Neocons Tiptoe Away From Iraq

One of the planners of the Iraq war, Michael Rubin, has written a piece for National Review about a March trip to Iceland during which demonstrators assailed him for “war crimes.” Rubin is upset about this, saying that it reflects a trend to try to criminalize open debate about issues.

The interesting thing about his article is that&#151whether or not pushing this deluded, irresponsible and disastrous war was a crime under international law; and I doubt it was—Rubin is now tiptoeing away from any responsibility for the thing. He characterizes his prewar position as “advocating for Iraqi liberation,” as though he were just a columnist. He says that, “like thousands of others,” he worked at the Pentagon and volunteered to serve in Iraq. As though he were a soldier. In fact, Rubin (whose expertise is his considerable scholarship on Iran) was a policy-maker. Per the AEI website, he was an assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense on Iran-Iraq and a political adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

Something else he doesn’t mention in his article is that per the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik,the Embassy presented Rubin’s lectures there. The website offers the titles of these lectures as: “Explaining U. S. Policy in the Middle East” “Iraq Complexities” and, invitation only, “Are We Playing for Keeps in Iraq?”

Why shouldn’t he be held responsible by demonstrators for the mess the U.S. has created in the Arab world?

No, Rubin is tiptoeing. In a recent article in the Yale Daily News, he says: “Bush criticism may be trendy and perhaps even valid.” Huh. Please elaborate, former Bushite.

While I’m on the subject, another thing that Rubin is disingenuous about is support for Israel. The demonstrators made a point of this, and Rubin responded: “I am also a big supporter of India, Turkey, Taiwan, Mali, and other democracies.” But Israel obviously has a special place in Rubin’s worldview. Why else did he lead a talk at the AEI last year on Israel’s Borders which sought to push the rightwing argument in Washington that Israel would have to continue to occupy portions of the West Bank to protect itself from Arab mortars. Richard Perle, another neocon planner of the war in Iraq, was on the panel (as was Dore Gold, former Likudnik ambassador), and he noted that his argument for the wider borders goes back to his days with Henry “Scoop” Jackson in the 70s, whose great issue you may remember was freeing Jews from the Soviet Union. In The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy, Murray Friedman, a neocon sympathizer, states that concern for Jews and Israel helped to drive the neoconservative agenda, then in its swaddling clothes. These concerns still drive neocon thinking. But Rubin is clearly defensive about the charge that there is a rightwing Israel interest in the Iraq war. Changing the subject to Mali is not very convincing.

P.S. Speaking of neocons jumping ship, I’ve long wanted to blog this outrageous statement by Richard Perle a year ago to the House Armed Services Committee, explaining the problems post-invasion in Iraq:

There is reason to believe that we were sucked into an ill-conceived initial attack aimed at Saddam himself by double agents planted by the regime.

Double agents at the Pentagon!? Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank is the only journalist I’ve seen raise an eyebrow about this statement. Just who planned this invasion? And did they have all their marbles?