Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Monday, December 13, 2004

Understanding Judy Miller: Judy the Mattress

Steve Gilliard's News Blog : Understanding Judy Miller: Learning to read a magazine story: "This isn't exactly the way I remember it. Miller's sex life was a joke in Spy, but they were not the only people complaining. Judy the Mattress was widely known around journalism circles, as were questions about her ethics. When Todd Purdum, bailed out his then girlfriend (now wife) Dee Dee Myers out of jail on a DUI charge, his editors were pissed he hadn't mentioned that he was dating the White House Press Secretary. They were not happy to see him leading her out of the MPD station on their morning news. Miller, otoh, was quoting her Congressman boyfriend in news stories. And this was 15 years ago. Miller was pounding mattresses for news, and none of her editors thought fit to call her on it.

She must have been awful for that kind of dishing to take place. It was the kind of thing which really hurt her reputation and it was done for spite. And the sad fact is that rumors about her bed hopping have not stopped. The Howie Kurtz story about MET Alpha drip with the same kind of unspoken allegations. She's hardly the only woman to sleep with the "wrong" people at the Times, but she made so many enemies that they felt no reason to keep her little secrets.
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Salon.com - The State Department's extreme makeover

Salon.com - The State Department's extreme makeover: "The State Department's extreme makeover
A veteran Foreign Service officer warns that when Colin Powell departs in a second Bush term, America will lose its last bulwark against the radical ideologues who are planning more Iraqs.

Editor's note: "Anonymous" is a veteran Foreign Service officer currently serving as a State Department official. The views expressed are personal and not related to his official position.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Anonymous

Oct. 4, 2004 | Secretary of State Colin Powell is not staying for a second Bush term. When he goes, the last bulwark against complete neoconservative control of U.S. foreign policy goes with him. The implications are enormous, yet the American electorate appears to be blinded by the Bush campaign's deliberate manipulations of 9/11.

Powell has served both as the reasoned voice of career diplomats and the experienced voice of career U.S. military in the Bush administration. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ignored military advice and excluded Department of State career professionals from Iraq planning. Power was concentrated in the hands of a clique of neocon ideologues he placed in key policy positions, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. In the first term of George W. Bush, protégés of now disgraced former Defense Policy Board member and neocon godfather Richard Perle achieved control or subordination of every executive branch foreign-policymaking body -- except the Department of State.

Career employees of the department enthusiastically greeted Colin Powell when he pulled up to the curb for the first time at Foggy Bottom in his PT Cruiser. They have supported him, and through him, have unfailingly supported the president through thick and thin over four years -- up to and including volunteering in record numbers to staff fully the highly dangerous positions in the new embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. Even after being dumped on by the Pentagon neocons and witnessing the debacle of the Pentagon's Jay Garner's post-conflict solution, the State Department's Civil and Foreign Service staff took up the slack when the Pentagon unceremoniously fled responsibility for Iraq reconstruction and stabilization. Now, Powell's departure is seen within the department as an invitation to a lynching.

The realization that the same neocons who dismissed State's accurate "Future of Iraq Project," prepared before the war, may now take over at State in the second term is widely viewed inside the department as a threat to the very integrity of the country's diplomatic first line of defense. Corridor discussion has turned desperate -- maybe former Secretary of State James Baker will intervene, maybe former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft will talk to someone, maybe 41 will talk to 43.
State personnel are used to comings and goings of Democratic and Republican administrations, serving all equally and fairly. Not since Vietnam, however, has the U.S. diplomatic establishment viewed the future with such a degree of alarm. Retired U.S. ambassadors and diplomats have raised their own public concerns in signed public statements about the direction of U.S. foreign policy -- but that concern pales compared with the quiet revolt brewing against a neocon takeover at Foggy Bottom.

