New Questions about Feith
by James Zogby
Just one month ago, I
wrote about President Bush’s nomination of Douglas Feith to the
position of Undersecretary of Policy at the Department of Defense
(DOD/Pentagon). Because this is one of the top four posts at the
Pentagon in charge of "all matters concerning the formulation
of national security and defense policy" and because Feith is
an extreme hard-line pro-Likud hawk—I called it a "Dangerous
My earlier article
focused on an examination of Feith’s pro-Israel writings. The body
of his work reveals a strong ideological and anti-Arab bias. I also
noted his close association with the pro-Likud groups, the Zionist
Organization of America (ZOA) and his law firm’s international
work promoting the Israeli arms industry.
In recent weeks more
information has surfaced about Feith’s activities that raise
additional concerns about his nomination.
The first set of
allegations are questions regarding Feith’s performance during his
two previous periods of government service. During the first Reagan
Administration, Feith served under Richard Allen on the White House
National Security staff. It was Allen who reportedly gave Israel the
"green light" to undertake its devastating 1982 invasion
When Allen was replaced
at the White House by William Clark, Feith was fired from his post.
There were allegations, at the time, of his bias toward and
involvement with Israel.
During Reagan’s second
term, Feith resurfaced as part of Richard Perle’s team at the
Pentagon. Perle is a notorious Cold War hawk and a neo-conservative
pro-Israel hard-liner. At the Pentagon he was called, by friend and
foe alike, the "Prince of Darkness." The team of
like-minded associates Perle assembled to work under him at the DOD
included not only Feith, but Steven Bryen. While serving as a
staffer to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1970s Bryen
was accused of passing U.S. military secrets to Israel. He was
removed from his post. A third member of the group was Frank
Gaffney, who has, like Feith, also produced an extensive body of
virulently anti-Arab writings in right wing U.S. newspapers and
During their tenure at
the Pentagon, this group actively worked to solidify the U.S.-Israel
defense relationship at the expense of U.S.-Arab ties. It has been
alleged, for example, that Feith actively worked to oppose President
Reagan’s decision to transfer AWACs to Saudi Arabia.
Almost immediately upon
leaving office, Perle and Feith teamed up to sell their access as
foreign lobbyists. One of their earliest clients was the government
In 1989, Feith
registered International Advisors Inc. (IAI) as a foreign agent
representing the government of Turkey. In official documents, one of
the stated purposes of the work of IAI was to "promote the
objective of U.S.-Turkish defense industrial cooperation."
The move was heralded in
the Turkish press as creating a "warmer atmosphere"
between Turkey and conservative members of Congress and "the
strong Jewish lobby in the United States." It was thought that
these relationships would help Turkey’s military ties and sales to
the United States.
IAI was described in
both the United States and Turkish press as Perle’s brainchild. The
Wall Street Journal, reported in early 1989 on the creation of
IAI as follows:
who among other things supervised U.S. military assistance to
Turkey during his recent seven-year hitch in the Pentagon, has
created a company in Washington to lobby for Turkey.
International Advisors Inc., is headed by three men, including
two who worked under Mr. Perle at the Defense Department.
According to a statement the company filed with the Justice
Department, it will ‘assist in the efforts for the
appropriation of U.S. military and economic assistance’ to
Perle, however disputed
this claim saying that IAI was not his group. He claimed that he was
merely an "advisor." He further noted "I find very
distasteful this business where people leave the government and the
next thing you know, they’re on the other side of the table
negotiating with the U.S."
And in a letter to the
editor of the Wall Street Journal, Perle elaborated his
position by stating "I have not created a company to lobby for
Turkey….The firm to which the story refers, International
Advisors, Inc., was created by Douglas Feith, a Washington attorney.
I am not a stockholder, director, officer or employee of the firm. I
will not lobby for nor represent the government of Turkey. I will
chair an advisory board that is only now being formed."
In fact, in the official
documents filed with the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal
Division, Foreign Agents Registration Unit, Douglas Feith is listed
as the Chief Executive Officer of IAI and its only stockholder.
However, in semiannual
reports filed by IAI during its 1989-1994 tenure, Richard Perle is
listed as the single highest paid consultant to the group earning
$48,000 each year. Feith, himself earned $60,000 per year and his
law firm, Feith and Zell, received hundreds of thousands of dollars
What is most disturbing
in all of this, of course, is, as Perle himself observed, the
"distastefulness" of this business where "people
leave the government and the next thing you know, they’re on the
other side of the table negotiating with the U.S."
That Perle was being
disingenuous about his role in IAI and indirectly setting up his
former colleague and now "partner" as the
"distasteful" one, raises serious questions about both
What is also troubling
is the fact that during the almost six years that Feith and IAI were
officially registered as Foreign Agents for the Government of
Turkey, Feith and a number of individuals serving as staff and
receiving payments from IAI were making tens of thousands of dollars
of contributions to both pro-Israel PACs and pro-Israel Senators and
Congressmen. In records filed with the Federal Election Commission,
Feith himself contributed more than $15,000 during this period,
sometimes listing IAI, a foreign agent, as his place of employment.
The one pro-Israel PAC
to which Feith contributed $3,500, Washington Political Action
Committee, just so happened to be headed by Morris Amitay, former
AIPAC official and one of the earliest members of IAI!
Two of the single
largest recipients of this largesse were Senator Robert Packwood and
Congressman Dan Burton. In an article published in 1997, in the Charleston
Daily Mail, Burton was accused of having his position on several
foreign policy issues influenced by campaign contributions from
foreign agents. The article specifically cites Feith giving this
supporter of Turkey, Burton took to the House floor June 5 to
denounce efforts to cut off all U.S. aid to the country [Turkey]
because of human rights criticism. ‘Let me give my colleagues
some facts about Turkey and about the Armenia problem,’ Burton
said as he launched into a historical account.
The speech went on,
citing almost word for word material distributed to members of
Congress by Capitoline, Turkey’s lobbying firm. For several
years, when the firm of former President Regan aide Douglas
Feith was paid $600,000 a year to lobby for Turkey, Feith’s
office had regular contact with Burton and his aides. Feith gave
donations to a handful of lawmakers over the years, including at
least $2,250 to Burton."
More recently, Feith and
Perle teamed up to represent another foreign entity, the government
of Bosnia. According to Richard Holbrooke, the principal U.S.
negotiator at the Dayton peace talks, Perle and Feith worked for and
advised the Bosnians during the talks. This time, however, they did
not register with the Department of Justice, as foreign agents are
required to do.
It should also be
recalled that both Perle and Feith worked together in 1996 to
prepare the document "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for
Securing the Realm" that advised the Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu on what issues to raise and what language to use
during his first visit to the United States in July of that year.
Now, it must be said
that while (as Perle acknowledges) this might all be distasteful,
and in the case of the PAC contributions, at least, questionable,
none of it is illegal. But it does raise serious questions about the
fitness of Mr. Feith to serve as the Undersecretary of Defense in
charge of developing "policy on the conduct of alliances and
defense relationships with foreign governments, their military
establishments and international organizations;" and
developing, coordinating and overseeing "the implementation of
international security strategy and policy…on issues…that relate
to foreign governments and their defense establishment."
- by the same author: