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Jewish World Review Nov. 4, 2003 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Michael Ledeen

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Consumer Reports

Unpunished Failure: What are we waiting for? | Let's start with a simple, albeit apparently unasked question: Who got fired for permitting Wolfowitz to stay at a hotel in Baghdad, when there was abundant evidence that Iranian-sponsored terrorists had been instructed to target the hotels? When a relative of mine recently asked for advice before making a trip to Baghdad, I had just one strong recommendation: "Never, ever, set foot in a hotel in Baghdad."

Evidently nobody told the deputy secretary of defense.

Placing Paul Wolfowitz in such a place at such a time was a criminal blunder, and everyone who okayed the decision should be fired, along with the people on the ground in Baghdad who seem unable to understand that we are really at war, and that our men need proper protection and intelligence, whether they are in helicopters or in convoys or in hummers. And if my information is correct, the terrorists now have anti-tank weapons, which we may see in action in the near future.

It's long past time — since September 12, 2001 to be precise — for people to be sacked for failure, and the fact that virtually no one has — except for Larry Lindsay (seemingly for insufficient aerobic exercise) and a couple of others dealing with "the economy" or with faith-based initiatives and volunteerism — is the greatest failure of this administration. The bureaucracy has learned that there is no penalty for failure. The only way to change their mindset is to do to them what Reagan did to the air controllers.

Unfortunately, Dubya has embraced the Loyalty Thing that is one of the Bush family's most cherished values. He doesn't turn on his own loyal aides, even (perhaps especially) when they come under attack. But this is no way to wage a war, where the only thing that matters is victory.

As of now, there is reason to think that this administration does not understand that we are at war. The president occasionally reiterates the old themes (we make no distinction between terrorists and the states that support them, etc., etc.) but his administration does not act on them. This was obvious in last week's instructive testimony by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Armitage first said United States policy is "to support the Iranian people in their aspirations for a democratic, prosperous country." If that were true, then we would (as we should) support regime change in Iran, since the country today is anything but democratic and prosperous.

But it is not true. In the last paragraph of his prepared testimony, Armitage said, "it is not up to the United States to choose Iran's future." And when asked directly by Senator Chuck Hagel (a man who has rarely met or even thought about a tyrant he did not want to appease) whether our Iran policy was regime change, Armitage flatly said "No." So the bit about supporting democracy in Iran is the usual State Department two-step: They tell you what they think you want to hear, and then, figuring you won't read the small print, they go ahead and do what they want to do, which is usually to appease the tyrants and open a new round of negotiations.

That this is the essence of State Department intentions is clear from Armitage's words. A few weeks ago, he had spoken optimistically about getting Iran to turn over the al Qaeda terrorists who even State now agrees are there. But in his testimony, this demand had been downgraded to "turn over or share intelligence about all al-Qaida members and leaders." And he added these plaintive words: "resolution of this issue would be an important step in U.S.-Iranian relations and we cannot move forward without this step."

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As if our goal were to improve relations with the Islamic Republic! What happened to the Axis of Evil and the war against terrorism? It got gutted by Powell and Armitage, that's what. Never mind the president, who said, after all, that we would not distinguish between the terrorists and the states that support them. Never mind that Iran is the foremost supporter of terrorism in the world — the State Department says so every year; Powell and Armitage do indeed distinguish between the Iranian regime and the terrorists Iran supports.

And the hell of it is that they make this distinction, and work very hard to improve relations, even though they know that Iran actively supports the terrorists who are killing Americans in Iraq (anyone who thinks that these well-planned attacks by well-armed professionals are the actions of die-hard Saddam loyalists, rather than of the intelligence organizations of Iran and the other terror masters, should stop reading now and simply subscribe to State Department transcripts).

Simple commonsense and an elementary concern for American lives would dictate that we actively support the Iranian people in their desperate struggle for freedom, but instead, the next round of schmoozing with the mullahs has already been set, in Geneva, within the next couple of weeks. This sort of activity chills the blood of the Iranian democrats, and plays right into the hands of the turbaned tyrants of Tehran.

The two appeasers who run the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — Sens. Richard Lugar and Joe Biden — might have contributed to public enlightenment, and even good policy, if they had asked Armitage why he had failed to obtain Iranian cooperation in the matter of the al Qaeda terrorists. The correct answer is that Iran will never betray al Qaeda leaders, because Iran supports al Qaeda. The mullahs would no more give us Osama's henchmen than they would cut off an arm or a leg. Al Qaeda is part of their enterprise, which is to kill Americans and American friends wherever they can, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Armitage would probably not have said that. When the Iranians humiliated him by refusing to cooperate in any way, Armitage blamed the debacle on the fact that Pentagon experts had had conversations with Iranians who did not like the regime.

Powell and Armitage, and their buddies at CIA don't like it when other people talk to Iranians, which is easy to understand: State and CIA don't know very much about Iran, and they hate it when they're shown up. What to do? They went for total censorship: They threw a hissyfit and demanded that Rumsfeld order his people to stop doing their jobs. No more talking to Iranians. Only State and CIA should do that.

Incredibly, it was done. As of today, the Pentagon's Iran analysts can only talk to themselves, or to the misnamed intelligence community. Why those famously tough guys, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, acquiesced to this outrageously stupid demand is hard to comprehend. In effect, they agreed to blind their own eyes and deafen their own ears on the subject of Iran, even though that puts their soldiers and even themselves at mortal risk. As we have seen, existing information is so bad that Wolfowitz was sent to sleep in a deathtrap. So shouldn't they be looking for better, and independent sources of understanding Iranian activities instead of forbidding their people to work on it?

I guess some top official will have to die at the hands of (obviously) Iranian-supported terrorists before the Pentagon is permitted to work on the subject.

Deliberately refusing to know about Iran is an old story for this crowd. If we had intelligence oversight committees worthy of the name there would be hearings to ask, inter alia, why Powell (twice) and Tenet (once) ordered the termination of a program about Iranian terrorist activities, even though it saved Americans in Afghanistan. The program had been approved by the National Security Council and carried out by Pentagon experts, risked no American lives, cost only some travel expenses, and yielded terrific results, far beyond anything that the American participants expected.

This question should be asked again and again, by the two chief overseers, Congressman Porter Goss and Senator Pat Roberts: Why did the secretary of state and the director of central intelligence deliberately deprive the U.S. government of information that saved Americans from Iranian-sponsored terrorism?

People who refuse information that saves American lives aren't likely to know very much about plans to assassinate the deputy secretary of defense, or the vice mayor of Baghdad, or leading moderate Iraqi Shiite leaders. Nor are they very likely to know the location of weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, as I personally discovered in September and October, they won't even take a few hours to check out the claim that there's some enriched uranium in Iraq.

They don't want to know about Iran, because if they did, they would be driven to take actions that they do not want to take. They would have to support democratic revolution in Iran, and they prefer to schmooze with the mullahs.

All of which can be briefly and sadly summarized: We don't have a war cabinet, and we are once again giving our enemies time and opportunity to figure out how to kill us.

Faster, anyone?

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.


10/21/03: Curses: Diamonds and Naples
10/15/03: Into the Quagmire: Important days ahead for Iran
09/18/03: The Ayatollahs’ bomb: An invulnerability strategy
09/12/03: You can't make peace until the war is won
09/11/03: Ron Paul, dishonorable congressman
09/03/03: The Latest Horrors: Still organized
08/29/03: The Peace Trap: Back to the war, please
08/27/03: Angrier and Angrier: Self-deception, big-time
08/25/03: Iraq's terrorists have friends in high places
07/10/03: The Future of Iran: Armitage might want to rethink that "democracy" line
07/02/03: Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran?
06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
06/05/03: Academic Standards: A Middle East scholar has his way with the truth.
05/28/03: The Moment of Truth? U.S. policy could determine Iran's destiny
05/15/03: Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks
05/13/03: The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution
05/08/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen