Last week, Jeb Bush, the all-but-announced GOP presidential candidate, stirred up a fuss when he privately told a group of Manhattan financiers that his top adviser on US-Israeli policy is George W. Bush. Given that Jeb has tried mightily to distance himself from his brother, whose administration used false assertions to launch the still highly unpopular Iraq war, this touting of W.—even at a behind-closed-doors session of Republican donors—seemed odd. But perhaps more noteworthy is that Jeb Bush has embraced much of his brother’s White House foreign policy team. In February, the Jeb Bush campaign released a list of 21 foreign policy advisers; 17 of them served in the George W. Bush administration. And one name stood out: Paul Wolfowitz, a top policy architect of the Iraq war—for the prospect of Wolfowitz whispering into Jeb’s ear ought to scare the bejeezus out of anyone who yearns for a rational national security policy.
Wolfowitz, who was deputy defense secretary under George W. Bush, was a prominent neocon cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq. He was also the top conspiracy theorist in the Bush-Cheney crowd. As Michael Isikoff and I reported in our our 2006 book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, Wolfowitz, prior to the Iraq war, was a champion of a bizarre theory promoted by an eccentric academic named Laurie Mylroie: Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, not Islamic extremists such as Al Qaeda, was responsible for most of the world’s anti-United States terrorism.
For years, Mylroie, who had been an assistant professor of political science at Harvard University, had promoted the notion that Saddam was the real terrorist threat to the United States, and law enforcement and intelligence officials had dismissed her thesis, which was based on assorted elaborate conspiracies that apparently only she could divine. After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, she developed a complicated hypothesis that the mastermind of that attack, an Islamic radical who went by the name of Ramzi Yousef and who had spent time in Afghan training camps affiliated with Al Qaeda, was actually an Iraqi intelligence agent who had somehow stolen Yousef’s identity. Actually, according to Mylroie the Iraqi agent had stolen the identity of a deceased Pakistani and then taken on the name Ramzi Yousef. In any event, this would mean that Saddam, not Islamic extremists, was behind this act of war.