped peaks of Kunar province near the border with Pakistan in the east to the wind-blown deserts of Farah province in the west near the border with Iran. Along the way we talked with countless coalition soldiers, ranging from privates to a four-star general,” the trio said.

Their access paid dividends for Petraeus when they penned a glowing report in the Weekly Standard about the prospects for success in Afghanistan if only President Obama sent more troops and committed the United States to stay in the war for the long haul.

Emoticon from Petraeus

Besides getting neocons to put public pressure on the President, Petraeus turned to Boot in 2010 when Petraeus felt he had made a mistake in allowing his official congressional testimony to contain mild criticism of Israel.

His written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee had included the observation that “the enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests” in the Middle East and added:

“Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”

Though the testimony might strike some readers as a no-brainer, many neocons regard any suggestion that Israeli intransigence on Palestinian peace talks contributes to the dangers faced by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as a “blood libel” against Israel.

So, when Petraeus’s testimony began getting traction on the Internet, the general quickly turned to Boot and began backtracking on the testimony.

“As you know, I didn’t say that,” Petraeus said, according to one e-mail to Boot timed off at 2:27 p.m., March 18, 2010. “It’s in a written submission for the record.”

In other words, Petraeus was arguing that the comments were only in his formal testimony and were not repeated by him in his oral opening statement. However, the written testimony is treated as part of the official record at congressional hearings with no meaningful distinction from oral testimony.

In another e-mail, as Petraeus solicited Boot’s help in tamping down any controversy over the Israeli remarks, the general ended the message with a military “Roger” and a sideways happy face, made from a colon, a dash and a closed parenthesis, “:-).”

The e-mails were made public by James Morris, who runs a Web site called “Neocon Zionist Threat to America.” He said he apparently got them by accident when he sent a March 19 e-mail congratulating Petraeus for his testimony and Petraeus responded by forwarding one of Boot’s blog posts that knocked down the story of the general’s implicit criticism of Israel.

Petraeus forwarded Boot’s blog item, entitled “A Lie: David Petraeus, Anti-Israel,” which had been posted at the Commentary magazine site at 3:11 p.m. on March 18. However, Petraeus apparently forgot to delete some of the other exchanges between him and Boot at the bottom of the e-mail.

Morris sent me the e-mails at my request after an article by Philip Weiss appeared about them at Mondoweiss, a Web site that deals with Middle East issues. When I sought comment from Petraeus and Boot regarding the e-mails, neither responded.

A Lesson Unlearned

Obama’s decision to entrust a position as crucial as CIA director to Petraeus, an ambitious man with strong ties to the neocons, suggests that the President has yet to learn a key lesson of leadership: It is incredibly risky to place adversaries in places where they can undermine you.

While Obama may have been thinking that he was keeping Petraeus out of a possible run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, the President put Petraeus in a spot where he can manipulate the intelligence that drives government policies.

Obama has made this mistake before. After taking office, he prided himself on filling key jobs with a “team of rivals,” including leaving George W. Bush’s military command structure in place with Robert Gates as Defense Secretary and Petraeus as commander of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Bob Woodward reported in his book, Obama’s Wars, it was Bush’s old team that made sure Obama was given no option other than to escalate troop levels in Afghanistan. The Bush holdovers also lobbied for the troop increase behind Obama’s back.

According to Woodward’s book, Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, refused to even prepare an early-exit option that Obama had requested. Instead, they offered up only plans for their desired escalation of about 40,000 troops.

Woodward wrote: “For two exhausting months, [Obama] had been asking military advisers to give him a range of options for the war in Afghanistan. Instead, he felt that they were steering him toward one outcome and thwarting his search for an exit plan.

“He would later tell his White House aides that military leaders were ‘really cooking this thing in the direction they wanted.’”

Though Obama was taken in by this Afghan War trickery in 2009 and he has gradually phased out key Bush holdovers such as Gates and Mullen he has still not seized decisive control over his own foreign policy, with another rival, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and Petraeus now running CIA.

Obama may find that Petraeus and the neocons have more surprises for him ahead as they steer the intelligence analyses on Iran, the Afghan War and other Middle East policies more in their favored directions.

