Who Is David Wurmser?

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July 8, 1996
The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli think tank, publishes a paper titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Chicago Sun-Times, 3/6/2003] The paper, whose lead author is Richard Perle, advises the new, right-wing Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to break with the policies of the previous government by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism….” Much along the lines of an earlier paper by Israeli Oded Yinon (see February 1982), the document urges the Israelis to aggressively seek the downfall of their Arab neighbors—especially Syria and Iraq—by exploiting the inherent tensions within and among the Arab States. Specifically, it recommends that Israel work with Turkey and Jordan to remove Saddam Hussein from power as a means of “foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” [Studies, 7/8/1996; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 3/19/2003] Other suggestions for Israel include abandoning the Oslo Accords, developing a foreign policy based on a traditional balance of power strategy, reserving its right to invade the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of a strategy of “self-defense,” abandoning any notion of “land for peace,” reestablishing a policy of preemptive strikes, forging closer ties to the US while taking steps towards self-reliance, and seeking an alternative to Yasser Arafat as leader of the PLO. [Studies, 7/8/1996]

November 12, 1997
David Wurmser, director of the Middle East program at the American Enterprise Institute, writes an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the US government should support Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress [INC] and work to foment “an Iraqi insurgency to depose the butcher of Baghdad.” Wurmser writes: “Washington has no choice now but to abandon the coup option and resurrect the INC. An insurgency may be able to defeat Saddam’s weak and demoralized conventional army. But one thing is clear: There is no cost-free way to depose Saddam. He is more resolute, wily and brutal than we. His strength lies in his weapons of terror; that is why he is so attached to them…. Organizing an insurgency to liberate Iraq under the INC may provoke Saddam to use these weapons on the way down. Better that, though, than current policy, which will lead him to use them on his way back up.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/12/1997]

February 19, 1998
The Committee for Peace and Security publishes an open letter to President Bill Clinton outlining a 9-point “comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime.” The letter is signed by a litany of former US government officials known for their neoconservative viewpoints. Several of the signatories are also involved with the Project for the New American Century and had endorsed a similar letter published by that organization the previous month. [Abrams et al., 2/19/1998; CNN, 2/20/1998]

(July 1998): Prominent Neoconservative Says INC Control of Northern Iraq Would Increase Israeli Security
David Wurmser says that having a region in northern Iraq controlled by the Iraqi National Congress would provide the missing piece to complete an anti-Syria, anti-Iran block. “If Ahmed [Chalabi] extends a no-fly, no-drive in northern Iraq, it puts scuds out of the range of Israel and provides the geographic beachhead between Turkey, Jordan and Israel,” Wurmser says. “This should anchor the Middle East pro-Western coalition.” [Forward, 7/31/2003]

July 24, 1998: Chalabi Supporters Ask Israel to Pressure Congress to Grant Funding for INC
Francis Brooke and David Wurmser meet with Dore Gold, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, with hopes to get Israel to pressure US Congress into approving a $10 million grant to the Iraqi National Congress to fund an effort to facilitate regime change in Iraq. “I went to speak to [Ambassador Gold] just to say that I think it’s in Israel’s best interest to help the Iraqi people get this thing done,” Brooke says. “The basic case I made was that we need help here in the US to get this thing going.” Commenting on the effort, Richard Perle tells Forward, a Jewish-American Magazine, “Israel has not devoted the political or rhetorical time or energy to Saddam that they have to the Iranians. The case for the Iraqi opposition in Congress would be a lot more favorable with Israeli support.” [Forward, 7/31/2003]

February 1999: David Wurmser Urges US to Support Insurgency in Iraq
In his book, Tyranny’s Ally: America’s Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, David Wurmser of the American Enterprise Institute urges the US to support an insurgency aimed at toppling the Bath’ist government of Saddam Hussein as part of a broader policy to defeat pan-Arabism in Iraq. In its place, the US should encourage the creation of a “loosely unified Iraqi confederal government, shaped around strong sectarian and provincial entities,” Wurmser argues. [Wurmser, 1999, pp. 136-137] What happens in Iraq is vitally important, Wurmser notes, because the country is of extreme strategic importance. “It is a key transportation route, and it is rich in both geographic endowments and human talent,” he explains. “Its location on pathways between Asia and Europe, Africa and Asia, and Europe and Africa makes it an ideal route for armies, pipelines, and trade from both the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor to the Persian Gulf. Iraq also has large, proven oil reserves, water, and other important resources. Its geographic centrality and abundance of natural advantages alone make the country a regionally important center.” [Wurmser, 1999, pp. 116-117]

