Frustrated Scowcroft Assails Neo-Cons, Cheney
by Jim Lobe
week after a top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell
issued a blistering attack on foreign policy-making in the George
W. Bush administration, Brent Scowcroft, who served as national
security adviser under Bush's father, assailed neoconservatives
who persuaded the president to go to war in Iraq.
In an interview
with The New Yorker
magazine, Scowcroft, whose relations with the Bush administration
have been badly strained since he publicly warned against invading
Iraq seven months before U.S. troops crossed over from Kuwait, argued
that the invasion was counterproductive.
was said to be part of the war on terror, but Iraq feeds terrorism,"
Scowcroft told the magazine, adding that the war risked moving public
opinion against any new foreign policy commitments for some time,
just as the Vietnam War did during the late 1970s and through the
was visceral in the American people," said Scowcroft, who also
served as national security adviser in the mid-1970s under former
President Gerald Ford. "This was a really bitter period, and
it turned us against foreign policy adventures deeply. This is not
that deep, [but]
we're moving in that direction."
remarks come at a critical moment. According to recent opinion polls,
the government's performance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Bush's
choice of his personal attorney to serve on the Supreme Court, and
the lack of progress achieved in Iraq have combined to put the president's
approval ratings at below 40 percent.
is a growing likelihood that a federal special prosecutor will indict
top administration officials, including Bush's political adviser,
Karl Rove, and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis
"Scooter" Libby, this week.
They are thought
to have played a key role in trying to discredit and punish whistleblower
Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had publicly questioned its rationale
for going to war in Iraq. The probe has cast a dark cloud over the
White House at a moment when it can least afford it.
was also unpleasantly surprised by the cascading media coverage
given to a talk at the New America Foundation (NAF) last week by
ret. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell's top aide for some 16 years,
in which he accused Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld of
leading a "cabal" that circumvented the formal policymaking
and intelligence processes in order to take the country to war in
whose long-standing personal and professional closeness to Powell
has been widely noted, also accused Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, a Scowcroft protégé from Bush I, of condoning
the cabal's machinations and failing to ensure an open policymaking
process in which all reasonable voices and options were heard when
she served as Bush's national security adviser during his first
a former Air Force general who has long been seen as George H.W.
Bush's closest friend, if not alter ego, was not nearly as scathing
as Wilkerson, although some of his opinions echoed those of Powell's
former chief of staff. While Wilkerson's words reflected deep anger
and frustration, Scowcroft comes across in the interview as regretful
who worked closely with Scowcroft as secretary of defense under
Bush I and White House chief of staff under Ford, Scowcroft expressed
bewilderment. "The real anomaly in the administration is Cheney,"
he said. "I consider Cheney a good friend I've known
him for 30 years. But Dick Cheney I don't know anymore."
said, appeared to have been taken with a presentation by Bernard
Lewis, an octogenarian Middle East scholar from Princeton University,
who had been invited to the White House soon after the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks. According to Scowcroft, Lewis' message was, "I
believe that one of the things you've got to do to Arabs is hit
them between the eyes with a big stick. They respect power."
think Cheney is a neocon, but allied to the core of neocons is that
bunch who thought we made a mistake in the first Gulf War, that
we should have finished the job," Scowcroft told The New
was another bunch who were traumatized by 9/11, and who thought,
'The world's going to hell and we've got to show we're not going
to take this, and we've got to respond, and Afghanistan is okay,
but it's not sufficient.'"
On the foreign
policy process, Scowcroft also implicitly echoed Wilkerson's contention
that the views of dissenters from the Cheney-Rumsfeld line, including
himself, were either ignored or screened out.
When a frustrated
Scowcroft published his warning against invading Iraq in August
2002, Rice telephoned him and asked, according to another source,
"How could you do this to us?"
bothered Brent more than Condi yelling at him was the fact that
here she is, the national security adviser, and she's not interested
in hearing what a former national security adviser had to say,"
according to the source.
At the time,
Scowcroft was serving as chair of the President's Foreign Intelligence
Advisory Board (PFIAB), which should have been consulting regularly
with the White House but was apparently kept in the dark about the
preparations and rationale for going to war.
dropped from PFIAB earlier this year, and efforts by George H.W.
Bush to arrange a meeting between his son and Scowcroft have been
unavailing, according to The New Yorker account.
of the most important differences between foreign policy by Bush
I and Bush II was the openness of the process to dissenting opinions,
according to John Sununu, Bush I's chief of staff.
made sure the president was hearing all the possibilities,"
he told The New Yorker, a view that was implicitly endorsed
by the former president himself. In an e-mail message, the elder
Bush described Scowcroft as being "very good about making sure
that we did not simply consider the 'best case,' but instead considered
what it would mean if things went our way, and also if they did
to consider what could go wrong, as well as what could go right,
is one of the most profound critiques of the current administration
made by Scowcroft, widely considered a classic "realist,"
of both the current administration's policy process and the neoconservative
influence on it.
he and his Bush I colleagues, including Cheney, strongly opposed
invading Iraq and ousting Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War because
of the risks of becoming bogged down in a "hostile land,"
Scowcroft told The New Yorker, "[T]his is exactly where
we are now. We own it. And we can't let go."
will we win? I think there's a fair chance we'll win. But look at
the realist fears," he went on, "is the consequences of
idealism. The reason I part with the neocons is that I don't think
in any reasonable time frame the objective of democratizing the
Middle East can be successful. If you can do it, fine, but I don't
think you can, and in the process of trying to do it you can make
the Middle East a lot worse."
Lobe [send him mail]
is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2005 Inter Press Service