“The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence of the Military-Industrial Complex [MIC] — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.” President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address, January 17, 1961.
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Why exactly does the US government go to war with so many of Israel’s enemies? Why has the US destroyed Iraq and half of Syria? The costs were enormous, the results horrible, the rewards imperceptible. The Iraq war not an outlier; it was the second in a long series of US invasions, bombings and destructions of majority-Muslim states. It’s still going on now, with Israel the only obvious beneficiary. How does this happen? Is the Israel lobby that powerful, and even if it is, why has the rest of the US establishment gone along?
The explanation lies in the MIC and a deeply sinister marriage that has grown between them and Israel. Israel’s wars have become major parts of the MIC’s business plan. Every bomb Israel drops; every missile the US fires, every Muslim country the US invades makes money for the MIC. Israel receives over $3 billion in military aid from Washington every year. Most of this money immediately returns to US military corporations to buy weapons. They’re partners.
Where most Americans heard Eisenhower’s speech as a warning, Israeli leaders and their militant American supporters saw an opportunity. By allying with the MIC, this group which became known as the Neoconservatives set out to reshape the world. The Pentagon and military corporations already had powerful lobbying programs in place. But industry lobbying typically takes the form of ‘Buy our product;’ ‘Try this weapon system.’ They didn’t lobby for new wars. Some Israel loyalists realized that if they could provide the wars, the MIC would reap the profits, strengthening Israel in the process.
From the 70s onward, the MIC and the Neoconservatives recognized and built on their mutual interest. The Neocons provided the intellectual and public relations muscle the MIC lacked. It is this alliance of corporations, think tanks, media organizations, and military agencies that pulls the US into war after war, specializing in destroying Israel’s enemies, but by no means limited to them.
The Armchair Warriors’ Club
The group that became the center of neoconservatism started with Jewish intellectuals, many of them followers of Leo Strauss and Albert Wohlstetter at the University of Chicago. Strauss was a philosopher who had escaped the Nazis in 1937 and had observed Stalin’s purges of mostly Jewish Bolsheviks. Wohlstetter was a New York-born researcher who became a leading light at the RAND corporation, consulting with the Pentagon on intelligence and weapons systems. He was a constant advocate for more weaponry and a less conciliatory attitude toward the USSR.
From their beginning, the causes of America and Israel appeared inseparable in Neocon writings. According to former CIA officer Phil Giraldi of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), the neocons have two unshakeable beliefs: “First is their insistence that the United States has the right or even the responsibility to use its military and economic power to reshape the world into terms of its own interests and values…The second principle, inextricably tied to the first, is that Washington must uncritically support Israel no matter what its government does, which makes the defense of all things Israeli an American value.”
Their third core value has been virulent opposition to the Russians (then the Soviets.) According to History Commons, “[In the 1970s] Neocons saw the Soviet Union, not the Israeli-Palestine conflict, as the chief threat to US interests in the Middle East and the control of that region’s oil fields. They see a strong, powerful Israel as essential to their plans for US domination of the region.”
The neocons set out to popularize these ideas among the American people and government. Young disciples of the founders went to work for Senators Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY,) both strongly pro-MIC Democrats. Wohlstetter, with his military connections, helped young neocons Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz get jobs with Jackson, known as the “Senator from Boeing” for his constant advocacy of increased military spending and opposition to nuclear weapons treaties. He was also militantly pro-Israel, sharing all the core neocon foreign policy positions. Perle and Wolfowitz were soon followed by colleagues Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams, and Abram Shulsky.
As Senators Jackson and Moynihan’s leadership shows, neoconservatism is not just a Jewish thing. Researchers Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould wrote on Truthdig “Although clearly acting as a political front for Israel’s interests and an engine for permanent war, neoconservatism would never have succeeded as a political movement without the support and cooperation of powerful non-Jewish elites.” Many neocons have been non-Jewish, and their numbers grow year by year. Secretaries of Defense, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were early adopters, as were UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and by now thousands of others. Neoconservatism has become dominant in the Department of Defense and increasingly at the State Department and CIA and has tremendous influence in Israel and the UK.
Neoconservatism gained this influence through decades of setting up think tanks and commissions and serving on them as “fellows,” “scholars,” and directors. They move between these jobs and positions in the Departments of Defense and State, or in the White House or on Senators’ staffs, or defense corporations, becoming known as “experts.” They write position papers and op-eds; they appear on TV and testify before Congress. They lie. The work constantly to control the narrative.
Early neocon dominated formations were the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), founded in 1976 and the Committee for the Free World (CFW), founded in 1981. Both advocated strenuously for nuclear buildup aimed at the USSR. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, military spending dropped, threatening MIC profits. They needed new enemies to replace the USSR, and Israel was happy to provide theirs, and Neocons set up new formations to target these enemies. Current think tanks founded by the Neocons include:
JINSA, the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs; AEI, the American Enterprise Institute; WINEP the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; FDD. the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a dozen others. These groups collaborate with longer-standing Israel advocacy groups like AIPAC and Stand with Us. They share staff and funders and rent space from each other. One of the most influential, PNAC, the Project for a New American Century met in offices rented from AEI and included at least six men who later served as leaders in the Bush administration as well as Bush’s brother Jeb.
Two Neocon Documents that Exploded World Peace
Neocons created two documents crucial to the endless 21st-century wars. In 1997, neocons meeting with the Jerusalem-based think tank Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies wrote a paper for the Likud Party called A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm. Clean Break proposed that Israel no longer try to make peace with Arab neighbors such as Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, but push them back, destabilize them, and ultimately change their regimes for ones who embraced Israel. The recommendations in Clean Break have largely been carried out using Israeli and American military force.
In 1999, PNAC wrote a similar paper, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources for a New Century, advocating massive growth of the US military budget, seeking the ability to wage multiple simultaneous wars and police actions. Authors Donald Kagan, with former Pentagon consultant Gary Schmitt, and Thomas (now Giselle) Donnelly, a former director at Lockheed Martin, called the paper a “blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.”
Both of these papers turned out Earth-shattering. Where there had been global consensus, at least in word, that aggressive wars and unprovoked attacks were illegal and that conflicts should be resolved diplomatically, the Neocons said that might literally makes right, and invading and occupying countries were legitimate options if no one could stop you. The US Military budget rose from $287 billion in 2001 to $722 billion in 2011. As former Vice-President Al Gore said, “We have replaced a world in which states consider themselves subject to law” with “the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the President of the United States.”
Where international stability had been considered one of the highest goals in foreign affairs, championed even by war criminals like Henry Kissinger, the Neocons promoted chaos and destruction. Neocon Michael Ledeen called for “turning the Middle East into a cauldron.” The Israeli and US governments have adopted these attitudes, and NATO countries have followed to varying degrees. International stability is a thing of the past. This was no small accomplishment. It took years of media manipulation, lies, false flags, and lobbying to do it, starting with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
How to Start a War
Unlike major 20th Century American wars, the invasion of Iraq did not masquerade as defense. There was no Tonkin Gulf Incident, no story of North invading South, no Lusitania sinking, no Pearl Harbor. Without such an excuse, gaining support for an unprovoked war on a country that posed no threat posed a formidable challenge. War advocates, led by neocons in and out of government, came at it from all sides.
The Bush Administration came into power in 2001 fully determined to smash Saddam Hussein. With six PNAC members holding high administrative offices, they had still to win the support of the rest of the government. In 2001, both the CIA and the State Department opposed invading Iraq, as did much of the military, Congress and millions of American people. That resistance had to be overcome.
In Rebuilding America’s Defenses, PNAC had written that, because of public resistance, their plans for expansion and military expression of US hegemony would take a long time “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor”. On Sept. 11, 2001, they got (or created) their Pearl Harbor and swung into action. On September 19, 2001, PNAC sent an open letter to President Bush that called for pushing the war on terror “beyond al Qaeda to Syria, Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestine Authority and Iraq.”
They established the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, founded by PNAC member Bruce Jackson, a former Lockheed Martin Vice-President. CLI promoted the voice of Ahmad Chalabi, founder of a group of exiles known as the Iraqi National Congress, and promoted him as the legitimate ruler of Iraq, though he had no following in-country. Chalabi fabricated stories of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda, which were uncritically accepted and disseminated by British and American media and government officials.
A steady drumbeat of Iraq WMD stories ran in Western media and were widely believed, though all turned out false. Neocons were the source of many of these stories. Donald Rumsfeld had set up the Office of Special Plans (OSP) in the Pentagon to create “intelligence” that better-served war goals than the more accurate intelligence found by the CIA. OSP was a Neocon operation. Michael Ledeen and Doug Feith were employed by OSP when they collaborated with Italian intelligence to pass off forged Italian documents implicating Saddam Hussein in buying uranium in Niger.
The string of WMD lies included ‘Hussein purchasing aluminum tubes’ that were said to be suitable for uranium-enrichment centrifuges. These claims were reported as true in a UK government dossier which was cited by President Bush. Much of the Brits’ information came unedited and unsourced from the Middle East Review of International Affairs, a publication of Barry Rubin, an American-born Israeli neocon who regularly published very questionable intelligence as true.
Older readers might remember the rest of the nonstop campaign. Saddam discriminates against Kurds and Shi’a; Saddam is brutal and corrupt, Saddam is an abuser of women. Saddam is an ally of al-Qaeda and was responsible for 9/11. The Shi’a are rising; the people are fed up. American troops will be greeted as liberators. Nearly all these claims were lies or huge exaggerations, and the Neocons had a lot to do with creating and spreading them.
Eventually, CIA and State were overridden, Congress went along, and the millions marching against the invasion were ignored. The war went forward with the horrific results we have all seen. The Neocon/MIC alliance, no longer faces much resistance from the intelligence agencies. Extreme neocon Mike Pompeo has been head of CIA and is now Secretary of State, and the even more extreme John Bolton is President Trump’s chief foreign policy advisor.
The alliance is now lying the US into attacking Syria and Iran, along with Venezuela, using the same strategy used in Iraq, demonizing a country’s rulers and grossly underestimating the difficulties. After Iran, perhaps Russia? The corporate media present whatever pro-war forces say as facts. No matter how many times their predictions turn out absurdly wrong or their facts are exposed as lies, they keep being hired as commentators, experts, or pundits on corporate media platforms including NPR and PBS. This is true for retired Generals as well as Zionist intellectuals.
Their linked goals of American world dominance, Israeli regional dominance, and MIC profits are moving ahead. The US military and the IDF hold joint military maneuvers. Each new American administration deepens US connection with and support for Israel and its wars. The neocon playbook for regime change is being applied in Latin America as well. What will it take to stop them?