I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What do National Review, Rich Lowry, and the AEI have to say about Michael Ledeen's lie?

(Updated below - Update II - Update III with Ledeen's "response" - Update IV)

I want to return to the point I raised yesterday about Michael Ledeen -- as first noticed by Mona at Inactivist -- because I think it merits much more attention, and is reflective of several important points. Michael Ledeen -- a so-called "Freedom Scholar" at the warmongering American Enterprise Institute and a Contributing Editor of National Review -- is one of the neocons included in the much-discussed Vanity Fair article publicized yesterday. That article reported that numerous leading neocons have now turned on the Iraq war by heaping all the blame on the President, Don Rumsfeld, and in essence, everyone else but themselves.

Several of the neocons -- including Richard Perle, David Frum, Michael Rubin and Ledeen -- petulantly complained yesterday that the VF press release publicizing the article mischaracterized their views, took them out of context, etc. etc. But in National Review, Ledeen went further than that. Much further.

In contesting the accuracy of the VF article, Ledeen not only denied that he ever supported the invasion of Iraq, but further, he affirmatively claimed that he opposed the invasion. And that is just an outright lie. Here is part of what Ledeen wrote yesterday at NRO's Corner (I encourage anyone to read the full comment to see the context, which makes this even more incriminating, not less):

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.

That is about as unambiguous a claim as it gets. Leeden states that he "opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place." Therefore, he argues, he cannot be fairly used by VF as an example of a neocon who has recently abandoned the war because, Ledeen claims, he was anti-war from the start.

But as Mona pointed out last night, Ledeen wrote a scathing August, 2002 article in National Review, the sole purpose of which was to argue for what he called "the desperately-needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein and the rest of the terror masters." To support the invasion, Ledeen claimed "that Saddam is actively supporting al Qaeda, and Abu Nidal, and Hezbollah."

Ledeen's pro-invasion article in NR was written in response to a television appearance two days earlier on Face the Nation by Brent Scowcroft, the former National Security Advisor for George Bush 41. Scowcroft is one of the most despised figures for neocons -- because he insists that reality ought to be taken into account when formulating foreign policy and because they blame him for not toppling Saddam back in 1991 -- and his vocal opposition back then to the invasion of Iraq was seen by neocons as a real threat, because many speculated that Scowcroft was communicating the views of Bush 41 and his close circle.

On Face the Nation, Scowcroft argued vehemently against invading Iraq:

It’s a matter of setting your priorities. There’s no question that Saddam is a problem. He has already launched two wars and spent all the resources he can working on his military. But the President has announced that terrorism is our number one focus. Saddam is a problem, but he’s not a problem because of terrorism. . . .

If you look – let's suppose, for example, we're all ready and we launch an attack on Saddam Hussein tomorrow. It will be tough. It will not be a cakewalk. But can we take him out? Yes, we can take him out. Now what would the world – or what would the region look like if we did that right now?

And to attack Iraq while the Middle East is in the terror that it is right now and America appears not to be dealing with something which to every Muslim is a real problem but instead go over here I think could turn the whole region into a cauldron...

Ledeen's entire article in NR was to attack Scowcroft's public argument against invading Iraq, and this is what Ledeen said:

It's always reassuring to hear Brent Scowcroft attack one's cherished convictions; it makes one cherish them all the more. . . .

So it's good news when Scowcroft comes out against the desperately-needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein and the rest of the terror masters. As usual, Scowcroft has it backwards: He's still pushing Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdullah's line that you've just got to deal with the Palestinian question. Blessedly, President Bush knows by now that the Palestinian question can only be addressed effectively once the war against Saddam and his ilk has been won. And then Scowcroft says "Saddam is a problem, but he's not a problem because of terrorism."

This is the head of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Commission? Doesn't he read the newspapers? He doesn't seem to realize that Saddam is actively supporting al Qaeda, and Abu Nidal, and Hezbollah.

However, nobody is perfect, and Scowcroft has managed to get one thing half right, even though he misdescribes it. He fears that if we attack Iraq "I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a caldron and destroy the War on Terror."

