YouTube video

John McCain has recruited several members of “The Committee on the Present Danger” as foreign policy advisers, including former CIA head James Woolsey. Do Woolsey’s viewpoints represent McCain’s vision for America and the world?

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Welcome back to part 3 of our interview with Eric Margolis. Eric has been a Republican for many years, until he became somewhat disillusioned with our current president. Eric is not a big fan of the Democratic Party. Eric has been a seasoned foreign journalist, covered Afghanistan in the ’80s, and has been around covering the war and important stories around the world for decades. Eric, let’s talk about John McCain. Everyone’s attention, for obvious reasons, is on the outcome of the Democratic Party process. But quietly John McCain has been assembling his team, and in his foreign policy team are some very interesting figures. First and foremost, James Woolsey, former head of the CIA. And then a man named Randy Schoenberg, who with Woolsey helped constitute something called the Committee on the Present Danger, co-chaired by Senators Kyl and Lieberman, who pushed the resolution declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as terrorist. And the Committee on the Present Danger is quite dedicated to regime change in Iran and Syria, and the fundamental thesis of the Project for a New American Century document, which is the projection of American military might to reshape the world. McCain’s running—George Bush ran previously as the compassionate conservative; McCain’s running as the rational conservative. But what do you make of the vision of a Woolsey vision of the world, which seems to be the thing that will drive McCain’s foreign policy?

ERIC MARGOLIS, ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Well, I’ve met Woolsey on a number of occasions, been on TV programs with him in Washington, and I would be very nervous to have this man anywhere in a high-level government position. The reason is that he’s one of the point men for the extreme right wing of the Republican Party. They’re almost so far right wing you can hear goose-stepping. They want a very militaristic foreign policy. They want to use American power to destroy all of Israel’s perceived enemies.

JAY: Eric, in that respect, let me show you a piece of video. This is a clip of James Woolsey speaking during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and this is Woolsey calling for what he thinks should be the American approach at that moment towards Syria.



INTERVIEWER: Are you convinced this is Iran and Syria?

JIM WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Oh, certainly. I think Iran is the puppet master, and Syria and Hezbollah and Hamas to varying degrees are the puppets. This is really about Iran versus the US, and Israel is in the way.

INTERVIEWER: Woolsey, are you saying that we should be hitting Syria, we should be hitting the airport, we should be hitting Bashar Assad’s office?

WOOLSEY: Yes. The last thing we ought to do now, I think—.

INTERVIEWER: Well, you mean we the United States, not Israel.

WOOLSEY: Yes. Yes. I think the last thing we ought to do now is to start talking about ceasefires. This is a very serious challenge from Iran, and we need to weaken them badly, and undermining the Syrian government with air strikes would help weaken them badly.

INTERVIEWER: If undermining Syria, if taking Syria down a peg or two by actually hitting them with air strikes would be effective, why not hit something in Iran?

WOOLSEY: Well, you know, one has to take things to some degree by steps.


So that was James Woolsey’s recommendations during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. This is the man who’s advising John McCain. What does that tell us about John McCain and his and Woolsey’s vision for the world?

MARGOLIS: Well, that McCain has appointed an advisor who’s about as far right as you can get in the American political spectrum. It’s hard to tell whether Woolsey’s speaking at times for Israel or for the United States, he’s so preoccupied with the Middle East. The plan enunciated about attacking Syria was in fact the plan the Bush administration was in my understanding planning to follow in 2006 when Israel and Hezbollah got into a fight. The next step was going to be to attack Syria, and then to go on and bomb Iran. Hezbollah’s resistance put the kibosh on that plan, but nevertheless, the advisers around McCain are determined that they want to use American power to destroy all of Israel’s enemies, foremost of which is Iran.

JAY: McCain is getting away with a kind of not looking like a militarist. He’s pulled back from his hundred years’ war in Iraq. But there seems to be a fundamental split in those people that control US foreign policy, between this reshape the world and accommodate countries like Iran, and by accommodate I mean live with the fact they exist, they are regional powers. You have to deal with them the same way there was an accommodation of sorts with the Soviet Union for 50 years, there was a dealing with. But the roots of this philosophy as in this document, Project for a New American Century, talks about militarily taking out your opponents. Should one expect that as a foreign policy from John McCain?

MARGOLIS: Well, I hope not. But one would hope that he and his advisers have learned something, but apparently not. I mean, this doctrine was actually first put on paper by Paul Wolfowitz—I have it in my new book—where he outlines that we have to knock out any political or military enemy and go for resources. But what happened is that McCain started talking tough. The Democrats immediately jumped on him and said, “Four more years of Bush.” So his advisors wisely told him to tone it down and “We’ll bring this out later.” But he has enunciated an aggressive policy towards Russia, saying he wants a hard line towards Russia, just as Russia’s getting back up on its feet again and is no easy pushover anymore. And he’s been making very dangerous signs about a confrontation with China, not to mention Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. So we have a potential president who’s certainly going out looking for a fight.

JAY: So a great deal is at stake in this 2008 presidential elections.

MARGOLIS: Yes, and this time the media has to do its proper job to tell Americans what these people really plan to do, exactly what it failed to do before the invasion of Iraq.

JAY: Thank you Eric. And thank you for joining us. If you’d like to see more stories like this on the Real News Network, please click the donate button that you see here. We really do depend on your donations for our very existence. Thanks again for joining us.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Eric Margolis is an internationally syndicated columnist and renowned book author. He’s a veteran Korea-watcher who specializes in north Asian military/strategic affairs. He’s been all over the DMZ and produced his documentary there last year featuring a segment from Panmunjom on the DMZ. Two special areas of focus:  1. What would a war actually look like if one erupted?  2. The geopolitics of the region – the Koreas, Japan, China, Russia, the US.  Eric was a regular columnist for Japan's Mainichi Shimbun and is a long-time member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.