Michael Arthur Ledeen (born Los Angeles, California, August 1, 1941) is an American specialist on foreign policy. His research areas have included state sponsors of terrorism, Iran, the Middle East, Europe (Italy), U.S.-China relations, intelligence, and Africa (Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe) and is a leading neoconservative. He is a former consultant to the United States National Security Council, the United States Department of State, and the United States Department of Defense. He has also served as a special adviser to the United States Secretary of State. He held the Freedom Scholar chair at the American Enterprise Institute where he was a scholar for twenty years and now holds the similarly named chair at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is a contributing editor to National Review, contributes to the Wall Street Journal, and regularly appears on Fox News and on a variety of radio talk shows. Ledeen has been on PBS’s NewsHour and CNN’s Larry King Live, among others. He is a founding member of Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and serves on their Board of Advisers.
In 1974, Michael Ledeen moved to Rome where he studied the history of Italian Fascism. In 1977, he went to Washington to join the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) (then affiliated with Georgetown University). He continues to visit Italy frequently.
 Academic and political career
Ledeen holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he specialized in Modern Europe. At Washington University in St. Louis, Ledeen was denied tenure, according to history department faculty interviewed by the Washington Post, because of questions regarding the “quality of his scholarship” and about whether Ledeen had “used the work of somebody else without proper credit”. One faculty member said “the ‘quasi-irregularity’ at issue didn’t warrant the negative vote on tenure for Ledeen”.
Ledeen was subsequently named Visiting Professor at the University of Rome. One of Ledeen’s principal mentors was the Jewish German-born historian George Mosse, for whom he was research assistant at the time. Mosse wrote two famous books on National Socialism. Another major influence on Ledeen was the Italian historian Renzo De Felice. Ledeen held political views which stress “the urgency of combating centralized state power and the centrality of human freedom” that are said to have influenced or inspired the Bush administration.
Earlier in his career, Ledeen authored Universal Fascism: The Theory and Practice of the Fascist International, 1928–1936, published in 1972 and now out of print. The book, which was his doctoral dissertation, was the first work to explore Italian leader Benito Mussolini‘s efforts to create a Fascist international in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Ledeen follows Italian historian Renzo de Felice in drawing a distinction between “fascism-regime” and “fascism-movement”, and seems to approve of at least one aspect of the latter, saying “fascism nevertheless constituted a political revolution in Italy. For the first time, there was an attempt to mobilize the masses and to involve them in the political life of the country”, and describing the fascist state as “a generator of energy and creativity”. Ledeen continued his studies in Italian Fascism with a study of the takeover of Fiume by Italian irredentist forces under Gabriele d’Annunzio, who Ledeen argued was the proto-type for Mussolini.
Ledeen is a strong admirer of Niccolò Machiavelli, whom he regards as one of the greatest political thinkers. In Ledeen’s view, Machiavelli combined democratic idealism and the necessary political realism to secure and defend idealism in perfect measure.
In 1980, in the period leading up to the U.S. presidential elections, Ledeen, along with Arnaud de Borchgrave, wrote a series of articles published in The New Republic and elsewhere about Billy Carter‘s contacts with the Muammar al-Gaddafi regime in Libya.
Ledeen has been a long time and active supporter of political dissidents, particularly those of Iranian nationality. In June 2008, he personally purchased the plane ticket to transfer Iranian student activist, Ahmad Batebi, from Erbil, Iraq, to Washington DC, where Batebi was escorted by NSC officials from his plane in Dulles International Airport to the custody of his lawyer, Lily Mazahery.
Ledeen has been accused of associations with shady organizations. For example, Jim Lobe has stated that “Ledeen’s right-wing Italian connections—including alleged ties to the P2 masonic lodge that rocked Italy in the early 1980s—have long been a source of speculation and intrigue, but he returned to Washington in 1981 as ‘anti-terrorism’ advisor to the new secretary of state, Al Haig.” While he acknowledges being paid by the SISMI in 1980 for “risk assessment”, Ledeen denies any connections with Licio Gelli‘s masonic lodge. Ledeen told Vanity Fair that he had been paid $10,000 by the SISMI in 1979 or 1980 for advising them on extradition matters between Italy and the US. He denied having worked with [Francesco] Pazienza or Propaganda Due as part of a disinformation scheme. “I knew Pazienza,” he explained. “I didn’t think P-2 existed. I thought it was all nonsense—typical Italian fantasy.” Pazienza, while at SISMI, did help Ledeen obtaining a tape confirming information on “Billygate.”
It was during this time in Italy that Ledeen supported the “Bulgarian connection” conspiracy theory concerning Grey Wolves member Mehmet Ali Ağca‘s 1981 attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II. The theory has since been attacked by various authors and journalists, including Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs, who initially believed the story. The theory was adopted in 2005 by the Italian Mitrokhin Commission. According to Craig Unger, “With Ronald Reagan newly installed in the White House, the so-called Bulgarian Connection made perfect Cold War propaganda. Michael Ledeen was one of its most vocal proponents, promoting it on TV and in newspapers all over the world.”
