Robert Parry on Vietnam era hawks, the neocons and McCain Pt2
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Welcome back to our coverage of the Republican National Convention. We’re talking with Bob Parry about who is the real John McCain. Bob Parry’s a renowned investigative journalist. You can find his current writings at consortiumnews.com. Thanks for joining us, Bob.
ROBERT PARRY, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Thanks, Paul.
JAY: So, Bob, when we left off in the last segment, we had just started talking about Joe Lieberman. I think it’s kind of very interesting to note that very close to John McCain there’s not one quasi-former Democrat but two. The other is James Woolsey, former head of the CIA, appointed by Clinton. Both very, very hardcore neocons, both involved in something called the Committee on the Present Danger that has a lot of its roots in this document we all keep talking about, Project for a New American Century, Woolsey was. Tell us about who’s Joe Lieberman, and talk a little bit about this trend within the Democratic Party. These are not Republicans we’re talking about; these are Democrats.
PARRY: Well, that’s right. There has been, really, also coming out of the nasty fights of the Vietnam era, a group that we now call the neocons. They had been Democrats; they were sort of conservative, pro-Vietnam War Democrats. They too felt that the nation was betrayed by those who opposed fighting the war in Vietnam on to victory. So they came out of that. Of course, most of them also did not serve in Vietnam. Most of them were in college at the time. But they came out of that period with the same kind of bitterness about this idea that the United States had to be victorious and dominant. They also developed very close ties to Israel in terms of seeing Israel’s interest in the Middle East as preeminent, as a key part of American foreign policy. So they sort of combine those two elements. As we come through the period of the 1980s, they attach themselves to the Reagan administration in many ways. Many of them leave the Democratic Party at that time, people like the Bob Kagans of the world, Elliott Abrams. And then you get others who remain, at least titularly, in the Democratic Party, people like James Woolsey. Of course, during this period Joe Lieberman is emerging as, first, a state politician in Connecticut and then, later, becoming a US senator.
JAY: Just let me add, just for people who don’t know, just to give some context, during the Israeli-Hezbollah war in Lebanon—I guess it’s two years ago now—Woolsey was on CNN and called for the bombing of all the infrastructure of Syria live on television as a first step towards taking on Iran. So you get some kind of sense what kind of politics we’re talking about.
PARRY: Right. They were extremely militant about much of this. After the 1992 election, Clinton felt he owed something to the neoconservative Democrats who had hung with him. The phrasing that I was given at that point was, “We owed something to The New Republic,” which was a sort of a neoconservative magazine that still supported the Democrats somewhat in Washington. So the price for that was to make Joe Woolsey the director of Central Intelligence. It was sort of a patronage movement, in fact. And it turned out to be disastrous. Woolsey turned out to be a very bad CIA director. He didn’t last very long, there were a number of scandals on his watch, and then he was eased out, which has increased his bitterness for the Democrats. And he effectively became a Republican, much in the way Joe Lieberman did. You know, while somewhat keeping the D next to their names, they essentially became close and allied with that neoconservative wing of the Republican Party. And that’s what you see happening as you come in through the 1990s. They were very much in support of aggressive action against the Iraq government, in a sense to establish an American military presence east of Suez, that they wanted to have Iraq in effect serve as a base for American power to project against other enemies of Israel—both Iran, Syria, possibly into Lebanon. So you had that as a concept that really takes shape, finally, and becomes possible in terms of getting American support after 9/11. And that’s when you see these people sort of come in with these plans that had predated 9/11 and begin to put them into place.
JAY: So when do Lieberman and McCain start to collaborate?
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PARRY: Well, they were together, of course, back in the Senate. They both were US senators and got to be close in sort of sharing some of these views and as working on foreign policy issues. So they become pretty much a tandem—you can go back to the ’90s, and maybe even before then. But they do share this view, this sort of hardline view. McCain probably is less of a classic neocon, but he shared this sort of idea of projecting American power in an aggressive way, partly because of his Vietnam experience and his bitterness over that. Lieberman was more of a classic neocon. He saw the importance of challenging radical Islamic movements in that region, because they threatened Israel.
JAY: How directly connected is McCain and Lieberman to what Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex? We’re talking about Lockheed Martin and Boeings and Halliburtons. Is there a direct or close connection between McCain and this sector?
PARRY: Well, they certainly share a lot of views. Basically, one of the ways that the military-industrial complex asserted its power in Washington was to fund think tanks. They’ve put a lot of money in all this, the major neoconservative and right-wing think tanks, from Heritage to AEI to CSIS. And the basic thought was that if you can basically put people on the payroll and keep them producing these arguments, this information, it eventually develops an influence within Washington: they get on the op-ed page of The Washington Post; eventually, maybe some of them become columnists for The Washington Post, or The New York Times, where you see William Kristol, or Robert Kagan at The Washington Post. So you have this sort of built-in influence as it goes forward, and eventually many of those news organizations begin to reflect those views. We certainly see it in The Washington Post these days, a very neoconservative editorial page and op-ed page. And I think in that context McCain and Lieberman found a common cause with those same people, who were pushing similar projects, particularly aggressive American policy in the Middle East and building up a very powerful US military to use around the world, to prevent any other defeat like Vietnam.
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