After 9/11, Wolfowitz, Feith and his subordinate, Harold Rhode, recruited David Wurmser as a contractor from the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute to set up what became known internally as the "Wurmser-Maloof" project. F. Michael Maloof, neocon fellow traveler and former aide to Richard Perle, and Wurmser created a hidden intelligence unit, the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, under Feith at the Pentagon. The purpose of the group was to end-run the CIA and create the rationale for invading Iraq. The parallel operations model was previously followed by Oliver North at the National Security Council and Elliott Abrams at State in their ill-fated Iran-Contra strategy. It should have come as no surprise that another neocon think-tank insider, Abram Shulsky, an Abrams colleague from their days as staffers to Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, would end up heading up what became the Office of Special Plans, the secret intelligence unit at the Pentagon under Feith. The weapons of mass destruction disinformation that was fed to the president and to the American public came directly from Shulsky's shop.

After setting up this operation at the Pentagon for Wolfowitz and Feith, Wurmser, with the help of Perle, was sent in early 2002 to burrow in at State as senior advisor to John Bolton, under secretary for arms control and international security.

In December 2002, Wolfowitz, Feith, Wurmser and Vice President Cheney's national security advisor, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, acting together, maneuvered Condoleezza Rice into appointing Elliott Abrams to the position of special assistant to the president and senior director for the Middle East at the National Security Council. This appointment gave the neocons everything they wanted -- the NSC, Executive Office of the President, Office of the Vice President, the Pentagon, a cornered director in George Tenet at CIA, and Wurmser at State.

The neocons had control of the information reaching the president and a channel for their pseudo-intelligence product from Wolfowitz and Feith's secret Pentagon Office of Special Plans. The only wild card was Colin Powell and State's elite and independent Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).

Neither Powell nor his deputy, Richard Armitage, who is also leaving with Powell, seems to have been fooled by Wurmser's desire to leave the Pentagon and join John Bolton's staff -- in effect, to come work for Powell. They cornered and then neutralized Wurmser. Wurmser's target was to get at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, a thorn in the neocons' side and Powell's intelligence ace-in-the-hole against Tenet's "slam-dunk" sellout at the CIA.

INR kept telling Powell the truth about Saddam's nonexistent WMD. State's Future of Iraq project, led by a career Foreign Service officer, who was cold-shouldered by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, laid out what might happen if we took over control of Iraq. Unfortunately, even the sober minds of INR could not stop Powell from lending his credibility to the "unfortunate error" show at the U.N. Security Council. Modeled on Adlai Stevenson's Oct. 25, 1962, Cuban missile presentation to the Security Council, Powell's Feb. 5, 2003, presentation marks the low point of his tenure and, in retrospect, underscores how badly his credibility was needed and then was abused by Vice President Cheney and the president.

The whole time Wurmser was at State, career professionals around him saw someone acting more like an agent of influence than as a subordinate of the secretary of state. He was in constant contact with his Pentagon intelligence cell. Questions were asked -- but never answered -- as to how Wurmser got a full security clearance when he never registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act for his 1996 policy work for Israel's incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (including advice on how to lobby the U.S. Congress) and as someone who was married to an Israeli citizen with close ties to Israel's Likud Party -- in theory, a party to U.S.-brokered Middle East peace negotiations.

In September 2003, Wurmser left the Department of State to become Vice President Cheney's principal deputy for national security affairs under "Scooter" Libby. He left before any questions were answered about his access to and use of classified information. His clearances were never questioned when he joined the vice president's staff, and his status under the Foreign Agents Registration Act has never been clarified.


Powell's early 2005 departure is the subject of intense jockeying among the neocons. A Perle neocon protégé, Michael Rubin, has been given the task of destroying the only competition -- L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer, the former Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority chief, not a neocon insider and the favorite of traditional Republican conservatives. The neocon plan is to make Bremer the scapegoat: It was not bad neocon policy, it was bad Bremer decisions that has led to the fiasco in Iraq. Rubin was sent to Baghdad to be Wolfowitz's man inside the CPA. Bremer dissed Rubin as a lightweight. Rubin tried to push neocon policy inside the CPA -- what he, Perle and Ahmed Chalabi had pushed from the American Enterprise Institute -- restoring the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq by placing Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan on the throne. Bremer would have none of it. Rubin is now tasked by Perle and Wolfowitz to trash Bremer -- which he is dutifully doing in print and media appearances arranged by neocon handler, lecture agent and media booker Eleana Benador. They intend to close the Foggy Bottom door to any aspirations Bremer, a former Foreign Service officer and Kissinger protégé, might have to take over from Powell.

