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“Lights Out!” Did Trump and His Neocons Recycle Bush-Era Plan to Knock Out Venezuela’s Power Grid?

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | March 11, 2019

CARACAS, VENEZUELA — For nearly four days, much of Venezuela has been without power, bringing the country’s embattled economy to a near standstill. Though power is now returning, the outage saw U.S. officials and politicians blame the Venezuelan government for the crisis while officials in Caracas accused the U.S. of conducting “sabotage” and launching cyberattacks that targeted its civilian power grid as well as of employing saboteurs within Venezuela.

Although many mainstream media outlets have echoed the official U.S. government response, some journalists have strayed from the pack. One notable example is Kalev Leetaru, who wrote at Forbes that “the United States remotely interfering with its [Venezuela’s] power grid is actually quite realistic.”

Leetaru also noted that “timing such an outage to occur at a moment of societal upheaval in a way that delegitimizes the current government, exactly as a government-in-waiting has presented itself as a ready alternative, is actually one of the tactics” he had previously explored in a 2015 article detailing U.S. government hybrid warfare tactics “to weaken an adversary prior to conventional invasion or to forcibly and deniably effect a transition in a foreign government.”

In addition to Leetaru’s claims, others have asserted U.S. government involvement after U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is deeply involved in Trump’s Venezuela policy, appeared to have prior knowledge that the blackouts would occur when he tweeted about them only three minutes after they had begun.

While several journalists have pointed out that the probability that the Trump administration was responsible for the blackout is highly likely, few — if any — pointed out that the U.S. has long had highly developed plans involving the use of cyberattacks to attack critical power-grid infrastructure in countries targeted for regime change by Washington.

Indeed, the most well-known plan of this type, known by its codename “Nitro Zeus,” was originally created under the George W. Bush administration and was aimed at Iran. With so many former Bush officials now calling the shots in the Trump administration, particularly its Venezuela policy, the potential return of a “Nitro Zeus” virus, this time tailored to Venezuela, seems increasingly likely.

A little hammer to use when big hammers have been nixed

The “Nitro Zeus” plan first came to light in a November 2016 exposé published in the New York Times, which described it as an “elaborate plan” that was created for use against Iran were negotiations over its nuclear program to fail. That program targeted “Iran’s air defenses, communications systems and crucial parts of its power grid. At its height it “involved thousands of American military and intelligence personnel” and is believed to have cost tens of millions of dollars. The program intimately involved both the National Security Agency’s Tailored Access Operations unit and the U.S. Cyber Command.

The program was shelved when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was established, though the Trump administration’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the deal has led some to ask whether the Trump administration has been considering reviving the program. While they may not have revived it for use against Iran, they instead may have done so in Venezuela, if Venezuelan government assertions that a U.S. cyberattack is to blame for much of the country’s recent power outage are to be believed.

Indeed, Leetaru noted in his recent Forbes article that “given the U.S. government’s longstanding concern with Venezuela’s government, it is likely that the U.S. already maintains a deep presence within the country’s national infrastructure grid,” much as it did with Iran in connection with the Nitro Zeus program prior to its public revelation three years ago.

The Nitro Zeus program is not nearly as well known as its relative, the Stuxnet virus, which was co-developed by the U.S. and Israel and used to attack Iranian software controlling uranium enrichment centers. Yet Nitro Zeus, despite its relative lack of infamy, is notable for several reasons. First, it “took it [U.S. cyberwarfare] to a new level,” according to a former official involved in the project cited by the Times. This was because, prior to Nitro Zeus, “the U.S. had never assembled a combined cyber and kinetic attack plan on this scale,” and also because executing the program would have “significant effects on civilians, particularly if the United States had to cut vast swaths of the country’s electrical grid and communications networks.”

Another reason Nitro Zeus is notable, particularly in light of U.S. efforts to meddle in Venezuela, is the motive for its creation. Indeed, although Nitro Zeus became the “enormous, and enormously complex” program detailed by the Times during the Obama administration, work on the program had actually begun during the George W. Bush administration. According to a report in the Daily Beast, Bush had considered Nitro Zeus “a necessary tactical alternative after the Iraq War sabotaged his chances of starting another Middle East invasion.” In other words, after the Iraq War debacle made it more difficult for the U.S. to launch unilateral military interventions, the Bush administration opted to develop “non-kinetic” military tools that would avoid angering the U.S. public and U.S. allies abroad.

