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Bush White House Censors Op-Ed on Iran: Elliot Abrams Must Go
by juan cole (reposted)
Monday Dec 18th, 2006 6:31 AM

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bush White House Censors Op-Ed on Iran
Elliot Abrams Must Go

Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation carries the story of how Elliot Abrams and others at the National Security Council in Bush's White House have intervened to stop the publication of an op-ed in the New York Times by Flynt Leverett. Leverett himself served in the National Security Council until not so long ago.

For Leverett's criticism of Bush administration Middle East policy and its mishandling of Iran since January of 2002, see this interview at He advocates US talks with Iran.

Ironically, the White House attempt to stop high-level discussion of talking to Iran comes just as the Iranian public dealt a slap in the face to extremist President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who stole the presidential elections in summer of 2005. Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani appears to have trounced Ahmadinejad's own favorite cleric, Mohammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi, an authoritarian anti-democrat.

Back to Washington. The remaining Neoconservatives in the Bush administration, like David Wurmser in Cheney's office and Abrams at the NSC have been agitating behind the scenes for war on Syria and Iran. These people hate peace the way the devil hates holy water. They confess themselves actively disappointed when a war doesn't happen. They helped send US troops into Iraq where 24,000 have been wounded or killed, and they'd just love to expend some more lives on other pet projects.

That does it. Elliot Abrams must go. Elliot Abrams is a felon. He was involved in stealing Pentagon weapons from US stockpiles, selling them to the Ayatollah Khomeini, and then stealing the Iranian funds so garnered to give to far-right Central American death squads, and then lying about all this to Congress. The Congress in the Constitution controls the budget. The Congress had cut off money to the rightwing death squads supported by Reagan and henchmen like Abrams. This elaborate criminal conspiracy inside the White House was the Right's response. They shredded the Constitution (and ever since have been calling their critics "unpatriotic.")

In 1991, Abrams pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lying to Congress under oath. Without the plea deal, he was facing felony charges, since what he did was in fact a felony.

Congress pledged that Abrams would never work at a high level in government again. But by the time the Neoconservative cabal in the Bush administration got Bush to appoint him to the National Security Council, there had been so much turn-over in Congress that, one member told me, "no one remembered who Abrams was."

I'm serious about this, everyone. The bloggers are touted as influential, but their influence is hard to measure or prove. Let's make this a test case.

Can Kos help? Eschaton? Talkingpointsmemo? And, it needn't be only one side of the aisle. A lot of principled persons on the right are deeply troubled by the criminality of this administration.

Please write your congressional representative and your senators and demand that they hold hearings on why Elliot Abrams is in charge of Middle East policy in the Bush White House.

Enough of being ruled by criminals and liars and warmongers. Enough of censorship and attacks on our Constitution. Elliot Abrams must go.

Here is an excerpt of Leverett's statement on the affair.

' Until last week, the Publication Review Board had never sought to remove or change a single word in any of my drafts, including in all of my publications about the Bush administration's handling of Iran policy. However, last week, the White House inserted itself into the prepublication review process for an op-ed on the administration's bungling of the Iran portfolio that I had prepared for the New York Times, blocking publication of the piece on the grounds that it would reveal classified information.

This claim is false and, I have come to believe, fabricated by White House officials to silence an established critic of the administration's foreign policy incompetence at a moment when the White House is working hard to fend off political pressure to take a different approach to Iran and the Middle East more generally.

The op-ed is based on the longer paper I just published with The Century Foundation -- which was cleared by the CIA without modifying a single word of the draft. Officials with the CIA's Publication Review Board have told me that, in their judgment, the draft op-ed does not contain classified material, but that they must bow to the preferences of the White House.

The White House is demanding, before it will consider clearing the op-ed for publication, that I excise entire paragraphs dealing with matters that I have written about (and received clearance from the CIA to do so) in several other pieces, that have been publicly acknowledged by Secretary Rice, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and that have been extensively covered in the media.

These matters include Iran's dialogue and cooperation with the United States concerning Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and Iran's offer to negotiate a comprehensive "grand bargain" with the United States in the spring of 2003.

There is no basis for claiming that these issues are classified and not already in the public domain.

For the White House to make this claim, with regard to my op-ed and at this particular moment, is nothing more than a crass effort to politicize a prepublication review process -- a process that is supposed to be about the protection of classified information, and nothing else -- to limit the dissemination of views critical of administration policy.

Within the last two week, the CIA found the wherewithal to approve an op-ed -- published in the New York Times on December 8, 2006 -- by Kenneth Pollack, another former CIA employee. This op-ed includes the statement that “Iran provided us with extensive assistance on intelligence, logistics, diplomacy, and Afghan internal politics."

Similar statements by me have been deleted from my draft op-ed by the White House. But Kenneth Pollack is someone who presented unfounded assessments of the Iraqi WMD threat -- the same assessments expounded by the Bush White House -- to make a high-profile public case for going to war in Iraq.

Mr. Pollack also supports the administration's reluctance to engage with Iran, in contrast to my consistent and sharp criticism of that position. It would seem that, if one is expounding views congenial to the White House, it does not intervene in prepublication censorship, but, if one is a critic, White House officials will use fraudulent charges of revealing classified information to keep critical views from being heard.

My understanding is that the White House staffers who have injected themselves into this process are working for Elliott Abrams and Megan O'Sullivan, both politically appointed deputies to President Bush's National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley.

Their conduct in this matter is despicable and un-American in the profoundest sense of that term. '

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