Michael Ledeen, a critical overview

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Michael Ledeen is mentioned briefly by Jeffrey M. Bale, in a detailed and insightful article on post-war right-wing terrorists and their relation to the extra-parliamentary Left in Europe, which explored collusion and manipulation:

Ledeen began his public career as a historian of Italian fascism, but after working in Italy for several years he became involved in a number of apparent intelligence-connected ventures, including Il Giornale Nuovo, CSIS, and an international group organised to ‘study’ terrorism in Italy. Later he was recruited as agent Z-3 by SISMI (in which capacity he became involved in a number of scandals), became the ‘international terrorism’ expert attached to Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s staff, and may have covertly worked with Israeli intelligence. More recently, in addition to promoting disinformation themes in a variety of conservative or rightist publications, including Commentary and Human Events, he served as an intermediary between the US National Security Council and ex-SAVAK (Iranian secret police) officer Manukher Ghorbanifar during the early phases of the illegal Iran-Contra operation.[1]

Some of the main problems analysis of Ledeen's projects have had, is their veil of secrecy, intrigue and obfuscation. The other, in projects such as the Intelligence Summit[2] or his writing in general, is in terms of credibility — is what he is saying disinformation, ideologically driven or some other dellusion. Researchers are left with the simple fact that a high proportion of the people in Ledeen's milieu, are propagandists, or paid liars, gun-runners or criminals — in some cases combinations of these. Many of their kind have written books expounding, rather than explaining, the nature of their game, such as the Roy Godson who advocates the fabrication of smears and lies, stating:

“...to discredit an adversary the disinformer intentionally disseminates falsehoods, say through forgery or rumor, going to great trouble to hide his involvement in creating and/or releasing the information.” [3]

By and large the nature of the game is ignored by sympathetic audiences and possibly over-stated by critics, thus adding to the confusion. But of significance is the fact that Ledeen has been an intermitant US government official: falling in and out of favour with several right-wing administrations and consistantly attacking the Democrats with Godson-like smears — indeed the two are products of the Center for Security and Intelligence Studies set up by the CIA in the early 1960s after the disaster of the Bay of Pigs to rethink covert operations. For the administrations Ledeen has worked for such deceptions are designed to be 'sufficient for the day', they need only hold up till the policy has been shaped — notably in the case of Ledeen's alleged involvement in forgeries which tried to show Uranium oxide was being imported from Niger by Iraq, in the lead-up to the war — a war Ledeen now argues he did not advocate as we shall see below.

These contrivancies, given the glamour title of 'black operations,' are at someone's behest, usually powerful actors who have a goal in mind and can often, if retrospectively, be attributed to an arena of state illegality, secrecy with no rational oversight, termed 'para-politics' or the 'Deep State'.[4]

Godson's work goes on to outline the use of stolen documents used to smear opponents, secretly controlled journalists and so forth, so critics can easily point to self-confessed thieves and liars — without being completely ad hominem. Ledeen and the Intelligence Summit’s more notorious speakers would probably define covert action as essentially clandestine political intervention in the affairs of other states; but a large component of its workings concerns domestic interference, which in turn usually operates around staying in power by keeping down and discrediting voices of dissent. The political direction of such plans, in terms of the executive, are usually (and usefully) described as distant, such as George H. W. Bush being ‘out of the loop’[5] when it came to the planning of the operational details of illegal activity. Or we are offered the admonition that the public and scholars alike need to be shielded from any real knowledge of what happened in the past due to 'National Security'.

Into this vacuum step people like Ledeen, whose disdain for government agencies and accountability is matched by their antipathy towards him — as became evident in the Plame case.[6] One could easily conclude that confusion reigns as regards the official history of covert action, but there is too much of this history, it has too many consistancies, left too much of a trail and the task of fooling all of the people all of the time is a hard one. But something has to be openly produced to lead us into this confusion and mostly this takes the form of unsupported assertion, numerous forms of logical fallacy and misleading analogy: that's the problem with lies.

Apparently Irrefutable crackpot realism

Michael Ledeen in his 2002 National Review article ‘The Blind Leading the Blind,’[7] stated that Iran’s “Supreme Leader”, the Ayatollah Khamenei is an opium addict — but might that just be made more Godson-type falsehoods? Or what about the “apparently irrefutable evidence that has now providentially fallen into our hands,” of what was “in essence a wiring diagram of Iranian operations in Iraq.”[8] What is apparently irrefutable evidence — could that be possibly refutable evidence? Note too that just because something is irrefutable does not mean it either true or false. A strange inversion takes place in Ledeen's writing as if he has been looking into the Nietzschen abyss of Machiavelli for too long, as if he is putting his own view in the mouths of his supposed enemies: if these enemies are wrong why should we match their ‘extremism’ or ‘fundamentalism’ or death cults so deftly described?[9] Why should we abandon ‘freedom’ and live under our own version of a closely monitored and controlled society overseen by unaccountable security clerics? Let no one forget Ledeen’s role in Iran/Contra (and the previous Israeli shipments in 1981 of US arms to Iran secret arms-for-hostage-delay deal between Iran and the 1980 Reagan presidential campaign).[10] The quote below is from The Jewish Virtual Library, and would suggest the need for a ‘Crackpot Realism’ section:

