Neoconservatism: A Brief Tour, With Paranoid Fumes

Let’s talk about the neoconservative network, and make a few connections, then a theoretical leap. Start at the top. Lately Vanity Fair has reported that Vice President Dick Cheney travels everywhere with a biological and chemical suit. No more specifics than that. It’s not like Cheney invited VF into his closet. (He’s more closeted than his daughter.)

The bio-suit is consistent with the belief that Cheney is “paranoid,” the assessment of Col. Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, a month back, at the Middle East Institute. Wilkerson said that after 9/11, Cheney changed profoundly. It was like he went into his room and threw away the key.

The bio-suit also brings us to—

Bruce Kovner, the neocon and hedge fund king who is chairman of the American Enterprise Institute. In renovations at Kovner’s new mansion on Fifth Avenue and 94th, he ordered the installation of a leadlined study. Called a CBR room (I reported last year in New York Magazine). Chemical/Biological/Radiation.

It makes sense that Kovner would want to survive a nuclear blast with Cheney. They’re said to be friendly. Cheney was on the board of the AEI for years, and his wife Lynne, last time I looked, was still a research fellow. Not that Kovner ever agrees to an interview. We have very little idea what he is thinking. Though it’s evident that he gives scads of money to AEI, and manages their rather large portfolio. About $40 million last time I looked (courtesy of Guidestar.org).

More connections.

AEI fuels the thinking of the Bush administration. Bush has said as much in a speech at AEI: you gave me more brains than anyone. Not that we would ever know who pays for this. The government does not require the nonprofit thinktanks huddled a few steps from the White House to report their backers. Grant Smith, the eminent director of the realist thinktank IRMEP, the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, rose at an AEI event to ask AEI’s president, Christopher DeMuth, how much money the thinktank gets from military contractors. “DeMuth wouldn’t answer the question [beyond saying that the amount was “small”],” Smith says. “But what is the money, what is the nexus? Considering the access to media that thinktank funding gives these people—donors need to be exposed and what is being accomplished needs to be exposed.”

Not that DeMuth will be interviewed. He turned me down last year.

I know of one person who gives money to AEI, besides Kovner. That is Irving Moskowitz. He is a California doctor, the son of Polish immigrants, who has actively supported the colonization of the West Bank in Israel by religious “settlers.” Judging from the endorsements on foundation’s website, Moskowitz believes that the ancient lands of Judea and Samaria belong to Israel. He is opposed to the peace process, reports Jim Lobe of Inter Press.

We know that Moskowitz gives money to AEI because David Wurmser, a neocon ideologue, thanks Moskowitz in his 1999 book on Saddam: Tyranny’s Ally. “A note of thanks is also in order for Irving Moskowitz, a gentle man whose generous support of AEI allows me to be here,” Wurmser writes.

Wurmser works for Cheney. In fact, he was one of the guys got us into the Iraq war by dispensing with the advice of the CIA or the State Department, saying they were appeasing dictators. He is married to another neocon, who is said to be Israeli. You’d have to say that Wurmser is an extremist. In his book, he says we should forget about the peace process in Israel/Palestine and go after the real problem in the Middle East, Arab nationalism and anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. I.e., change the regimes. He thinks that Arab nationalists are evil neo-Nazis whose roots are in “dark European politics,” while Israel is a righteous democracy. “The defeat of communism was the second great blow [to Arab nationalism]; the first was the downfall of its Nazi model in World War II. Those victories, complemented regionally by those of Israel…” The clear implication of his book is the “Move-over-one” strategy for peace in the Mideast. Give the Hashemites of Jordan Iraq, let the Palestinians have Jordan. Israel gets the West Bank.

Wurmser is by latest account Dick Cheney’s adviser on the Middle East. That gets us back to the beginning, the top.

This is not about a conspiracy. It’s about groupthink: a group of smart people who have fervent ideas that they have nursed down through the years and discussed among themselves, convincing themselves of their correctness. But their inability openly to discuss these ideas suggests that their ideas are hardened, and not ready for primetime. That ordinary people wouldn’t agree with them, if they put their ideas out there. We wouldn’t understand. Which is why we got Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Al-Qaeda link—lies, to hide the agenda, of transforming the politics of the Mideast, beginning with Baghdad.

When you’re as closeted as these folks are, there is inevitably a strong smell of paranoia around them. Not that the Vice President, a private man, and maybe the most powerful decider we have, has given the American people any idea what he’s really thinking. Or what his suit looks like.