The Corner

Who Is Philip Zelikow?

The Washington Times has a front-page story about Senate testimony on the interrogation of captured enemies, and the story leads with a quotation from Philip Zelikow, a University of Virginia history professor who was one of Condoleezza Rice’s top aides at the State Department and the chief of staff of the 9/11 Commission. Zelikow holds multiple degrees in law and political science/national security studies, has published books with such worthies as Ash Carter, and is highly regarded in the wonkish world. He had reservations about the invasion of Iraq, and was critical of the enhanced interrogation methods currently under debate.

He also has a disturbing history of suppressing information he didn’t like. According to Bob Woodward (see pages 414-415 of his State of Denial), when Zelikow received intelligence that showed that Iran was actively supporting the insurgency in Iraq and was engaged in killing American soldiers on the battlefield, he sat on it:

Some evidence indicated that the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah was training insurgents to build and use the shaped IED’s, at the urging of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. That kind of action was arguably an act of war by Iran against the United States [my emphasis]. If we start putting out everything we know about these things, Zelikow felt, the administration might well start a fire it couldn’t put out…

So he did what he could to prevent President Bush from receiving a full picture of Iran’s role in the war.  We should keep that in mind when we evaluate the reliability of Zelikow’s writing, as of his testimony.  When the history of this war is written, future historians will have to deal with many such deliberate distortions of the facts on the ground, thereby shaping strategic errors of all sorts. Those errors are very much with us today, and Zelikow’s role seems to me to have been significant.

Michael LedeenMichael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...


The Latest