November 1, 2000: David Wurmser Urges US and Israel To ‘Strike Fatally’ Against Arab Radicalism
In an op-ed piece published by the Washington Times, David Wurmser of the American Enterprise Institute calls on the US and Israel to “broaden” the conflict in the Middle East. The US, he says, needs “to strike fatally, not merely disarm, the centers of radicalism in the region—the regimes of Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, Tehran, and Gaza” —in order to “reestablish the recognition that fighting with either the United States or Israel is suicidal.” This is necessary, according to Wurmser, because the policies of the US and Israel during the last decade have strengthened Arab radicalism in the Middle East. Wurmser complains that the two countries have mistakenly identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and their own behavior as the primary causes of anti-Israeli and anti-American violence instead of focusing on what he claims are the real sources of resentment among Arab leaders—Israeli and American values. “Few anti-American outbursts or Arab-Israeli confrontations initially have much to do with Israel’s or America’s behavior; they have more to do with what these two countries are: free societies,” Wurmser writes. “These upheavals originate in the conditions of Arab politics, specifically in the requirements of tyrannies to seek external conflict to sustain internal repression.… A regime built on opposition to freedom will view free nations, such as the United States and Israel, as mortal threats.” The US and Israeli failure to grasp this reality, along with the Clinton administration’s reluctance to remove Saddam from power, according to Wurmser, has only empowered Arab radicalism. The answer, he argues, is to forcefully reassert US and Israeli power. [Washington Times, 11/1/2000]

Shortly After September 11, 2001: Wolfowitz and Feith Set Up the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith set up a secret intelligence unit, named the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, to sift through raw intelligence reports and look for evidence of a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. [Risen, 2006, pp. 183-184] The four to five -person unit, a “B Team” commissioned by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, uses powerful computers and software to scan and sort already-analyzed documents and reports from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and other agencies in an effort to consider possible interpretations and angles of analysis that these agencies may have missed due to deeply ingrained biases. Middle East specialist Harold Rhode recruits David Wurmser to head the project. Wurmser, the director of Middle East studies for the American Enterprise Institute, is a known advocate of regime change in Iraq, having expressed his views in a 1997 op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal (see November 12, 1997) and having participated in the drafting of the 1996 policy paper for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm (see July 8, 1996). F. Michael Maloof, a former aide to Richard Perle, is also invited to take part in the effort, which becomes known internally as the “Wurmser-Maloof” project. Neither Wurmser nor Maloof are intelligence professionals. [Washington Times, 1/14/2002; New York Times, 10/24/2002; Mother Jones, 1/2004; Los Angeles Times, 2/8/2004; Reuters, 2/19/2004] The Pentagon unit’s activities cause tension within the intelligence community. Critics claim that its members manipulate and distort intelligence, “cherry-picking” bits of information that support their preconceived conclusions. “There is a complete breakdown in the relationship between the Defense Department and the intelligence community, to include its own Defense Intelligence Agency,” a defense official will tell the New York Times. “Wolfowitz and company disbelieve any analysis that doesn’t support their own preconceived conclusions. The CIA is enemy territory, as far are they’re concerned.” [New York Times, 10/24/2002 Sources: Unnamed defense official] At the request of Wolfowitz, the office will intentionally ignore the intelligence community’s view that al-Qaeda and Iraq were unlikely allies. [Agence France-Presse, 2/9/2007] Defending the project, Paul Wolfowitz will tell the New York Times that the team’s purpose is to circumvent the problem “in intelligence work, that people who are pursuing a certain hypothesis will see certain facts that others won’t, and not see other facts that others will.” He insists that the special Pentagon unit is “not making independent intelligence assessments.” [New York Times, 10/24/2002] One of the cell’s projects includes sorting through existing intelligence to create a map of relationships demonstrating links between militant Islamic groups and state powers. This chart of links, which they call the “matrix,” leads the intelligence unit to conclude that Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and other groups with conflicting ideologies and objectives are allowing these differences to fall to the wayside as they discover their shared hatred of the US. The group’s research also leads them to believe that al-Qaeda has a presence in such places as Latin American. For weeks, the unit will attempt to uncover evidence tying Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks, a theory advocated by both Feith and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. [Washington Times, 1/14/2002; Mother Jones, 1/2004; Los Angeles Times, 2/8/2004] The group is later accused of stovepiping intelligence directly to the White House. Former DIA chief of Mideast operations, Pat Lang, later tells the Washington Times: “That unit had meetings with senior White House officials without the CIA or the Senate being aware of them. That is not legal. There has to be oversight.” According to Lang and another US intelligence official, the two men go to the White House several times to brief officials, bypassing CIA analysts whose analyses they disagreed with. They allegedly brief White House staffers Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Richard Cheney, according to congressional staffers. [Washington Times, 7/29/2004] According to unnamed Pentagon and US intelligence officials, the group is also accused of providing sensitive CIA and Pentagon intercepts to the US-funded Iraqi National Congress, which then pass them on to the government of Iran. [Washington Times, 7/29/2004] David Wurmser will later be relocated to the State Department where he will be the senior adviser to Undersecretary Of State for Arms Control John Bolton.(see September 2002). [American Conservative, 12/1/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004]