[For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

Is Mitt Romney a Neocon Purist?

Exclusive: Anyone still doubting that the Washington Post is the media flagship for neoconservatism should reflect on Saturday’s editorial in which the Post criticizes Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney for saying U.S. troops should be pulled out of Afghanistan “as soon as we possibly can,” writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has proclaimed a set of foreign policy goals that reprise the neoconservative agenda of the Project for the New American Century, but the Washington Post’s neocon editors still chide him for not being hawkish enough.

On Saturday, the Post editorial, “Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy Failings,” notes that Romney suggested on the campaign trail that “U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be withdrawn ‘as soon as we possibly can’ and that the war showed that Americans ‘cannot fight another nation’s war of independence.’”

The Post cites those comments as raising concerns that Romney “might be positioning himself to the left of President Obama.”

Poor Romney. Here’s a guy who assembled a team of neocon retreads to write his foreign policy white paper, “An American Century.” He allowed the title to be an obvious homage to the neocon Project for the New American Century, which in the 1990s built the ideological framework for the disastrous Iraq War and other “regime change” strategies of President George W. Bush.

Romney even recruited Eliot Cohen, a founding member of the Project for the New American Century and a protégé of prominent neocons Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, to write the foreword. And Romney still can’t get the neocon editors of the Washington Post to overlook his suggestion that the Afghan War shouldn’t be endless.

However, perhaps the Post just wants to make sure that Romney doesn’t deviate even slightly from the course marked out by his neocon advisers. After all, Romney’s white paper chastises Barack Obama for committing himself to pulling out the 30,000 “surge troops” from Afghanistan by mid-2012 and conducting a gradual withdrawal of the remaining 70,000 by the end of 2014.

Instead, Romney’s white paper argues that Obama should have followed the advice of field commanders like then-Gen. David Petraeus and made withdrawals either more slowly or contingent on American military success. The white paper also opposes a full withdrawal from Iraq, or even an Obama administration plan to leave only 3,000 or so “trainers.”

More broadly — and the Washington Post’s editors should like this — Romney’s white paper makes clear that if he wins the White House, he is determined to reconstruct pretty much all of Bush’s foreign policy, complete with a renewed insistence on U.S. military dominance of the world and a full restoration of neocon influence in Washington.

Hostility to Critics

Romney’s “An American Century” also brings back a favorite tactic of the Bush years, the baiting of Americans who dare criticize the nation’s hubristic foreign policy of the last decade. Echoing a favorite Republican talking point, Romney scolds Obama for supposedly “apologizing” for America.

The white paper states: “In his first year in office alone, President Obama issued apologies for America in speeches delivered in France, England, Turkey, and Egypt not to mention on multiple similar occasions here at home.

“Among the ‘sins’ for which he has repented in our collective name are American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, for committing torture, for fueling anti-Islamic sentiments, for dragging our feet in combating global warming, and for selectively promoting democracy.

“The sum total of President Obama’s rhetorical efforts has been a form of unilateral disarmament in the diplomatic and moral sphere. A President who is so troubled by America’s past cannot lead us into the future.”

In other words, Romney’s neocons are reaffirming their long-held pattern of demonizing anyone who tries to discuss U.S. foreign policy honestly. After all, the neocons of the Bush years were guilty of pretty much every “sin” that is cited above. Apparently, it’s disqualifying to tell the truth.

Romney also attacks Obama for even modestly trimming the U.S. military budget which now is roughly equal to what is spent by all other nations on the planet combined.

According to “An American Century,” Romney “will put our Navy on the path to increase its shipbuilding rate from nine per year to approximately fifteen per year. He will also modernize and replace the aging inventories of the Air Force, Army, and Marines, and selectively strengthen our force structure.

“And he will fully commit to a robust, multi-layered national ballistic-missile defense system to deter and defend against nuclear attacks on our homeland and our allies.’