“According to the Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair issued in November 1987, the sale of U.S. arms to Iran through Israel began in the summer of 1985, after receiving the approval of President Reagan. The report shows that Israel’s involvement was stimulated by separate overtures in 1985 from Iranian arms merchant Manucher Ghorbanifar and National Security Council (NSC) consultant Michael Ledeen, the latter working for National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane. When Ledeen asked Prime Minister Shimon Peres for assistance, the Israeli leader agreed to sell weapons to Iran at America’s behest, providing the sale had high-level U.S. approval.”[11]

This account omits the inclusion of the money going to the Contras and the Byzantine labyrinth of deception, criminality and subversion, the loss of life. This extends to a form of normalisation of the process — here ‘high-level’ approval becomes the 'noble lie' — the sanction of one man acting illegally is offered as the be-all and end-of of jurisprudence. Shimon Peres does not come across as particularly fussy to us either. We are also led to put aside the industry which arose in arming Iraq during the same period and its effect on the region. If the person in charge says it is kosher then it is kosher — but King David feeding the shew bread to the troops is one thing, and his organisation of the death of Bathsheba's husband another. This type of world requires the imputation of an infallibility of leadership not unanimously attributed to President Reagan in particular, and commonly absent in the area of judgement of US foreign policy. And this is the realism that Ledeen’s reason has led him to: crackpot realism. If everybody gets caught red-handed, the president can wave the magic wand of immunity and pardon as he did in the Iran/Contra case: Bush pardoned former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane, to whom Ledeen worked as a consultant together with Elliott Abrams, former CIA Central American Task Force Chief Alan D. Fiers, Jr., former CIA Deputy Director for Operations Clair E. George, and former CIA Counter-Terrorism Chief Duane R. Clarridge.

According to C. Wright Mills this realism and rationalization equates with a military definition of reality, the phrase ‘crackpot realism’ is from Thorsten Veblen; and we could also make reference to the chapter The Higher Immorality of Mills' Power Elite:

The higher immorality can neither be narrowed to the political sphere nor understood as primarily a matter of corrupt men in fundamentally sound institutions. Political corruption is one aspect of a more general immorality; the level of moral sensibility that now prevails is not merely a matter of corrupt men. The higher immorality is a systematic feature of the American elite; its general acceptance is an essential feature of the mass society. […] A society that is in its higher circles and on its middle levels widely believed to be a network of smart rackets does not produce men with an inner moral sense; a society that is merely expedient does not produce men of conscience. A society that narrows the meaning of 'success' to the big money and in its terms condemns failure as the chief vice, raising money to the plane of absolute value, will produce the sharp operator and the shady deal.

And the money here relates to the ‘Warlords’ the title of another chapter of Mills’:

In this military world, debate is no more at a premium than persuasion: one obeys and one commands, and matters, even unimportant matters, are not to be decided by voting. Life in the military world accordingly influences the military mind's outlook on other institutions as well as on its own. The warlord often sees economic institutions as means for military production and the huge corporation as a sort of ill-run military establishment. In his world, wages are fixed, unions impossible to conceive. He sees political institutions as often corrupt and usually inefficient obstacles, full of undisciplined and cantankerous creatures.

Obviously, since Mills wrote that, there is a lot to choose from, but arguably, Iran/Contra is one of the clearest illustrations of crackpot realism. The organized irresponsibility of this integrated quasi-secret elite and the subsequent military and bureaucratic 'reality denial' necessitated that a military definition of reality prevailed. But someone like Mills would be the crackpot’s crackpot. Yet it is not the New Left who offer testimony on Ledeen.

Iran has been a focus of Ledeen's activities, and he is part of a group of insiders who blame the Carter Administration for the 'loss' of Iran, which had been won over to US and British interests in the CIA/MI6 orchestrated coup.[12]

Opium for the President

Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of Counterterrorism at the CIA, came close to naming Ledeen as the forger of the Niger ‘yellow cake’ documents. When asked by an interviewer who did it by posing the question: “If I said ‘Michael Ledeen’?” Cannistraro replied, “You’d be very close.”[13] Ledeen’s creativity is also on display in his writing’s and utterances, but it contains a tortuous twisting: "Creative destruction is our middle name. We do it automatically ... it is time once again to export the democratic revolution."[14]Such utterances have provided a disingenuity inspiration to everyone from US warmongers to Italian fascists. Commentators have identified Ledeen's ideas in the pronouncements of such figures as Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz — something of a narrow range of neo-conservatives. But even within the milieu of a former employee of the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council, there is a problem that Ledeen has on occasion alluded to himself — 'clarity':

No one I know wants to wage war on Iran and Syria, but I believe there is now a clear recognition that we must defend ourselves against them. They are an integral part of the terror network that produced September 11.

