Juan Cole Again:

Just about every time I visit Cole's blog, which admittedly isn't very often, I find something that I just can't believe someone of his academic and public stature could write. Here's the latest, accusing Doug Feith of disloyalty to the United States: "Doug Feith betrayed the United States by getting up a false case for war with Iraq. He made it clear in 1996 that his motivations for an Iraq War had to do primarily with Israel..." Cole links to a document Feith signed in 1996, suggesting strategy for Israel (really, trying to get the Netanyahu government aboard the American neoconservative agenda). As noted, according to Cole Feith made it clear in that document that he wanted the U.S. to go to war with Iraq to benefit Israel. But here is what the document actually says, in total, about Iraq:

Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria's regional ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria's regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq. This has triggered a Jordanian-Syrian rivalry to which Asad has responded by stepping up efforts to destabilize the Hashemite Kingdom, including using infiltrations. Syria recently signaled that it and Iran might prefer a weak, but barely surviving Saddam, if only to undermine and humiliate Jordan in its efforts to remove Saddam.

But Syria enters this conflict with potential weaknesses: Damascus is too preoccupied with dealing with the threatened new regional equation to permit distractions of the Lebanese flank. And Damascus fears that the 'natural axis' with Israel on one side, central Iraq and Turkey on the other, and Jordan, in the center would squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi Peninsula. For Syria, this could be the prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria's territorial integrity.

Since Iraq's future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly, it would be understandable that Israel has an interest in supporting the Hashemites in their efforts to redefine Iraq, including such measures as: visiting Jordan as the first official state visit, even before a visit to the United States, of the new Netanyahu government; supporting King Hussein by providing him with some tangible security measures to protect his regime against Syrian subversion; encouraging — through influence in the U.S. business community — investment in Jordan to structurally shift Jordan's economy away from dependence on Iraq; and diverting Syria's attention by using Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syrian control of Lebanon.

Most important, it is understandable that Israel has an interest supporting diplomatically, militarily and operationally Turkey's and Jordan's actions against Syria, such as securing tribal alliances with Arab tribes that cross into Syrian territory and are hostile to the Syrian ruling elite.

King Hussein may have ideas for Israel in bringing its Lebanon problem under control. The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf, Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet's family, the direct descendants of which — and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows — is King Hussein.

Note that there is nothing in here about an "Iraq War" (war is not the only way to help remove someone from power; indeed, Israeli commandoes had trained for a mission to assassinate Saddam in the early 1990s, that was later called off), much less an American invasion, much less any indication that Feith wanted an American invasion "primarily" to help Israel. At best, we can say that Feith argued as of 1996 it would have served Israel's interests if Saddam was removed from power, and replaced by a Hashemite monarch (which was almost certainly correct). From this, Cole makes the enormous leap, unsupported by the document he cites, to not only Feith's support of the Iraq War being "primarily" about Israel, but that Feith actually said this. Of course, this isn't the first time Cole has made scurrilous accusations against Feith.