Furthermore, as Tyler Rogoway wrote at Foxtrot Alpha :

[Programs like Nitro Zeus] can be paired for synergistic effect, leaving its target country’s military blind and deaf and its population suffering. And all this can be had without ever dropping a bomb and even under the veil of plausible deniability.”

This, according to Rogoway, has led such programs to become “more and more a viable alternative to traditional forms of attack,” given that the U.S. can deny its involvement, avoiding potential diplomatic blowback, and because it can wreak havoc not just on a country’s military but its civilian population.

The logic behind the likelihood of U.S. cyber sabotage

While “Nitro Zeus” was never unleashed upon Iran, it’s likely that the program spawned similar attack plans on the power grids of other adversarial nations given the precedent it set. As the Times pointed out in its Nitro Zeus exposé:

The United States military develops contingency plans for all kinds of possible conflicts, such as a North Korean attack on the South, loose nuclear weapons in South Asia or uprisings in Africa or Latin America. Most sit on the shelf, and are updated every few years.”

This point was expanded upon by Rogoway, who noted:

Nitro Zeus is most likely one of a whole slew of plans to attack potential enemies via cyber weaponry. Plans surely exist for all of America’s potential adversaries, and some are likely to be far more elaborate and deadly than anything that has been disclosed to date.”

There are more than a few indications that many of the more aggressive “contingency plans” have moved to the top of the toolbox under the Trump administration. For instance, key former Bush officials that are now in the Trump administration, particularly John Bolton and Elliot Abrams, are known for their aggressive stances and willingness to promote extreme policies targeting adversaries, even those policies that harm or kill scores of innocent civilians. Thus, voices like those in the Obama State Department and National Security Council, who had warned of the potential adverse effects on civilians that a Nitro Zeus blackout could cause, are unlikely to influence the likes of Bolton and Abrams — who have an outsized role in creating the administration’s Venezuela policy.

Furthermore, such a plan would be considered valuable by Bolton and Abrams in the same way that Bush valued Nitro Zeus after his “hands were tied” following the Iraq War disaster. In regard to Venezuela, Bolton and Abrams similarly have their hands tied when it comes to military action, given that military intervention of any type has been resoundingly rejected by the U.S.’ allies in Latin America and elsewhere. Not only that but Abrams’ favored tactic of providing arms disguised as “humanitarian aid” to insurgents has also failed, limiting the aggressive actions that can be taken by the administration.

Unable to launch a military intervention — either overt or covert — a Nitro Zeus cyberattack would likely have been a top contender for a next step following the failed “humanitarian aid” stunt and the rejection of any type of military intervention by the U.S.’ Latin American allies.

In addition, many of those responsible for the creation of the Nitro Zeus program share connections with neoconservatives who are influential in the Trump administration. For instance, Keith Alexander — who was NSA director at the time the Nitro Zeus program began and for much of its development — is now the CEO of his new cybersecurity consultancy, IronNet Cybersecurity. Sitting on IronNet’s board of directors alongside Alexander is Jack Keane, a zealously pro-war retired general whom Trump valued enough to offer the position of Secretary of Defense, an offer Keane declined. Keane is a close associate of the neoconservative Kagan family and is currently chairman of the Institute for the Study of War, founded by Kimberly Kagan and financed by top U.S. weapons companies.

With Bush-era warmongers now dominating Trump’s Venezuela policy, it seems increasingly likely that efforts to revive the Bush/Obama-era Nitro Zeus program have taken place. Indeed, with such an enormous and complex program already on the books and the likely existence of spin-off programs that have developed over the past decade, it was likely the easiest route for another “aggressive” U.S.-backed measure targeting the Venezuelan government.

However, if the U.S. did conduct a cyber attack on Venezuela’s power grid, it would not be powerful neoconservatives in the administration who would ultimately be to blame, as only the U.S. president can authorize an offensive cyberattack. Thus, if any part of Venezuela’s current blackout was indeed U.S.-directed sabotage, it was President Donald Trump who gave the order to attack Venezuela’s civilian power infrastructure, a strange thing to do for someone who professes to care so much for the Venezuelan people.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

March 11, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seeking War to the End of the World

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | July 19, 2015

If the neoconservatives have their way again, U.S. ground troops will reoccupy Iraq, the U.S. military will take out Syria’s secular government (likely helping Al Qaeda and the Islamic State take over), and the U.S. Congress will not only kill the Iran nuclear deal but follow that with a massive increase in military spending.

Like spraying lighter fluid on a roaring barbecue, the neocons also want a military escalation in Ukraine to burn the ethnic Russians out of the east and the neocons dream of spreading the blaze to Moscow with the goal of forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin. In other words, more and more fires of Imperial “regime change” abroad even as the last embers of the American Republic die at home.

Much of this “strategy” is personified by a single Washington power couple: arch-neocon Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century and an early advocate of the Iraq War, and his wife, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who engineered last year’s coup in Ukraine that started a nasty civil war and created a confrontation between nuclear-armed United States and Russia.

Kagan, who cut his teeth as a propaganda specialist in support of the Reagan administration’s brutal Central American policies in the 1980s, is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing columnist to The Washington Post’s neocon-dominated opinion pages.

On Friday, Kagan’s column baited the Republican Party to do more than just object to President Barack Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal. Kagan called for an all-out commitment to neoconservative goals, including military escalations in the Middle East, belligerence toward Russia and casting aside fiscal discipline in favor of funneling tens of billions of new dollars to the Pentagon.

Kagan also showed how the neocons’ world view remains the conventional wisdom of Official Washington despite their disastrous Iraq War. The neocon narrative gets repeated over and over in the mainstream media no matter how delusional it is.

For instance, a sane person might trace the origins of the bloodthirsty Islamic State back to President George W. Bush’s neocon-inspired Iraq War when this hyper-violent Sunni movement began as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” blowing up Shiite mosques and instigating sectarian bloodshed. It later expanded into Syria where Sunni militants were seeking the ouster of a secular regime led by Alawites, a Shiite offshoot. Though changing its name to the Islamic State, the movement continued with its trademark brutality.

But Kagan doesn’t acknowledge that he and his fellow neocons bear any responsibility for this head-chopping phenomenon. In his neocon narrative, the Islamic State gets blamed on Iran and Syria, even though those governments are leading much of the resistance to the Islamic State and its former colleagues in Al Qaeda, which in Syria backs a separate terrorist organization, the Nusra Front.

But here is how Kagan explains the situation to the Smart People of Official Washington: “Critics of the recent nuclear deal struck between Iran and the United States are entirely right to point out the serious challenge that will now be posed by the Islamic republic. It is an aspiring hegemon in an important region of the world.

“It is deeply engaged in a region-wide war that encompasses Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, the Gulf States and the Palestinian territories. It subsidizes the murderous but collapsing regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and therefore bears primary responsibility for the growing strength of the Islamic State and other radical jihadist forces in that country and in neighboring Iraq, where it is simultaneously expanding its influence and inflaming sectarian violence.”

The Real Hegemon

While ranting about “Iranian hegemony,” Kagan called for direct military intervention by the world’s true hegemonic power, the United States. He wants the U.S. military to weigh in against Iran on the side of two far more militarily advanced regional powers, Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose combined weapons spending dwarfs Iran’s and includes – with Israel – a sophisticated nuclear arsenal.

Yet reality has never had much relationship to neocon ideology. Kagan continued: “Any serious strategy aimed at resisting Iranian hegemony has also required confronting Iran on the several fronts of the Middle East battlefield. In Syria, it has required a determined policy to remove Assad by force, using U.S. air power to provide cover for civilians and create a safe zone for Syrians willing to fight.

“In Iraq, it has required using American forces to push back and destroy the forces of the Islamic State so that we would not have to rely, de facto, on Iranian power to do the job. Overall, it has required a greater U.S. military commitment to the region, a reversal of both the perceived and the real withdrawal of American power.

“And therefore it has required a reversal of the downward trend in U.S. defense spending, especially the undoing of the sequestration of defense funds, which has made it harder for the military even to think about addressing these challenges, should it be called upon to do so. So the question for Republicans who are rightly warning of the danger posed by Iran is: What have they done to make it possible for the United States to begin to have any strategy for responding?”

In Kagan’s call for war and more war, we’re seeing, again, the consequence of failing to hold neocons accountable after they pushed the country into the illegal and catastrophic Iraq War by selling lies about weapons of mass destruction and telling tales about how easy it would be.

Instead of facing a purge that should have followed the Iraq calamity, the neocons consolidated their power, holding onto key jobs in U.S. foreign policy, ensconcing themselves in influential think tanks, and remaining the go-to experts for mainstream media coverage. Being wrong about Iraq has almost become a badge of honor in the upside-down world of Official Washington.

But we need to unpack the truckload of sophistry that Kagan is peddling. First, it is simply crazy to talk about “Iranian hegemony.” That was part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rhetoric before the U.S. Congress on March 3 about Iran “gobbling up” nations – and it has now become a neocon-driven litany, but it is no more real just because it gets repeated endlessly.

For instance, take the Iraq case. It has a Shiite-led government not because Iran invaded Iraq, but because the United States did. After the U.S. military ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, the United States stood up a new government dominated by Shiites who, in turn, sought friendly relations with their co-religionists in Iran, which is entirely understandable and represents no aggression by Iran. Then, after the Islamic State’s dramatic military gains across Iraq last summer, the Iraqi government turned to Iran for military assistance, also no surprise.

Back to Iraq

However, leaving aside Kagan’s delusional hyperbole about Iran, look at what he’s proposing. He wants to return a sizable U.S. occupation force to Iraq, apparently caring little about the U.S. soldiers who were rotated multiple times into the war zone where almost 4,500 died (along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis). Having promoted Iraq War I and having paid no price, Kagan now wants to give us Iraq War II. [III!]

But that’s not enough. Kagan wants the U.S. military to intervene to make sure the secular government of Syria is overthrown, even though the almost certain winners would be Sunni extremists from the Islamic State or Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front. Such a victory could lead to genocides against Syria’s Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other minorities. At that point, there would be tremendous pressure for a full-scale U.S. invasion and occupation of Syria, too.

That may be why Kagan wants to throw tens of billions of dollar more into the military-industrial complex, although the true price tag for Kagan’s new wars would likely run into the trillions of dollars. Yet, Kagan still isn’t satisfied. He wants even more military spending to confront “growing Chinese power, an aggressive Russia and an increasingly hegemonic Iran.”

In his conclusion, Kagan mocks the Republicans for not backing up their tough talk: “So, yes, by all means, rail about the [Iran] deal. We all look forward to the hours of floor speeches and campaign speeches that lie ahead. But it will be hard to take Republican criticisms seriously unless they start doing the things that are in their power to do to begin to address the challenge.”

While it’s true that Kagan is now “just” a neocon ideologue – albeit one with important platforms to present his views – his wife Assistant Secretary of State Nuland shares his foreign policy views and even edits many of his articles. As she told The New York Times last year, “nothing goes out of the house that I don’t think is worthy of his talents. Let’s put it that way.” [See Consortiumnews.com’sObama’s True Foreign Policy ‘Weakness.’”]

But Nuland is a foreign policy force of her own, considered by some in Washington to be the up-and-coming “star” at the State Department. By organizing the “regime change” in Ukraine – with the violent overthrow of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 – Nuland also earned her spurs as an accomplished neocon.

Nuland has even outdone her husband, who may get “credit” for the Iraq War and the resulting chaos, but Nuland did him one better, instigating Cold War II and reviving hostilities between nuclear-armed Russia and the United States. After all, that’s where the really big money will go – toward modernizing nuclear arsenals and ordering top-of-the-line strategic weaponry.

A Family Business

There’s also a family-business aspect to these wars and confrontations, since the Kagans collectively serve not just to start conflicts but to profit from grateful military contractors who kick back a share of the money to the think tanks that employ the Kagans.

For instance, Robert’s brother Frederick works at the American Enterprise Institute, which has long benefited from the largesse of the Military-Industrial Complex, and his wife Kimberly runs her own think tank called the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

According to ISW’s annual reports, its original supporters were mostly right-wing foundations, such as the Smith-Richardson Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, but it was later backed by a host of national security contractors, including major ones like General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and CACI, as well as lesser-known firms such as DynCorp International, which provided training for Afghan police, and Palantir, a technology company founded with the backing of the CIA’s venture-capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Palantir supplied software to U.S. military intelligence in Afghanistan.

Since its founding in 2007, ISW has focused mostly on wars in the Middle East, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, including closely cooperating with Gen. David Petraeus when he commanded U.S. forces in those countries. However, more recently, ISW has begun reporting extensively on the civil war in Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’sNeocons Guided Petraeus on Afghan War.”]