Given the implosion of Iraq, Wolfowitz and his coterie have doubts that Wolfowitz can be confirmed as secretary (of either DOD or State) without a debilitating confirmation process, though State remains choice No. 1. A more complicated plan is to again play behind Condoleezza Rice. With Rice as secretary of state and Wolfowitz in as national security advisor, neocons would put David Wurmser or John Bolton in as Rice's deputy, replacing Armitage.

Wurmser, Perle and Feith were the principal authors of the 1996 100-day policy plan for incoming Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. None ever registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act for this work.

That plan, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," published by Israel's Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, has served as the guiding road map for the neocons both in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office and in the Bush administration. No one should have been surprised by Iraq -- the neocons have not been coy in laying out their vision of Israel's security requirements. David Wurmser published a book-length version of his IASPS study at AEI. The introduction to that screed, "Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein," was written by Richard Perle. It lists as sources Ahmed Chalabi, Michael Ledeen, Douglas Feith and Harold Rhode.
Control at State would remove the last obstacle to the plan Perle, Wurmser and Feith laid long before 9/11. The neocons telegraphed their intentions clearly in President Bush's GOP convention acceptance speech in New York, in which the neocon hand was palpable in the ambitious agenda to remake the Middle East.

The president used political buzzwords to whip the crowd -- and the voting public -- into a noncomprehending patriotic frenzy of "four more years." Like Pope Urban at the 1095 Council of Clermont, who launched the First Crusade to cries of "God Wills It" from the frenzied Christians wanting to take back the Holy Land, Bush has decreed a crusade to bring enlightened Western democracy to the Muslim populations of the Middle East, left otherwise bereft in dysfunctional colonial-inspired states by the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.

But Bush the Crusader is off to a rocky start in Iraq. The ongoing meltdown is awakening Americans to the reality of the neocon agenda. But is it too late? Neocons are not dissuaded by the problems in Iraq; on the contrary, they are arguing that the problem is "Bremerism" -- the U.S. has not gone far enough. In their view, we need to take out the Palestinians, Syria and Iran now.

The neocons, working in tandem with a similar staff in the office of Prime Minister Sharon of Israel, have a three-part agenda for the first part of Bush's second term: first, oust Yasser Arafat; second, overthrow the secular Baathist al-Assad dictatorship in Syria; and, third, eliminate, one way or another, Iran's nuclear facilities.

Nowhere has support for the neocon Middle East crusade resonated more than in the constituency of Rep. Tom DeLay, who is the top Christian Zionist handler in the Republican Party and poised to strike GOP gold with his gerrymandering of Texas congressional districts.

For the neocons, Sept. 11 and Israel's security policy under Sharon have morphed into a single concept, the kind of thinking typified by Secretary Rumsfeld's recent lapses mixing Saddam Hussein with 9/11 and Osama bin Laden with Iraq.

Working with direct input from Israeli intelligence, Feith's Pentagon office coordinated with Libby and Wurmser in the vice president's office to spread the story that the missing WMD are to be found hidden in Syria. Israeli agents have worked overtime to neutralize and undo Syrian cooperation with the CIA against al-Qaida. This comes on the heels of a similar highly successful destruction of CIA inroads with the Palestinian Authority. We are now light-years beyond the two-state solution focus of Middle East policy. Instead of chasing Laden, the neocons plan to put the U.S. on the road to Damascus -- and Tehran. The groundwork is laid.

While the FBI scrutinizes whether Pentagon neocon aide Larry Franklin and AIPAC passed secrets to Israel, the larger story of Richard Perle and the neocons' carefully orchestrated takeover of Bush foreign policy has yet to be fully comprehended by the electorate.

Powell is leaving. We need to repeat that. When this reality sinks in, we will finally understand what we are getting ourselves into in a second Bush term. A handful of conservative columnists, Republican senators and a few other GOP luminaries are trying to reclaim a traditional conservative Republican foreign policy approach. But it is clearly too late.

