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Middle East Loss of Feith in Douglas By Jim Lobe, WASHINGTON - "What's gonna happen with Feith?"

That, in a nutshell, is the question of the month for the Washington cognoscenti trying to figure out whether a major shift in the Bush administration's unilateralist and ultra-hawkish foreign policy is or is not under way.

The reference is to Douglas Feith, the administration's rather obscure but nonetheless strategically placed under secretary of defense for policy, who reports directly to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld.

If the administration is looking for a scapegoat for the situation it faces in Iraq, Feith is the most likely candidate, both because of his relative obscurity compared to other administration hawks and the fact that, of virtually all of them, his ideas - particularly on the Middle East - might be the most radical.

A protege of Richard Perle, the former chairman of Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board (DPB) who stands at the center of the neo-conservative foreign policy network in Washington, Feith has long opposed territorial compromise by Israel.

He was an outspoken foe of the Oslo process and even the Camp David peace agreement mediated by former president Jimmy Carter between Egypt and Israel. His former law partner, L Marc Zell, is a spokesman for the Jewish settlers' movement on the occupied West Bank.

But, more to the point, virtually everything that has gone wrong in Iraq - especially those matters that Congress is either investigating or is poised to probe - is linked directly to his office. "All roads lead to Feith," noted one knowledgeable administration official this week.

His now-defunct Office of Special Plans (OSP) is alleged to have collected - often with the help of the neo-conservatives' favorite Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi - and "cooked" the most alarmist pre-war intelligence against Saddam Hussein and then "stovepiped" it to the White House via Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, unvetted by the intelligence agencies.

It was also his office that was in charge of post-war planning, and rejected the product of months of work by dozens of Iraqi exiles and Mideast experts in the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency who anticipated many of the problems that have wrong-footed the occupation.

The OSP also excluded many top Mideast experts from the State Department from playing any role in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq. And it is Feith's office that, with the CPA, recommended companies for huge, and in some cases no-bid, contracts in Iraq that have amounted, in the eyes of some critical lawmakers, to flagrant profiteering. Among the firms that have profited most are those whose consultants or officers also serve on the Pentagon's DPB, members of which are chosen by Feith.

In a particularly provocative move that raises a host of conflict-of-interest questions, Feith's former partner Zell has set up shop with Chalabi's nephew in Baghdad to help interested companies win contracts for reconstruction projects.

"Until they get rid of Feith, no one is going to believe that the administration is seriously reassessing its policies," one congressional aide whose boss has been a strong critic of Bush's policy in Iraq, told Inter Press Service.

There are hints that Feith has seen his authority dwindle since the first half of October, when National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice announced that she would head a new interagency Iraq Stabilization Group (ISG).

The move appeared designed not only to give the appearance that the White House was taking control of a situation that had contributed to a precipitous decline in Bush's approval ratings, but also to ensure that the Pentagon could no longer simply ignore other bureaucracies, Rice included, as it had for much of the past year.

Creation of the ISG followed growing public criticism, even by otherwise loyal Republican lawmakers, of the administration's failure to anticipate post-war problems. It came soon after the appointment of former US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill - who was Rice's boss on the National Security Council (NSC) in the first Bush administration - to a special, high-ranking NSC post.

Other hints that Feith's and other hawks' grip on policy has been loosened came in the form of a distinct softening of the rhetoric against the other two members of the "axis of evil" - Iran and North Korea. Then, last week, a top Feith aide, former assistant defense secretary for international security policy J D Crouch, abruptly resigned his position without explanation.

There have been unconfirmed reports that top White House officials decided two months ago that Feith had to go, but were then dissuaded by Rumsfeld who argued that his departure would be seen as an admission that things had gone seriously wrong in Iraq. It was in that context, according to these reports, that the administration moved to quietly reduce Feith's authority, in part by creating the ISG.

Like his mentor Perle, Feith has long been a hardliner on foreign policy and arms control. He was an outspoken opponent of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Chemical and Biological Weapons conventions, which he criticized as ineffective and dangerous to US interests.

Among other clients, his law firm represented arms giants Lockheed-Martin and Northrop Grunman.

