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02-28-2006, 03:11 PM
Controversial Neocon Talks To Rawstory

http://rawstory.com/news/2006/Conversation_with_Controversial_Neoconservative_02 28.html

Larisa Alexandrovna
Published: February 28, 2006

In an exclusive series of interviews with Raw Story Managing News Editor Larisa Alexandrovna, controversial Neoconservative scholar and Iran Contra figure Michael Ledeen discusses his background, alleged controversies, and offers remarkable revelations regarding the Bush administration's "War on Terror."

Part one in this series of interviews focuses on current US foreign policy and how it relates to the neoconservative world view, as well as how such a policy can be seen against the backdrop of history. Ledeen speaks out against torture and calls for accountability at all levels, including the White House, should an investigation lead in that direction.

"Punish all the guilty parties, whoever they are, and do everything possible to prevent anything of the sort happening again," Ledeen says.

When asked about the failure of the media with regard to reporting accurately and abundantly on such harsh interrogation techniques, Ledeen says that he disagrees, but also says that "If you're going to attack media for insufficient coverage of Abu Ghraib, etc., then you should also hammer them for failing to report the 'other side of the story.'"

He describes his view of Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and now head of the World Bank, in terms of ability, stating that he does not "really know what Wolfowitz thinks, and I have always looked at him as a manager, not an intellectual."

Leedeen, who is best known for his involvement as a courier in the Iran-Contra scandal, describes himself as a democratic revolutionary. He believes that mankind is inclined toward war and has a dismal, Hobbesian view of history. Against that context, he says, "I'm not sure Machiavelli was wrong when he said that 'man is more inclined to do evil than to do good.'"

Michael Ledeen currently holds the Freedom Chair at the most influential think tank in the nation, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), considered the nucleus of neoconservative and conservative thought. So much so, that President Bush has said of AEI that "You do such good work that my administration has borrowed 20 such minds."

Ledeen is mostly known to the lay public, if he is known at all, for his involvement in the Iran Contra scandal, in which he acted as courier on behalf of Robert McFarland, then National Security Advisor to President Reagan, and the various members of Israel's leadership and the CIA and vouched for Iranian arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar.

Ledeen currently serves as an associate editor for the conservative publication, The National Review and was a founding member of the Jewish Institution for National Security Affairs (JINSA).

The Democratic revolutionary
Raw Story's Larisa Alexandrovna: Let's begin with the basics. There has been a great deal of confusion in terms of Israel and how it relates to neoconservatives and how both relate to the Bush administration's foreign policy, including the war in Iraq. Can you help clarify some of this, not just by simple definitions, but how each relates to one another? How is Zionism different or the same as neoconservatism and how does it relate to the current foreign policy?

Michael Ledeen: You mean are all neoconservatives Jews? Or is it some kind of Jewish thing? Clearly not, unless you think that Bush and Cheney are closet Jews.

RS: No, I don't mean "are all Neoconservatives Jews" as I know they are not; then again, not all Jews are Zionists either. I am trying to get a clear sense of how you see Zionism and how or rather, if, either of those philosophies may be driving the Bush/Cheney foreign policy or if the Bush/Cheney foreign policy is using Neoconservatism as a shield against criticism (anyone who disagrees does not support Israel type thing). Obviously, the Iraq war has made Iran the winner, not Israel.

ML: I describe myself as a democratic revolutionary, I don't think of myself as "conservative" at all. Indeed it seems to me that most self-described leftists today are reactionaries, and have lost the right to describe themselves as people of the left.

RS: When you say you are not a "conservative," you are addressing a false distinction because Neoconservatism has its roots on the left, in socialist ideology, yet is closely aligned to the conservatives in the US and the rightist Likud party in Israel. Perhaps a better way to ask this would be to ask if you are closer in your ideology to Richard Perle, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz or are you closer to Francis Fukuyama, who recently announced Neoconservatism as dead?

ML: Well I'm a democratic revolutionary, albeit not a socialist. I haven't read Fukuyama's latest writings, but I wasn't at all convinced by the "end of history" thesis.

I don't really know what Wolfowitz thinks, and I have always looked at him as a manager, not an intellectual. He hasn't ever had the time or inclination to write anything serious, so who knows? He once suggested that Iraq was like pre-World War I Germany, which I didn't agree with.

I think you're right to say that I have roots in the left, which is the point I was trying to make when I said I didn't think of myself as a "conservative." Leo Strauss once said that it was hard to understand how the word "virtue," which once meant the manliness of men, came to mean the virginity of women. In like manner I am perplexed at how revolutionaries are now called "conservatives."
It's very misleading, and very political. The left, which has become reactionary and counterrevolutionary, wants to stigmatize people who advocate democratic revolution, and so they use the word "conservative," which for the left is an epithet.

RS: And on Zionism?

ML: I really don't see it in those terms at all, and I doubt--although I really have no way of knowing--that either [President George] Bush or [Vice President Dick] Cheney does either. I don't view Israel in "Zionist" terms, I don't have relatives there, I don't travel there very much and on balance I have a dim view of most Israeli political figures and Israeli intellectuals.

I think it was right to provide a sanctuary for the European Jews after the Holocaust, and as I've said I think it's right and automatic for Americans to support Israel vis-a-vis the tyrannical regimes that want to destroy it.

And I feel much the same way about Iraq and Afghanistan, both of whom have started down the road to freedom, and who are now hated and under attack by the tyrants in the region.

RS: How does this translate to US foreign policy and responsibility?

ML: Most Americans support free countries, and so it's only logical for the United States to support democratic Israel. It's the right thing to do. We should always support democratic countries that are threatened by antidemocratic tyrannies.

End Part I

02-28-2006, 03:11 PM
Freedom is on the march
RS: If it is logical for the United States to support democratic nations, then why has the United States regularly subverted the democratic process? This is not new or theoretical of course, this is all well documented history, even recent history clearly shows that. Consider for example Chile's General Pinochet or Zaire's Mobutu.

Or closer to current events, the Saudi royal family, for example, is only in power because the United States protects them against their own citizens, who are largely oppressed and exploited. Yet another example closer to home and current events is Iraq. Saddam Hussein's dictatorship existed for this long because the United States supported that existence with funding, even by providing the chemical weapons that were then used against the Kurds.

So this is not as simple as "we should always support democratic countries." Most people would agree with that sentiment, but the United States does not seem to be adhering to it, as we know even from what we now know to be true about the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany.

ML: You're quite right--and, at least recently, both President Bush and Secretary Rice have explicitly agreed with your point--to say that we have often supported tyrannies. We, along with the whole Western world, shamefully supported Saddam, and convinced ourselves that he was a "new kind of Arab leader," by which was meant a secular socialist, not some crazy religious fanatic as in Iran and not some wild-eyed Arab nationalist as in the case of [President Gamal Abdel] Nasser [of Egypt]. It was obviously a terrible mistake.

RS: While I understand your enthusiasm for the removal of Saddam Hussein, would it not be hypocritical to suggest that the removal of a "tool" by its handler is a victory for freedom?

ML: I don't think most Iraqis agree with that view. I think any time a tyrant falls, it's good news. And the fact that we previously supported the tyrant doesn't change the nature of the event itself. We had a lousy policy for a long time, but then we did something good. I criticize the lousy policy and also celebrate the fall of Saddam.

Can I say something about how I view human nature? I think it will help at least part of this conversation. I have a pretty dim view of human nature, as I think any serious historian must. Most human activities aren't very pretty, most of the time we screw up, it's rare when you find an exceptional person and even in such cases they often fall from grace.

And I'm not sure Machiavelli was wrong when he said that "man is more inclined to do evil than to do good." So I don't have high expectations, and I consider myself fortunate to have lived and worked at a moment when there were several really exceptional leaders in the world, from Reagan and Thatcher to Pope John Paul II to Havel and Walesa and Mandela and so forth. Those moments are rare, and short-lived. You don't see many outstanding leaders today, in my opinion.

So I'm not surprised when our leaders make mistakes, I'm surprised and delighted when they do great things. I think we should support free societies but I'm not surprised when an American president makes a deal with a dictator. And sometimes there isn't any better choice, by the way. I hate Stalin, but I think the wartime alliance against Hitler was the right thing to do, disgusting though it was.
However, I think that we should have been more vigorous against Stalin and his successors once the war was over, and in retrospect I think the Soviet Empire could have ended earlier.

I agree that our support for the Saudi Royal Family is a mistake, and I've said that, and I have always included them in my list of "terror masters," along with Saddam's Iraq, the mullahs' Iran, and the Assads' Syria.

RS: When you say "President Bush and Secretary Rice have explicitly agreed with your point--to say that we have often supported tyrannies"--are these the same two people who have publicly stated over and over that "We do not torture," despite the large mass of evidence and the President's push back against the McCain (R-AZ) anti-torture bill? So much so, that the President signed it into to law only after his hand was forced and even then with a caveat attached excluding his authority from the law?

How is this cleaning up our mistakes?

ML: It isn't cleaning up ALL mistakes; that won't happen in this life. But we should all be happy to have that huge mistake corrected. It's a rare event.

On War Crimes and Accountability

RS: If we have learned anything from WWII, the Holocaust, and from the Nuremberg trials, it is that citizens are responsible for what their government does in their name. Given this context, what is your view of torture, the Geneva conventions and the current policy, largely pushed out of the Vice President's office, to disregard international law and enforce extreme techniques of interrogation? (Detainees held; new photos and footage released.)

ML: Well, to begin with, I don't think people "learn" very much from history, although I do agree that, in the contemporary period, citizens of free societies are indeed responsible for their government's actions (these distinctions are important; I don't hold all Soviet citizens responsible for Stalin's crimes, for example, although there is greater culpability for Germans during Nazism). And I was disgusted, appalled and horrified by the criminal actions by Americans at Abu Ghraib as by Brits in the south, as I have been disgusted by the criminal actions by Europeans in Africa.

RS: You are right, there is a distinction between those "unable" to stop their government and those who are able, but unwilling. So I agree on that point. Who should be held accountable for the torture we are now seeing evidence of, including the rape of women, children and men, as well as all out murder and unmarked graves?

ML: I want them, and their superiors, to be aggressively punished. I abhor torture, and I've written about it.

Vladimir Bukovsky is one of my closest friends, and he is right when he says that torture destroys both its victims and its practitioners, and that it is deadly to any civilized enterprise.

That said, one must have a sense of context. These evil criminal acts are not the same as the Holocaust, or the genocidal slaughters in Africa. They are aimed against individuals, not against an entire people. They must be condemned and punished, we must do all we can to ensure they do not recur, but the worst American sadist in Iraq does not come close to the evil of the Third Reich, which undertook the systematic extermination of entire peoples.

RS: I agree that a systematic processing of such precision in order to exterminate a group of people is entirely unique to the Holocaust. As a Jew, I understand this quite well, but you say that American sadists are not close to the evil of the Third Reich. Yet the Third Reich came to power because and only because the West allowed the financing of the regime. In other words, the "sadists" in the US and Britain funded the "sadists" in Germany.

ML: I reject the theory that Hitler came to power "because and only because the West allowed the financing of the regime." Hitler came to power because most Germans wanted it. They loved it when they got it, and they fought and died for it. To reduce a horror of such dimensions to mere cash flow is unworthy of a serious person.

RS: I understand your sentiment, but with all due respect, I disagree with the notion that a nation of people wanted this or asked for it. Some may want such a thing, but not a nation of people. You are excluding the systematic fear tactics, propaganda of hate, and other control mechanisms that over a period of time convinced an entire people that they were under constant threat by a whole other group of people.

The Holocaust did not occur overnight and in a vacuum. It started as a fire that was blamed on the terrorists, at that time "the Communists." Anyone who spoke out was branded as an enemy and jailed. Those who did not speak out were fed large doses of psychological manipulation. The horror of the Final Solution did not start with the installment of Hitler to power. The Jews did not become the object of Hitler's insanity until later, much later.