Now it would see that Ledeen would have us believe that the dope fiends running Iran have sobered up sufficiently to organize an ‘integral part’ of the ‘network that produced’ 9/11. One of Ledeen's projects: the Intelligence Summit came up with apparently irrefutable evidence that the famous WMDs are primed and ready to go in 45 minutes from secret bases in Syria. But where clarity is beginning to emerge is in the fabrication of this process. With Iran we can watch the network of sissemination click into action one more time: phony organizations screaming for war — the ‘Coalition for Democracy in Iran’. Will Ledeen together with Larry Franklin, Harold Rhode, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Nicolo Pollari, Antonio Martino have another chance meeting in Rome. The problem is that this satire is sadly not that divorced from ‘reality’, see: Tom Barry, Tom (2004) Is Iran Next? The Pentagon neocons who brought you the war in Iraq have a new target.[15]

Ledeen is however, an isolated voice: few — apart from an appreciative FOX television audience — find a resonance in Ledeen’s very simple idea that the US wage ‘total war’ (some consider that phrase to be a misattribution to Ledeen) in the name of scraps of intelligence for the foreseeable future. That permanent war will make an empire last forever would seem ahistorial. Consequently, Ledeen has condemned the State Department the United Nations for wasting time with diplomatic solutions to prevent conflict and the CIA for bothering about evidence. And the problem of how propagandists talk the populace into all this remains. As is surprisingly common with the neo-conservatives, it is, according to Shadia Drury some perverse mutation of Marxism:

Leo Strauss […] did not dissent from Marx’s view that religion is the opium of the people; but he believed that the people need their opium. He therefore taught that those in power must invent noble lies and pious frauds to keep the people in the stupor for which they are supremely fit.”[16]

And this is where disinformation comes in: patriotism and religion, noble lies and pious frauds, if the enemy cannot be found, then it must be invented. As Drury notes: the use of religion as a political tool is a recipe for tyranny, not freedom or democracy as it encourages the cultivation of “an elite of liars and frauds who exempt themselves from the rules they apply to the rest of humanity.” And this is what we have in the intelligence game, a Mount Olympus from which vantage point the mortals provide the gods with entertainment in the form of pain, suffering and tragedy.

Julian Borger in a 2003 Guardian report stated that despite Manucher Ghorbanifar having been the subject of a CIA warning to members of the US government not to go anywhere near him, two Pentagon officials met him in December 2001 in Paris and January 2002 in Rome, 'lured by his promises'. The meetings were reported to the US government by the US ambassador to Italy after the fact, and continued until they were leaked to the press and Donald Rumsfeld, ordered a halt. This then explains Ledeen's involvement in promoting aspects of the story:

...Ghorbanifar maintained lines of communication with the neoconservative thinktank, the American Enterprise Institute, and in particular a friend from the Reagan days, Michael Ledeen, and through him passed on an extraordinary story. According to Mr Ledeen and a US intelligence source, five years ago Iraqis working for Iranian intelligence were smuggling enriched uranium out of Iraq and into Iran. These agents developed radiation sickness and in the wreckage of postwar Iraq, were willing not only to tell the story but to lead US officials to uranium remnants that were still in a Baghdad laboratory. "I think it's a credible story," Mr Ledeen, a former national security council consultant, said, adding that he had talked to Mr Ghorbanifar's source for the story, an Iraqi Shia Muslim. Mr Ledeen took the story to the Pentagon but a Rumsfeld aide told him that since the CIA's appointment of David Kay, a former UN inspector, as leader of the US hunt for Iraqi weapons, the defence department's hands were tied.[17]

Death Cults

To find a comparable tone to Ledeen's many pronouncements, one would have to look at the most extreme end of Wahabbism to find a similar death cult; and it may be that Ledeen, Pipes and so forth have perceived a ‘missile-gap’ type lacuna in contemporary US policy: the ‘death cult gap': ‘Mr President, Al Qaeda are way ahead of us in terms of rhetorical propensity towards annihilation.’ During the Gulf War of 1991, the differences in language used to condemn the other side became very obvious. The Iraqi rhetoric seemed more lively and full of vivid illusions, perhaps a bit too Old Testament for western ears, but akin to the metaphorical reach of the Book of Revelations: the "immortal mother of all battles" seems to have (sardonically) entered the language, while the American condemnations lacked that vital spark, they were dull technocrats with their own propaganda-strewn lexicon of ‘collateral damage’ and the ‘pin-point accuracy’ of ‘precision guided missiles.’

But with Ledeen it is hard to say which is which — Saddam or Ledeen?

"On a day like this day 10 years ago, evil and all those who made Satan their protector lined up in one place, facing those who represented the will to defend what is right," [...] enemies were "stamped with disgrace and shame that will never disappear until doomsday".[18]


"it is only proper, since Iran is the mother of all modern terrorism, the great engine of terror in the region, and the sworn enemy of the United States." [19]

Ledeen and the neo-conservatives seem to have adopted this tone by some form of osmosis: Ledeen even parroted Saddam’s phraseology at a JINSA policy forum in April 2003 with "Time to Focus on Iran-The Mother of Modern Terrorism." With that customary lonely oratory (not so much a voice crying in the wilderness as a voice crying for wilderness) Ledeen declared: "The time for diplomacy is at an end; it is time for a free Iran, free Syria and free Lebanon."[20] First ‘The End of History’ now ‘The End of Diplomacy,’ closely followed by the end of the lives of those people like Ledeen judge to be sub-human.