Also like Perle, Feith has long taken a strong interest in Israel and its security. His father, Dalck Feith, a philanthropist and major Republican contributor from Philadelphia, was active in the militantly Zionist youth movement Betar, the predecessor of Israel's Likud Party, in Poland before World War II.

Both father and son have been honored by the Zionist Organization of America, which, unlike other mainstream Jewish groups in the US, has consistently supported Likud positions and the settlement movement in the occupied territories and actively courted the Christian Right.

Feith also served with Perle on the board of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a think tank that promotes military and strategic ties between the US and Israel.

Feith first entered government as a Middle East specialist on the NSC under Ronald Reagan in 1981, but was abruptly fired after only one year. Perle, who was then serving in the Pentagon as assistant secretary of defense for international security, hired him as his deputy, a post he retained until leaving in 1986 to found Feith & Zell.

Three years later, Feith was retained as a lobbyist by the Turkish government and, in that capacity, worked with Perle to build military ties between Turkey and Israel.

In 1996, he participated in a study group chaired by Perle and sponsored by a right-wing Jerusalem-based think tank that produced a report calling for incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build a strategic alliance with Turkey, Jordan and a new government in Iraq that would transform the balance of power in the Middle East in such a way that Israel could decisively resist pressure to trade "land for peace" with the Palestinians or Syria.

In 1997, he published a lengthy article, "A Strategy for Israel", published in Commentary magazine, where Feith argued that Israel should repudiate the Oslo accords and move to re-occupy those parts of the West Bank and Gaza that had been transferred to the Palestinian Authority.

Two years later, he and Perle signed an open letter to then-president Bill Clinton calling for Washington to work with Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to oust Saddam Hussein.

In May 2000, they signed a report calling for the US to be prepared to attack the Syria militarily unless Damascus failed to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.

(Inter Press Service)

Building a Counter-AIPAC

"Building a Counter-AIPAC"

By Josh Ruebner, co-founder of Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel (JPPI) and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs for Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Henry David Thoreau, arguably the greatest American philosopher and practitioner of nonviolent resistance to injustice, recognized that the U.S. political system is particularly prone to the pernicious influence of foreign interests. In his classic essay, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, Thoreau wrote: "I quarrel not with far-off foes, but with those who, near at home, cooperate with, and do the bidding of those far away, and without whom the latter would be harmless."

Indeed, could there be a more apt definition of the role played by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the rest of the American Jewish community's misrepresentative leadership in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy toward the Israel-Palestine conflict? (Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was fond of declaring that there is a "collective obligation of all national Zionist Organizations to aid the Jewish state under all circumstances and conditions even if such an attitude clashes with their respective national authorities.")

For decades, AIPAC and other neoconservative American Jewish organizations masquerading as mainstream have worked unflaggingly to align U.S. diplomatic, economic and military foreign policy with Israel's oppressive military occupation of the Palestinian land and people. Together with some anti-Semitic Christian evangelicals who view the Jewish people as pawns in their plans to bring about Armageddon, and an American arms industry which benefits materially from the continuation of the conflict in the form of a yearly $2 billion subsidy from U.S. arms grants to Israel, AIPAC has helped to create an interlocking and overlapping set of interests--an "unholy triple alliance" of sorts--which together serves to make the U.S. complicit in denying fundamental human, political, social and economic rights to an entire people.

The Hebrew Prophet Amos proclaimed: "Let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream." Unfortunately, when it comes to the Palestinians much of the American Jewish leadership has chosen to disregard Amos' call to social justice and has remained silent regarding Israel's brutalization of the Palestinian people. Throughout the years, however, American Jews, who draw inspiration from their religion's commitment to justice and righteousness, have refused to acquiesce to this culture of silence. Over the past two years, as the Oslo "peace process" was derailed and exposed as a cover for Israel's drive to impose a permanent bantustan-like system of apartheid on the Palestinian people, American Jewish advocacy for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians has expanded.

Indeed, in virtually every large American Jewish community there is a growing, organized movement in open revolt against the agenda of the neoconservative, unelected leadership of their community. Not since the first Palestinian intifada in the 1980s have thousands of American Jewish activists banded together to reclaim the best of their moral heritage of pursuing justice from a spiritually bankrupt leadership whose unabashed adoration of nationalism is nothing less than modern-day idol worship. Dozens of proudly self-identifying Jewish groups, from Jews Against the Occupation (JATO) in New York to a Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in San Francisco, have stood up to say that they no longer will permit Israel to oppress the Palestinians in their name.