But how was this propaganda machine possible and to such an extent? How was the war machine possible or the facilities for what would later be used as extermination centers, or any number of things required to achieve such a horrible end? The Germans were still paying reparations from WWI and were largely bankrupt. If it were not for the funding made possible by US and British companies, like DuPont or Ford Motors, would the Nazis have been able to rise to power and achieve what they had achieved?

ML: I don't like the behavior of American corporations any more than you, but I think that Joseph Kennedy did more damage than DuPont. And I'm quite happy that so many corporations have been compelled to pay significant funds to the survivors.

RS: What about accountability? The Third Reich continued to be funded by US "free trade" interests, thanks to companies even after the United States entered the war. So again, we are back full circle, where the "tool" of its handler is the evil thing, but the handler is not.

When we see such funding again, over and over and all over the world, we are seeing a stunning failure of humanity to punish the handler of the tool as well as the tool itself, do we not?

Ford Motors and General Motors, whose subsidiaries became engines of the German war machine, were not held to account, and neither was DuPont. If they had been, would they be in a position, such as in Ford's case (later sued for involvement in Argentinian abuse), to go on to commit such crimes again?

What about Halliburton? The company does business with nations that have long harbored extremism and terrorists, such as Libya , and even currently with Iran, one of the members of the so-called Axis of Evil. Despite this and the appearance of impropriety in the Vice President's being the firm's former chief executive, the company continues to be awarded no-bid contracts and overcharge the US government. Would they be engaged in such behavior if their predecessors were held accountable?

ML: If they are guilty, I'm all for holding them accountable, but, alas, I don't think it would deter evil people from doing evil things today or tomorrow. I'm afraid that the struggle against evil is probably endless.

RS: We now know from various memos (see newest from the New Yorker) leaked to the public that there is a policy pushed by the Vice President's office and the Vice President himself, including his staff and civilian members of the Pentagon like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, which lays out that harsh interrogation practices should be used by our military. The policies were legally justified by attorneys John Yoo and Alberto Gonzeles [now US Attorney General].

Who should be held accountable for violating the Geneva Conventions and for committing war crimes, the soldiers following orders, or the officials setting that policy, or the attorneys who made it somehow legal?

ML: We've been through this several times now. Punish all the guilty parties, whoever they are, and do everything possible to prevent anything of the sort happening again.

RS: Including Dick Cheney and George W. Bush?

ML: No exceptions. But I haven't seen anything that convinces me they should be prosecuted.

RS: What about mass media and corporate bosses who kept the coverage of such things to a minimum? Are they guilty? Are members of Congress guilty, who align with their leader and party but not the law? What about you, and me, and every citizen of this country who is financing these crimes?

ML: There are well established legal standards as far as prosecution is concerned. On the big question, which is the moral one, there's the 'court of public opinion,' and you and I will do our best to identify sins of commission and omission, and try to convince our peers that we are right. If you're going to attack media for insufficient coverage of Abu Ghraib, etc. (which I think would be a real exaggeration; there's been enormous coverage), then you should also hammer them for failing to report the 'other side of the story,' namely the many excellent things that are going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bloggers have done much better, from Steve Vincent to Michael Yon and others, especially the Iraqi bloggers.

RS: Who can hold them accountable ? Israel cannot hold the US accountable because Israel does depend greatly on financing from the US. Britain cannot hold the US accountable because they are the "ally." So on whom does this task fall it when Geneva Conventions are no longer recognized by the world's only super power?

ML: We have to identify and prosecute our own criminals.

RS: How, if our political leaders align with their party and the leader of that party? Who will be able to hold anyone accountable now?

ML: Just as we always have, by speaking and writing what we believe in, challenging lies when we think we see them, and appealing to mankind's better instincts. But again, one has to have a sense of history and context. For the most part, it takes a considerable passage of time before we get a full sense of what actually happened. Lots of innocents get slimed and ruined in the meantime, while rotten people get medals. Marc Anthony's funeral oration for Caesar, as reported by Shakespeare.

Part II will run next week and will focus on the Niger documents, the Plame leak, and Iraq pre-war intelligence.


