Jeffrey LewisDoug Feith & the Paranoid Style

You know your career is in the tubes when you make a derisive footnote in a bipartisan report investigating the worst attack on American soil. That/’s exactly where Douglas J. “Spanky” Feith finds himself.

A footnote (n. 75, p.559) in the 9/11 Report details a memo Feith drafted to Rumsfeld that “expressed disappointment at the limited options immediately available in Afghanistan and the lack of ground options. The author suggested instead hitting terrorists outside the Middle East in the initial offensive, perhaps deliberately selecting a non-al Qaeda target like Iraq. Since U.S. attacks were expected in Afghanistan, an American attack in South America or Southeast Asia might be a surprise to the terrorists.” David Ignatius, in his review of the 9/11 Report, wrote what most of us are thinking right now: “If Feith really wrote such a memo, how is it possible that he is still in his job?”

Feith has penned a defense in today/’s Washington Post, arguing that striking targets outside of Afghanistan could have been part of a strategy that focused on al-Qaeda. Such strikes, Feith argued, might:

  • “Shock the enemy network, perhaps by hitting it where a U.S. response was not expected.
  • “Show seriousness of U.S. military purpose, to potential allies as well as to enemies, to make clear that the United States was now prosecuting a war.
  • “Show that the war would not be limited geographically to Afghanistan.
  • “Demonstrate the value in taking into account al Qaeda assets and support networks in areas other than Afghanistan.”

None of these arguments, however, addresses the core of the argument: Why was Feith proposing to smoke Iraq in response to 9/11? That might “show that the war would not be limited geographically to Afghanistan” but couldn/’t we just bust up some al Qaeda cells in the Phillipines instead?

This allegation is more damning when considered in light of a second fact: Feith was also running the intelligence shop churning out the allegations linking Saddam and al Qaeda.

What the memo suggests is that Feith might actually have believed that Iraq was linked to al Qaeda. Those who suggest Feith is a duplicitous functionary are doing him a disservice; he appears to be a raging right-wing paranoic straight out of Richard Hofstadter/’s magnificent “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” (Harper/’s Magazine, November 1964, pp. 77-86).

I/’ve often thought the neo-conservative worldview essentially reduces to a conspiracy theory, but Feith has taken a murderous band of thugs and turned them into a global conspiracy on the scale of the Masons or the Trilateral Commission.

We are so much safer for having Spanky at the helm.