One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to indoctrinate young terrorists.

This article is as unambiguous as it is vile (what kind of person hopes that an entire region of the world turns into a "cauldron" -- but leave that to the side for now, because the focus here is Ledeen's lying, not the depraved nature of his views). The whole point of Ledeen's article is to mock Scowcroft for opposing the invasion of Iraq and to argue why the invasion is, as Ledeen put it, "desperately-needed and long overdue." Ledeen even calls the invasion of Iraq one of his "cherished convictions."

Following up on mine and Mona's post from last night about Ledeen's lie, Meteor Blades over at Daily Kos found an August, 2002 interview Ledeen gave to Jamie Glazov at David Horowitz's Front Page. Ledeen was part of a panel of other war-mongers such as Richard Pipes and Fred Barnes, and he repeatedly and umambiguously argued in favor of invading Iraq. Meteor Blades excerpted many of the relevant examples, but here is just one sample:

Question #2: Okay, well if we are all so certain about the dire need to invade Iraq, then when do we do so?

Ledeen: Yesterday.

For Ledeen to now deny in National Review that he ever supported the invasion of Iraq -- and, more astoundingly, to affirmatively claim that he "opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place" -- is outright lying, and there is no other way to put it. And the lie has to be deliberate -- what other explanation is possible? Ledeen exists in the most extreme warmongering habitats -- the AEI and National Review. The invasion of Iraq was sort of an important topic in those places over the last four years at least. I think Ledeen knows what his views of the war were.

I don't think any sentient human being will believe that Ledeen forgot that he was a proponent of this invasion. It is clear that he simply wants to disassociate himself from the worst strategic disaster made by our country in a long time, if not ever, by lying about his support for it. He's trying to preserve his credibility in order to enable himself, NR, and the AEI to continue to drive our country's foreign policy -- particularly the additional regime change adventures they want in many more countries -- and it is intolerable for this to be permitted.

There are several implications here. First, I think it is quite telling that one of the most vocal and revered warmongers in our country -- at least revered by Bush-worshipping, warmongering institutions like AEI and NR -- is so ashamed of the war in Iraq that he has taken to outright lying about having supported it. That is a powerful reflection of what this war has become.

Second, doesn't Rich Lowry, the Editor of NR, have an obligation -- at the very least -- to print a retraction or correction of Ledeen's lie? And are NR's journalistic standards so low or non-existent that they would continue to allow someone like Ledeen, who blatantly lies about such a critical issue, to continue to write for them? You can (and, I think, should) ask Lowry about that by e-mailing him here, and it be worth doing the same to Kathryn Jean Lopez, whom I believe has some editorial responsibility for The Corner. You can e-mail her here.

Third, the AEI ought to explain why one of its "Freedom scholars," who specializes in Middle East policy, is lying about the public advocacy he engaged in with regard to the invasion of Iraq. The contact page for AEI is here. Veronique Rodman of the AEI can be e-mailed here and Andrew Levy can be reached here.

The AEI is one of the most dangerous organizations in this country and Ledeen (as Marcy Wheeler, among many others, has amply documented) is one of its most extremist and dangerous "scholars," especially now that the next target on the neocon Dream List is Iran. Ledeen is literally obsessed with changing the governments in a whole host of countries that are hostile to Israel and/or the U.S., most particularly Iran. And the kind of dishonesty that is so glaring in this one instance is par for the course in how he and his fellow neocon warmongers argue and advocate.

It's just not usually as easily demonstrable as it is in this case. For that reason, I think it would be very valuable to expose Ledeen's dishonesty -- and particularly to emphasize that his lies are in the service of his efforts to hide what he quite revealingly believes is the shameful fact that he supported the war in Iraq.

People are entitled to express a wide range of opinions and to be forgiven for being wrong sometimes. We are all wrong sometimes. But the type of dishonesty and willingness to say anything, no matter how false, that is evident in Ledeen's efforts to save himself has become so pervasive and acceptable at the highest levels of our government and pundit class, and it has completely destroyed the quality and value of political debate in our country. Nobody is entitled to do that, and it's difficult to think of a more important priority than re-establishing the most minimal standards of honesty in our political discourse. That begins by making liars like Ledeen have some accountability and consequences for their lies.

