'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Zbig at Large 

Wolf Blitzer hosted a panel discussion with two former national security advisers, Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, on Late Edition this morning, and Brzezinski was in rare form. He called the neoconservatives "a bunch of fanatics" -- the look on Blitzer's face was priceless:

BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski, we know there was a huge intelligence blunder on the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Everybody recognizes that now.

But now it's apparent, and Kanan Makiya now believes, and other Iraqis, that Saddam Hussein was plotting this insurgency all along, anticipating a U.S. assault. That would seem to be another intelligence blunder of huge import, and as a result a lot of Americans and others are dying.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, it's not just an intelligence blunder. It's a question of the mindset. There was such fervor to go to war against Iraq. And it was propounded with such intensity and, I'm sorry to say, demagoguery by a bunch of fanatics that it was quite natural for them also to argue that it's going to be very easy, that we'd be welcomed as liberators, that the aftermath would be very simple.

I think we're dealing here with a problem which goes beyond intelligence. It's a fundamental misjudgment, and it's a consequence of a decision-making process in which skeptics, questioners, people who disagreed really didn't play much of a role.

BLITZER: Well, you use a tough word, "fanatics." Who do you mean, when you say fanatics, talking about fanatics?

BRZEZINSKI: I'm not going to mention names, but people who, either for religious or strategic reasons, have a very one-sided view of Iraq and of the Middle East and what needs to be done in the area.

BLITZER: When you say "religious reasons" -- I'm pressing you, because these are strong words that you're throwing out, and you're a man of very precise language.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think we all know that in American politics, particularly in recent times, there has been an intensified linkage between extreme religious views and politics. And there are a number of people who have very, very intense feelings about the Middle East. And I think that has colored our approach to Iraq and has colored our assessments of what would happen.

BLITZER: Well, maybe I'm missing something. Are you talking about fundamentalist Christians? Are you talking about Jews? Specifically, what are you trying...

BRZEZINSKI: I'm talking about all of them. I'm talking about all of them: people who approach this issue with a very strong religious fervor or a kind of strategic fanaticism, the kind of fanaticism that leads some people currently, for example, to argue that we should attack Iran, that we should bomb Iran.

BLITZER: And is this related to support for Israel is coloring their...

BRZEZINSKI: In some cases, I'm sure it is. In some cases, it isn't. It's a mixture.

You know, this is a very diversified country, and there's a variety of viewpoints.

But in recent times, and particularly after 9/11, there has been an intensification in intensely views, intensely views. And when that is translated into the decision-making process, in which you really don't vent alternatives very systematically, you are inclined to get into difficulties of the kind that we're now facing in Iraq.

BLITZER: Do you accept that, General Scowcroft?

SCOWCROFT: This is a complex situation, and I would leave it to my colleague to define it.

Later on Blitzer tried to pull a lame gotcha on Scowcroft, asking him to comment on a quote Scowcroft claims he never meant to be public. Scowcroft was a little bit sheepish, but not Brezezinski:

BLITZER: Let's talk about the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

In October, October 14th in The Financial Times, you were quoted as saying this: "Ariel Sharon just has him wrapped around his little finger. I think the president is mesmerized. When there is a suicide attack followed up by a reprisal, Sharon calls the president and says, 'I'm on the front line of terrorism,' and the president says, 'Yes, you are.' He, Mr. Sharon, has been nothing but trouble."

Did you say that?

SCOWCROFT: Unfortunately I did. It wasn't supposed to be for publication.

[ ... ]

BLITZER: But fundamentally, the question is this: Do you think Sharon has the president wrapped around his finger?

SCOWCROFT: That was -- I would never have used that in public, of course not. But what I believe is that Sharon appeals to the president and his attitude on the war on terrorism, and he says "I'm on the front line of that war. The people after me are terrorists." What is the president going to do? No, they're not terrorists? In that sense, the president plays into Sharon's plan.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, I thought you were going to throw some embarrassing quote at me.


BRZEZINSKI: I thought Brent's diagnosis was brilliant. And I think one should say publicly what one says privately. And I agree with him.

BLITZER: You agree that what? Be specific.

BRZEZINSKI: Whatever you cited him as saying, the whole works.

BLITZER: That the president is basically controlled by Ariel Sharon?

BRZEZINSKI: "Controlled" is your word. I don't think he said that.

BLITZER: Well, I'll repeat. It says, "Sharon just has him wrapped around his little finger."

BRZEZINSKI: Yes, that's about right.

BLITZER: That's being precise.

BRZEZINSKI: Sharon comes and whispers "Terrorism, terrorism," and the president is now...

BLITZER: But Israelis do face terrorism.

BRZEZINSKI: Of course. But this is not the whole problem. It is not the entire problem, and certainly not the global problem.

[No link because the above is not yet available free online. I thought the exchange was so funny that I sprang for the 3 bucks to buy the transcript from LexisNexis.]

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