The white paper does make one concession to reality by conceding that “this will not be a cost-free process. We cannot rebuild our military strength without paying for it.” The white paper adds:

“Romney will begin by reversing Obama-era defense cuts and return to the budget baseline established by Secretary Robert Gates in 2010, with the goal of setting core defense spending, meaning funds devoted to the fundamental military components of personnel, operations and maintenance, procurement, and research and development, at a floor of 4 percent of GDP,” or about $565 billion.

Defending Israel

Typical of a neocon-written white paper, there is also the obligatory declaration that the United States must do whatever is necessary to protect Israel’s interests. It states:

“Israel is the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East and a beacon of democracy and freedom in the region. The tumult in the Middle East has heightened Israel’s security problems.

“Indeed, this is an especially dangerous moment for the Jewish state. It has deteriorating relationships with Turkey and Egypt. It faces longstanding dangers from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, a violent and highly unstable Syria, and a nuclear-aspiring Iran whose leadership is openly calling for Israel’s annihilation.

“To ensure Israel’s security, Mitt Romney will work closely with Israel to maintain it strategic military edge. The United States must forcefully resist the emergence of anti-Israel policies in Turkey and Egypt, and work to make clear that their interests are not served by isolating Israel.

“With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Romney’s policy will differ sharply from President Obama’s.   President Obama for too long has been in the grip of several illusions. One is that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the central problem in the region [which has] led the administration to believe that distancing the United States from Israel was a smart move that would earn us credits in the Arab world and somehow bring peace closer.

“The record proves otherwise. The key to negotiating a lasting peace is an Israel that knows it will be secure.

“The United States needs a president who will not be a fair-weather friend of Israel. The United States must work as a country to resist the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel. We must fight against that campaign in every forum and label it the anti-Semitic poison that it is. Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is not up for debate.”

As for Iran, the country at the top of Israel’s current enemies list, Romney vows to ratchet up military pressure by deploying aircraft carrier attack groups to the region and standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel, which has repeatedly threatened to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities despite Iran’s continued insistence that it has no nuclear-weapons ambition.

“The United States should repair relations with Israel, increase military coordination and assistance, and enhance intelligence sharing to ensure that our allied capabilities are robust and ready to deal with Iran,” Romney’s white paper says.

‘War on Terror’

Romney also suggests an expansion of legal authority for U.S. officials conducting the “war on terror.” His white paper says: “As president, Mitt Romney will empower all relevant military, intelligence, and homeland security agencies with the appropriate legal authority and policy guidance to dismantle terrorist groups and prevent terrorist attacks on our homeland and on targets abroad.”

Those broader legal authorities would take aim at what Romney calls “an emerging threat to the homeland [from] the radicalization of U.S. citizens and residents leading to ‘homegrown’ Islamist terrorism.

“Mitt Romney will make countering this mounting danger a top priority. He will charge our federal agencies not only with designing better frameworks to share intelligence ‘horizontally’ among themselves, but also with redoubling their efforts to work with state and local authorities to share intelligence ‘vertically.’

“Our counterterrorism professionals will need to continue to develop ‘fusion centers’ and other innovative systems to collect and systematically analyze information about domestic activities. They will need the capacity, consistent with U.S. law, to collect and unflinchingly analyze communications between terrorist networks abroad and people within our borders.”

It’s always hard to know what neocons mean when they say “consistent with U.S. law,” since they devised the Bush administration’s doctrine of unlimited presidential powers, but the word “unflinchingly” suggests that they envision a robust domestic spying program.

Despite Romney compiling what amounts to a neocon wish list, the Washington Post’s editors still suggest that Romney’s foreign policy has “failings,” such as his comment that U.S. forces might not stay in Afghanistan forever.

But perhaps Romney shouldn’t feel so bad about the Post’s criticism. The newspaper was even tougher on one of his rivals, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a past ambassador to China. The Post dismisses him as “decidedly more misguided” than Romney.

Huntsman is taken to task for “his promise to ‘bring home’ U.S. troops so as to rebuild an American ‘core’ he views as ‘broken.’”

The Post says that “sounds like an updated version of George McGovern’s ‘Come Home America’ campaign of 1972. Americans didn’t buy it then; it would be surprising if GOP primary voters lined up for it now.”

[For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.