Comparing Bush's foreign policy views in 2000 with his New York convention acceptance speech, it is clear that since 2000, the neocons started with a blank foreign policy slate. Looking carefully at Bush's 2000 campaign and statements and comparing them with the current 2004 campaign, it is startling how far he has come from his traditional Republican base. He has become the "Neoconian Candidate."

George W. Bush has signed on to the neocon agenda with the unshakeable faith of the born again. At this point, we all need a reminder that Crusades 1 through 5 ended badly in the long run, not just for the Crusaders, but on the home front. In a new Bush crusade, in a second term, the first to fall may be the professionals at the State Department."

Soft-soaping the Phoney NYT WMD articles By Daniel Okrent

The New York Times: Premium Archive: "THE PUBLIC EDITOR; Weapons of Mass Destruction? Or Mass Distraction?
By DANIEL OKRENT
Published: May 30, 2004, Sunday

FROM the moment this office opened for business last December, I felt I could not write about what had been published in the paper before my arrival. Once I stepped into the past, I reasoned, I might never find my way back to the present.
Early this month, though, convinced that my territory includes what doesn't appear in the paper as well as what does, I began to look into a question arising from the past that weighs heavily on the present: Why had The Times failed to revisit its own coverage of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? To anyone who read the paper between September 2002 and June 2003, the impression that Saddam Hussein possessed, or was acquiring, a frightening arsenal of W.M.D. seemed unmistakable. Except, of course, it appears to have been mistaken. On Tuesday, May 18, I told executive editor Bill Keller I would be writing today about The Times's responsibility to address the subject. He told me that an internal examination was already under way; we then proceeded independently and did not discuss it further. The results of The Times's own examination appeared in last Wednesday's paper, and can be found online at nytimes.com/critique.


I think they got it right. Mostly. (I do question the placement: as one reader asked, ''Will your column this Sunday address why the NYT buried its editors' note -- full of apologies for burying stories on A10 -- on A10?'')

Some of The Times's coverage in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq was credulous; much of it was inappropriately italicized by lavish front-page display and heavy-breathing headlines; and several fine articles by David Johnston, James Risen and others that provided perspective or challenged information in the faulty stories were played as quietly as a lullaby. Especially notable among these was Risen's ''C.I.A. Aides Feel Pressure in Preparing Iraqi Reports,'' which was completed several days before the invasion and unaccountably held for a week. It didn't appear until three days after the war's start, and even then was interred on Page B10.

The Times's flawed journalism continued in the weeks after the war began, when writers might have broken free from the cloaked government sources who had insinuated themselves and their agendas into the prewar coverage. I use ''journalism'' rather than ''reporting'' because reporters do not put stories into the newspaper. Editors make assignments, accept articles for publication, pass them through various editing hands, place them on a schedule, determine where they will appear. Editors are also obliged to assign follow-up pieces when the facts remain mired in partisan quicksand.

The apparent flimsiness of ''Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert,'' by Judith Miller (April 21, 2003), was no less noticeable than its prominent front-page display; the ensuing sequence of articles on the same subject, when Miller was embedded with a military unit searching for W.M.D., constituted an ongoing minuet of startling assertion followed by understated contradiction. But pinning this on Miller alone is both inaccurate and unfair: in one story on May 4, editors placed the headline ''U.S. Experts Find Radioactive Material in Iraq'' over a Miller piece even though she wrote, right at the top, that the discovery was very unlikely to be related to weaponry.

The failure was not individual, but institutional.

When I say the editors got it ''mostly'' right in their note this week, the qualifier arises from their inadequate explanation of the journalistic imperatives and practices that led The Times down this unfortunate path. There were several.

The hunger for scoops -- Even in the quietest of times, newspaper people live to be first. When a story as momentous as this one comes into view, when caution and doubt could not be more necessary, they can instead be drowned in a flood of adrenalin. One old Times hand recently told me there was a period in the not-too-distant past when editors stressed the maxim ''Don't get it first, get it right.'' That soon mutated into ''Get it first and get it right.'' The next devolution was an obvious one.

