By Maidhc Ó Cathail
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
Given the proliferation of crimes, both foreign and domestic, known to have been committed by the U.S. government in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, there is an understandable willingness among large swathes of the public to believe almost anything told them by someone claiming to be blowing the whistle on an increasingly rogue “world’s policeman.” And, as a rule, the more persecution the whistleblower appears to suffer for exposing the global cop’s transgressions, the greater the desire to believe her story—no matter how far-fetched it might be.
Earlier this year, an effort was made to interest a number of prominent alternative media outlets in just such a “whistleblower” story. According to the professional-sounding pitch, an American contractor named Gwenyth Todd, while advising the Bahrain-based U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, had single-handedly foiled a plot involving “a few select high-ranking members of the U.S. Navy” to provoke a war with Iran. “Fearing of the powers she had obstructed, and fearing for her own safety, Todd left Bahrain moving to Australia,” wrote the anonymous promoter. “For her honesty, bravery, and service, Todd has been sought after by the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution and pursued by the FBI. Nearly all in the corporate press have chosen to ignore her case.”
But not only has Gwenyth Todd’s case not been ignored by the corporate press, it has in fact been the subject of a five-page Washington Post special by “SpyTalk” blogger Jeff Stein. Moreover, Stein’s Aug. 21, 2012 piece entitled “Why was a Navy adviser stripped of her career?” uncritically touts Todd’s conspiratorial narrative solely on the basis of interviews with Todd herself and “a half-dozen Navy and other government officials who demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, many parts of which remain classified.” Then, six months after having her story featured by one of America’s most influential pro-Israel daily newspapers, Todd was the unlikely focus of an even more credulous Iranian state television production. In February 2013, Press TV released “Untold Truths,” a half-hour-long program that introduced her as a “Middle East specialist” and “former U.S. government consultant.” The production began with a dramatic assertion: “In 2007, the U.S. tried to wage a war against IRAN. One person stopped it. This is her story.”
In the Washington Post and Press TV versions, the alleged conspiracy to start a war with Iran is said to have occurred in Bahrain in 2007. However, in a June 2012 article, Todd’s “senior editor” at the notoriously unreliable and ostensibly “anti-Semitic” Veterans Today (VT) website—with which Todd has “long worked” and currently serves on its motley editorial board of directors—sets the narrative two years earlier, and in a neighboring country. “Gwenyth Todd of the National Security Agency, close associate of Paul Wolfowitz and Condi Rice,” wrote Gordon Duff, “back in 2005, discovered a White House plot to stage an attack on American forces in Qatar.”
Confusing matters even more, another VT colleague and enthusiastic promoter of Todd’s story, Kevin Barrett, claims in a September 2012 piece first published by Press TV, “She stopped a 2006 neocon plot to stage a false flag attack in Bahrain intended to trigger war on Iran, and had to flee for her life to Australia.”
Although Todd presents herself as an “appalled” critic of the neoconservatives and the broader Israel lobby, there are good reasons to doubt her credibility on this point as well. In a Sept. 12, 2012 radio interview with Barrett, for example, she made the extraordinary claim that 9/11 was a “setback” for the neocons because it supposedly upset their plans for regime change in Iraq. According to Todd, their plan was to restore a pre-1958 type friendly regime, ruled by Ahmed Chalabi, with Iraq then serving as a base from which to launch regime change in Iran. In that same interview, she further claimed that the neoconservative agenda for Iraq had nothing to do with Israel. As if unaware of the fact that neocon Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz had once been investigated for having passed a classified U.S. document to an Israeli government official, she proffered as evidence, “Didn’t Wolfowitz admit to having affairs with Palestinian students?”
It seems highly unlikely, however, that a former top Middle East analyst such as Todd claims to be would be unfamiliar with Oded Yinon’s seminal 1982 article, “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s.” “Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets,” observed Yinon. “Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria.” And it seems even less likely that she would be unaware of “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” That influential 1996 report, prepared by a group of mainly American neocons for then-incoming Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, recommended “removing Saddam Hussain from power in Iraq—an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.”