So, to understand the enduring influence of the neocons – and the Kagan clan, in particular – you have to appreciate the money connections between the business of war and the business of selling war. When the military contractors do well, the think tanks that advocate for heightened global tensions do well, too.

And, it doesn’t hurt to have friends and family inside the government making sure that policymakers do their part to give war a chance — and to give peace the old heave-ho.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’sA Family Business of Perpetual War.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Neocons Guided Petraeus on Afghan War

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | December 19, 2012

Even after the Iraq War disaster and Barack Obama’s election in 2008, neoconservatives retained their influence over U.S. war policies in Afghanistan through their close ties to George W. Bush’s national security holdovers, such as Gen. David Petraeus who partnered with neocon war hawks in escalating the Afghan War.

How tight Petraeus’s relationship was with two neocons in particular, Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, was explored in a Washington Post article by war correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran who described how Petraeus installed the husband-and-wife team in U.S. offices in Kabul, granted them top-secret clearances and let them berate military officers about war strategy.

Though the Kagans received no pay from the U.S. government, they drew salaries from their respective think tanks which are supported by large corporations, including military contractors with interests in extending the Afghan War. Frederick Kagan works for the American Enterprise Institute, and Kimberly Kagan founded the Institute for the Study of War [ISW] in 2007 and is its current president.

According to ISW’s 2011 annual report, its original supporters were mostly right-wing foundations, such as the Smith-Richardson Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, but it was later backed by national security contractors, including major ones like General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and CACI, as well as lesser-known firms such as DynCorp International, which provides training for Afghan police, and Palantir, a technology company founded with the backing of the CIA’s venture-capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Palantir supplies software to U.S. military intelligence in Afghanistan.

In her official bio at the ISW’s Web site, Kimberly Kagan touts her work “in Kabul for fifteen months in 2010 and 2011 as a ‘directed telescope’ to General David H. Petraeus and subsequently General John Allen, working on special projects for these commanders of the International Security Assistance Force.”

Untitled-212x300In the ISW’s 2011 annual report, Petraeus praises Kagan as “a barracuda at some times,” hails her leadership and poses with her for several photographs, including one in his dress uniform with the U.S. Capitol in the background.

The Post article noted that “For Kim Kagan, spending so many months away from research and advocacy work in Washington could have annoyed many donors to the Institute for the Study of War. But her major backers appear to have been pleased that she cultivated such close ties with Petraeus, who went from Kabul to head the CIA before resigning this fall over his affair with [biographer Paula] Broadwell. …

“On Aug. 8, 2011, a month after he relinquished command in Afghanistan to take over at the CIA, Petraeus spoke at the institute’s first ‘President’s Circle’ dinner, where he accepted an award from Kim Kagan. … ‘What the Kagans do is they grade my work on a daily basis,’ Petraeus said, prompting chortles from the audience. ‘There’s some suspicion that there’s a hand up my back, and it makes my lips talk, and it’s operated by one of the Doctors Kagan.’ …

At the August 2011 dinner honoring Petraeus, Kagan thanked executives from two defense contractors who sit on her institute’s corporate council, DynCorp International and CACI International. The event was sponsored by General Dynamics. All three firms have business interests in the Afghan war.

“Kagan told the audience that their funding allowed her to assist Petraeus. ‘The ability to have a 15-month deployment essentially in the service of those who needed some help — and the ability to go at a moment’s notice — that’s something you all have sponsored,’ she said.”

Earlier Warning Signs

Though the Post article provides new details about Petraeus’s coziness to Washington’s neocons, there have been warning signs about this relationship for several years. In 2010, I wrote articles describing how Petraeus and other holdovers from George W. Bush’s administration, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, had trapped the inexperienced Obama into expanding the Afghan War.

On Sept. 27, 2010, I noted that “after his solid victory in November 2008, Obama rebuffed recommendations from some national security experts that he clean house by installing a team more in line with his campaign pledge of ‘change you can believe in.’ He accepted instead the counsel of Establishment Democrats who warned against any disruption to the war-fighting hierarchy and who were especially supportive of keeping Gates. …

“Before Obama’s decision to dispatch [an additional] 30,000 troops [in an Afghan War ‘surge’ in 2009], the Bush holdovers … sought to hem in the President’s choices by working with allies in the Washington news media and in think tanks. …

“For instance, early in 2009, Petraeus personally arranged for Max Boot [a neocon on the Council on Foreign Relations], Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan to get extraordinary access during a trip to Afghanistan. … Their access paid dividends for Petraeus when they penned a glowing report in the Weekly Standard about the prospects for success in Afghanistan – if only President Obama sent more troops and committed the United States to stay in the war for the long haul. …

“‘Fears of impending disaster are hard to sustain, … if you actually spend some time in Afghanistan, as we did recently at the invitation of General David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command,’ they wrote upon their return.

