Romney consultant John Bolton is not alone
among the GOP candidate's advisers who want
to bomb Iran. (Reuters/Jeff Zevanlansky)
In the wake of Mitt Romney's hollow
speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars conference this week, Zack Beauchamp and Ali Gharib at Think Progress have joined other progressives who are spreading the word
about the presumptive nominee's foreign policy team.
Ari Berman of The Nation was the first to provide a comprehensive look at the neoconservative heart of Romney's foreign policy team. Of the 40 members he identified, 70 percent have worked for George W. Bush. Their domination of the team is perhaps what led Romney to say "an American century" five times in his VFW speech, an echo of the Project for a New American Century, the clubhouse and advocacy operation the neoconservatives began in the late '90s, now defunct.
Romney has avoided getting advice from the Republican Party's old internationalist wing, epitomized by the likes of James Baker III who served in both the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. He's relying for advice on men and women who lied us into two unnecessary and extended wars (and had more planned), the folks who jacked up Pentagon spending by 68 percent. As I've noted previously, each in his or her own way is recommending a doubling-down on the Bush Doctrine.
Nine of Romney's advisers signed the mission statement and/or one of PNAC's several public policy letters. They are Paula Dobriansky, Vin Weber, Dan Senor, Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman, John Lehman, Donald Kagan, Robert Kagan and Aaron Friedberg.
Then there's John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations he despises, and all-around ultrahawk. He doesn't like being called a neoconservative. But his policy ideas are in line with that faction, particularly on subjects like Iran, a country he thinks we should have bombed on Sept. 12, 2001. He hasn't changed his mind.
Beauchamp and Gharib put Bolton at the top of their list. Besides him, they focus on seven others. Here's their take mixed with mine:
• Eliot Cohen: A former adviser to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Cohen was, in 1997, a founding member of the Project for a New American Century. He calls the fight against terrorism "World War IV." He was a prominent member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which called for the invasion, and he pounded on this theme more loudly than most right up until the bombs started falling. In November 2001, he began calling for war on Iran. Key position: Bomb Iran.
• Cofer Black: He is known for warning from his CIA post in August 2001 of an impending large-scale terrorist attack. Black was in charge of the CIA counter-terrorism shop when torture and "enhanced interrogations" were under way. He was still a vice chairman of the security contractor then known as Blackwater when he became a consultant to Romney in 2007. Asked during his campaign for the GOP nomination that year about whether he would use torture, Romney said he would have to consult with Black on the subject. In Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Black is described as “the man who vowed to bring Osama bin Laden’s head to George W. Bush on a pike and did not make good on that promise.” Key position: Bomb Iran.
• Walid Phares: Lebanese by birth, Phares was involved in brutal Maronite Christian militias during Lebanon's civil war and seems to have been directly responsible for injecting Christian theology into the ideology of the militias. A professor who is a frequent contributor on Fox News, he is linked with the right-wing anti-sharia movement. Key position: Bomb Iran.
• Michael Hayden: Formerly head of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, Hayden is a hardcore apologist for torture. Besides defending it for the Bush administration, he worked diligently to conceal it. Key position: Bombing Iran may not be such a good idea because of blowback.
• Dan Senor: The former spokesman for the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, where he painted a rosy picture, Senor is co-founder of Foreign Policy Initiative, a group dedicated to rehabilitating neoconservatism. Key position: Bomb Iran
• Max Boot: He says Americans may not like the term "empire," but he thinks the U.S. should act like one. In October 2001, he said, “Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.” Key position: Bomb Iran.
• Eric Edelman: A former undersecretary of Defense, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, he has bellyached recently about leaks of classified information from the Obama White House for political purposes. That's the case even though he was the guy who suggested that Scooter Libby leak information about Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger, a move that produced the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife. Key position: Bomb Iran.
Mendacious Mitt may not be all that clear when he talks about foreign policy, but his choices of advisers tell us more than his word salads.