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PNAC Activist Downplays PNAC Role In Iraq War

By Matt Duss on March 31, 2009 at 11:00 am

"PNAC Activist Downplays PNAC Role In Iraq War"

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schmitt.jpgGeorge Packer has a couple of posts on Kristol and Kagan’s neo-neocon Foreign Policy Initiative. Packer’s comments on the outsize role that the neoconservative Project for the New American Century played in getting up the Iraq war drew a protest from PNAC’s Gary Schmitt, who writes that “no one who ever worked for PNAC or was on its board worked in the Bush administration. Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act, not PNAC.”

That is true. Similarly, George W. Bush invaded Iraq, not PNAC. But it’s pretty safe to say that neither the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act nor the 2003 Iraq invasion would have happened without PNAC’s activism. For a sense of how this worked in regard to the former, read former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter’s account of how PNAC board member Randy Scheunemann — who was then national security adviser to Trent Lott, and later John McCain’s foreign policy adviser, and then a lobbyist for Georgia, and then John McCain’s foreign policy adviser again — leaked a UN weapons report on Iraqi WMD (which turned out to be false) to con artist Ahmad Chalabi, who then provided it to the Washington Post.

The resulting story provided the major impetus for the passing of the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which made regime change in Iraq the policy of the United States. The piece is fascinating on a number of levels, notably for how pleased with themselves Chalabi’s little cabal of neocon supporters were with their plan to install him as the new post-invasion Iraqi leader, how up front they all were about their scheme to get America into a war, and how completely wrong they all turned out to be about what would happen afterward.

As for Gary Schmitt, he himself served with Scheunemann as an officer on the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a front organization founded in 2002 in collaboration with members of the Bush administration to publicly lobby for the Iraq invasion. So while it may be true that “no one who ever worked for PNAC or was on its board worked in the Bush administration” (though both Schmitt and Scheunemann worked as Pentagon consultants) the clear fact is that PNAC and those closely associated with it played a key roles both in laying the early legislative groundwork for the Iraq war, and then later in developing and disseminating Bush administration propaganda leading to the invasion.

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