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July 4-10, 2007

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The Byrne Report

Peace Spooks

By Peter Byrne

Last week, I was talking by cell phone to Leslie Angeline, a Santa Rosa resident who was on the ninth day of a hunger strike in Washington, D.C. She refused food until Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut met with her about his call to bomb Iran. (She has since been hospitalized without meeting Lieberman.) Angeline is supported by Codepink, a women's peace group. I asked her if she knew of the United States Institute of Peace, a quasi-governmental agency created by Congress in 1984 to pursue nonviolent alternatives to war. She did not, but said it was worth looking into, on the off-chance that the U. S. cares about peace.

It turns out that the "peace" institute is a congressionally funded think tank staffed by neoconservative "thinkers" who supported the seizure of Iraq's oil fields and are now swiveling their sights toward Iran. Under the guise of promoting peace, the institute facilitates war and occupation on an operating budget of $23 million.

The chairman of the board of directors is J. Robinson West, who is also the chairman of PFC Energy, based in Washington, D.C. According to its website, "PFC Energy has been a trusted advisor to energy companies and governments across the globe [since] 1984." In other words, it lobbies politicians on behalf of Big Energy.

Check it out: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates sits on the board of the "nonpartisan" Institute for Peace; he headed the CIA under G. H. W. Bush. Another board member, Charles Horner, hails from the ultramilitarist Hudson Institute. Former Chevron board member Condoleezza Rice administers the institute's endowment fund. The institute is a nonprofit corporation, which allows it to solicit donations. Chevron Corp. gave $10 million toward a $100 million building to be constructed on the Mall. The Annenberg Foundation donated $1 million. War contractor (and Sen. Dianne Feinstein's husband) Richard C. Blum gave $100,000.

The building will be named after George P. Schultz, who is a board member of Bechtel, a major defense contractor. Schultz, a Cold Warrior, advised Bush-Cheney to advance the doctrine of preventative (first strike) nuclear warfare. The public education center at the George P. Schultz Great Hall will be named the Chevron Theater--which is, after all, what the peace institute is: theater.

The president of the institute since 1993 is Richard H. Solomon, formerly a senior staff member of the National Security Council. Solomon made his bones working for the RAND Corporation, the think tank that designed the Vietnam War. The institute's CEO, Patricia Thomson, learned her trade while working at IBM Business Consulting, where she serviced the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Defense. Vice president Charles E. Nelson emerged from RAND and the National War College. The institute retains Rudolph Giuliani's law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani LLP.

Institute of Peace staffers organized James Baker's Iraq Study Group, a collection of neocon brainiacs who figured out that their war on Iraq is unwinnable. The Study Group was composed of executives from PFC Energy, RAND, Bechtel and Citigroup as well as armchair soldiers from the Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution, American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute. To lead the study, the peace institute partnered with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonprofit organization run by executives from the Carlyle Group, the Coca-Cola Company, Merrill Lynch & Co., Exxon Mobile Corp, Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Time Inc. and alleged war criminal Henry Alfred Kissinger.

The institute supports seven Iraq "specialists." The most notable is Iraq Foundation founder Rend Francke, an Iraqi expatriate who, along with the infamous Ahmed Chalabi, abetted Bush-Cheney-Powell-Rice-Rumsfeld as they bullied and lied their way into invading Iraq in 2003. Francke later became the representative to the United States for the puppet government in Baghdad. Other Iraq specialists (many of them former military officers) learned the art of war inside the National Security Council, National Defense University and the Office of Secretary of Defense. The institute's specialists for Africa trained at the World Bank, RAND, the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The institute spends tens of millions of tax dollars researching symptomatic problems, such as, "Why suicide bombers?" It does not study the root causes of terrorism, such as America's arming of the Israeli Weltanschauung, or our habit of brutally invading Third World countries to snatch their natural resources. Institute fellow Jill Shankleman has written a book praising oil companies for advancing what she calls their "social responsibilities" in developing countries. Shankleman, not surprisingly, "has extensive experience as a consultant for the petroleum industry," according to the institute's website. No wonder that the institute heavily lobbied the Iraqi congress to pass the hydrocarbon law that privatizes Iraqi oil fields for Big Energy.

It's enough to make you puke. Or go on a hunger strike.

Contact Peter Byrne or send a letter to the editor about this story.