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Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the World at Risk

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As President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney meet with the 9/11 Commission at the White House, we speak with former CIA and State Department analyst Mel Goodman about how the Bush administration is using military force, not diplomacy, as America’s main tool of foreign policy. [includes rush transcript]

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are meeting with the 9/11 Commission today at the White House.

Their words will neither be recorded for history nor broadcast to the nation. The White House is insisting that no recording or transcript be made of their comments and only one member of the 10-person panel will be allowed to take notes. Bush and Cheney, who are not testifying under oath, will also be joined by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and another lawyer from the counsel’s office.

  • Melvin Goodman, former CIA and State Department analyst. He is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and director of the Center’s National Security Project. He is the author of the new book “Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the World at Risk” (Prometheus)

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined in our Washington studio right now by Melvin Goodman. He is a former CIA and State Department analyst, now Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy, and head of the center’s National Security Project. He has just co-written a book called “Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neo-Conservatives are Putting the World at Risk.” With these kinds of stipulations and restrictions on the White House testimony before the 9-11 Commission, I’m surprised the commissioners are allowed to listen, Mel Goodman?

MEL GOODMAN: Well, why did they agree to such an arrangement, that’s what I can’t understand. They had some leverage on the White House because of the support of the families of the people who were lost on 9-11. I think they should have used that leverage. I don’t think they should have been rolled over so easily. Now that they have them, it is going to be difficult to compare the remarks of one to the other with both in the room at the same time. I hope what they do, however, is not dwell so much on 9-11. I think we know what happened at 9-11. We know what a terrible failure it was on the part of the CIA and FBI. And the White House was to a certain extent asleep at the switch as well, but if Bush is going to talk about the need for intelligence reform, I would like to know, does he have any ideas whatsoever about what can be done with the intelligence community. Here is where the center of gravity is for what went wrong on 9-11. Here is where the center of gravity will be for avoiding another terrorist attack and responding in a way that’s more efficient so so many lives are not lost as they were on 9-11. That’s what they have to hear from Bush and Cheney. I don’t think they’re going to be hearing those things.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did they roll over, and what is the role of Phillip Zelikow, the director of the 9-11 commission? We have reported in the past that he is the co-author of a book with Condoleezza Rice. So, they clearly are colleagues and are close.

MEL GOODMAN: Well, he has ties to the first George Bush administration from 1989 to 1992. He has a very close working relationship, professional relationship with Condi Rice. He headed a case study project at Harvard and took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the CIA. He used CIA documentation and produced case studies that exonerated the CIA from any charges of politicization of intelligence, particularly with regard to the Soviet Union. He has generally been an administration voice in all of the matters that he has dealt with, whether they are Democratic or Republican administrations. He didn’t do a very good job in editing the Kennedy tapes, and archivists have been appalled by the work that Earnest Mae, who he named a staff member on the commission and Phillip Zelikow did. Having said that, however, the staff studies that we have seen so far, and there have been about a dozen of them, have not been bad. My problem there is, the print media has done a poor job. Only “The New York Times” has done one article on the staff studies that point to all of the failures. In fact, if you compare the questioners of the commission, which I have done, to the factual content of the staff studies, you have to wonder if the commissioners are even reading the staff studies. Because there’s very good information in there about CIA failure and FBI failure and what went wrong at the Pentagon, and these questions are not being addressed. They spent far more time with Richard Clarke’s credibility, even though Clarke’s charges hold up extremely well on the reduced urgency on the Bush administration with regard to terrorism and the war on Iraq against the diversion against the so-called war against terrorism. So you have to wonder who is dotting i’s and crossing t’s on this commission.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Mel Goodman, in your book, you talk quite a bit about how the Bush administration has radically changed the US foreign policy in the world, actually since World War II. You talk about the policy that emerged from World War II, more emphasis on collective security and more emphasis on diplomacy, and that this has been essentially shattered. Could you talk a little bit about that?

MEL GOODMAN: Yes, Juan, I think there are two fundamental points here. One, what Bush has done is turned upside-down 50 years of bipartisan foreign policy on the part of Democratic and Republican administrations. He has walked away from the international organizations. He has walked away from the United Nations. He has abandoned arms control. He is deploying a national missile defense which is now funded at over $10 billion a year in the current defense budget, which makes it the most expensive weapon system that we have in the defense budget. He has abrogated the anti-ballistic missile treaty, which was the cornerstone to deterrence and arms control. He has walked away from multilateralism and walked away from deterrence and containment. When you look at the war against Iraq, it’s really symptomatic of a larger way of looking at the world that’s putting the United States at a tremendous risk. This was a so-called pre-emptive war. You cannot go to war preemptively unless you have intelligence that gives you the knowledge to go to war. We didn’t have such intelligence. So the White House created it. The CIA tailored it. The other point that is important is Iraq is far worse than Vietnam. In the case of Vietnam, I think Johnson and Nixon realized they were in a mess. They didn’t know how to get out of it, and it took a very long time, but they compartmented Vietnam, and they tried to protect other aspects of American foreign policy. They established an opening to China, and improved relations with the Soviet Union, and they entered into arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, both SALT and ABM. They engaged in incremental and step by step arrangements in the Middle East, even with Syria and Israel, there was one, two with Egypt and Israel. This administration is not doing any of that. They’re not only not compartmenting Iraq, but they’re worsening our relations everywhere around the world, particularly if you look at the press conference between Sharon and Bush that took place in this town two weeks ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Mel Goodman, on that issue of the press conference and Sharon and Bush, what about the issue of assassination? In “Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives are Putting the World at Risk,” you address the issue of Bush lifting the ban on assassination.

MEL GOODMAN: Yeah. This is very dangerous. One thing that took place about a year half ago that we gave very little attention to, was when the CIA was controlling a Predator with a Hellfire missile and blew up a car in the desert in Yemen that supposedly had a driver who was from al-Qaeda. But there was also an American citizen in that car. Four people died in that explosion. You talk about depriving people of due process. This was an American citizen in the car, murdered by the CIA. There was never an investigation. There was never any attempt on the part of the congress to look on this. I think we know now from the Church Commission reports in the mid 1970’s how dangerous it is to turn the CIA loose on this kind of political assassination. What I fear with the combination of preemptive war and attack, military dominance a return to low-yield nuclear weapons, which this administration has endorsed even though the uniformed members of the military want low yield nuclear weapons. They’re dangerous, and you can’t fight on a battlefield where you have low yield weapons and unleashing the CIA. This policy is totally out of control.

AMY GOODMAN: John Negroponte. He looks like he’s about to be confirmed, now US ambassador to the United Nations, more importantly, before that, ambassador to Honduras. We have done a lot on this with people have appealed to him 20 year ago, as Honduras was the staging ground for the illegal Contra War, to deal with the victims in Honduras of a CIA-trained battalion 316. What do you know about this?

MEL GOODMAN: The very simple thing about John Negroponte, that has to be known, is that he was part of the cover-up of the human rights disasters and murders and civil rights abuses that took praise in Honduras during the time that he was ambassador. Part of this was part of the Contra War, but the cover-up is something that never should have been tolerated. So, if you look around the administration and you say Elliot Abrams in the White House who is supposed to be in control of Middle East policy, even though he has no knowledge whatsoever of the Middle East, and if he had not been pardoned, he would have been in jail. Negroponte was involved in a cover-up. John Poindexter, who is no longer in the administration, also had to be pardoned, or he would have been in jail. The abuses of this administration and the politicization of every department and agency of this government is on another scale. That’s why I strongly believe that no president has reduced America’s international stature the way this president has.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Mel Goodman, to return to Iraq for a second. We’re hearing reports now that Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority leaders have begun to meet with a lot of the former Ba’ath party leaders in an effort to find some group within the country that can achieve stability before the June 30 deadline. Any thoughts about that as now even former generals in the Iraqi army and other major leaders are being talked to about coming back into some sort of power.

MEL GOODMAN: The problem with that is it’s probably too late. We’re scrambling once again. It was Bremer who came in to replace General Gardner, who made the decision to let the Iraqi military go, and let the iraqi police go, to let Iraqi law enforcement people go. Don’t deal with the Ba’athists. These were all the people who were responsible for a certain amount of order in the country, in the country of Iraq. To try to patch this together now as Bremer is leaving and Negroponte is coming in to man this huge American embassy that will have more than 1,000 American officials in it, but still not real authority, because the military is still running the country of Iraq, the American military. So, it’s not going to be sovereignty or limited sovereignty for the Iraqis. There’s not going to be real control on the part of the ambassador.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll take on that issue of a little bit of sovereignty with Phyllis Bennis next, who will join us in our Washington studio. Mel Goodman, I want to thank you for being with us. Long-time CIA analyst and now co-author of the book, “Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives are Putting the World at Risk.”

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