“‘Using helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and bone-jarring armored vehicles, we spent eight days traveling from the snow-capped peaks of Kunar province near the border with Pakistan in the east to the wind-blown deserts of Farah province in the west near the border with Iran. Along the way we talked with countless coalition soldiers, ranging from privates to a four-star general,’ the trio said.”

Update 2015: (Frederick Kagan is the brother of Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, which began the drive in 1998 for invading Iraq. Robert Kagan, now with the Brookings Institution and a columnist for the Washington Post, is married to Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who oversaw last year’s coup in Ukraine. For more on the outsized influence of the Kagans, see Consortiumnews.com’sObama’s True Foreign Policy ‘Weakness.’”)

Trapping the President

How Obama was manipulated by Bush’s holdovers – with the help of the neocons – was chronicled, too, in Bob Woodward’s 2010 book, Obama’s Wars, which revealed that Bush’s old team made sure Obama was given no option other than to escalate troop levels in Afghanistan. The Bush holdovers also lobbied for the troop increase behind Obama’s back.

Woodward’s book notes that “in September 2009, Petraeus called a Washington Post columnist to say that the war would be unsuccessful if the president held back on troops. Later that month, [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm. Mike] Mullen repeated much the same sentiment in Senate testimony, and in October, [Gen. Stanley] McChrystal asserted in a speech in London that a scaled-back effort against Afghan terrorists would not work.”

This back-door campaign infuriated Obama’s aides, including White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Woodward reported. “Filling his rant with expletives, Emanuel said, ‘Between the chairman [Mullen] and Petraeus, everyone’s come out and publicly endorsed the notion of more troops. The president hasn’t even had a chance!’” Woodward reported.

According to Woodward’s book, Gates, Petraeus and Mullen refused to even prepare an early-exit option that Obama had requested. Instead, they offered up only plans for their desired escalation of about 40,000 troops.

Woodward wrote: “For two exhausting months, [Obama] had been asking military advisers to give him a range of options for the war in Afghanistan. Instead, he felt that they were steering him toward one outcome and thwarting his search for an exit plan. He would later tell his White House aides that military leaders were ‘really cooking this thing in the direction they wanted.’”

Woodward identified Gates, Petraeus and Mullen as “unrelenting advocates for 40,000 more troops and an expanded mission that seemed to have no clear end.”

The Bush holdovers even resisted passing along a “hybrid” plan that came from outside their group, from Vice President Joe Biden who had worked with JCS vice chairman, Gen. James Cartwright. The plan envisioned a 20,000 troop increase and a more limited mission of hunting Taliban insurgents and training Afghan government forces.

Woodward reported, “When Mullen learned of the hybrid option, he didn’t want to take it to Obama. ‘We’re not providing that,’ he told Cartwright, a Marine known around the White House as Obama’s favorite general. Cartwright objected. ‘I’m just not in the business of withholding options,’ he told Mullen. ‘I have an oath, and when asked for advice I’m going to provide it.’”

Rigged War Game

Later, Obama told Gates and Mullen to present the hybrid option as one possibility, but instead the Bush holdovers sabotaged the idea by organizing a classified war game, code-named Poignant Vision, that some military insiders felt was rigged to discredit the hybrid option, Woodward reported.

According to Woodward’s book, Petraeus cited the results of the war game to Obama at the Nov. 11, 2009, meeting as proof the hybrid option would fail, prompting a plaintive question from a disappointed President, “so, 20,000 is not really a viable option?” Without telling Obama about the limits of the war game, Mullen, Petraeus, Gates and then-field commander McChrystal asserted that the hybrid option would lead to mission failure.

“Okay,” Obama said, “if you tell me that we can’t do that, and you war-gamed it, I’ll accept that,” according to Woodward’s book.

Faced with this resistance from the Bush holdovers – and unaware that their war game may have been fixed – Obama finally devised his own option that gave Gates, Petraeus and Mullen most of what they wanted – 30,000 additional troops on top of the 21,000 that Obama had dispatched shortly after taking office.

