Glimmer of Sanity in the Senate

Saturday, January 20, 2007 5:49 AM

Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia must be talking with his colleague, Senator Robert Byrd, also of West Virginia, and taking him more seriously than in the past. If my memory serves me right, Rockefeller voted for Wolfowitz's War in October of 2002, while Byrd actually filibustered against it. But now Rockefeller is in charge of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he is calling the Cheney/Bush policy toward Iran "bizarre". (See below.) It looks like Rockefeller has come to his senses. A year ago in Paris, foreign policy guru, William Pfaff, of International Herald Tribune fame, penned a column ("The Panic about Iran") in which he called the Iran nuclear issue "baroque". Among other observations, Pfaff stated "Iran at present is doing no more than it has a right to do in international law." Pfaff concluded "There are serious problems in international affairs and there are baroque ones; this one is baroque." Baroque and bizarre, Pfaff and Rockefeller are both correct. The questions remains, why is Cheney/Bush pursuing such a confrontational policy with respect to Iran? What is behind it? On a related issue, Rockefeller touches on the subject of G.W.'s reading habits, poking fun at them. "Every time he's read something, he tells you about it." In her New York Times column on Wednesday, the sometimes baroque Maureen Dowd quotes New York social climber and man-about-town Dr. Henry Kissinger: "The President's one of my best students. He reads all the books I send him." Kissinger sent Bush A Savage War of Peace by Alistair Horne, about how the French lost a guerrilla war in their colony in Algeria. It turns out that Dr. K is sending books to Dick Cheney as well. I learned this from my painful perusal of Israeli websites. Kissinger has recommended to Dick Cheney Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Princeton graduate and Israeli propagandist, Dr. Michael Oren. [To give you a flavor of the bilge Professor Oren is turning out: "For the United States, Israel remains the ultimate strategic bargain.... If Israel did not exist, the terrorists would be aiming their guns first and foremost at the American people."] Cheney and Bush are both students, it seems. You and I might give Cheney and Bush a grade of "F" in the running of foreign policy. On the other hand, Professor Kissinger would be inclined to give them both an "A". Why? Because they are following his instructions. Their policy is Kissinger's policy, which in turn is the policy of the Israel Lobby, of which Kissinger is a prime mover and shaker behind the scenes. If we are witnessing a fiasco in the Middle East and in Iraq in particular, it is a fiasco for which Kissinger bears a much greater responsibility than is known or understood. I quote from The Kissinger Connection, my essay of a few months ago: "If nothing else, Bob Woodward's fat new book, State of Denial, has performed a valuable public service by ejecting the furtive Kissinger from the shadows. Woodward reports that vice-president Dick Cheney confided to him (Woodward) in the summer of 2005: 'I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more than I talk to anybody else. He just comes by and I guess at least once a month, Scooter [Libby] and I sit down with him.' [Page  406.] Woodward continues: 'The president also met privately with Kissinger every couple of months, making the former secretary the  most regular and frequent outside adviser to Bush on foreign affairs.'" Wouldn't you love to have been a fly on the wall during these consultations between Dr. K. and "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney, and GW on the subject, say, of Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame? Maybe Kissinger's name will come up during the perjury trial of Libby. Maybe Kissinger gave Libby an "A", too, and will testify as a character witness. Libby certainly deserves it. Every "neocon" and every Israel Lobby hack is rooting for Libby. And so are Cheney and Bush, especially the former. ============================================================= Leading Senator Assails President Over Iran Stance MARK MAZZETTI // The New York Times // January 20th, 2007 WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 — The new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday sharply criticized the Bush administration’s increasingly combative stance toward Iran, saying that White House efforts to portray it as a growing threat are uncomfortably reminiscent of rhetoric about Iraq before the American invasion of 2003. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who took control of the committee this month, said that the administration was building a case against Tehran even as American intelligence agencies still know little about either Iran’s internal dynamics or its intentions in the Middle East. “To be quite honest, I’m a little concerned that it’s Iraq again,” Senator Rockefeller said during an interview in his office. “This whole concept of moving against Iran is bizarre.” Mr. Rockefeller did not say which aspects of the Bush administration’s case against Iran he thought were not supported by solid intelligence. He did say he agreed with the White House that Iranian operatives inside Iraq were supporting Shiite militias and working against American troops. Mr. Rockefeller said he believed President Bush was getting poor advice from advisers who argue that an uncompromising stance toward the government in Tehran will serve American interests. “I don’t think that policy makers in this administration particularly understand Iran,” he said. The comments of Mr. Rockefeller reflect the mounting concerns being voiced by other influential Democrats, including the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, about the Bush administration’s approach to Iran. The Democrats have warned that the administration is moving toward a confrontation with Iran when the United States has neither the military resources nor the support among American allies and members of Congress to carry out such a move. Because Mr. Rockefeller is one of a handful of lawmakers with access to the most classified intelligence about the threat from Iran, his views carry particular weight. He has also historically been more tempered in his criticism of the White House on national security issues than some of his Democratic colleagues. Mr. Rockefeller was biting in his criticism of how President Bush has dealt with the threat of Islamic radicalism since the Sept. 11 attacks, saying he believed that the campaign against international terrorism was “still a mystery” to the president. “I don’t think he understands the world,” Mr. Rockefeller said. “I don’t think he’s particularly curious about the world. I don’t think he reads like he says he does.” He added, “Every time he’s read something he tells you about it, I think.” Last week, the Intelligence Committee heard testimony from John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, that an emboldened Iran was casting a shadow across the Middle East and could decide to send Hezbollah operatives on missions to hit American targets. Mr. Negroponte testified the morning after President Bush had, in a televised address to the nation, said he was determined to confront what he called worrying activities by Iranian operatives in Iraq, and announced that the Pentagon was building up the American naval presence in the Persian Gulf and sending a battery of Patriot missiles to deter Iranian aggression. Some Democrats have suggested that Mr. Bush’s speech was the beginning of a meticulously choreographed campaign to demonize Iran, much the way the administration built its public case against Iraq. n a speech on Friday, Mr. Reid warned the White House not to take military action against Iran without seeking approval from Congress. Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said in response to Senator Rockefeller’s comments that Iran was taking provocative actions both inside Iraq and elsewhere, and that American allies were united in efforts to end what intelligence officials believe is a covert nuclear weapons program inside the country. “It has been clear for some time that Iran has been meddling in Iraq, and the Iraqis have made the concerns known to the Iranians,” Mr. Johndroe said. He noted that the administration has said it would be willing to begin direct talks with Iran — which have not occurred since 1979 — if Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers on Thursday that over the past year and a half he had come to a “much darker interpretation” of Iran’s activities inside Iraq. “I think there’s a clear line of evidence that points out the Iranians want to punish the United States, hurt the United States in Iraq, tie down the United States in Iraq, so that our other options in the region, against other activities the Iranians might have, would be limited,” he said. Mr. Rockefeller’s committee is working to complete a long-delayed investigation into the misuse of intelligence about Iraq in the months before the American-led invasion. He said that the committee was nearing completion on one part of that investigation, concerning whether the White House ignored prewar C.I.A. assessments that Iraq could disintegrate into chaos. That report, Mr. Rockefeller said, could be released within months and was “not going to make for pleasant reading at the White House.” Mr. Rockefeller said that with Democrats now in charge of the Intelligence Committee, he expected the panel to be much more aggressive, both in investigating the use of intelligence to fashion White House policy and in subjecting secret intelligence programs to new scrutiny. He mentioned the C.I.A’s network of secret prisons and the National Security Agency’s domestic wiretapping program as likely subjects of investigations. “We weren’t able to drill down on a lot of stuff” during the years in which the Intelligence Committee was under Republican control, Mr. Rockefeller said. “Now, there’s a very different attitude.” Copyright 2007 NYT