War requires an extra standard of care, not a lesser one. But in The Times's W.M.D. coverage, readers encountered some rather breathless stories built on unsubstantiated ''revelations'' that, in many instances, were the anonymity-cloaked assertions of people with vested interests. Times reporters broke many stories before and after the war -- but when the stories themselves later broke apart, in many instances Times readers never found out. Some remain scoops to this day. This is not a compliment.

Front-page syndrome -- There are few things more maligned in newsroom culture than the ''on the one hand, on the other hand'' story, with its exquisitely delicate (and often soporific) balancing. There are few things more greedily desired than a byline on Page 1. You can ''write it onto 1,'' as the newsroom maxim has it, by imbuing your story with the sound of trumpets. Whispering is for wimps, and shouting is for the tabloids, but a terrifying assertion that may be the tactical disinformation of a self-interested source does the trick.

''Intelligence Break Led U.S. to Tie Envoy Killing to Iraq Qaeda Cell,'' by Patrick E. Tyler (Feb. 6, 2003) all but declared a direct link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein -- a link still to be conclusively established, more than 15 months later. Other stories pushed Pentagon assertions so aggressively you could almost sense epaulets sprouting on the shoulders of editors.

Hit-and-run -- journalism The more surprising the story, the more often it must be revisited. If a defector like Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri is hailed by intelligence officials for providing ''some of the most valuable information'' about chemical and biological laboratories in Iraq (''Defectors Bolster U.S. Case Against Iraq, Officials Say,'' by Judith Miller, Jan. 24, 2003), unfolding events should have compelled the paper to re-examine those assertions, and hold the officials publicly responsible if they did not pan out.

In that same story anonymous officials expressed fears that Haideri's relatives in Iraq ''were executed as a message to potential defectors.''

Were they? Did anyone go back to ask? Did anything Haideri say have genuine value? Stories, like plants, die if they are not tended. So do the reputations of newspapers.

Coddling sources -- There is nothing more toxic to responsible journalism than an anonymous source. There is often nothing more necessary, too; crucial stories might never see print if a name had to be attached to every piece of information. But a newspaper has an obligation to convince readers why it believes the sources it does not identify are telling the truth. That automatic editor defense, ''We're not confirming what he says, we're just reporting it,'' may apply to the statements of people speaking on the record. For anonymous sources, it's worse than no defense. It's a license granted to liars.

The contract between a reporter and an unnamed source -- the offer of information in return for anonymity -- is properly a binding one. But I believe that a source who turns out to have lied has breached that contract, and can fairly be exposed. The victims of the lie are the paper's readers, and the contract with them supersedes all others. (See Chalabi, Ahmad, et al.) Beyond that, when the cultivation of a source leads to what amounts to a free pass for the source, truth takes the fall. A reporter who protects a source not just from exposure but from unfriendly reporting by colleagues is severely compromised. Reporters must be willing to help reveal a source's misdeeds; information does not earn immunity. To a degree, Chalabi's fall from grace was handled by The Times as if flipping a switch; proper coverage would have been more like a thermostat, constantly taking readings and then adjusting to the surrounding reality. (While I'm on the subject: Readers were never told that Chalabi's niece was hired in January 2003 to work in The Times's Kuwait bureau. She remained there until May of that year.)

End-run -- editing Howell Raines, who was executive editor of the paper at the time, denies that The Times's standard procedures were cast aside in the weeks before and after the war began. (Raines's statement on the subject, made to The Los Angeles Times, may be read at poynter.org/forum/?id=misc#raines.)

But my own reporting (I have spoken to nearly two dozen current and former Times staff members whose work touched on W.M.D. coverage) has convinced me that a dysfunctional system enabled some reporters operating out of Washington and Baghdad to work outside the lines of customary bureau management.

In some instances, reporters who raised substantive questions about certain stories were not heeded. Worse, some with substantial knowledge of the subject at hand seem not to have been given the chance to express reservations. It is axiomatic in newsrooms that any given reporter's story, tacked up on a dartboard, can be pierced by challenges from any number of colleagues. But a commitment to scrutiny is a cardinal virtue. When a particular story is consciously shielded from such challenges, it suggests that it contains something that plausibly should be challenged.

