All the Vice President’s Men
My article on the Neoconservatives running Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney’s foreign policy shop is out today in Salon.com.
All the vice president’s men
The ideologues in Cheney’s inner circle drummed up a war. Now their zealotry is blowing up in their faces.
By Juan Cole
Oct. 28, 2005 | As Washington waits on pins and needles to see if special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald hands down indictments, the focus falls on Dick Cheney’s inner circle. This group, along with that surrounding Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made up what Colin Powell’s top aide, Lawrence Wilkerson, called “a cabal” that “on critical issues … made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.” Cheney is the first vice president to have had, in effect, his own personal National Security Council. This formidable and unprecedented rump foreign policy team, composed of radical hawks, played a key role in every aspect of the war on Iraq: planning for it, gathering “evidence” to justify it and punishing those who spoke out against it. It is not surprising that members of that team, and Cheney himself, have now also emerged as targets in Fitzgerald’s investigation of the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson to the press, along with Bush advisor Karl Rove . . .
“Cheney Assembles Formidable Team,” marveled a Page One article in the Feb. 3, 2001, edition of the New York Times. It turns out that Cheney had 15 military and political advisors on foreign affairs, at a time when the president’s own National Security Council was being downsized. The number of aides who counseled Cheney on domestic issues was much smaller. In contrast, Al Gore had been advised by a single staffer on security affairs.
The leader of the team was Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff. Libby had studied at Yale with Paul Wolfowitz, who brought him to Washington. He co-authored a hawkish policy document with Wolfowitz in the Department of Defense for its head, Dick Cheney, after the Gulf War in 1992. When it was leaked, it embarrassed the first President Bush. Libby was a founding member of the Project for a New American Century in 1997 during the Clinton years, when many neoconservatives were out of office. The PNAC attempted to use the Republican-dominated Congress to pressure Clinton to take a more belligerent stance toward Iraq, and it advocated significantly expanding military spending and using U.S. troops as “gendarmes” in the aftermath of wars to “shape” the international security environment . . .