From Oklahoma City to Oslo, Neo-Cons Blow it Again

Editorial in today’s print edition (subsequently amended but still heavy with insinuations) of the Wall Street Journal:

In terms of leaping to Islamophobic conclusions, this must rank right up there with the smug certainty with which The Investigative Project’s Steven Emerson claimed on CBS News the afternoon of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that the act showed “a Middle Eastern trait” because it “was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible” — a memorable moment for me, if only because we at the IPS Washington bureau, as subsequently noted by the Washington Post and The Guardian of London, were the first news organization to publish that the bombing’s source likely would be found closer to the Midwest than the Middle East. (Sorry I don’t have a link; it’s too old.) In this case, it appears that Norway has found its Timothy McVeigh. Mondoweiss did an excellent profile on the alleged bomber/mass killer.

Of course, the Journal’s editorial writers were hardly alone as a quick scan at the blogs of the usual suspects — Commentary’s ‘Contentions’ (John Podhoretz), The Weekly Standard (Tom Joscelyn), the American Enterprise Institute’s blog, etc. — shows.

But special attention should be paid to Jennifer Rubin, whose “Right Turn” blog on the Post’s website has, in its relatively short and controversial life, become kind of one-stop shopping site for all the hard-line neo-conservative memes and rages of the day. Yesterday’s blog on the Norwegian outrage was no exception, and she hasn’t yet bothered to amend it in light of new details about the alleged perpetrator, as the Journal felt compelled to do. The Atlantic’s James Fallows and Steve Clemons have already taken her on, and I’m sure many more will follow.

Perhaps the most objectionable part of Rubin’s comments was actually voiced by American Enterprise Institute’s resident intelligence expert, Gary Schmitt, who, unlike most his AEI foreign-policy colleagues, tends to keep a low media profile. Nonetheless, she quotes him as telling her:

“There has been a lot of talk over the past few months on how we’ve got al-Qaeda on the run and, compared with what it once was, it’s become a rump organization. But as the attack in Oslo reminds us, there are plenty of al-Qaeda allies still operating. No doubt cutting the head off a snake is important; the problem is, we’re dealing with global nest of snakes.”

Now we don’t know whether Rubin had taken this quote out of context or whether the certainty with which he expressed the view that Al Qaeda was behind the Oslo killings in this excerpt had been preceded by the caveat “if” or “assuming” that Al Qaeda was responsible or similar cautions against leaping to conclusions. If so, then this statement wouldn’t be nearly as objectionable.

Nonetheless, it’s significant that Rubin turned to Schmitt, the former executive director of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), as an expert on this question. Here are some relevant excerpts about Schmitt’s experience and expertise in intelligence from his Right Web profile, particularly with respect to the Iraq War and long-time association with Abram Shulsky of the notorious Office of Special Plans (with my emphasis):

Like many of the proponents of the Iraq War, Schmitt has had to struggle with both faulty rationales he and other neoconservatives peddled before the war began and the spiraling problems confronted by the U.S. military in the wake of the invasion. In an article for the Weekly Standard several weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Schmitt wrote: “We know [Iraq] has stockpiled mass quantities of anthrax and has worked hard to make it as potent a weapon of terror as possible. We know that Saddam’s Iraq continues to pursue development of weapons of mass destruction-nuclear, chemical, and biological-believing that these are the ultimate keys to overcoming America’s military dominance in the region. In short, Iraq is both equipped with dangerous weapons and out to get the United States” (October 29, 2001).

In a subsequent article published in the Los Angeles Times after the invasion, Schmitt wrote: “Why can’t the coalition teams find stocks of weapons today? Probably because Hussein destroyed them either before the UN inspectors returned to Iraq last December or just before the war began. The credibility of both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will remain in question until coalition investigators have not only gotten to the bottom of the missing weapons but also, and more important, the weapons programs themselves. Here, patience is required. Intelligence products are not gospel, and they should not be treated as such. Failure to find [WMDs] would complicate a president’s ability to rally support for taking action in similar situations in the future” (June 28, 2003).

Schmitt is the author of a number of works, including with Shulsky Silent Warfare: Understanding the World of Intelligence (2002), in which the authors argue that “truth is not the goal” of intelligence operations, but “victory” (p. 176). He also co-authored with Shulsky The Future of U.S. Intelligence, a report published by the hardline National Strategy Information Center that seemed to foreshadow the work of the Office of Special Plans. The report concluded that intelligence should not be centralized in the CIA, and that the intelligence community should adopt new methodology aimed at “obtaining information others try to keep secret and penetrating below the ‘surface’ impression created by publicly available information to determine whether an adversary is deceiving us or denying us key information.” It recommended creating “competing analytic centers” with “different points of view” that could “provide policymakers better protection against new ‘Pearl Harbors,’ i.e., against being surprised.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. The parallel is striking. I would’ve guessed a fellow like this Norwegian would kill Muslims rather than slaughtering his fellow citizens. McVeigh was angry at the federal government specifically over Waco, Ruby Ridge, gun control, etc. Now, granted, this Norwegian apparently doesn’t like the current Norwegian government’s policies. Nevertheless, given his wacky Christian beliefs, I would’ve thought him the type who would target and kill Muslims or anyone else he could find who looked “non-Norwegian.” Instead he carries out this sophisticated killing operation.

    I will be interested to find out (if we ever do) whether this fellow’s hints that he belongs to a pan-European group have any substance. The plot seems too sophisticated for a man of his caliber to have organized on his own.

    As with Oklahoma City, we see the complete political ineptitude of the killer(s). Blowing up toddlers or methodically slaughtering scores of teenagers and twenty-somethings with a gun actually hurts the “cause.” There are considerable numbers of people in both Europe and the U.S. who have some sympathy for far-right attitudes toward immigration and Islam. But the vast majority of them are alienated from the ideology by these heinous acts. People like McVeigh and the Norwegian killer are only dangereous in the same sense as the David Berkowitzs and Ted Bundys of the world are. Their actions actually hamper rather than further the cause they see themselves as fighting for. Unlike the Berkowitzs and Bundys, men like McVeigh are clinically sane. But, politically speaking, they are incredibly stupid. Violence can in fact be an effective political tool, but one has to know when to be violent (the climate of the times is not yet conducive to action), how to be violent (indiscriminate acts like bombings are always counterproductive) and against whom to be violent (never kill innocents intentionally). I hasten to add that I personally could NEVER condone violence of any kind in response to issues like immigration, multiculturalism, etc.

  2. Jon, Norwegian Muslims versus Norwegian Liberals–which do you think is the more target rich environment?

Comments are closed.