 Consultant on terrorism
In the early 1980s, Ledeen appeared before the newly established Senate Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism, alongside former CIA director William Colby, author Claire Sterling and former Newsweek editor Arnaud de Borchgrave. Both Ledeen and de Borchgrave worked for the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University at the time. All four testified that they believed the Soviet Union had provided for material support, training and inspiration for various terrorist groupings.
 The Iran-Contra scandal
Ledeen was involved in the Reagan administration‘s Iran-Contra scandal. As a consultant of National Security Advisor Robert C. McFarlane, Ledeen vouched for Iranian intermediary Manucher Ghorbanifar. In addition, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, officials of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to arrange meetings with high-ranking Iranian officials as well as the much-criticized weapons-for-hostages deal with Iran. Ledeen’s own version of the events is published in his book, Perilous Statecraft.
 Yellowcake forgery allegations
- “The first meeting occurred in Rome in December, 2001. It included Franklin, Rhode, and another American, the neoconservative writer and operative Michael Ledeen, who organized the meeting. (According to UPI, Ledeen was then working for Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith as a consultant.) Also in attendance was Ghorbanifar and a number of other Iranians.”
In 2005, Vincent Cannistraro, former head of counterterrorism operations at the CIA and the intelligence director at the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan, when asked by Ian Masters if Ledeen was the source of the forged memo, replied, “You’d be very close.” However, just moments earlier when asked, “Do we know who produced those documents?” Cannistraro stated, ” I’d rather not speak about it right now, because I don’t think it’s a proven case”.
Former CIA counter-terrorism officer Philip Giraldi, who is Cannistraro’s business partner and a columnist for The American Conservative, a paleoconservative magazine, said in an interview on July 26, 2005 that the forgeries were produced by “a couple of former CIA officers who are familiar with that part of the world who are associated with a certain well-known neoconservative who has close connections with Italy” and went on to confirm that he was referring to Ledeen. Giraldi added that the ex-CIA officers “also had some equity interests, shall we say, with the operation. A lot of these people are in consulting positions, and they get various, shall we say, emoluments in overseas accounts, and that kind of thing.”
Giraldi stated in The American Conservative:
- At this point, any American connection to the actual forgeries remains unsubstantiated, though the OSP at a minimum connived to circumvent established procedures to present the information directly to receptive policy makers in the White House. But if the OSP is more deeply involved, Michael Ledeen, who denies any connection with the Niger documents, would have been a logical intermediary in co-ordinating the falsification of the documents and their surfacing, as he was both a Pentagon contractor and was frequently in Italy. He could have easily been assisted by ex-CIA friends from Iran-Contra days, including a former Chief of Station from Rome, who, like Ledeen, was also a consultant for the Pentagon and the Iraqi National Congress. It would have been extremely convenient for the administration, struggling to explain why Iraq was a threat, to be able to produce information from an unimpeachable “foreign intelligence source” to confirm the Iraqi worst-case. The possible forgery of the information by Defense Department employees would explain the viciousness of the attack on Valerie Plame and her husband. Wilson, when he denounced the forgeries in the New York Times in July 2003, turned an issue in which there was little public interest into something much bigger. The investigation continues, but the campaign against this lone detractor suggests that the administration was concerned about something far weightier than his critical op-ed.
- Up until now, the fiction recklessly spewed by disgruntled intelligence-community retirees and their media enablers—some of whom have conceded that the claim is based on zero evidence—has been that Michael had something to do with the forged Italian documents that, according to the Left’s narrative, were the basis for President Bush’s “lie” in the 2003 State of the Union Address that Saddam Hussein had obtained yellowcake uranium (for nuclear-weapons construction) in Africa.
 Iraq War advocacy
- He fears that if we attack Iraq “I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a cauldron and destroy the War on Terror.”
- One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to indoctrinate young terrorists.
- That’s our mission in the war against terror.
Ledeen specifically called for the deposition of Saddam Hussein’s regime by force in 2002:
- So it’s good news when Scowcroft comes out against the desperately needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein and the rest of the terror masters.
- Question #2: Okay, well if we are all so certain about the dire need to invade Iraq, then when do we do so?
- Ledeen: Yesterday
Ledeen’s statements prior to the start of the Iraq war such as “desperately needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein” and “dire need to invade Iraq” make his later statement that he “opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place” to be an “outright lie” to Glenn Greenwald. However, Ledeen maintains these statements are consistent since: “I advocated—as I still do—support for political revolution in Iran as the logical and necessary first step in the war against the terror masters.”
 Personal life
Ledeen is married to his second wife, Barbara. His first wife was Jenny Ledeen of St. Louis, Mo. Ledeen has three children: Simone, Gabriel, and Daniel. Simone has worked both in Iraq and Afghanistan for the Department of Defense; Gabriel is currently a Lieutenant in the United States Marines Corps serving his second tour in Iraq; and Daniel is currently serving a Lieutenant in the USMC.
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