One would think that the practitioners of the nuances of right and wrong would have a less Manichean view of the world. But where does that leave loyalty? According to a now declassified chronology prepared for the Senate/House Iran-Contra investigation, in 1986, Oliver North recommended to John Poindexter that “for [the] security of the Iran initiative” Ledeen be asked to take periodic polygraph examinations, and that North wrote to Poindexter of his suspicion that “Ledeen, along with Adolph Schwimmer and Manucher Ghorbanifar, might be making money personally on the sale of arms to Iran, through Israel.”[21] That all came on the back of previous suspicions by Principle Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs, Noel Koch’s unsuccessful attempts to interest the Bureau in an investigation of the possibility that Ledeen was effectively negotiating for Israel, not the US. Imagine even Oliver North holding you at arms length (because of reasons of trust) and we get some measure of the man.

'A matter of taste'

Before the invasion of Iraq the Guardian tried to explain “what 'creative destruction' and 'total war' meant in the context of then current US foreign policy.”[22] The starting point was identified as happening “in a meeting with American congressmen” when “the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, nominated three countries to be tackled after Iraq: Iran, Libya and Syria”; then, to clarify that the vision driving US policy under George Bush, was ‘far broader’, Ledeen’s National Review conceptualisation of ‘total war’ was introduced via an amanuenses, Adam Mersereau, a former Marine Corps officer.

...to an extremely personal point of decision, so that they are willing to accept a reversal of the cultural trends that spawned the war in the first place. A total war strategy does not have to include the intentional targeting of civilians, but the sparing of civilian lives cannot be its first priority ... The purpose of total war is to permanently force your will onto another people group. Limited war pits combatants against combatants, while total war pits nation against nation, and even culture against culture.[23]

Just to clarify the wisdom of those in positions of power this added an important distinction:

However, the real point is not whether such ideas are mad, it is the amount of influence that they have on policy.

The report notes the influence and agency of Eleana Benador and the relation of the above statements to a small cabal waiting to take over the running of Iran should Ariel Sharon’s wish list be granted, including Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah, who was of course installed by the US/UK instigated coup back in the 1950s. The report closes with a list of Benador’s people many of whom form the basis of what Ledeen would categorise as the ‘revolutionary right.’ Others on the right, such as John Laughland's The American Conservative are less amenable to fighting this revolution, and have pointed out that “Ledeen’s conviction that the Right is as revolutionary as the Left derives from his youthful interest in Italian fascism.”[24]

The American Conservative is also one of the many publications that present evidence to establish that Ledeen — who denies any connection — was a part of the infamous Niger forgeries. An example of this is: Giraldi, Philip (2005) Forging the Case for War: Who was behind the Niger uranium documents?, The American Conservative, November 21. This, again from a former CIA Officer, points to Ledeen as a go-between and (the alleged planning group involves old Iran-Contra figures such as former CIA Rome station chief Duane Claridge and Manucher Ghorbanifar and interestingly Lawrence Franklin, the Pentagon Iran desk officer, who pled guilty to passing classified Pentagon documents to officials in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Israeli Embassy) the report also states that Rocco Martino, who provided the dossier to the Berlusconi-owned (and Ledeen advised) Panorama magazine has since admitted to the Financial Times that both the Italian and American governments were behind the eventual forgery of the full Niger dossier as part of a disinformation operation.

Laughland's essay also noted that Ledeen has noted the effects of propaganda in his (1972) Universal Fascism:

That work starts with the assertion that it is a mistake to explain the support of fascism by millions of Europeans “solely because they had been hypnotized by the rhetoric of gifted orators and manipulated by skilful propagandists.” “It seems more plausible,” Ledeen argued, “to attempt to explain their enthusiasm by treating them as believers in the rightness of the fascist cause, which had a coherent ideological appeal to a great many people.” For Ledeen, as for the lifelong fascist theoretician and practitioner, Giuseppe Bottai, that appeal lay in the fact that fascism was “the Revolution of the 20th century.””

This report argues that Ledeen’s position is that the common ground between Nazism and Italian Fascism was “exceedingly minimal,” and that the Axis Pact should not be permitted to become the "overriding consideration in this analysis”. It finds that Ledeen’s careful distinction between fascist “regime” and “movement” makes him a “clear apologist for the latter.” Drawing on the work of the fascist intellectual, Camillo Pellizi:

Ledeen says, the fascist state was “a generator of energy and creativity.” The purest ideologues of fascism, in other words, wanted something very similar to that which Ledeen himself wants now, namely a “worldwide mass movement” enabling the peoples of the world, “liberated” by American militarism, to participate in the “greatest experiment in human freedom.” Ledeen wrote in 1996, “The people yearn for the real thing—revolution.””

They may well yearn for the real thing but they are unlikely to get such a gift from propagandists and disinformation professionals. It seems odd to pick out one amongst so many but, there seems some confusion in Ledeen and others use of the term 'creative destruction', such as in this example from 2001:

....we should have no misgivings about our ability to destroy tyrannies. It is what we do best. It comes naturally to us, for we are the one truly revolutionary country in the world, as we have been for more than 200 years. Creative destruction is our middle name. We do it automatically, and that is precisely why the tyrants hate us, and are driven to attack us.[25]

The term, which is usually attributed to Joseph Schumpeter's idea (as expressed in Capitalism, socialism, and democracy, p.81-84) relates to business cycles and the effect of entrepreneurial radical innovation rendering previous innovations obsolete. The usage of the term seems to have been extended into the cultural field with Max Page's (1999) The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940, and now with Ledeen to foreign policy to augment and normalize a discourse of pre-emptive intervention — but it is really good-old fashioned war-mongering.

