Bad Blood and an Empty Chair

By Al Kamen
Friday, June 20, 2008

The stage was set Wednesday afternoon at the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights and civil liberties to hear former deputy undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith testify about the use of harsh interrogation techniques on detainees.

Committee aides had been working for many weeks to secure Feith's appearance. But hours before the hearing, Feith's lawyer, John Moustakas, said Feith would not appear.

The subcommittee chairman, Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y), said Feith "withdrew . . . because he was not willing to appear alongside one of our other witnesses." Nadler said Feith would be appearing soon and chastised him for going "back on his promise."

People often testify alongside witnesses with whom they disagree, Nadler said as he opened the hearing, and "such concerns are no reason to decline to appear when you've said you will."

But Feith's lawyer, in his letter, said he'd been assured his client would testify "in an atmosphere free from the vitriol and ad hominem attacks that have regrettably dominated the debate." And this other witness was none other than Lawrence Wilkerson, who had been chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and had allegedly made "reckless, bigoted and defamatory remarks" about Feith.

Moustakas said that in 2006 Wilkerson accused Feith of being a "'card-carrying member of the Likud party' whose allegiance is to Israel rather than the United States." (Actually, according to writer George Packer's book "The Assassins' Gate," it was Powell who made that allegation to President Bush in the Oval Office in January 2005.)

What's more, Moustakas wrote, "Wilkerson said of Mr. Feith in 2005: 'Seldom have I met a dumber man.' " (Actually, Wilkerson was simply agreeing with Gen. Tommy Franks, who famously called Feith "the [expletive] stupidest guy on the face of the earth.")

"Mr. Feith believes he not only has never met [Wilkerson], but has never even been in the same room with him," Moustakas sniffed in the letter, and no "proper, substantive discussion" would be had if Feith testified "with the likes of Lawrence Wilkerson."

Wilkerson said yesterday that he believes he met and shook hands with Feith when both were in the White House situation room on a Saturday morning in January 2003 for a meeting chaired by then-deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and attended by Ryan Crocker, then deputy assistant secretary of state.

"Doug was there and holding forth on ties" between al-Qaeda and Iraq, Wilkerson recalled. "The purpose was how we were going to 'market' the war." Wilkerson said he also met Feith at the Pentagon on several occasions.

Wilkerson said it would have been better if Feith had attended the Wednesday hearing. "I thought it lacked some balance because he wasn't there," he said, claiming he had no intention of directly attacking Feith while answering congressional inquiries at a hearing.

Anyway, we'll wait for the next one. (Note to Nadler: Just don't invite Powell or Franks either.)

Do Your Bidding

If Nadler or the committee chairman, John Conyers Jr., really wants to get together with Feith, they don't need lawyers or subpoenas. All they need to do is participate in a silent auction to have lunch with him. (Or they could bid on a lunch with former deputy secretary of defense Paul D. Wolfowitz or prominent Iraq war promoter Richard N. Perle.)

Yes, all three, plus former Clinton White House chief of staff John D. Podesta, former commerce and transportation secretary Norman Y. Mineta, and former House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.).

That rather diverse group and several other well-known folks have agreed to participate in a fundraiser to benefit Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, which says it's a "nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to fostering the next generation of America's foreign policy leadership."

The fundraiser is Friday night at the City Tavern Club in Georgetown. Tickets only $35 ($40 at the door). Even an aide can put in your bids.

Lost

Missing-document alert! Edward Reddington, a lawyer for William "Jim" Haynes II-- who, despite a failing memory, condoned the use of dogs, hoods, light deprivation and other techniques on detainees -- sent an e-mail Wednesday afternoon to the Senate Armed Services Committee staff concerning a document that couldn't be found after Tuesday's hearing.

We have a missing privileged document that was taken to yesterday's hearing. It's possible that it was lost in the hearing room. It is marked as privileged and confidential on each page. We can't confirm yet where the document might be . . . Please let me know whether the staff has found such a document. If you find such a document, we'd ask that it not be read, and that it be placed in an envelope and sealed. Please call me in that event, and we will pick it up.

If any Loop Fans find this document, please do not read it. You don't want to cross Haynes. Just send it to In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071

Hold the Pickles, Hold the Lettuce

The Los Angeles Times has caught up with "Curveball," the famously unreliable Iraqi informant, and interviewed him in Germany, where he now lives and apparently is not doing too well. Turns out he's been working, among other places, at a local Burger King, home of the Whopper. (Unless he made that up, too.)

He's Better With Nicknames

President Bush, back from his successful European tour, had a busy schedule this week. On Tuesday, he presided over a celebration of Black Music Month at the White House.

"I want to thank my friend [former housing and urban development secretary] Alphonso Jackson, and Marcia, it's good to see you," Bush said to Jackson's wife. "Appreciate you being here."

Bush also gave a shout out to " Rod Paige, former secretary of education, celebrating his 75th birthday today. [Applause.] You're looking good, Rodney." (Paige's official name is Roderick.)

According to the White House transcript, Bush noted that other presidents had recognized "the contributions of black musicians when many other Americans would not." He continued: " Benjamin Harrison welcomed the daughter of a former slave -- an opera singer named Sisseretta Jones. President Franklin Roosevelt called on the talented Maria Anderson to sing 'Ave Maria' for the king and queen of England." That's Marian Anderson.

Update

This week's mysterious "No Peeking" memo -- generated after the Secret Service requested that organizations with windows facing Lafayette Park draw their blinds and stay away from the windows until 2 p.m. -- was sparked by a visit from Vice President Cheney. He was at Decatur House, which is on the park, for a Republican National Congressional Committee fundraising lunch.

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