03-07-2006, 01:26 PM
Denials mark neoconservative's account of past and present scandal

http://rawstory.com/news/2006/Conversations_with_Machiavellis_ghost_Denials_mark _0307.html

Larisa Alexandrovna
Published: March 7, 2006

Demystifying Intrigue
Neoconservative Michael Ledeen is no stranger to intrigue. In the second part of our conversation with the occasional Pentagon advisor, RAW STORY asks about Iran Contra, the Niger forgeries, and perhaps the most fascinating allegation, that Ledeen may have been somehow involved or affiliated with P2.

P2, or Propaganda Due, was a scandal in the early 1980s involving an Italian bank, the Vatican, a neo-fascist Masonic lodge and Opus Dei, a cultish movement within the Catholic faith. Truly better than fiction, the tale of P2 and its ties to false flag operations in which Italian government agents committed acts of terror and violence against their own country for political reasons, has become the stuff of legend. Of the alleged P2 lodge members, the most important ones are the current Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Burlusconi, Vittorio Emanuele IV, the “Prince of Naples,” and a bevy of prominent South American, European and US politicians, journalists, and bankers.

Ledeen denies any involvement with P2, saying “There’s no truth to the P2 charges.”

Ironically, the bizarre tale of P2 and the Vatican banking scandal was deeply entwined with a better known American scandal called Iran Contra, in which Ledeen was involved. Allegedly, members of P2 helped agencies in the US sell arms to Iran to help divert money to the South American Contras, a group of far right guerilla fighters in Nicaragua, in apparent violation of federal and international law.

Ledeen’s role in the Contras scandal had him playing the part of a carrier pigeon on behalf of Robert McFarlane, then National Security Advisor to President Reagan, various members of Israel's leadership and the CIA, and vouched-for Iranian arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar.

Part one in this series of interviews, The Democratic Revolutionary, focused on current US foreign policy and how it relates to the neoconservative world view, as well as how such a policy can be seen against the backdrop of history.

Rome to Rome
Raw Story's Larisa Alexandrovna: Looking back at your career and over the many controversies, the allegations that you were tied to P2 were the most intriguing. Is there any truth to this? Did you know Francesco Pazienza?

Michael Ledeen: There’s no truth to the P2 charges. In fact I didn’t believe in its existence, even though various Italians, including Pazienza, were pushing me to interview Licio Gelli, who was the head of it. I was New Republic correspondent at the time, and it probably would have been a good story, but I thought it was just another of the endless conspiracy theories that one ran into every day. Probably I should have talked to Gelli, then you’d have another suspicious connection…

Raw Story: I am not accusing you or attempting to locate suspicious connections. I am simply asking about allegations. How did you meet current SISMI chief Nicollo Pollari? You are good friends, no?

Ledeen: Pollari isn't a good friend; he's a person I met occasionally, at bridge games in Rome.

RS: When we have talked in the past you have indicated that you did indeed do some work for [Italian Intelligence] SISMI around 1980. What was the nature of the work?

Ledeen: I think in the late seventies, when I was invited to participate in a desktop exercise dealing with how to communicate with friendly countries. What to ask, what not to ask; who to ask, who not to ask; how to ask, how not to ask. An exercise in bureaucratic communication.

RS: Diplomacy work? Or training on counterterrorism? Let me re-ask this differently: When you say “what to ask” and “what not to ask” do you mean interrogation techniques? I don’t think I fully grasp “how to communicate with friendly countries” in this context. Were you not a reporter at the time?

Ledeen: It’s just what I said – communication between governments – it had nothing to do with interrogation. There were problems for the Italians because there was no extradition treaty at that time, and our Justice Department was very reluctant to provide the Italian Government with information about Italians in the U.S. I had looked into those problems – I was by then in Washington – and they thought I could be helpful. I was happy to try to help.

RS: Let’s flash forward to 2001 quickly to address a meeting or series of meetings that we had once discussed already. How did you come to be in Rome in December of 2001 and for what purpose were you there?

Ledeen: I was in Rome – at my own expense, as a private citizen – for meetings between American officials from the Pentagon (Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode) and Iranians who had information about the mullahs’ plans to attack Coalition forces in Afghanistan.

RS: Was there discussion of Iraq?

Ledeen: There was no discussion of Iraq at all.

RS: Who authorized the meeting and who was made aware of the meeting?

Ledeen: I was told that the meeting had been approved by State, Defense, CIA and the NSC, and I personally briefed our ambassador both before and after the meetings.

They were very good meetings, by the way. They produced information that saved American lives in Afghanistan.

RS: Was Ghorbanifar there?

Ledeen: Ghorbanifar helped arrange the meeting.

RS: You know the old saying of the appearance of impropriety? So imagine a regular US citizen watching this unfold. You have two highly visible Iran Contra figures meeting in Rome during a time of war. Iran is declared part of the axis of evil. Add to that that one of the members of the party, Larry Franklin, a DIA analyst, has now pled guilty for passing classified information to Israel and Iran, and possibly false intelligence on Iran to the US.

Another member of the party, Harold Rhode, working as a consultant for the Pentagon went on to have meetings with Ghorbanifar in Paris, despite being asked to stop. Add to that, the Niger forgeries began to make their rounds in the form of transcripts only a short time later. So you can understand why there is skepticism?

Ledeen: As for "looking bad," it looks pretty good to me, since it saved American lives in Afghanistan.

RS: Why were Rhode and Franklin brought along or were they assigned and if so, by whom?

Ledeen: They were selected by the Pentagon because they were very knowledgeable about Iran.

RS: Who selected them? Both worked for [Undersecretary of Defense Policy] Doug Feith, so did Feith select them?

Ledeen: I don’t know. I never discussed it with him.

RS: You said to me before that Stephen Hadley authorized your meeting, correct? Did Stephen Hadley have the authority to unilaterally assign such a meeting?

Ledeen: Obviously Hadley did not unilaterally do anything. The Pentagon paid for the expenses of the two DOD officials, and the American ambassador in Rome was fully briefed both before and after the meetings.

RS: Hadley reported to Rice at that time as her deputy. One source I have has said that if Libby is Dick Cheney’s Dick Cheney, Hadley is his right hand man. So the question begs to be asked, Hadley – because he was not authorized to unilaterally do anything – must have had to go to his direct superior. We have spoken of [Secretary of State] Rice in the past, but given the closeness of Cheney to Hadley and the friction between Cheney and Rice, my question is would Cheney had to have approved the mission abroad?

Ledeen: I’m sure Hadley discussed it with Rice. He’s a cautious lawyer, and that decision required approval from his boss. I don’t see any reason why he would discuss it with Cheney, and I don’t share your theory that Hadley and Cheney are very close.

RS: When you say "meetings" you are speaking of just the one you attended and the follow up meetings that occurred with Rhode and Franklin, without you, is that right? That is what I have in my notes from our last discussion of this.

Ledeen: I say "meetings" because the conversations were with more than one Iranian and were conducted over several days. I am not talking about presumed follow-ups, just the Rome events.

End Part I

03-07-2006, 01:27 PM
The Niger forgeries
RS: What about Panorama, the publication to which the Niger documents now known to be forgeries were delivered? You wrote for Panorama as we had previously discussed.

Ledeen: As I've told you before, these claims are nonsensical. I have no point of contact with the Niger documents, I haven't even seen them or read them. I've never met Rocco Martino, and the sum total of my "work with SISMI" consists of one half day in Rome.

RS: No point of contact with the Niger forgeries at all, as in you did not even hear of conversations regarding those documents?

Ledeen: Again, I have no involvement of any sort in the Niger forgeries. I don’t know Burba or Berlusconi, never met either one. Rosella is a good professional journalist and editor, smart and fun to be with. But it is wrong to say that I “worked for Panorama.” They published occasional columns from me. Probably 15 or so over a couple of years in the mid-nineties.

RS: In our last conversation you said it was a couple of years back that Panorama published your work. The "mid-nineties" is considerably more than a couple of years back. Have there been any columns since 2000 or 2002? Did you do any consulting work, outside of writing, for Panorama?

Ledeen: I don't think I've written anything for Panorama since 2002, and probably not since 2000, although I would have to check. My only relationship with Panorama was the sale of occasional columns.

RS: Pollari was aware of the meetings in Rome and sent a team to monitor those meetings. As head of SISMI, he traveled to the US with Berlusconi in the fall of 2001 and then again alone in the fall of 2002. Are you saying you have never at any point met Berlusconi? Did you arrange the 2002 meeting between Pollari and Stephen Hadley?

Ledeen: I never arranged any meetings for Pollari with Hadley or with any other American, in or out of government. And again, I have never met Berlusconi.

RS: But the reports of this 2002 meeting indicate that not only did you set up the meeting (and even my own sources confirmed this to me) but that Pollari delivered documents of some sort to Hadley and used Rice’s staff to schedule his trip.

Ledeen: Your sources are wrong. I don’t know about meetings between Hadley and Pollari, so I won’t speculate about their provenance, and the same goes for the subsequent meetings. But no end of nonsense has been written about the Rome meeting, so it doesn’t surprise me that people are making false statements to you about other meetings.

RS: That is why I brought up the whole concept of “appearances” and how things look, regardless of what may or may have not happened. That said, I do apologize if my sources and other reports were wrong regarding you brokering the meeting. I will look into clarifying this with them.

Moving back to Hadley, he was asked by BBC if he had discussed uranium at that meeting, to which he responded that nobody "has any recollection of a discussion of natural uranium, or any recollection of any documents being passed." Do you find that answer odd in any way?

Ledeen: It sounds like a typical answer from a cautious lawyer.

RS: Meaning that there is no such thing as “natural uranium” per se, right? What do you make of this statement other than the non-denial denial of it? If he was not discussing the three uranium isotopes found naturally in the environment, then one can infer that he was clearly discussing enriched uranium, no?

Ledeen: That’s assuming that the “meeting” was substantive. Some reports say it was a courtesy call by a group, not a private meeting between two people.

Frankly I have always found the frantic interest in the Niger Documents story hard to explain. Every commission, whether here or in Britain, has concluded that the British Government’s belief (that Iraq was trying to purchase uranium in Africa) was solidly based, and was not connected to the Niger Documents. And that’s what Bush said.

RS: No, I would have to disagree. The dodgy dossier is called that for a reason. And on what grounds the uranium claim was based was pretty bad by all accounts. I do not remember reading that the Niger forgeries had nothing to do with the claim of uranium purchases at all. Bush’s speech, or rather those 16 words, were pulled after it was revealed that they were based on bogus sources and documents. In fact, it was because of former U.S. Ambassador to Gabon Joe Wilson’s now well known op-ed discrediting the uranium claim that both Hadley and former CIA Director George Tenet ran to take responsibility for the 16 words, after they were pulled in a panic.

Ledeen: But the anti-Bush brigade was so eager to push their “Bush lied, people died” mantra, that they kept on acting as if the Niger Documents were really important. I suppose it’s because they got hoodwinked by Wilson, don’t you think?

RS: I am not sure what you mean by “hoodwinked.” What I have found, however, is that aside from the errors made in the Phase I investigation into pre-war intelligence, and the extensive “fixing of intelligence” leading up to and after the fact by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KY), and the stalling on Phase II of the investigation into White House manipulation of intelligence, there is a great deal of evidence to support that the US was misled into war through action, not failure of intelligence, and that the president either was himself misled by those around him or knowingly misled the nation.

I don’t know who the anti-Bush brigade is, but it seems that the concerns raised by people had more to do with why we were diverting resources from chasing down Osama and instead pouring them into a war with a country that had no ties or history with Osama and was in no way involved with the attacks on our country. The other concerns people had is that intelligence provided was a sham by all accounts and where there was confusion, there also seemed to be pressure.

Iran Contra
RS: How did you come to be involved in Iran Contra and who was it that brought you in? What were your thoughts on this as it was happening in terms of legality, bypassing Congress, and so forth?

Ledeen: The origins of Iran-Contra are extensively described in my book Perilous Statecraft. In brief, while a consultant to the National Security Council, I had a conversation with a foreign intelligence chief (I'll save you the question, no, not Italian) who had just been in Iran, and he thought we should have a closer look at it, and he said that he thought the Israelis had the best information. I reported that to McFarlane and he subsequently asked me to go to Jerusalem and ask Peres if they had good intelligence and, if so, would they share it with us. That's how it started.

RS: Are you still acquainted with Oliver North and George H. W. Bush?

Ledeen: I was never "acquainted" with President George H.W. Bush, any more than I am acquainted with his son. I once briefed him on the Grenada documents, never about Iran. I never see North.

RS: If you had to do it again, would you and if so, why? If not, what would you do differently?

Ledeen: Would I do it again? Of course not, who needs six years of a special prosecutor and volumes of slime? Not that it would have changed anything important; I was a courier, and there were plenty of those around. A consultant at the NSC is not a policy maker. What were my thoughts? I thought what Ghorbanifar said was right: "If we get involved with the hostages, we will become hostages to the hostages." That's what happened to Reagan.

RS: I was actually going to ask if the intelligence officer was from Iran, not Italy. Was he?

Ledeen: No.

RS: Was it Ghorbanifar, the Iranian arms dealer?

Ledeen: No. I did not know Ghorbanifar at that time.

RS: When you say you would not do it again, because of the "slime" and a six year investigation, you do not comment on the actual activities. In other words, did you find anything wrong in being a courier of weapons to a country that is an arch enemy of Israel and at that time, as now, an avowed enemy of the United States?

Ledeen: I was not a courier of weapons; I carried messages and questions back and forth. I had no authority to do anything other than that.

RS: Right, I’m sorry. I forget who did what and I think that some themselves forgot who did what. But with regard to your comment on policy – No, you are right to point out that a consultant is not a policy maker, of course, but a consultant still has to operate within the confines of domestic and foreign law. Congress was entirely bypassed on this, as you know. So why is the slime of it of more concern than the actions of it?

Ledeen: I wanted to entitle my book on Iran-Contra "Worse than a Crime," from Talleyrand's great description of something as "Worse than a crime, it was a blunder." The only crimes committed during Iran-Contra consisted of making false statements to Congress, and in the case of General Secord, evading income tax, and in North's case accepting a gift (a security fence) worth more than the regulations permitted. Despite all the hullabaloo nobody was ever prosecuted for presumed crimes like violating the Boland Amendment, etc.

RS: You’re right, no one was prosecuted for violating the Boland Amendment, which barred the use of federal funds to topple the Nicaraguan government. It is amazing how a Presidential pardon provided prior to a trial will result in no convictions.

What about the money for the Contras, where did it all go?

Ledeen: I don’t know; I only dealt with the Iran half of the equation, I had no contact with the Contra side.

But if you’ll permit me, I think you should be more careful about accusing people of criminal activity. No one was ever even indicted for “violating the Boland Amendment,” so your rage at the pardons is misplaced in that case. The indictment of [Defense Secretary Caspar] Weinberger [for lying to the special counsel] was an outrage. And I have a lot of sympathy for the people who were ruined by the cost of trying to defend themselves. Don’t you think that government employees should have their legal expenses borne by the government, at least until somebody proves that they did something wrong? I’m talking about the little people here, people who can’t afford the cost – tens of thousands of dollars – of xeroxing documents, etc.

RS: With all due respect, the special prosecutor, Lawrence E. Walsh, indicated that former President Bush was the subject of his investigation and that he believed there to be a conspiracy at the highest levels of government to obstruct justice in order to protect Bush and former President Regan from charges perhaps even more serious than violating the Boland Amendment. The pardons waved a magic wand and justice disappeared. Justice to be vindicated for those you say are innocent and justice for the public who suspect them to be guilty.

Casper Weinberger, for example, was indicted for lying about Saudi involvement in illegal arms sale to Iran, among other false statements, and for destroying evidence that special prosecutor Walsh said may have "forestalled impeachment proceedings against President Reagan.”

So I would have to respectfully disagree that the indictment of Weinberger was an outrage. The outrage was that he was pardoned before he could go to trial.

The final part of Conversations with Machiavelli's Ghost will run next week and will focus on Ledeen's work on fascism, September 11, and Iran.


03-07-2006, 02:52 PM