Douglas Feith

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Douglas Jay Feith served as the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, the third ranking civilian position at the Pentagon, from July 2001 until his resignation effective August 8, 2005. Feith, a hardline Zionist, previously served on the White House National Security staff under Richard Allen during Ronald Reagan's first term in office. He was dismissed when Judge William Clark replaced Allen. Allegations of improperly handling classified materials were made but Feith was not prosecuted. During Reagan's second term in office, Feith was part of Richard N. Perle's Pentagon team.

Contents

Background

Feith began his career in government shortly after his graduation from Harvard as an intern to a subcommittee chaired by Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson.[1] Feith served from 1984 to 1986 as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy and was Special Counsel to Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard N. Perle from 1982 to 1984. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Georgetown University Law Center.[2] Feith has supported lobbying efforts aimed at persuading the United States to drop out of treaties and arms control agreements. Wrote one journalist in The Nation, “Largely ignored or derided at the time, a 1995 Center for Security Policy (CSP)] memo co-written by Douglas Feith holding that the United States should withdraw from the ABM [antiballistic missile] treaty has essentially become policy, as have other CSP reports opposing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the International Criminal Court.”[3]

Feith’s private business dealings have also raised eyebrows in Washington. In 1999, his firm Feith & Zell formed an alliance with the Israel-based Zell, Goldberg & Co., which resulted in the creation of the Fandz International Law Group. According to Fandz’s web site, the law group “has recently established a task force dealing with issues and opportunities relating to the recently ended war with Iraq. ... and is assisting regional construction and logistics firms to collaborate with contractors from the United States and other coalition countries in implementing infrastructure and other reconstruction projects in Iraq.” Remarked Washington Post columnist Al Kamen, “Interested parties can reach [Fandz] through its Web site, at www.fandz.com. Fandz.com? Hmmm. Rings a bell. Oh, yes, that was the Web site of the Washington law firm of Feith & Zell, P.C., as in Douglas Feith [the] undersecretary of defense for policy and head of -- what else? -- reconstruction matters in Iraq. It would be impossible indeed to overestimate how perfect ZGC would be in ‘assisting American companies in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects.’”

Zionism and Foreign Policy

Feith has been active in Zionist causes since his youth. He has also spoken about the formative influence of the Holocaust on his thinking. He told Jeffrey Goldberg,

“I had done a lot of reading, relative for a kid, about World War Two, and I thought about Chamberlain a lot,” he told me. “Chamberlain wasn’t popular in my house.” Feith’s father lost his parents, three brothers, and four sisters in German death camps...When I took all these nice-sounding [antiwar] ideas and compared it to my own little personal ‘Cogito, ergo sum,’ which was my understanding that my family got wiped out by Hitler, and that all this stuff about working things out—well, talking to Hitler to resolve the problem didn’t make any sense to me. The kind of people who put bumper stickers on their car that declare that ‘war is not the answer,’ are they making a serious comment? What’s the answer to Pearl Harbor? What’s the answer to the Holocaust?” He continued, “The surprising thing is not that there are so many Jews who are neocons but that there are so many who are not.”[1]

Feith maintains close relations with the Likud Party in Israel. He was a co-author of the infamour 'A Clean Break' document that prominent neoconservatives wrote for the incoming Likud government of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996. In a New Yorker profile Jeffrey Goldberg sums up his views on foreign policy thus:

In the late nineteen-seventies, he wrote about America’s energy supply, arguing, against conventional wisdom, that oil embargoes could be more damaging to the economies of Arab oil exporters than to the United States. In the nineteen-eighties, as a deputy to Perle, Feith focussed his attention—and skepticism—on arms control and détente. In the early nineteen-nineties, he predicted that the Oslo peace process between Israel and the Palestinians would fail.[1]

However, following the disaster in Iraq, Feith has grown touchy about his Zionism. Goldberg reports:

Feith’s library includes a large selection of books on Zionism, but he did not linger there. “I’m not looking to aggravate a distortion about me,” Feith said. The distortion, he said, is that his religion, or at least his longtime support for right-wing Israeli leaders, has affected his policy recommendations to Rumsfeld.[1]

Controversial Tenure as Undersecretary of Defense

Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group

Shortly after the events of 11 September 2001, Feith created the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group (PCEG), which was disbanded in February 2004. In April 2004, the "Group" was under investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as to whether it "exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq to justify the war." [4][5]

Attempts to Link Iraq with Al Qaeda

In August 2002, Feith and DIA analyst Chris Carney discussed Iraq's alleged ties to al-Qaeda to the CIA. CIA analysts immediately recognized that Feith's allegations came from discredited sources. The information will nevertheless be included in speeches by George W. Bush and in CIA director George Tenet's Congressional testimony. Feith distributed a classified memo to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence based on this information, and the memo was later leaked to the Weekly Standard, a neoconservative magazine.

Called for Regime Change in Iraq Five Years Before 9/11 Attack

Douglas Feith, along with Richard Perle and other noted neo-cons, called for the removal of Saddam Hussein in a 1996 round table report A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.[6] The removal was considered a means for foiling Syria's regional ambitions. This report was prepared more that five years before the attack on the World Trade Center. The report describes regime change in Iraq as an important Israeli strategic objective.