September 2002: Northern Gulf Affairs Office Renamed ‘Office of Special Plans’
Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, adamant hawks, rename the Northern Gulf Affairs Office on the Pentagon’s fourth floor (in the seventh corridor of D Ring) the “Office of Special Plans” (OSP) and increase its four-person staff to sixteen. [Knight Ridder, 8/16/2002; Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2002; New Yorker, 5/12/2003; Inter Press Service, 8/7/2003; Tom Paine (.com), 8/27/2003; American Conservative, 12/1/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Karen Kwiatkowski, Unnamed administration official] William Luti, a former navy officer and ex-aide to Vice President Cheney, is put in charge of the day-to-day operations. [Guardian, 7/17/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004] The Office of Special Plans is staffed with a tight group of like-minded neoconservative ideologues, who are known advocates of regime change in Iraq. Notably, the staffers have little background in intelligence or Iraqi history and culture. [Salon, 7/16/2003; Inter Press Service, 8/7/2003; American Conservative, 12/1/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Karen Kwiatkowski, A Pentagon adviser] Some of the people associated with this office were earlier involved with the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, also known as the “Wurmser-Maloof” project (see Shortly After September 11, 2001). They hire “scores of temporary ‘consultants’… including like-minded lawyers, congressional staffers, and policy wonks from the numerous right-wing think-tanks in the US capital.” Neoconservative ideologues, like Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, and Newt Gingrich, are afforded direct input into the Office of Special Plans. [Guardian, 7/17/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004; Vanity Fair, 7/2006, pp. 150] OSP staffer Karen Kwiatkowski says she sees Ledeen going “in and out of there (OSP) all the time.” [Vanity Fair, 7/2006, pp. 150] The office works alongside the Near East and South Asia (NESA) bureau, also under the authority of Douglas Feith [Inter Press Service, 8/7/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] The official business of Special Plans is to help plan for post-Saddam Iraq. The office’s staff members presumably “develop defense policies aimed at building an international coalition, prepare the secretary of defense and his top deputies for interagency meetings, coordinate troop-deployment orders, craft policies for dealing with prisoners of war and illegal combatants, postwar assistance and reconstruction policy planning, postwar governance, Iraqi oil infrastructure policy, postwar Iraqi property disputes, war crimes and atrocities, war-plan review and, in their spare time, prepare congressional testimony for their principals.” [Insight, 12/2/2003] But according to numerous well-placed sources, the office becomes a source for many of the administration’s prewar allegations against Iraq. It is accused of exaggerating, politicizing, and misrepresenting intelligence, which is “stovepiped” to top administration officials who use the intelligence in their policy decisions on Iraq. [Knight Ridder, 8/16/2002; Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2002; New Yorker, 5/12/2003; Inter Press Service, 8/7/2003; Tom Paine (.com), 8/27/2003; American Conservative, 12/1/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004; Daily Telegraph, 7/11/2004; CNN, 7/11/2004 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Karen Kwiatkowski, Unnamed administration official] There are very few news reports in the American mainstream media that report on the office. In fact, the office is reportedly Top Secret. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 308] “We were instructed at a staff meeting that this office was not to be discussed or explained,” Kwiatkowski will later say, “and if people in the Joint Staff, among others, asked, we were to offer no comment.” [American Conservative, 12/1/2003] Colin Powell is said to have felt that Cheney and the neoconservatives in this “Gestapo” office had established what was essentially a separate government. [Washington Post, 4/17/2004 Sources: Top officials interviewed by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward] Among the claims critics find most troubling about the office are:

 

  • The office relies heavily on accounts from Iraqi exiles and defectors associated with Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC), long considered suspect by other US intelligence agencies. [New Yorker, 5/12/2003; Salon, 7/16/2003; Guardian, 7/17/2003; Inter Press Service, 8/7/2003; Independent, 9/30/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Unnamed administration official] One defector in particular, code-named “Curveball,” provides as much as 98 percent of the intelligence on Iraq’s alleged arsenal of biological weapons. [CNN, 7/11/2004] Much of the information provided by the INC’s sources consists of “misleading and often faked intelligence reports,” which often flow to Special Plans and NESA directly, “sometimes through Defense Intelligence Agency debriefings of Iraqi defectors via the Defense Human Intelligence Service and sometimes through the INC’s own US-funded Intelligence Collection Program, which was overseen by the Pentagon.” [Mother Jones, 1/2004] According to Karen Kwiatkowski, the movement of intelligence from the INC to the Office of Special Plans is facilitated by Colonel Bruner, a former military aide to Gingrich. [Newsweek, 12/15/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004; Salon, 3/10/2004 Sources: Memo, Karen Kwiatkowski] Bruner “was Chalabi’s handler,” Kwiatkowski will tell Mother Jones. “He would arrange meetings with Chalabi and Chalabi’s folks.” [Mother Jones, 1/2004 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski]
  • The Office of Special Plans purposefully ignores intelligence that undermines the case for war while exaggerating any leads that support it. “It wasn’t intelligence,—it was propaganda,” Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked at the NESA desk, will later explain. “They’d take a little bit of intelligence, cherry-pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, often by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don’t belong together.” [New York Times, 10/24/2002; New Yorker, 5/12/2003; Salon, 7/16/2003; Guardian, 7/17/2003; Inter Press Service, 8/7/2003; Independent, 9/30/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Unnamed former intelligence official, Ellen Tauscher]
  • The OSP bypasses established oversight procedures by sending its intelligence assessments directly to the White House and National Security Council without having them first vetted by a review process involving other US intelligence agencies. [New Yorker, 5/12/2003; Salon, 7/16/2003; Guardian, 7/17/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004 Sources: David Obey, Greg Thielmann] The people at Special Plans are so successful at bypassing conventional procedures, in part, because their neoconservative colleagues hold key positions in several other agencies and offices. Their contacts in other agencies include: John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International; Bolton’s adviser, David Wurmser, a former research fellow on the Middle East at the American Enterprise Institute, who was just recently working in a secret Pentagon planning unit at Douglas Feith’s office (see Shortly After September 11, 2001); Elizabeth Cheney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs; Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser; Elliott Abrams, The National Security Council’s top Middle East aide; and Richard Perle, Newt Gingrich, James Woolsey and Kenneth Adelman of the Defense Policy Board. The office provides very little information about its work to other US intelligence offices. [Salon, 7/16/2003; Guardian, 7/17/2003; Inter Press Service, 8/7/2003 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski, Greg Thielmann, David Obey]
  • Lastly, the people involved in Special Plans openly exhibit strong pro-Israel and anti-Arab bias. The problem, note critics, is that the analysis of intelligence is supposed to be apolitical and untainted by ideological viewpoints. [American Conservative, 12/1/2003 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] According to a CIA intelligence official and four members of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, Special Plans is the group responsible for the claim Bush will make in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from an African country (see 9:01 pm January 28, 2003). [Nation, 6/19/2003; Information Clearing House, 7/16/2003] After the existence of the Office of Special Plans is revealed to the public, the Pentagon will deny that it served as a direct conduit to the White House for misleading intelligence, instead claiming that its activities had been limited to postwar plans for Iraq. [New Yorker, 5/12/2003] And a December 2003 opinion piece published in Insight magazine will call the allegations surrounding the Office of Special Plans the work of conspiracy theorists. [Insight, 12/2/2003]

September 14, 2006: Think Tank Scholar Suggests Iraq Was behind 9/11 Attacks
The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) holds a press briefing offering its analysis of the 9/11 attacks. Speaking at the event are former UN ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, AEI fellow David Wurmser, AEI fellow Michael Ledeen, and one-time Harvard assistant professor Laurie Mylroie. Speaking first is Mylroie, who argues that al-Qaeda could not have pulled the attacks off without the help of Saddam Hussein. “There has been no clear demonstration that Osama bin Laden was involved in Tuesday’s assault on the United States, but there’s been a lot of speculation to that effect, and it may turn out that he is. So assume that he is because I think the key question will be, how likely is it that Osama bin Laden’s group or any other group carried out these attacks alone, unassisted by a state? I’d like to suggest that it is extremely unlikely—in fact, next to impossible.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 67]