Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Corridors of Power

Douglas J. Feith, Esq. was a student in my graduating class at The Central High School of Philadelphia, 230th class, June 1971.  Mr. Feith served as Deputy Secretary of Defense for Policy in the administration of George W. Bush.  He was one of the architects of the Iraq War.  Mr. Feith and I are not acquainted.

Ahmad Chalabi was in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day, 2001. He had chosen his favorite double-breasted Ermenegildo Zegna suit and a bright orange tie to celebrate opening day of the George W. Bush presidency. With his mischievous smile and aristocratic bearing, the fifty-six-year-old Iraqi-born Chalabi made his way from one inaugural bash to the next, gliding among the crowds of Bush partygoers. A Muslim who neither smokes nor drinks, he took it all in with the eye of an exile and the soul of a schemer. What would the Bush era mean for him? he wondered. How could he make the most of it?

The day after Bush's swearing in, Chalabi took a car to Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside the nation's capital. He was invited to a meeting at the two-story home of Richard Perle, a leading figure in the neoconservative movement, which advocated using American military power to promote democracy abroad. Among those present, Chalabi said, were Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas J. Feith, Zalmay Khalilzad, and John P. Hannah. Within a few months, they all would hold influential positions in the new administration--with Wolfowitz and Feith landing the number two and number three positions at the Pentagon and Perle becoming a top adviser to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Khalilzad a special assistant to Bush and ambassador at large for Iraqi exiles, and Hannah a national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. But on this brisk and sunny afternoon, January 21, 2001, they were just a handful of like-minded civilians who saw the charting of U.S. foreign policy as both their dominion and their duty.

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

This post is drawn from Richard Bonin, Arrows of the Night: Ahmad Chalabi's Long Journey to Triumph in Iraq (New York: Doubleday, 2011).

Incidentally, Douglas Feith comes from a family of Holocaust survivors -- whatever that means!