The Cheney Gang
It has been reliably reported that during Jordanian King Abdallah’s visit to Washington last week, his delegation urged officials of the Bush Administration to take every available step to strengthen President Abbas’ political standing in the post-election Palestinian political environment. The State Department and the NSC were receptive to this argument, but aides to Vice President Cheney took the opposite position. Cheney’s national security advisor, John P. Hannah, noted that President Abbas had been weak and ineffective in the past, and expressed the view Abbas could not serve as a useful counterweight to extremists in a government dominated by Hamas. Hannah said that if President Abbas remains Palestine’s face to the Western world, this would only serve to obscure (but thereby effectively to legitimize) the real political control exercised by Hamas. Thus, argued Mr. Hannah, the United States should refrain from any actions that had the effect of propping up President Mahmoud Abbas and prolonging his tenure. Let Hamas stand alone and take full responsibility for its own humiliating failure. If chaos was the end result, so be it. A valuable object lesson would have been taught to the Arab and Muslim worlds --- and Israel would be left more secure than ever.
It is urgently necessary to question why John Hannah would today be advocating a policy of weakening those very Palestinian elements whom the United States Government in the past has supported and encouraged as reasonable and moderate alternatives to those who advocate the destruction of the Jewish state. To borrow a favorite expression of Donald Rumsfeld’s, it is simply ”counter-intuitive” that he would do so --- an assessment strengthened today by urgent denials from Washington that the U.S. and Israel are, as reported by the New York Times yesterday, plotting to undermine and destabilize the Palestinian Authority with the intent of negating the results of the recent democratic elections. One can only conclude that President Cheney’s senior national security adviser is pursuing his own private foreign policy objectives independent of the White House and the Department of State, and in fact wants to see the institutions of government fail and collapse in Palestine. I can see no other explanation for his strong advocacy of policies that clearly have that objective.
So, we must ask ourselves where John Hannah gets his foreign policy guidance and inspiration. His professional career offers some clues:
1. He was once a research fellow and then Deputy Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
2. Before becoming Deputy Assistant and then Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs, starting in March 2001, Mr. Hannah served as an aide to John Bolton in the Office of Arms Control and Disarmament at the State Department;
3. In October 2005, it was widely reported in the media that Hannah was under investigation by U.S. authorities for his alleged activities in an intelligence program run by the controversial Iraqi National Congress (INC) and its leader, Ahmed Chalabi. According to a Newsweek article, a memo written for the Iraq National Congress (INC) raised questions regarding Vice President Cheney’s role in the build-up to the war in Iraq. During that period, Newsweek has reported, the INC was providing intelligence on the now discredited Iraqi WMD program through Hannah and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff.
4. When he was promoted to the top position as Cheney’s national security adviser, Hannah’s place as the principal advisor on Middle East matters was given to David Wormser, former Director of Middle East studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
5. David Wormser was one of the authors of a paper prepared in 1996 for incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entitled “A Clean Break”. The report was prepared within the Jerusalem-based Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies by a small clique of American neo-conservative ideologues on behalf of the right-wing Israeli Likud Party . They called themselves “The Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000”, which advocates a ruthlessly aggressive and uncompromising set of policies in pursuit of Israel's most extreme national security objectives. Other familiar names among this elite coterie included Richard Perle, then with the American Enterprise Institute but later Chairman (now just a member) of the Defense Policy Board that advises Donald Rumsfeld; Douglas Feith, then a lawyer in Washington but later to become Rumsfeld’s Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the number three civilian in the Pentagon; and Meyrav Wormser, wife of David Wormser, who has devoted much of her career to denigrating the legitimacy and credibility of the Palestinian Authority. She was the co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), whose principal aim, by Ms. Wormser’s own description, was to denigrate and de-legitimize the Palestinian Authority as a potential partner in any peace process.
Today, contemporary events have strengthened the perception that the Office of the Vice President of the United Stateas operates with virtual autonomy from that of President Bush, as much so in the area of foreign policy as in domestic affairs. Under the guidance of individuals like those described above, it is not beyond reason to conclude that initiatives concerning American policy in the Middle East are being pursued by Cheney’s personal staff --- reflecting private agendas not necessarily in full coordination with the national policies formulated by the NSC and the State Department.
(Although, come to think of it, who is running Middle East policy at the White House (NSC) but Elliott Abrams, who began public life in the mid-1970’s as a colleague of none other than fellow neo-cons Richard Perle and Douglas Feith on the personal staff of Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson? And who holds the key job as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State For Near East Affairs and Coordinator for Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiatives”? None other than Elizabeth Cheney, eldest daughter of Vice President Richard Cheney.)
There is a suspicion, shared by many loyal Israelis and far-sighted American Jews, that the extreme right wing in Israel today, whose strategy has always been the total destruction of any effective Palestinian national movement, is now becoming aware that the majority of Israeli citizens are prepared to try a course of compromise (aimed at total separation from the Palestinian population) in order to attain permanent peace and security. To discourage such conciliatory notions, and to sustain support for their more aggressive and expansionist ambitions, the hard-liners are therefore determined to prove, once and for all, that no Palestinian leadership could ever establish a stable government and become a trustworthy "partner for peace". Hence they secretly wish for the abysmal failure of the democratic experiment in Palestine, but are afraid to admit that this is their true objective. What better course than to rely upon well-placed "agents of influence" in the United States to ensure that American policy serves their purposes? Both Israel and the Bush Administration have issued urgent denials that destabilization of the Palestinian government has been the common objective of joint covert action planning between them, but that sounds suspiciously disingenuous to me. What other explanatiuon can there be for John Hannah's "counter-intuitive" actions last week?