Ledeen’s associate Roy Godson in his 1980 book Hydra of Carnage, called for a total overhaul of U.S. intelligence, on a Machiavellian model, to pave the way for the "post-nation state era" and advocated the promotion of irrationalist cults as a means of social perversion and subversion. This is redolent of Ledeen’s earlier academic work in which we can identify an interpretation of Wilfred Pareto and Hans L Zetterberg's 1901 treatise, The Rise and Fall of Elites: An Application of Theoretical Sociology.'[26] with its attribution of the rise of socialism’s to “the sanction of the victim,” the argument that people’s motivations are inherently irrational, based on sentiment rather than logic and ordered retrospectively with the elite monopoly of force manipulating this. In respect of other latter day formulations of this we could also mention Elliott Abrams (2001) The Influence of Faith: Religious Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy, this draws its inspiration from Samuel Huntington and was funded by the Smith Richardson Foundation, drawing on Abrams work at Ethics and Public Policy Center:

“…some missionaries became what we would now call lobbyists and their “interest group” often allied with less devout expansionists” [27]

The book also mentions “premillenial dispensationalism,” whereby the British promise of a “Jewish homeland in Palestine as evidence of Jesus’ imminent return” was used as propaganda or “attuned” as Abrams puts it. Premillenial dispensationalism” is still put about by Michael Ledeen and his wife.[28]

Ledeen made a (2003) attempted rebuttal of many of the charges put against him in another national Review article[29]. According to this, Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas, delivered "a tirade against his version of neoconservatism". The accusations (according to Ledeen) were that neoconservatives (and therefore he):

  • accept the notion that the ends justify the means;
  • express no opposition to the welfare state;
  • believe pertinent facts about how a society should be run should be held by the elite and withheld from those who do not have the courage to deal with it;
  • hold Leo Strauss in high esteem;
  • say that 9/11 resulted from the like of foreign entanglements, not from too many [sic];
  • endorse attacks on civil liberties, such as those in the Patriot Act;
  • unconditionally support Israel and have a close alliance with the Likud Party.

This adds that "The last is the usual garbage from extremists who don't like Jews. The rest are wrong [...] He is trying to demonize an entire group of people." Ledeen it would seem has been taken out of context. This is the same reply he gave to another critic and here he also mentions his use of creative destruction:

My reference to "creative destruction" was torn out of context to make it sound as if I were talking about military war, when in fact I was describing American national character, and the ongoing process of change in American society. The same phrase was used by Schumpeter and other scholars, and the concept is examined at length by de Tocqueville. You and Beeman totally distorted my meaning. [30]

People, according to Ledeen just get him wrong. When he argued for "the desperately-needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein and the rest of the terror masters" and that "Saddam is actively supporting al Qaeda, and Abu Nidal, and Hezbollah" and further stated on fears that if the US attacked Iraq it could "turn the whole region into a caldron", as far as he was concerned:

One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to indoctrinate young terrorists.[31]

For Ledeen what we should have taken this to mean was:

I opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place.[32]

Pass the Ouija board

What does Ledeen have to say about the Niger forgeries and the Plame affair? After a Vanity Fair article which set out the complexities of the intrigue and included an interview which cast doubts on some of his assertions, even on the Iraq invasion itself:

Ledeen claims […] that he had strongly advised against the plan, saying that the invasion of Iraq was the "wrong war, wrong time, wrong way, wrong place." But the truth is somewhat more complicated. Ledeen had urged regime change in Iraq since 1998, and just four hours after the 9/11 attacks he posted an article on the National Review Web site urging Bush to take "the fight directly to Saddam on his own territory."[33]

Are we left with the conclusion no one meddled with anything to encourage a war? That even the black propagandists played it straight? Does the free market’s invisible hand regulate this as well? How did ‘evidence’ deemed unsuitable even for an Italian tabloid creep into, and become the basis of UK and US war plans? Or perhaps this has nothing to do with the law of supply and demand and there were no buyers or sellers, merely Premillenial dispensationalism working towards the inevitable. But there would seem to be rather a lot of money in providing disinformation and so on: not just the secret slush funds and invisible budgets of ‘black operations’, but open spending on ‘homeland security.’ Imagine if one was able to overlay a map of the areas of the American empire’s expansion with a diagram of budgetary expenditure and have the thing animated with no regard to secrecy and just watch the money flow.

