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

Monday, August 07, 2006

Poor Misunderstood Michael Ledeen 

I finally read James Bamford's Rolling Stone piece "Iran: The Next War" which argues that Feith's crew, the Office of Special Plans, lobbied for a war with Iran before a single shot was fired in Iraq. Bamford finagled a face-to-face interview with neoconservative extraordinaire Michael Ledeen -- which is pretty interesting -- but I think he, maybe unconsciously, beefs up Ledeen's role in the affair in order to make the Ledeen sit-down the centerpiece of the article. I'm sorry to say I didn't find the Rolling Stone exposé that ground-breaking. It's not that I don't find the allegations credible; it's that virtually none of them are new.

In late August of 2004, this material had a minor foothold in the corporate press and was all over the blogosphere. A murky first glimpse of the Larry Franklin espionage story appeared on CBS News followed by a wave of commentary and revelation that covered the same ground as Bamford's contribution. Josh Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Paul Glastris's cleverly titled "Iran-Contra II?" in Washington Monthly basically broke the story. Marshall, Rozen and others elaborated in increasing detail and incomprehensibility on their respective blogs, until Juan Cole finally spelled the whole thing out on Informed Comment -- to quote my summary of Cole's post at the time:

The pro-Likud faction of the Department of Defense was conspiring with Israel's Likud party, the proto-fascist Italian intelligence agency SISMI, would-be Iranian revolutionary Ghorbanifar, and the Iranian anti-Khomeini terrorist organization MEK to overthrow the government of Iran. The overthrow was going to occur after Iraq was taken care of. [ ... ] The neoconservatives in the State Department successfully blocked an agreement between the USA and Iran in which Iran would have given up five high-level agents of al-Qaeda in exchange for chief operatives of MEK. The agreement was blocked to prevent a thawing of the relationship between the US and Iran and to keep MEK intact for use in the overthrow.

Besides a key difference to be discussed below, Bamford is telling the same story. In fact, the most interesting thing about "Iran: The Next War" has been Ledeen's reaction to it -- he freaked out and issued an, I kid you not, your-reporter-must-be-on-drugs-type denial to Rolling Stone and then posted even more comments on the rightwing Captain's Quarters. One wonders, why all the fuss about some allegations that are two years old?

I think the answer might be that, god help me, Ledeen has a legitimate beef. Bamford got the big picture wrong, and Juan Cole et al. had it right, or at least were closer to the truth. Bamford's argument is that Ledeen and friends were pushing for a US military invasion of Iran; Ledeen says that he lobbied for no such thing and that anyone who is familiar with his writings would know this. Ledeen's claim is surprisingly correct. Ledeen constantly writes about fomenting democratic revolution in Iran and supporting Iranian dissident groups and so forth, but that's all he advocates in print -- in one piece he even comes out against bombing suspected Iranian nuclear sites. He calls for regime change, but not an invasion by US armed forces.

What's going on here? This is a man Jonah Goldberg quoted as follows, "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business." -- and he's soft on Iran?

No, Ledeen's position is a standard neoconservative position. Remember neoconservatism is an ideology in which an enlightened elite makes policy decisions in lieu of the brain-dead rabble. Such ideologies naturally favor secrecy over transparency. Military invasions are glaringly visible and are ostensibly subject to congressional oversight. I decode Ledeen's National Review pieces about fostering democracy in the land of the mullahs as a call for fighting an 80's-style dirty little war in Iran with a proxy army, and based on the commentary from 2004, it's pretty clear that the proxy army was going to be MEK.

Remember we first met Ledeen in the context of the Iran-Contra scandal which was all about funding and waging such wars in Latin America, as Edward Herman wrote in The "Terrorism" Industry

In articles written for Commentary and the New Republic, Ledeen argued in favor of U.S. support for right-wing terrorists ("resistance forces") such as UNITA and the Nicaraguan contras, and claimed that the Soviets had aligned themselves with the Mafia in order to use drug money to support international terrorism. In the first piece, entitled "Fighting Back," Ledeen urged the U.S. government to assassinate selected leaders of the Sandinista, Cuban, East German, Libyan, and Palestinian armed forces as a "counter-terrorism" measure [8]. In "K.G.B. Connection," after repeating the oft-told tale of the Bulgarian plot to kill the pope, Ledeen asserted that the Soviets were working with drug smugglers because they are "alarmingly short of hard cash these days." "Yuri Andropov's old organization, the K.G.B., has apparently become a major backer of drug smugglers, arms runners, and terrorists..." [9]. And all of this without a shred of evidence to support his charges.

Given what we know, I think it's reasonable to view Ledeen's recent NRO articles as advocating actions in Iran similar to those he wrote about in Commentary and the New Republic in the 80's.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?