Above: Abrams, second from left, arm extended far into God of War’s posterior.
Elliott Abrams — also known by his nom de criminel Mr. Kenilworth — has written an account of Israel’s bombing of Syria’s al Kibar nuclear reactor. At the time, Abrams was one of George W. Bush’s deputy NSAs and so his version of events is an insider’s. Since Abrams is a self-described “gladiator,” a patron of butchers in Central America, a smear merchant and liar, husband of a genocidally-minded homophobic fascist, brother-in-law to one of same sentiments, son-in-law of a certifiable madman, and author of a book which demands of his co-tribalists a more ethnic purity by denouncing Jewish-gentile intermarriage in the strident tone of an old Southern anti-miscegenation tract, his story of the strike on Syria, published in his family’s magazine Commentardy, is bound to betray a certain authorial slant. And he doesn’t disappoint.
First he provides some background. Mean Condi Rice had relatively soured relations with the Israelis. She, like the rest of the administration, was fine with Israel blowing the shit out of Lebanon for a while but she didn’t want it to go on indefinitely. Bad Condi! Then the story takes off.
After the war, the head of Mossad comes to the White House to show Bush, Cheney, Hadley and Abrams some
photoshops intelligence on Syrians allegedly constructing a nuclear reactor with North Korean assistance. The Israelis insist the reactor has to go. After confirming the Israeli intelligence, the top officials named above decide to keep all information about it inside the White House. There are no leaks even though Abrams stupidly leaves notes under a chair for a time. It’s determined that the reactor is designed for weapons use; it’s also quickly decided that military means of destroying it is the best recourse. Diplomatic options are considered, but Abrams opposes this line because, first, Israel wouldn’t like it; second, because Mohommed El-Baradai of the IAEA is an Egyptian and therefore of the international Muslim conspiracy; and third, because it would put the ball in the court of the appeasers who wholly constitute the State Department.
Cheney is for the United States bombing the hell out of it, surprise surprise, because doing so would make America look strong in the face of the beating we’re taking in Iraq; also, it would be useful to scare the Iranians.
No one else in the room agrees with the Vice-President even though he shoots people in the face just because it feels good. When Bush calls a show of hands for endorsement of Cheney’s plan, no one raises theirs, though Abrams is sympathetic. Mr. Kenilworth certainly likes the Cheney solution but, well, there is for him a superseding issue: Israeli public relations and prestige. Or as he puts it:
My hand did not go up (and as we left the president’s living room that day, June 17, I apologized to the vice president for leaving him isolated) because I thought the Israelis should bomb the reactor, restoring their credibility after the annus horribilis of 2006 with the Second Lebanon War and then the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza. It seemed to me that Israel would suffer if we bombed it, because analysts would point out that Israel had acted against the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1981 but had become paralyzed when it came to Syria. Such an analysis might embolden Iran and Hamas, a development that would be greatly against American [lol - ed.] interests. Moreover, hostile reactions in the Islamic world against the bombing strike might hurt us at a time when we were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq—another argument for letting Israel do the job. (I did not think there would be any such reactions, but this was an argument worth deploying in our internal debate.)
This sets the stage for Abrams to slam Secretaries Rice and Gates in his narrative as the administration’s Neville Chamberlains, both insufficiently bellicose to Arabs and insufficiently servile to Israeli interests:
Secretaries Gates and Rice argued strenuously for the diplomatic option. Gates also argued for preventing Israel from bombing the reactor and urged putting the whole relationship between the United States and Israel on the line. His language recalled the “agonizing reappraisal” of relations Eisenhower’s secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, had threatened for Europe in 1953 if the Europeans failed to take certain defense measures: They simply had to do what we demanded or there would be hell to pay.
I think Abrams’s analogous invocation of that era and that president is no accident; he knows his audience. Britain, France, and Israel were ordered similarly to get their hands off the Suez by that backstabber Ike, which remains a sore subject for most neoconmen (one hint to Chuck Hagel’s awfulness in their point of view is his admiration of the 34th President).
I tried to think my way through Rice’s reasoning, but came up with only one theory. She had simultaneously been expressing opposition to a new program of increased military aid to Israel. This indicated to me that she had an underlying strategy: She did not want Israel feeling stronger. Rather, she wanted Israel, and especially Prime Minister Olmert, to feel more dependent on the United States. That way she would be able to push forward with plans for an international conference on Israeli-Palestinian issues and for final-status talks leading to the creation of a Palestinian state before the end of the second Bush term.
This of course is something Abrams must sabotage at all costs.
Bush came down on Rice’s side. We would go to Vienna, to the IAEA; he would call Olmert and tell him what the decision was. I was astounded and realized I had underestimated Rice’s influence even after all this time. The president had gone with Condi.
Panic button time! Abrams writes a “terrific memo” to Hadley pleading on the Israelis’ behalf. It is ignored; Abrams has a sadz. Bush calls Prime Minister Olmert and tells him America’s going the diplomatic route for now and Israel is to follow its lead. Olmert politely tells Bush to fuck himself. Abrams in describing this scene quotes from Bush’s memoirs then delights Commentary readers (whose favorite in this phone conversation is a given) by calling Bush a liar. Abrams then cheerfully recounts how, two months later with still no green light from the U.S., Israel bombs the site. Abrams is there when Bush answers the phone to receive the last-minute notice from Olmert. The President says in so many words “well ok, whatever,” hangs up, supposedly tells Abrams that Olmert has guts. Abrams is sure to note that Bush won’t let Olmert’s intransigence and unilateralism negatively affect America’s relationship with Israel. He suspects Bush is secretly approving of the strike. Abrams is personally thrilled that Condi’s diplomatic angle is, for the moment, ruined.
The rest of the piece is all about how right the Israelis were and are, how the strike made Assad the hugest chickenshit ever, ready to totally capitulate to any Israeli or American demand until once again the evil Condi Rice ruined it all with her stupid diplomacy-which-is-always-appeasement stuff. Abrams concludes by asserting with typical neoconartistry that advisers don’t matter, it’s what kinda man the Preznit is that is crucial and the best are those who, in general, are eager to blow up Arabs and Persians, and in particular, are willing to defer to Israeli expertise on how to deal with the wogs.
Also, too: Fred Hiatt’s resident Commentard Jennifer “Bili” Rubin is today blurbing Abrams’s new book, which she suspects will “become required reading for future generations of diplomats and Middle East observers.” I think she means required reading for convicted perjurers and saboteurs of diplomacy. Anyway, she’s never read anything written by an Abrams-Pod Person she didn’t like, and the more crazy, racist, and fascist it is the more breathlessly she endorses it.
Also, too, as well: Wow. See also Glenzilla’s update. I’m certain in just a few hours at least one Pod Person will smear the author of the Time article, a soldier who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. My money’s on Rubin.