Here Ledeen can help us with a dues ex machina. In his National Review columns he has astonished readers with the revelation that he can summon up the ghost of James Jesus Angleton via a ouija board.[34] This was purchased “in one of those kinda ratty antiques-and-esoterica shops in the French Quarter before New Orleans” and as a rhetorical device works all kinds of magic (an essential part of which is misdirection — legerdemain). Here Angleton explains matters from the grave:

…In fact, the information the president cited—the British intelligence —was probably accurate. If I had to bet, I'd lay pretty decent odds that the story of Saddam trying to buy uranium in Africa was true.[35]

But Ledeen is no Ricky Jay — what does materialize is his utter disdain for practically every US organization involved in intelligence, a blogger who has reviewed the content of the ‘Angleton’ essays over the last few years[36], made the following observations, which I have summarized and categorized with their respective fallacies:

  • Ledeen tries to blame the Niger forgeries on the French (Argumentum ad Baculum).
  • He used the now largely discredited Zawahiri letter to claim terrorist ties between Sunnis and Shiites (Fallacy of Affirming the Consequent).
  • A supposition is made that the London tube bombing was not a suicide bombing (Red Herring Fallacy).
  • He complains about the Plame investigation and “Anonymous'“ (Michael Scheuer's) publication (Argumentum ad Hominem).
  • He claims the FBI do not have any real evidence in the Franklin (spying for Israel) case because there have been no indictments (Fallacy of Composition).
  • He dismisses the notion that Chalabi is an Iranian spy (Argumentum ad Ignorantiam).
  • He attempts to get Condoleezza Rice off the hook for her lies about the PDB [President's Daily Briefing Memo] that presented only "historical" information (Argumentum ad Verecundiam).
  • He offers a continuation of the critique on Tenet, used to focus on the Iranian regime (Fallacy of Accident).
  • He offers a critique of Tenet's Senate testimony to argue for a unified theory of terrorism (Petitio Principii).
  • He alleges that the DC sniper was tied to Islamic terrorists (Masked Man Fallacy).
  • He offers an assessment of the attempt to assassinate Saddam to argue for regime change and to argue that the anthrax through the mail was a plot of Saddam's (Fallacy of Denying the Antecedent).

For Vanity Fair the Niger story was a workable lie, quoting Melvin Goodman, the former CIA and State Department analyst it states:

...there is no benign interpretation of this […] at the highest level it was known the documents were forgeries. Stephen Hadley knew it. Condi Rice knew it. Everyone at the highest level knew.

Ledeen asserts that he could not have orchestrated the Niger operation, because he “disagreed so strongly with the administration's policy.” Because of a potential legal action Vanity Fair makes it clear that despite all the speculation, “there are no fingerprints connecting Ledeen to the Niger documents.” Ledeen replied by picking up on this (although he misquotes it as “no evidence”) and maintains that he “opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place.”[37]

An example of one Ledeen's more outré 'theories' was that Germany and France "dreaded the establishment of an American empire, and they sought for a way to bring it down." The theory explains that "Franco-German strategy was based on using Arab and Islamic extremism and terrorism as the weapon of choice, and the United Nations as the straitjacket for blocking a decisive response from the United States".[38]

Ledeen even goes so far to say that the conspiracy is worked "through Iranian middlemen" and "required considerable skill, and total cynicism", but offers no evidence but concludes with:

"we will have to pursue the war against terror far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, into the heart of Western Europe."

Again we can draw on Mills for an explanation of this type of writing, from page 90 of the Power Elite:

In crackpot realism, a high-flying moral rhetoric is joined with an opportunist crawling among a great scatter of unfocused fears and demands. In fact, the main content of “politics” is now a struggle among men equally expert in practical next steps — which, in summary, make up the thrust toward war — and in great, round, hortatory principles. But without any programme.


For some authors, including Tom Easton, Ledeen was in charge of doing in the left in the UK when the cold warrior mentality crept into London’s Grosvenor Square. Cord Meyer was somewhat put out at all those hippies demonstrating. A little bit of COINTELPRO was imported along with all that LSD.

…the most active interventionist at the time of the SDP’s foundation was Michael Ledeen, Secretary of State Al Haig’s man monitoring the Socialist International and, in particular, Western Europe […] an old associate of Ledeen, who, like him, had a big hand in the Iran Contra scandal […] was known to lots of SDP types from childhood when his dad, Joe, was plotting with Gaitskell against Bevan. Roy Godson grew up and became a great mate of Bill Casey.[39]

Elsewhere Easton has brought the network up to date with ventures such as The New Atlantic Initiative (NEI). Led by Radek Sikorski the ex-Solidarity member, and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation representative in Poland in 1989:

The New Atlantic Initiative counts Margaret Thatcher as one its patrons. Its advisory board includes her former adviser, Sir Charles Powell (brother of Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan), and such other Cold Warriors as Lord Chalfont, Robert Conquest, Newt Gingrich, Jean-François Revel, Samuel Huntington and Brian Beedham. Alongside Michael Ledeen on the board are also Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Midge Decter, Norman Podhoretz. Max Kampelman, Daniel Pipes and William Kristol of the Project for the New American Century. Roger Scruton, Lord Weidenfeld and Alan Lee Williams […] complete the British complement.” [40]

What we see is nothing new it merely takes us back to networks and methods of operating that built themselves up around the cold war — what would be surprising was if it was some different group:

What can be said with certainty is that almost all of the leading promoters of the ‘Soviet terror network’ thesis — for example Brian Crozier, Arnaud de Borchegrave, Ray Cline, Paul Henze, Michael Ledeen, Robert Moss, John Rees, Claire Sterling, Pierre de Villemarest and a number of Israelis — have a long history of direct or indirect intelligence connections; that some of these people have been personally involved in prior ‘counter-terror’, counter-insurgency, psychological warfare, or propaganda operations; that most have at some point been connected to think tanks or other organizations which have themselves been covertly funded by intelligence agency slush funds; that they frequently meet to exchange information (and perhaps to develop and coordinate disinformation themes) at pseudo-academic conferences; and that the data they cite to buttress their claims are derived primarily from each other and 'unnamed' intelligence sources — i.e. sources that are untraceable, unverifiable and arguably contaminated.[41]