Five years later, these right-wing Zionist policy advisers, many then members of the Bush administration, would seize the golden opportunity presented by the 9/11 attacks to turn this hawkish blueprint for Israeli expansionism into U.S. Middle East policy.
Todd’s seeming ignorance of Israel’s longstanding strategic designs for the breakup of Iraq is even harder to believe in light of her claim to have been “personally recruited” by the “Clean Break” study group leader. In the Sept. 12 radio interview with Barrett, she recounted a conversation with Richard Perle—who, like Chalabi’s other chief booster, Wolfowitz, has also been caught passing classified material to Israel—that supposedly took place at the end of George Bush’s pre-inaugural candlelight dinner in January 2001. “Paul’s going, Paul Wolfowitz is going to be the deputy secretary of defense,” she claimed Perle told her. “You know what we are going to do in Iraq, and we need like-minded people in the Pentagon so we can make it happen.”
When the interviewer expressed amazement that she had been approached directly by the so-called “Prince of Darkness” himself, Todd not very convincingly replied: “Yes, well, when I’d met him on a couple of…I’d been in conferences with him before.”
Presumably in an attempt to explain how the reputedly Machiavellian Perle could have been so naïve as to have tried to recruit someone he’d only met at a few conferences, Todd recounted a car journey with Perle in the 1990s during which he supposedly raved about the analytic prowess of her predecessor at the Pentagon’s Turkey desk—based solely on the analyst’s rumored ability to talk to cab drivers in Turkish. Claiming to have been shocked by Perle’s “total naïveté,” Todd went on to say that she subsequently heard the exact same story from fellow Iraq war architect Bernard Lewis at the Aspen Strategy Group in 1997, when she found herself seated between “Judy” Miller and the influential pro-Israel Orientalist, whom she said has dedicated his The Emergence of Modern Turkey to “some good friends” of hers.
Notwithstanding Todd’s claims to have been persecuted for thwarting a neocon-backed false flag designed to provoke war with Iran in December 2007—or was it in 2005? or 2006, perhaps?—she was asked in November 2010 to write a report on Turkey for Australia’s leading pro-Israel foreign policy think tank. Yet this past February, a mere week after she left little doubt in a social media conversation that she was fully aware of the founder and chairman Frank Lowy’s Israeli connection, Todd first feigned ignorance and then surprise in the comments section of The Passionate Attachment blog when this writer pointed out the Lowy Institute’s widely known close ties with Israel.
And as for the alleged unwarranted pursuit by U.S. law enforcement, it may have much less to do with her claimed success in preventing war with Iran than with a mysterious sum of money of uncertain origin and unclear purpose. When questioned by the FBI in 2007 about $30,000 she had received from her daughter’s father, Robert Cabelly—who would be indicted in 2009 for conspiring to act as an illegal agent of Sudan and to violate sanctions against the government of Omar al-Bashir—Todd said she told the federal agents that the money was for “emergency surgery” in Bahrain. By a strange coincidence, this just happened to be the exact same amount she told The New York Times in February 2011 that she had once spent out of her own pocket to buy gifts for the children of the poorest Shi’i families. Todd said she had been ordered by a commanding officer, fearful of upsetting the ruling Sunni Al-Khalifa royal family, to renege on a promise made on behalf of the Navy.
Indeed, the more one looks into the incredible tale spun by Gwenyth Todd, the more likely one is to agree with the former commander of U.S. Central Command, Admiral William J. Fallon—who in 2007 vetoed a move by the Bush administration to send a third carrier group to the Persian Gulf, vowing that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch.” Cast as an unlikely villain in Todd’s narrative, the retired four-star admiral was asked by The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein to comment on her conspiratorial allegations; Fallon’s terse e-mail response—“B.S.”
Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @O_Cathail.