By Oren Rawls

Published December 26, 2003, issue of December 26, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Politics by Other Means: The secret of our success, goes an old CIA proverb, is the secret of our success. The essence of the adage, to judge by recent public criticism of the intelligence community, has been lost on the agency’s fellow spooks over at the Defense Department.

For much of the last year, the Pentagon’s prominent role in shaping American policy on Iraq has been fodder for conspiracy theorists around the world. With Saddam Hussein the only Iraqi weapon of mass destruction to have been found, though, the goings-on at the Defense Department are coming under increasing public scrutiny.

The Pentagon’s decision to escalate the Special Forces covert war against the Iraqi insurgency is interrogated by veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in the December 15 issue of The New Yorker. The 4,500-word expose, relying primarily on off-the-record intelligence sources, throws off the cloak and dagger to reveal the invisible hand of civilian — read neoconservative — policy makers at the Defense Department.

“In Washington, there is now widespread agreement on one point: the need for a new American approach to Iraq,” Hersh reports. “Inside the Pentagon, it is now understood that simply bringing in or killing Saddam Hussein and his immediate circle — those who appeared in the Bush administration’s famed ‘deck of cards’ — will not stop the insurgency.”

What will stop the growing opposition to the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority, Pentagon planners believe, is intelligence, intelligence and more intelligence. More spooks on the ground, reasons Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, will obviate the need for more boots on the ground.

The job of overseeing Special Forces operations in Iraq is being sought by political scientist Stephen Cambone, who heads up the recently restructured intelligence operations at the Pentagon. As the under secretary of defense for intelligence — a position created by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz seven weeks after the outbreak of war in Iraq, as the Pentagon came under increasing fire for allegedly politicizing intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction — Cambone wields broad powers.

In a May 8 internal Pentagon memorandum, Wolfowitz delegates to Cambone oversight over all Defense Department intelligence activities and policy, and appoints him as Rumsfeld’s “intelligence interface” with “the State Department, the Justice Department, foreign governments, international organizations, State agencies, and the Intelligence Community, as well as the Congress.”

More importantly, Cambone appears to have the ear of Rumsfeld. According to Hersh, Cambone’s sway with the Pentagon boss now rivals that of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy who appears to have been made the Pentagon’s fall guy for the intelligence failures in Iraq. “Rumsfeld’s been looking for somebody to have all the answers, and Steve is the guy,” Hersh quotes a former high-level Pentagon official as saying.

The hard-driving defense secretary usually gets his man, even if it means shaking up the defense establishment. “Rumsfeld has had to change much of the Pentagon’s leadership to get his way,” Hersh writes.

Rumsfeld’s way, the investigative journalist reports, runs over the military brass and through Jerusalem — as many critics of alleged Jewish influence on Washington have long argued. The investigate reporter reveals that Israeli commandos and intelligence units, armed with battle-tested methods for waging asymmetric warfare, have been training American Special Forces in Israel and at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

“The American-Israeli liaison,” Hersh writes, “amounts to a tutorial on how to dismantle an insurgency.”

The alleged Israeli involvement in the training and execution of American counter-insurgency missions in Iraq is but one sign of the determination with which the top brass at the Pentagon have promoted unconventional warfare. Rumsfeld, Hersh reports, has made “a systematic effort to appoint Special Forces advocates to the top military jobs.”

Most prominent among the Pentagon’s new picks is Cambone’s military assistant, Lieutenant General William Boykin, who drew headlines in October by reportedly equating the Muslim world with Satan. The right-hand man to Rumsfeld’s right-hand man is himself no stranger to unconventional warfare: He commanded the U.S. Army troops in Mogadishu during the “Black Hawk Down” mission in 1993, and during the same year led a Delta Force unit in Colombia that is credited by many in the special-operations community with assassinating drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Behind Boykin stand some 47,000 Special Forces troops, operating on a $6.5 billion budget for 2004, according to a congressional study cited by Hersh. Those numbers have raised some eyebrows on Capitol Hill, where some politicians are demanding more accountability for and transparency in intelligence operations in Iraq. Earlier this month, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the ranking minority member of the Committee on Government Reform, opened a “tip line” on the committee’s official Web site to encourage members of the intelligence community to disclose how Rumsfeld & Co. are allegedly manipulating intelligence.

To hear Hersh’s sources tell it, though, Waxman and his ilk are wasting their breath in calling out for whistleblowers. The boots on the ground and the brass in Washington have seen enough body bags. Special Forces are streaming into Iraq, and breaking rank is simply not an option.

“It’s not the way we usually play ball, but if you see a couple of your guys get blown away it changes things,” a former CIA official with extensive Middle East experience confesses to the investigative journalist. “We did the American things — and we’ve been the nice guy. Now we’re going to be the bad guy, and being the bad guy works.”

Find us on Facebook!
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.