READERS have asked why The Times waited so long to address the issues raised in Wednesday's statement from the editors. I suspect that Keller and his key associates may have been reluctant to open new wounds when scabs were still raw on old ones, but I think their reticence made matters worse. It allowed critics to form a powerful chorus; it subjected staff members under criticism (including Miller) to unsubstantiated rumor and specious charges; it kept some of the staff off balance and distracted.

The editors' note to readers will have served its apparent function only if it launches a new round of examination and investigation. I don't mean further acts of contrition or garment-rending, but a series of aggressively reported stories detailing the misinformation, disinformation and suspect analysis that led virtually the entire world to believe Hussein had W.M.D. at his disposal.

No one can deny that this was a drama in which The Times played a role. On Friday, May 21, a front-page article by David E. Sanger (''A Seat of Honor Lost to Open Political Warfare'') elegantly characterized Chalabi as ''a man who, in lunches with politicians, secret sessions with intelligence chiefs and frequent conversations with reporters from Foggy Bottom to London's Mayfair, worked furiously to plot Mr. Hussein's fall.'' The words ''from The Times, among other publications'' would have fit nicely after ''reporters'' in that sentence. The aggressive journalism that I long for, and that the paper owes both its readers and its own self-respect, would reveal not just the tactics of those who promoted the W.M.D. stories, but how The Times itself was used to further their cunning campaign.

In 1920, Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz wrote that The Times had missed the real story of the Bolshevik Revolution because its writers and editors ''were nervously excited by exciting events.'' That could have been said about The Times and the war in Iraq. The excitement's over; now the work begins.

The public editor serves as the readers' representative. His opinions and conclusions are his own. He may be reached by e-mail: public@nytimes.com. Telephone messages: (212)556-7652. The public editor's column appears at least twice monthly in this section, and his Web journal can be found at nytimes.com/danielokrent.


Published: 05 - 30 - 2004 , Late Edition - Final , Section 4 , Column 1 , Page 2"

Judith ‘Is that a banana in your pocket . . .?’ Miller

Judith Miller's WMD reporting - New York Times war reporting - Hunt for WMD: "The gossip about Miller’s romantic life was circulated most widely by a columnist writing in Spy magazine under the pseudonym J. J. Hunsecker. He chronicled her exploits, referring to her as “frisky deputy bureau chief Judith ‘Is that a banana in your pocket . . .?’ Miller.” As a commentator on the mores of the Times, Hunsecker lacked a certain subtlety. “Miller has been enriching the lives of high-level sources around Washington with her own very special brand of journalistic involvement,” the columnist sneered in 1988. But gradually, the allegations moved from innuendo to out-and-out rumormongering. The column reported, outlandishly, that President George H. W. Bush called his resident political genius, Lee Atwater, into his office “and informed him that it might be better if he ended his very special relationship with Miller.” "

Jerusalem Post | Feith to 'Post': US action against Iran can't be ruled out

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World: "Feith to 'Post': US action against Iran can't be ruled out
By CAROLINE GLICK

The US hopes that Iran will follow Libya's lead in abandoning its nuclear program, but nobody should rule out the possibility of military action against Teheran's nuclear sites if it does not, US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview.

Feith stated that the US is now concentrating on "a process to try to get the existing international legal mechanisms – the nonproliferation treaty [and] the International Atomic Energy Agency – to work, to bring the kind of pressure to bear on Iran that would induce the Iranians to follow the path that Libya took in deciding that they were actually better off in abandoning their WMD [weapons of mass destruction] programs."

Feith stressed that the Americans are interested in seeing whether the suspension of uranium-enrichment activities that the Iranians agreed to last month in a deal with France, Germany and Britain "can get turned into a permanent abandonment."

But strikingly, whereas British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw last month ruled out any possibility of military action against Iranian nuclear sites should the diplomatic path lead to failure, Feith said that "I don't think that anybody should be ruling in or ruling out anything while we are conducting diplomacy."

In the wide-ranging interview conducted on Friday, Feith, who will be remaining in his position during US President George W. Bush's second term, told the Post that democratic reform of the Arab world, including in US-allied Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, will be the linchpin of Bush's foreign policy in the next four years.