Obama did try to bind the Pentagon to a more limited commitment to Afghanistan, including setting a date of July 2011 for the beginning of a U.S. drawdown. Though Obama required all the key participants to sign off on his compromise, it soon became clear that the Bush holdovers had no intention to comply, Woodward reported.

Backstabbing

The incoming Obama administration was warned of this possibility of backstabbing by Gates, Petraeus and other Bush appointees when it was lining up personnel for national security jobs.

As I wrote in November 2008, “if Obama does keep Gates on, the new President will be employing someone who embodies many of the worst elements of U.S. national security policy over the past three decades, including responsibility for what Obama himself has fingered as a chief concern, ‘politicized intelligence.’ … It was Gates – as a senior CIA official in the 1980s – who broke the back of the CIA analytical division’s commitment to objective intelligence.”

More than any CIA official, Gates was responsible for the agency’s failure to detect the collapse of the Soviet Union, in large part because Gates had ridden roughshod over the CIA analysts on behalf of the Reagan administration’s desire to justify a massive military buildup by stressing Soviet ascendance and ignoring evidence of its disintegration.

As chief of the CIA’s analytical division and then deputy CIA director, Gates promoted pliable CIA careerists to top positions, while analysts with an independent streak were sidelined or pushed out of the agency.

“In the mid-1980s, the three senior [Soviet division] office managers who actually anticipated the decline of the Soviet Union and Moscow’s interest in closer relations with the United States were demoted,” wrote longtime CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman in his book, Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA.

Instead of heeding these warnings, Obama’s team listened to Establishment Democrats like former Rep. Lee Hamilton and former Sen. David Boren, who were big fans of Gates. [For more on Gates’s role, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Petraeus was much the same story. A favorite of Official Washington and especially the influential neocons, he was credited with supposedly winning the war in Iraq by implementing the “surge” in 2007, which was advocated strongly by Frederick Kagan and other key neocons.

However, in reality, all Petraeus did was extend that misguided war for another few years – at the cost of nearly 1,000 more U.S. dead and countless more dead Iraqis – thus giving President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney time to get out of Washington before the ultimate failure of the mission became obvious. The last U.S. troops were forced to leave Iraq at the end of 2011.

Begging Boot

Petraeus had such close ties to the neocons that he relied on them to pull him out of difficult political spots. In one embarrassing example in 2010, e-mails surfaced showing the four-star general groveling before Max Boot, seeking the neocon pundit’s help heading off a controversy over Petraeus’s prepared testimony to Congress which contained a mild criticism of Israel.

The e-mails from Petraeus to Boot revealed Petraeus renouncing his own congressional testimony in March 2010 because it included the observation that “the enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests” in the Middle East.

Petraeus’s testimony continued, “Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. … Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”

Though the testimony was obviously true, many neocons regard any suggestion that Israeli intransigence on Palestinian peace talks contributed to the dangers faced by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan – or by the U.S. public from acts of terrorism at home – as a “blood libel” against Israel.

So, when Petraeus’s testimony began getting traction on the Internet, the general turned to Boot at the high-powered Council on Foreign Relations, and began backtracking on the testimony. “As you know, I didn’t say that,” Petraeus said, according to one e-mail to Boot timed off at 2:27 p.m., March 18. “It’s in a written submission for the record.”

In other words, Petraeus was saying the comments were only in his formal testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee and were not repeated by him in his brief oral opening statement. However, written testimony is treated as part of the official record at congressional hearings with no meaningful distinction from oral testimony.

In another e-mail, as Petraeus solicited Boot’s help in tamping down any controversy over the Israeli remarks, the general ended the message with a military “Roger” and a sideways happy face, made from a colon, a dash and a closed parenthesis, “:-)”.

The e-mails were made public by James Morris, who runs a Web site called Neocon Zionist Threat to America. He said he apparently got them by accident when he sent a March 19 e-mail congratulating Petraeus for his testimony and Petraeus responded by forwarding one of Boot’s blog posts that knocked down the story of the general’s implicit criticism of Israel.

Petraeus forwarded Boot’s blog item, entitled “A Lie: David Petraeus, Anti-Israel,” which had been posted at the Commentary magazine site at 3:11 p.m. on March 18. However, Petraeus apparently forgot to delete some of the other exchanges between him and Boot at the bottom of the e-mail.

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Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

March 12, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment