Middle East

New champions of the war cause
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - A small group of influential right-wingers with close ties to the offices of Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney will this week launch a new political campaign to rally public support for the invasion of Iraq.

The task may not be easy: according to a recent survey, public support for invading Iraq has fallen from highs of close to 80 percent earlier this year to between 52 percent and 60 percent, and less than one half of the respondents opposed taking unilateral action if US allies were not on board.

The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which is setting up its office on Capitol Hill this week, plans to announce its formal launch next week, according to its president, Randy Scheunemann, a veteran Republican Senate foreign policy staffer who until recently worked as a consultant to Rumsfeld on Iraq policy.

The committee appears to be a spin-off of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a front group consisting mainly of neo-conservative Jews and heavy-hitters from the Christian right, whose public recommendations on fighting the war against terrorism and US backing for Israel in the conflict in the occupied territories have anticipated to a remarkable degree the administration's own policy course.

Scheunemann, who is best known for drafting the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act that authorized US$98 million for the Iraqi National Congress (INC), a loose coalition of Iraqi dissidents that is widely distrusted by the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, said that he was still putting together the group's board of advisers.

So far, Bruce P Jackson, a vice president at arms maker Lockheed Martin, who chaired the Republican Party's subcommittee for national security and foreign policy when George W Bush ran for president in 2000, has signed on as chairman.

Other officers include Gary Schmitt, PNAC's executive director, and Julie Finley, a prominent Republican fundraiser who worked with Jackson when he served as president of the US Committee to Expand NATO, as well as former secretary of state George Shultz, who strongly supports ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein through US unilateral action, if necessary.

Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey and retired General Wayne Downing, a former INC lobbyist who worked on Bush's National Security Council as its top counter-terrorism official until abruptly resigning last summer, have also agreed to serve as advisers.

Aside from its close association with PNAC (whose website is one of only two links featured on its website - www.liberationiraq.org), the new committee appears to be based on a model that came to prominence before the previous Gulf War in 1991.

The Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG), whose membership was drawn from a similar mix of prominent neo-conservatives and other right-wing hawks, worked closely with both Bush Senior's administration and a second group financed by the Kuwaiti monarchy, called Citizens for a Free Kuwait.

CPSG received a large grant from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a major funder of both the PNAC and the closely related American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

As recently as 1998, the CPSG called in an open letter to then president Bill Clinton for Washington to adopt a "comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime", centered on support for the INC and US air power.

That 1998 letter was signed by many of the charter members of the PNAC, including Rumsfeld, and four of his top deputies at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Dov Zakheim and Peter Rodman. Other signatories included the current ultra-unilateralist undersecretary of state for arms control and international strategy, John Bolton, Schmitt and several AEI "scholars", including the current chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Richard Perle.

The PNAC's two co-founders, William Kristol, editor of Rupert Murdoch's The Weekly Standard, and neo-conservative commentator Robert Kagan, also signed the letter.

In 1999, many of the same figures also created the Balkan Action Committee (BAC) in support of NATO's Kosovo campaign against Serbia. Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Perle all served on BAC's executive committee which, like the CPSG, published open letters to the president and took out ads in major newspapers, like the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The new committee, according to its mission statement, "was formed to promote regional peace, political freedom and international security by replacing the Saddam Hussein regime with a democratic government that respects the rights of the Iraqi people and ceases to threaten the community of nations". It "will engage in educational advocacy efforts to mobilize US and international support for policies aimed at ending the aggression of Saddam Hussein and freeing the Iraqi people from tyranny". Scheunemann told Inter Press Service that the group would concentrate its efforts on the media "both in the US and in Europe".

Jackson's position as the committee's chairman is notable because senior executives in the defense industry have generally shunned the limelight, particularly in citizens' or lobby groups that promote wars, lest they be painted by the media as "merchants of death". A former military intelligence officer in the US Army, Jackson worked in the office of both Frank Carlucci and Dick Cheney when they served as defense secretaries under former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. After a brief stint as an investment banker for Lehman Brothers in New York, he joined the defense industry, rising to his current post as vice president for strategy and planning at Lockheed Martin.

An outspoken champion of Taiwan, Jackson came to public prominence as head of the US Committee to Expand NATO, which lobbied Congress in favor of the greatest possible eastward expansion of new NATO members, a lucrative new market for major arms sales for Lockheed Martin, as well as five other big US military contractors.

Working with him was Steve Hadley, an assistant secretary of defense under Bush Sr and currently George W Bush's deputy national security adviser. At the time, Hadley worked for Shea and Gardner, a law firm that represents Lockheed Martin. More recently, the PNAC's deputy director, Tom Donnelly, joined Lockheed Martin, but was then assigned to the AEI, where he reportedly works with Perle.

(Inter Press Service)
 
Nov 6, 2002



'P2OG' allows Pentagon to fight dirty (Nov 5, '02)

The case against preemption (Oct 9, '02) 

Iraq: Use of force is unavoidable (Oct 5, '02)

 

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