The pan-European intelligence operation known as 'Gladio' has been the subject of several books and a Timewatch BBC television programme, in which Ledeen was interviewed. The programme described a state within a state, which emerged as the US reformed the post-war Italian state to orient it towards an anti-Communist position, by elevation fascist and other far-right groups, according to Vincento Vinciguerra

The P2 lodge wasn’t a centre of hidden power. It was a centre of real power: hidden from the public, but not the State. It has played a very precise role in this battle against Communism… and I consider the P2 to be one of those parallel structures which were part of Gladio. It didn’t have a military role, but rather a role in internal subversion.”[42]

Oswald Le Winter (not entirely the most trustworthy of interviewees) stated:

P2 was basically… I guess you might say… the wholly owned subsidiary of the company in Italy. People had been recruited by Gelli for their unswerving loyalty to the cause of anti-communism: I would say Conservative democratic principles and the furtherance of American aims and policies in western Europe.[43]

Ledeen's response was in connection to a supposedly leaked US Defense Training Manual 30-31B (others say supplement B 31 32), which included this observation:

There may be times when host contry governments show passivity or indecision in the face of communist subversion. US Army Intelligence must have the means of launching special operations which will convince host counry governments and public opinion of the reality of the insurgent danger. US Army Intelligence should seek to penetrate the insurgency by means of agents on special assignment, with the task of forming special action groups among the most radical elements of the insurgency. In cases where the infiltrations of agents into the insurgency leadership has not been effectively implemented it may be help to utilise ultra leftist organisations.

Of the CIA members interviewed William Colby denied (a non-denial denial) the penetration statement, Ray Cline did not deny it but pointed out it was the kind of special operation not presidentially initiated, Le Winter stated "if its not authentic what’s it doing in the libraries", and one Licio Gelli — allegedly paid by the CIA to foment terrorist activities in Italy— it was given to him. For Ledeen on the other hand:

The field manual was an old forgery designed to show that there’s some kind of…accusing the United States basically of what the Soviet Union was doing in Italy which was creating a…eh…secret underground paramilitary organisation capable of acting to subvert Italian democracy.[44]