He was speaking a day before outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell told a conference of Islamic leaders in Morocco that the Arab world had to implement political and economic reform and stop "pointing to the [deadlocked] Middle East peace process as a pretext for delay."

Feith recalled that "the president has said over and over again that he believes that the world will be a better place, there will be a better treatment of people [and] there will be a more secure international environment if there is a development of representative, democratic-type institutions in the Middle East."

The undersecretary said he saw signs that Bush's democratization platform was having an effect on the public discussion now taking place in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan about democracy, dialogue that barely existed before Bush began discussing the issue in 2002.

"The kinds of things that the president has been saying are stimulating talk about reform throughout the Middle East," said Feith. "There is more attention being paid to the subject. People who are aware of what's going on in the world at large cannot fail to see that the countries that have democratic governments and free economies have a greater degree of prosperity, of political stability [and] of peaceful politics as opposed to violent domestic politics, and they are happier. And that kind of observation, in part because the president is stressing it, is getting more and more play throughout the entire region."

As a principal architect of the US war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, Feith is one of the most controversial members of the Bush administration. Disliked in liberal circles in the US and internationally, Feith, a staunch supporter of Israel, began his government career in 1981 as an assistant to Soviet expert Richard Pipes at the US National Security Council in the Reagan administration. In that position, as he does today for the Middle East, Feith advocated the advancement of the cause of democracy and human rights in the former Soviet bloc as a means of bringing about the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

When asked about the failure thus far of the US to win the hearts and minds of the Arab world, where levels of anti-Americanism have risen sharply since September 11, 2001, Feith admitted, "There are a lot of things that need to be done to improve communications. Part of it is how we're organized: how the combatant commands relate back to headquarters here in the Pentagon; how the Pentagon relates to the State Department and the other agencies."

Feith argued that the media's need to grab the attention of viewers motivates news organizations to concentrate on violence at the expense of giving news consumers an accurate portrayal of what life is like in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Comparing the news coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan to the news coverage of Israel, Feith said, "If you live in Israel and you see the way life is there and then you go abroad and see the way Israel is reported on, the way that Israel gets reported on night after night is simply pictures of bombings or military actions. And there are people who have an image that that's all that's going on in the country and people have similar images about Afghanistan or Iraq.

One of the problems is how do you communicate that, while there are things like that going on and they're a big problem, there's also an enormous amount of life going on that is commerce and culture and education and happy ordinary life."

Feith was highly critical of the role that Syria is playing in fueling the insurgency against Iraqi and coalition forces in Iraq. "Their role is unhelpful," he said. "We know that there are various activities important to the insurgents in Iraq that are occurring in Syria. There are people that have safe-havened there. There are people passing through Syria to join the insurgents [and] to supply them. And it's a bad thing."

One of the elements of prewar planning for which Feith has come under a barrage of criticism from US military commanders was his intention to train an exiled Iraqi military force to fight with the US during the March 2003 invasion. Feith continues to defend his recommendation.

"I did think it was important to do what we could to train up Iraqis as a security force in advance of our military operation. We saw lots of benefits of that – both with regard to the military operation itself and with regard to the post-major combat period. There were certain obvious benefits that trained Iraqis could bring, as people who know the language, who know the lay of the land who know the local culture, [and] work with our forces and help liberate their own country. And then afterward these would be people that we knew and whose views and whose leadership qualities we knew and who could help identify other Iraqis who could play a useful role in the building of a new Iraq.

"We saw lots of benefits in that effort," he continued. "We were hoping to get thousands of Iraqis trained before the war and as it turns out we were only able to train a few score and that was unfortunate. I think it would have been better if we had had thousands who were trained."
While Feith indicated that the US was doing nothing at present to encourage the Iraqis to end their enmity toward Israel, he dismissed the possibility of the post-Saddam Iraq going to war against it.

"If all goes well, the Iraqis are going to have a country that's going to have a representative government and will be at peace with its neighbors and in the region," said Feith. "And if that happens, the whole Middle East will be better off.""