Although, in public, Israeli government spokesmen and AIPAC officials attempt to denigrate the American Jewish peace movement as an "extremist, marginal, fringe phenomenon," in private they bite their nails and fret over the disappearance of an illusory unanimity. (This writer once asked an Israeli Embassy employee whether she was aware of the activities of the growing American Jewish peace movement. She admitted, quite candidly, that not only was the embassy aware of the phenomenon, but that it was preoccupied with its implications.)

Israel clearly understands that when U.S. policymakers realize that AIPAC represents only a small fraction of the American Jewish community, and that only its extremist right-wing fringe will give Israel carte blanche to brutalize the Palestinian people, Washington's unconditional support for Israel's occupation will be in jeopardy. Israel's "pro-occupation lobby" also fears the emergence of a Jewish peace movement in the U.S. because such a movement could play a leading role in a broad American effort for a just peace in Palestine and Israel--one which cuts across religious and ethnic lines. Such a movement easily could overwhelm numerically the narrow special interests of the "unholy triple alliance."

Indeed, by its very presence, a flourishing American Jewish peace movement would shield its allies from the "pro-occupation lobby's" often spurious assaults equating any legitimate criticism of Israel's military occupation with "anti-Semitism."

Perhaps it was this fear of a vibrant American Jewish peace movement, not only capable of working with, but actively seeking the cooperation of American Arab and Muslim organizations, that prompted Israel and AIPAC to try to foil the attempt by our organization, Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel, and American Muslims for Jerusalem (AMJ) to bring a congressional staff delegation to Palestine and Israel in August. Despite promises from the Israeli Embassy that the delegation would be treated "with dignity," Israel stamped "denied entry" on the passports of representatives of the government which provides it with more than $3 billion yearly, and threatened the delegation with violence.

Before we could even issue a press release to clarify the situation, the Israeli Foreign Ministry (along with the U.S. State Department) was coordinating its story with AIPAC on Capitol Hill to "spin" it and have people believe that Israel did not deny entry to the congressional staff delegation! We later found out that Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai personally attempted to keep the delegation out of the occupied Palestinian territories. Such high-level concern about the activities of one grassroots American Jewish peace organization reveals just how concerned Israel is about this movement.

The time is ripe for an American Jewish peace movement--working in conjunction with a broad spectrum of concerned American citizens of varying religions and ethnicities--to topple the house of cards that the "unholy triple alliance" has built and to expose AIPAC for the paper tiger it is. AIPAC's near mythic stature in the eyes of many of its admirers and detractors is folly. Its oft- cited ability to oust from Congress those they consider to be undesirables-- such as Reps. Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney--is inflated. True, AIPAC controls numerous political action committees (PACs), which played a large role in funding Hilliard's and McKinney's Democratic primary challengers. Both seats were vulnerable, however, for reasons having nothing to do with the Israel- Palestine conflict. Had they enjoyed "safe seats," no amount of money could have defeated them.

The emergence of an energetic, conscientious American Jewish grassroots peace movement already is evident. What is now necessary is to transform this dynamic movement's moral weight into political muscle capable of convincing members of Congress that AIPAC represents no one but its own narrow membership base, and that American Jews who remain faithful to the moral precepts of their religion, and who are concerned with promoting a U.S. foreign policy supportive of human rights, have no choice but to advocate for the freedom, dignity and security of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Without doubt, it will take quite some time and a commensurate expenditure of resources to rival the organizational clout and political pull AIPAC enjoys today. All movements for social change, however, especially those seeking peace and justice, begin small. This should not serve as a deterrent. In his own era, Thoreau confronted an even more evil, more well-entrenched system of interests in the United States which eventually was defeated: the institution of slavery.

When he wrote On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, Thoreau's optimistic belief in the abolition of slavery may have seemed naive to some and fanciful to others.

Yet he recognized "that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten people whom I could name,--if ten honest people only,--aye, if one HONEST person, in the State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co-partnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done for ever."

Josh Ruebner is co-founder of Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel (JPPI) and

a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs for Congressional Research Service (CRS). He can be contacted at .