  1. Bale, Jeffrey M. (1989) Right-wing Terrorists and the Extraparliamentary Left in Post-World War 2 Europe: Collusion or Manipulation? Lobster No. 18. In Lobster 19.
  2. The International Intelligence Summit, decribes itself as "a non-partisan, non-profit, neutral forum that uses private charitable funds to bring together intelligence agencies of the free world and the emerging democracies", its web site: is http://www.intelligencesummit.org/ Ledeen organised the 2007 ‘Secular Islam Summit’ in partnership with the Intelligence Summit, see the Center for Inquiry, The St. Petersburg Declaration.
  3. Godson, Roy (2001) Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: US Covert Action & Counterintelligence, Transaction Publishers.
  4. Peter Dale Scott (1994) Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, pp. 6-7.
  5. Lawrence E. Walsh (1993) Final Report Of The Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Volume I: Investigations and Prosecutions, Chapter 28, George Bush.
  6. Philip Giraldi (2005) Forging the Case for War: Who was behind the Niger uranium documents? November 21, 2005, The American Conservative.
  7. Ledeen, Michael A. (2002) The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis, National Review Online, November 21. The Jewish World Review has a collected archive of Ledeen's writings.
  8. Ledeen, Michael A. (2007) The Time May Have Come: The Iran We Cannot Avoid, January 2.
  9. In the archive of some of his work for the past eight years, certain contradictory themes arise: 01/22/01,Ledeen bemoans a "preemptive strike against [...] Joe Lieberman"; 09/14/01, his wife is "singled out by the Left for slanderous attacks, dehumanizing slogans, the usual stereotypes" and blames "those among us who dehumanize their political opponents and thereby facilitate the transition from the politics of personal destruction to the physical destruction of their opponents", previously (05/07/01) he had published a photo of Sydney Blumenthal captioned 'Loser' with his lawyer termed "a pompous bully" and so on. Sometimes this just descends into a rabid fantasy as in the 2001 'We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless':
    We need to sustain our game face, we must keep our fangs bared, we must remind them daily that we Americans are in a rage, and we will not rest until we have avenged our dead, we will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away, and every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle.
  10. Honegger, Barbara (1987) Irangate and Secret Arms-for-Hostage Deal, Lobster No. 14.
  11. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (2008) The Iran-Contra Affair, The Jewish Virtual Library.
  12. The Economist, September 13, 1980, Iran; Who lost it? traces this the view that blames Zbigniew Brzezinski to William Sullivan who wrote a Foreign Policy article that "put the blame for the ruin of American diplomacy in Iran on ignorant meddling from the White House." Ledeen (who was engaged in anti-Carter smears and worked under Al Haig who resigned over the matter) makes an appearance framing the Sullivan version of events:
    A much longer analysis of the same sequence of events by Mr Michael Ledeen and Professor William Lewis in the spring Washington Quarterly bears close resemblances to Mr Sullivan's right up to the penultimate page. Only when it comes to draw conclusions does it diverge materially. At that point Mr Ledeen and Mr Lewis disclose their belief (presumably long held, since it does not seem to arise from their analysis) that the human rights advocates in the state department were the only ones in Washington with a coherent view, that their theories of human rights made them desire the fall of the Shah, and that consequently any action leading anywhere but to chaos was blocked. This conclusion, too, is not flawless; but it, too, suggests a critical deficiency of helmsmanship at the very top.
  13. Mcgovern, Ray (2005) The Hand of Cheney: Did Dick Finger Valerie?, Counterpunch, July 20.See also: Marshall, Joshua M., Rozen, Laura, & Glastris, Paul (2004) Iran-Contra II? Fresh scrutiny on a rogue Pentagon operation, Washington Monthly, September.
  14. Ledeen, Michael A. (2001) Creative Destruction How to wage a revolutionary war, National Review Online, September 20.
  15. Barry, Tom (2004) Is Iran Next? The Pentagon neocons who brought you the war in Iraq have a new target, In These Times magazine, October.
  16. Drury, Shadia B. (2003) Leo Strauss and the Grand Inquisitor, Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 24, Number 4.
  17. Julian Borger (2003) CIA and Pentagon split over uranium intrigue: Mistrusted arms dealer's tangled tale of smugglers and a hidden Baghdad laboratory sparks bitter spat, The Guardian, October 17.
  18. Myre, Greg (2001) Defiant Saddam glories in Gulf War ‘triumph’: TV speech praises “mother of all battles” while neglecting true cost of conflict, The Independent, January 17.
  19. Gancarski, Anthony (2002) The Mad World of Michael Ledeen: National Security, Iran and Iraq, CounterPunch, September 25.
  20. Barry, Tom (2004) Is Iran Next? The Pentagon neocons who brought you the war in Iraq have a new target, In These Times magazine, October.
  21. Green, Stephen (2004) Serving Two Flags: Neo-Cons, Israel and the Bush Administration, Counter Punch, February 28/29.
  22. Whitaker, Brian (2003) Conflict and catchphrases, Guardian, February 24.
  23. Whitaker, Brian (2003) Conflict and catchphrases, Guardian, February 24.
  24. Laughland, John (2003) Flirting with Fascism: Neocon theorist Michael Ledeen draws more from Italian fascism than from the American Right, The American Conservative, June 30.
  25. Michael Ledeen (2001) Creative Destruction: How to wage a revolutionary war, September 20. Throughout this essay the only affirmative language directed towards a person is to "the outstanding leadership of Ahmed Chalabi." All aspects of American government, from President Clinton, the Intelligence Agencies, State Dept., are disparaged with the exception of Ronald Reagan.
  26. Wilfred Pareto and Hans L Zetterberg (2005 [1901]) The Rise and Fall of Elites: An Application of Theoretical Sociology, Transaction.
  27. Elliott Abrams (2001) The Influence of Faith: Religious Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy, Rowman & Littlefield, (p. 6)
  28. Ledeen, Michael A. & Ledeen, B. (1984) The Temple Mount Plot, The New Republic, June 18. Excerpts can be found at the Democratic Underground Forum.
  29. Michael Ledeen (2003) Dishonorable Congressman RE: Ron Paul, National Review, September 10.
  30. Ledeen replying to James W. Skillen Democracy Through Creative Destruction? May 19, 2003, Center for Public Justice.
  31. Michael Ledeen, August 6, 2002, Scowcroft Strikes Out, A familiar cry, National Review,
  32. Michael Ledeen, Saturday, November 04, 2006, The Latest Disinformation from Vanity Fair
  33. Unger, Craig (2006) The War They Wanted, the Lies They Needed, Vanity Fair, June 6.
  34. Ledeen, Michael A. (2004) Signals & Background Noise: Angleton on Clarke, Condi, and who knew what when, National Review Online, April 12. See also: Ledeen, Michael A. (2004) Porter’s Purge, National Review Online, November 16.
  35. Ledeen, Michael A. (2005) The French Connection: Getting to the Bottom of the Prewar-Intelligence Mystery, National Review Online, November 7.
  36. emptywheel (2005) Michael Ledeen’s “Wilderness of Mirrors,” The Last Hurrah, December 15.
  37. Ledeen, Michael A. (2006) The Latest Disinformation from Vanity Fair, National Review Online, November 4.
  38. Michael Ledeen (2003) A Theory: What if there’s method to the Franco-German madness? National Review Online. March 10.
  39. Easton, Tom (1996) Who were they travelling with? Lobster No. 31.
  40. Easton, Tom (2003) Tittle-tattle: The British American Project and the war on Iraq, Lobster No. 45.
  41. Bale, Jeffrey M. (1989) Right-wing Terrorists and the Extraparliamentary Left in Post-World War 2 Europe: Collusion or Manipulation? Lobster No. 18.
  42. Timewatch: Operation Gladio (part3) Originally aired on BBC2 in 1992, 'Operation Gladio' revealed 'Gladio', as a secret state-sponsored terror network operating in Europe.
  43. Timewatch: Operation Gladio (part3) Originally aired on BBC2 in 1992.
  44. Timewatch: Operation Gladio (part3) Originally aired on BBC2 in 1992.