Allegations of Leaking Classified Material

"'He was very arrogant,' Karen Kwiatkowski, Feith's former deputy, says, describing what it was like to work with him. 'He doesn't utilize a wide variety of inputs. He seeks information that confirms what he already thinks. And he may go to jail for leaking classified information to The Weekly Standard.'[7] (As she explains, an article appeared in The Weekly Standard that included a leaked memo written by Feith alleging ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.) :"It seems unlikely that Feith will face time for the leaked memo. But he may well be forced to look for a new job soon. As he knows all too well, regime change isn't pretty."

WMDs as the principal rationale for the war in Iraq

Feith and Paul Wolfowitz "are blamed for persuading President Bush that an invasion would be relatively easy.[8]

Creation of Office of Special Plans

A supplementary annex of the committee's review of the intelligence leading to war in Iraq says about Feith: A Senior Pentagon policy maker created an unofficial "Iraqi intelligence cell" in the summer of 2002 to circumvent the CIA and secretly brief the White House on links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'eda.[9]

According to Feith said, the non-descript name was chosen to obscure its mission.[1]

Office of Strategic Influence

Another unit reporting to Feith was the Office of Strategic Influence, a covert propaganda unit created at the Pentagon in the wake of 9/11.[10]

Circumventing the Geneva Convention

Feith was instrumental in the president's decision that the Geneva Convention should not apply to detainees:

How had the administration gone from a commitment to Geneva, as suggested by the meeting with Rumsfeld, to the president’s declaration that none of the detainees had any rights under Geneva? It all turns on what you mean by “promoting respect” for Geneva, Feith explained. Geneva didn’t apply at all to al-Qaeda fighters, because they weren’t part of a state and therefore couldn’t claim rights under a treaty that was binding only on states. Geneva did apply to the Taliban, but by Geneva’s own terms Taliban fighters weren’t entitled to P.O.W. status, because they hadn’t worn uniforms or insignia. That would still leave the safety net provided by the rules reflected in Common Article 3— but detainees could not rely on this either, on the theory that its provisions applied only to “armed conflict not of an international character,” which the administration interpreted to mean civil war. This was new. In reaching this conclusion, the Bush administration simply abandoned all legal and customary precedent that regards Common Article 3 as a minimal bill of rights for everyone.[11]

Post War Denials

The man who oversaw the manufacturing of false intelligence in the lead up to war told Jeffrey Goldberg two years after the war:

“The main rationale was not based on intelligence,” Feith said. “It was known to anyone who read newspapers and knew history. Saddam had used nerve gas, he had invaded his neighbors more than once, he had attacked other neighbors, he was hostile to us, he supported numerous terrorist groups. It’s true that he didn’t have a link that we know of to 9/11. . . . But he did give safe haven to terrorists...Given the ease, as everybody knows, with which one can reconstitute stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons if you have the capabilities which he had, I don’t think the rationale for the war hinged on the existence of stockpiles.”[1]

Tellingly, he only speaks about chemical and biological weapons (not strictly 'weapons of mass destruction') and leaves out any mention of Iraq's alleged nuclear program. He also sidesteps the fact that his Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group was dedicated solely to establishing the Iraq-al-Qaeda link.

Feith and the Arab Mind

When asked why US troops were not greeted with flowers as the neoconservatives had promised, Feith told the interviewer: '“But they had flowers in their minds.”[1]

A History of Lobbying

In 1989, Feith registered International Advisors, Inc. (IAI) as a foreign agent representing the government of Turkey. The brainchild of Richard N. Perle, IAI's stated purpose was to "promote the objective of U.S.-Turkey defense industrial cooperation." Douglas Feith was not only the CEO of IAI but also its only stockholder. Feith earned $60,000 per year and his law firm, Feith and Zell, was the recipient from IAI of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In 1992, Feith joined with Perle and other neo-cons opposing President George H.W. Bush's stern policy on Israel in forming the Committee on US Interests in the Middle East.

Feith and Perle reportedly teamed up once again as consultants for Bosnia. They both worked for and advised the Bosnians during the Dayton peace talks. They were not, however, registered then as foreign agents with the U.S. Department of Justice. Above paragraphs from the Arab American Institute's Washington Watch.

Affiliations

Contact Information

Resources and articles

Profiles

Articles by Douglas J. Feith

External articles

1996

2001

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Jeffrey Goldberg, A Little Learning, New Yorker, 9 May 2005
  2. [1]
  3. Source: Center for Security Policy 98-D139
  4. James Risen, How Pair's Finding on Terror Led to Clash on Shaping Intelligence, New York Times, 28 April 2004
  5. Context of 'August 2002: Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group In Pentagon Disbanded', History Commons, accessed 3 September 2010
  6. [2]
  7. Laura Rozen, "Ye of Little Feith. Why one of Doug Feith's underlings thinks he might go to jail", The American Prospect, May 18, 2004
  8. Julian Borger, [3], Guardian Unlimited, May 20, 2004.
  9. [4]
  10. A NATION CHALLENGED: HEARTS AND MINDS; PENTAGON READIES EFFORTS TO SWAY SENTIMENT ABROAD, by James Dao and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, 19 February 2002.
  11. The Green Light, Phillippe Sands, Vanity Fair, May 2008.
  12. Mearsheimer, J. & Walt, S. The Israel Lobby London Review of Books, 16 March 2006

[Category:Harvard alumni|Feith, Douglas]]

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