Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Monday, September 20, 2004

Memo to Feith and Wolfowitz: Don't Blame the Fall Guy - by Christopher Manion

Memo to Feith and Wolfowitz: Don't Blame the Fall Guy - by Christopher Manion: "Memo to Feith and Wolfowitz: Don't Blame the Fall Guy

by Christopher Manion
I've been hearing from friends who know this fellow at Defense – the one who's being tried in the media for leaking secrets to AIPAC, an operation based in Washington that appears to be closely allied to a foreign government.

According to published reports, Larry Franklin is the desk officer for Iran and allegedly gave some draft of some plan to someone in the AIPAC/Israeli complex.

First and foremost, Mr. Franklin is innocent until proven guilty – by a court, not by the press. But Mr. Franklin's ordeal brings other issues to mind as well. As all the commotion unfolds regarding this "mid-level official," it occurs to me that the "crime" he supposedly committed – sharing secrets with the Israelis – is something his superiors are doing every day – quite legally, I hasten to add. And so I wonder, why are they hanging this particular chap out to dry, twisting slowly in the wind?

In a word, why won't DoD Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary Douglas Feith step up to the plate, acknowledge that what this guy allegedly did was a minor microcosm of what they do, major league, big time, day in and day out? They could easily make their exit, stage left (where they came from, by the way) and join the crowd of former "Defense officials" in the sewer that Beltway types, and Richer Perle in particular (according to the NYT), all treat like their private hot tub?

Feith, Wolfowitz, and co. have all made it clear that they can chime in when Congressman Tom DeLay sings, "I am an Israeli at heart." This widespread conviction appears to be legal, if not entirely heartening, so what's the big deal? If Franklin shared any information with the Israeli government or its AIPAC branch, it was no different than walking down the hall to share it with Feith or Wolfowitz.

In fact, according to my LRC colleague Karen Kwiatkowski, the Israelis have an inside track for getting information from the neocon crowd at DoD all the time.

Remember, it was no accident that the intel "system" had to take the fall for 9/11 in the reports of the 9/11 Commission and the intelligence committees. No one dared to let the buck stop with Clinton or Bush. By unanimous consent, the system is broken. So, when it comes to the Middle East, we have to rely on the Israelis. Let's face it, from the U.S. government's point of view, the Bush administration has to share secrets with Israel because the 9/11 Commission was right: our intelligence system is a disaster. Hence, we must rely on our "only ally in the Middle East" to supply us with "reliable intelligence" about the area.

As Howard Baker used to say, "Hey, that door swings both ways." We are expected to share our secrets with them, too. Are we to pretend that payback day never dawns?

In the view of this administration, Israel is one of the few reliable allies we have left in the world, apart from Tonga and Tuvalu. Israel is certainly a key partner in the neocon effort to revolutionize the Middle East and destroy most of the existing governments there (excepting that of Israel, of course).

Furthermore, these two officials have it within their purview instantly to declassify even the most top-secret material (with a few exceptions, to be sure) to our most trustworthy allies in wartime. They can tell the Israelis just about anything they want to. Remember how Condoleezza Rice was able, with the flick of a finger, to declassify a top-secret document on her own initiative when grilled by Mr. Ben-Veniste at the hearings of the 9/11 Commission? She did not leave the room to call the CIA, or Mr. Cheney, or Mr. Tenet, or anybody, for permission. She merely decided, on the fly, that she could divulge this highly-classified material on her own authority.

That's how it works. And it happens all the time.

So why don't Wolfowitz and Feith act like gentlemen and take the credit, or the blame, for all this? After all, they are the responsible officers in the Pentagon for pursuing America's pro-Israel policy in the Middle East. Why stick it to Franklin – who is obviously merely a cog in the wheel, along with the other 1,500 people in Mr. Feith's office who are tasked to pursue the same policy? Why are they trotting out Mr. Franklin to take the fall for our intimate relationship with Israel, in which top-secret sharing is apparently a necessity for both sides? After all, any "secrets" in the Pentagon do not stay "secret" from Israel for long: they either originated with Israeli sources, or they were quickly shared at much higher levels than Larry Franklin will ever reach.

This game has been played for a very long time, but the details are seldom revealed to the public. General Vernon Walters provided some rare insight several years ago, during the preparations for Senate confirmation hearings on his nomination as Ambassador to (then) West Germany in 1989. I was the Republican Senate staffer responsible for European hearings at the Foreign Relations Committee at the time, and this is what he told me:

"You know, when I was at the UN, the Israelis told me, 'We'd like to give you a prize. A million dollars. You know, come to Israel and give a speech and receive the award.' Of course I told them no. And then they told me, 'Oh, of course, you wouldn't have to take the money until you are finished with your government service.'"

He chuckled – he had a very hearty sense of humor, and a twinkling eye – and said, "I told them no, and that was the end of it."

Well, let's fast-forward fifteen years and assume that the more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same. In that spirit, Messrs. Wolfowitz and Feith have nothing to fear about their post-government livelihoods. I mean, New Yorkers complain that they have to pay Bill Kristol $30,000 for one measly speech, and he hasn't served in government for over ten years. Richer Perle received $5.4 million from only one of his many clients for his services (which the Times reports he might not have performed exceedingly well; it appears they want the money back). If a mere UN ambassador could get a million – $2 million in today's dollars – imagine how much the Number Two and Number Three at DoD could get. (Note: of course, the offer to Walters was an invitation to commit a felony. And, of course, "the Israelis" could have been lying. Details, details.)

Speaking of lying, Larry Franklin didn't bamboozle the U.S. government into a war we didn't want – Feith and Wolfowitz did. They delivered the U.S. into the war that we now learn (taking Laura Bush at her word) even President Bush didn't want. And now it is certain that there were no WMD.

These men don't have to worry about their futures. They should just worry about the truth. People who have known Rumsfeld for decades insist that he's the perfect gentleman. Well, Wolfowitz and Feith should learn from his example, take Larry Franklin off the griddle, step up to the plate, and shuck the corn down to the cob. Tell it like it is, and resign. Leave this mid-level career employee alone.

We hear a lot today about craven neocons and all the rest. Put that aside. This has to do only with the way gentlemen should behave. Gentlemen don't let their subordinates take the hit for what they've done. Truman wouldn't have done that. Churchill wouldn't have. Step up to the plate, gentlemen. Richer Perle and the cesspool called the Beltway hot tub are only a step away. You'll make millions the first year, and many more thereafter. (Just don't get greedy like Richer did. It might make even the most generous of benefactors uneasy).