By Meteor Blades
When choosing who among the neo-conservative imperialists has most completely adopted the politics of Darth Vader, Michael Ledeen surely must rank near the top. Among those without a sense of history, Ledeen is probably best known for his columns at National Review Online in which he repeats his signature “Faster, please” regarding what he believes is the sine qua non of the “war on terror,” regime change in Tehran brought about by intensive and extensive U.S. assistance to internal and exiled Iranian resistance groups.
In the late 1970s, Ledeen had connections to ultra-rightists in the Italian intelligence services (SISMI) at a time when neo-fascists were engaged in what amounted to a terrorist war in Italy.
In the 1980s, he was a go-between for dealings between the Reagan Administration and Iran arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar in what would come to be known as the Iran-contra affair.
In December 2001, he arranged a meeting in Rome among members of SISMI, Ghorbanifar and U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency officials, including Larry Franklin, who worked at Donald Rumsfeld’s Office of Special Plans and was sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison earlier this year for passing secrets to Israel. Ledeen was a consultant for Douglas Feith, another NeoImp who ran the OSP. Vincent Cannistraro, former head of counterterrorism operations at the CIA, and former CIA counter-terrorism officer Philip Giraldi, have both strongly implicated Ledeen in the forgeries of documents designed to show Saddam Hussein had attempted to buy “yellowcake” uranium from Niger, which Ledeen has hotly denied. You can read more in Craig Unger’s lengthy article in Vanity Fair, a piece which Ledeen has even more hotly denied.
That list barely scratches the surface. If you're really interested in Ledeen's thought processes, you might want to check out my blogmate emptywheel's take in Michael Ledeen's Wilderness of Mirrors.
Now, Ledeen has joined the growing parade of NeoImps who have sought one way or another to dissociate themselves from the war on Iraq, some even going so far as to say they wouldn’t have supported it knowing what they know now. But Ledeen goes a good deal further.
My experience with Vanity Fair is even more extensive than David Frum’s, having been the subject of a 30,000 word screed that ends with the author's bland confession "there is no evidence for any of this." So I am not at all surprised to see the editors yank words from me, David, and others out of context and totally misdescribe what we think, do and feel. I do not feel "remorseful," since I had and have no involvement with our Iraq policy. I opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place and I advocated—as I still do—support for political revolution in Iran as the logical and necessary first step in the war against the terror masters. …
So it is totally misleading for Vanity Fair to suggest that I have had second thoughts about our Iraq policy. But then one shouldn't be surprised. No one ever bothered to check any of the lies in the first screed, and obviously no fact-checker was involved in the latest "promotion." [My emphasis - MB]
Just one problem, as Mona says: Ledeen wrote a column in August 2002, Scowcroft Strikes Out, in which he does support the invasion.
Even more telling is an August 2002 interview with the execrable FrontPageMag.com (which I will not directly link, but you can read in its entirety at [frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=2325]).
The interview was conducted by Jamie Glazov. I have excised comments from the other participants: Vladimir Bukovsky, Richard Pipes and Fred Barnes.
Question #1: Gentlemen, should we go to war against Iraq?
Ledeen: We have been at war with Iraq for years, since we performed victory interruptus at the end of the Gulf War phase. Iraq has attempted to assassinate a former American president, broken the agreement to permit international inspectors, aided anti-American terrorists both internationally and within the United States, and called for anti-American jihad with monotonous regularity. The only question is whether or not we’re prepared to finally wage the war in such a way as to win it.
Question #2: Okay, well if we are all so certain about the dire need to invade Iraq, then when do we do so?
Question #3: Aside from the "invasion idea," does the State Deptartment's idea of a coup make any sense?
Ledeen: The idea of a coup is very bad because we want to change the regime, not replace the tyrant. We want a freer Iraq, not merely to topple one military despot and install a successor.
Question #4: The impression appears to be that the American government is very isolated in its fear of Saddam getting his hands on nuclear weapons? Why is this?
Ledeen: We’re not isolated. Allied governments are reluctant to publicly announce their support until and unless they see we are serious. Once that happens they will be begging to participate. Or do you think they really want to be locked out of the oil market?
Questions # 5, #6, #7:
No reply from Ledeen.
Question #8: Let us suppose that, for one reason or another, the U.S. suddenly becomes afraid to act and does not invade Iraq. What are the consequences?
Ledeen: If we don't remove Saddam, we will not only encourage him to use his most terrible weapons, first against Israel and then against us, but also encourage the entire terror network and the other "terror masters," Syria and Iran. Finally, it will strengthen the radical wing of the Saudi royal family, which will in turn reinforce the ideological assembly line of terrorists: the worldwide network of radical schools and mosques funded by the Saudis.
Question #9: I know we have all gone over this a thousand times, and at the risk of repeating a broken record, let me ask this one more time: was it a mistake not to take Saddam out in the Gulf War? Part of the wisdom not to have unseated him was, apparently, the philosophy of the evil we know is better than the evil we don’t know. In other words, maybe some fanatical Islamo-Fascists might have replaced him. There was also the fear of igniting mass hatred from the Arab world. Do these considerations matter anymore in the context of the upcoming war?
Ledeen: Yes we should have removed Saddam in '91, only the 41 loyalists and assorted fools think otherwise.
Question #10: Let’s put Saddam aside for a moment. Personally, I am very pessimistic about the West’s ability to defeat this new threat in militant and radical Islam. I think that the Soviet and Fascist threats were easier to deal with. In the end, I fear that the radical Muslims, especially in the Arab world, will always stick together, and we will be dealing with millions upon millions of religious fanatics who not only seek our death, but also their own. How can we be confident in facing Islamic messianism? I don’t think we’ve ever seen a threat like this and I doubt that our Western democracies have the resolve or capability to defeat it. Please tell me I am wrong.
Ledeen: Yes of course we're going to win, and we're going to remove the tyrannies in Iran and Syria, and either Saudi Arabia is going to change their policies — shutting down the radical schools and mosques — or we will have to go after them as well. Remember there are lots of overqualified unemployed Hashemites nowadays. You don't believe we will win because you haven't studied our history. If it were Europe you might be right; Europe is ready to surrender to anyone. They tried hard to surrender to the Soviet Union but it just didn't work out for them, poor things. But we are talking about America, and Americans love to fight and love to win.
No reply from Ledeen.
Question #12: I would not be content with just a war against Iraq. The bottom line is that, notwithstanding how many Westerners want to keep their head buried in the sand, we are at war. And we are at war with radical Islam — with which Hussein has been complicit in launching terrorism against the West. We have to hit them before they hit us. So we have to go after the others once we finish off Iraq. Can we agree on who the others are?
Ledeen: As for radical Islam, I think you'll find them less vigorous and less united once we've smashed them. But we're taking too long, that's the main problem these days.
“But then one shouldn’t be surprised. No one ever bothered to check any of the lies” in Ledeen’s vitriolic claim at NRO. Five minutes on that modern invention called Google was all it took.