Little better illustrates the sorry state of academia today than the fact that
William Ayres is a respected figure, but Douglas Feith is a pariah.
William Ayres is a professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He
is also an unrepentant domestic terrorist associated with the Weatherman group,
which was responsible for bombings, robberies and murders in the early 1970s.
In an interview with the New York Times published, ironically, on Sept. 11, 2001,
Mr. Ayres said he regretted not setting more bombs. Also that year, he stomped on
the American flag for a photo published in Chicago magazine.
About the time Mr. Ayres was wiping his feet on the Stars and Stripes, Mr. Feith
became the Undersecretary for Policy in the Defense Department. After leaving DoD
in 2005, he became a visiting professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign
Georgetown announced in April that it will not renew Mr. Feith's contract, despite
the fact that the evaluations his students gave him were "nothing short of
exemplary," according Robert Galluci, dean of the School of Foreign Service.
Many on the Georgetown faculty opposed Mr. Feith's hiring because of his role in
planning the Iraq war. One of those wasn't Mr. Galluci, a top diplomat in the
Clinton administration, who wrote a dust jacket blurb for Mr. Feith's new book, "War
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The memoirs of public officials tend to consist mostly of buttocks covering and
score settling, like the books by former CIA Director George Tenet, former CENTCOM
commander Gen. Tommy Franks, and Ambassador Paul Bremer, former head of the
Coalition Provisional Authority.
Mr. Feith's memoir contains very little rancor, which is remarkable, considering
what others including the three worthies mentioned above have had to say about
To an extraordinary degree for books of this type, he admits errors by himself and
by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who chose him for the Pentagon's
number three job.
Most important, Mr. Feith provides an immense amount of documentation to support the
points he gently makes. There are 140 pages of notes in "War and Decision," and Mr.
Feith has posted on his Web site links to all the documents which he cites.
Professor Daniel Byman, director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at
Georgetown, joked that his Web site will strike fear into the hearts of professors
across America, because it makes it so easy to check footnotes. Mr. Feith is out to
set the record straight, not to settle scores.
That he does so effectively may explain why the Washington Post has yet to review
his book, though he is the most senior Defense department official to write about
the march to war. Books by, among others, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward
(State of Denial) and Tom Ricks (Fiasco), based in large part on self serving leaks
from opponents of administration policy, asserted that "neocons" within the
Department of Defense politicized intelligence to build a case for war to impose
democracy on Iraq.
It will come as a surprise to readers of those books to learn the most comprehensive
warning of the things that could go wrong in Iraq came not from the State Department
or the CIA, but from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and that it was the State
Department, not DoD, which favored a U.S. occupation of Iraq rather than a quick
transfer of power to Iraqis.
"The press wrote the first draft of the Bush administration and the War on Terror,
but Feith's book relegates it to the recycling bin," wrote former Pentagon official
Lawrence Di Rita.
The great failure was not the politicization of intelligence, but the absence of it,
Mr. Feith makes clear. The CIA had little information on Iraq and concealed its lack
of sources from policymakers.
The CIA's most publicized failure was its insistence that Saddam Hussein had
stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. But the CIA also predicted there would
be mass defections from the Iraqi army when the U.S. invaded (there weren't); that
the army would remain intact at war's end (it didn't), and that Iraqis would not
accept political leadership from exiles (they did). The CIA also had no clue Saddam
had laid plans for an insurgency.
People who are interested in the facts about the march to war will give Mr. Feith's
book a careful read. Those who prefer to cling to a discredited narrative will,
like the Georgetown faculty, stick their fingers in their ears and chant "nyah, nyah