UPDATE: As Greg Djerejian points out via e-mail, Ledeen also wrote a September, 2002 Op-Ed for The Wall St. Journal in which he said, among other things:

Saddam Hussein is a terrible evil, and President Bush is entirely right in vowing to end his reign of terror . . . . If we come to Baghdad, Damascus and Tehran as liberators, we can expect overwhelming popular support. They will join us if they believe we are serious, and they will only believe we are serious when they see us winning. Our first move must therefore show both our power and our liberating intent. . . . .

And just as a successful democratic revolution in Iran would inspire the Iraqis to join us to remove Saddam, it is impossible to imagine that the Iranian people would tolerate tyranny in their own country once freedom had come to Iraq. Syria would follow in short order.

Like all of his neoconservative comrades, Ledeen was wrong about everything. Much worse, rather than acknowledge it, he is now outright lying about what he advocated.

UPDATE II: I doubt I need to say this, but I really urge you to make whatever e-mails you send to Lowry, Lopez and AEI civil and substantive. As Norwester's email reflects, the objective should be to prompt a response from them and action on their part, not to heap abuse on them (regardless of whether it is well-deserved).

UPDATE III: Michael Ledeen pretends to "respond" to these accusations with this item he just posted in the Corner, in which he says that "the usual suspects are up in arms that I am a 'liar' . . . ." His response is as barren as his integrity is:

First, with gross dishonesty (not to mention in violation of the most basic blogosphere practices for ethical debates), Ledeen does not link to either my post, the post at Kos from Meteor Blades, or Mona's post -- in fact, when referring to the "usual suspects" who are accusing him of lying, he doesn't link to anyone's argument. As a result, and as was likely intended, those reading what he wrote at National Review have no access to the evidence against him and therefore no way to assess the truth or persuasiveness of those accusations or of Ledeen's response to them. By doing that, he can ignore all of the incriminating evidence against him (as he does) and just lie about what the evidence is (as he also does).

If Ledeen thinks that the evidence against him is unpersuasive, why doesn't he let NRO readers see it by linking to it? I linked to his original comment, his past articles, and his "response" today precisely because I want everyone to see them.

Second, Ledeen simply ignores all of the evidence which conclusively demonstrates that he lied when he claimed yesterday that he opposed the invasion of Iraq. How can Ledeen possibly reconcile that claim with this:

Question #2: Okay, well if we are all so certain about the dire need to invade Iraq, then when do we do so?

Ledeen: Yesterday.

Anyone who said that, and now claims to have opposed the invasion of Iraq, is outright lying, by definition. Why can't Ledeen just admit that?

Third, Ledeen quotes a long passage from his 2002 book in which he advocates undermining Saddam's regime with a combination of military maneuvers (create "no trespassing zones" in the North and South) and all sorts of political acts to destabilize the regime. But so what? None of that even arguably constitutes his having "opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place," and Ledeen expressly advocated that invasion in several quite public venues after publication of that passage.

This behavior really is pathological and even infantile. What kind of person just outright lies like this and then lies more in order to cover it up? Is Rich Lowry now convinced that Ledeen's original claim to have opposed the invasion -- which he is re-affirming with this new post -- meets National Review's journalistic "standards"?

People like Ledeen simply can't accept responsibility for anything they do or say, and above all, they can never acknowledge an error or mistake. They are single-minded fundamentalists who believe that they have such a monopoly on what is Good and Right that anything they do -- up to and including blatantly lying and then refusing to admit it when they are caught red-handed -- is justified by the overarching importance of their crusades.

UPDATE IV: Jonathan Schwarz uses Nexis to document still more pro-invasion statements from that self-proclaimed anti-war activist Michael Ledeen. His continued insistence that he opposed the war -- and Rich Lowry's silence and failure (at least thus far) to print a retraction or correction -- is just inexcusable.

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