Iraq war supporter Clifford May fails in media appearances to disclose State Dept. grants to organization he heads

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Former Republican National Committee official Clifford D. May has appeared in the media several times to defend the administration's conduct of the Iraq war, but in none of his columns or on-air appearances has May disclosed that the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, an organization of which he is the president, has received at least $1.2 million in State Department grants since 2004, or that May himself is a member of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion.

Since 2004, Clifford D. May, former Republican National Committee communications director and president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), has appeared in the media several times to defend the administration's conduct of the Iraq war -- most recently in his September 5 Scripps Howard News Service column, where he listed as "Al Qaeda's hope[s]" that "Congress will save them by legislating America's retreat from Iraq" and "that lawmakers in Washington will vote to stop fighting al Qaeda in Iraq and to abandon those Iraqis who have been fighting with us and relying on us." However, in none of his columns or on-air appearances has May disclosed that FDD has received at least $1.2 million in State Department grants since 2004, or that May himself is a member of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion.

The FDD is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization that claims to be "the only nonpartisan policy institute dedicated exclusively to promoting pluralism, defending democratic values, and fighting the ideologies that drive terrorism." According to the group's website: "As a result of our proven effectiveness, the State Department awarded FDD grants to run training conferences on democracy with Iraqi women leaders in Hilla [Iraq] in 2003 and Amman [Jordan] in 2005, and to sponsor a network of university professors to give lectures on democracy to hundreds of university students in Baghdad, Hilla, Mosul, Najaf and Tikrit."

According to the State Department website, FDD was awarded an $800,343 grant for fiscal year 2005 to "support[] a new generation of activists in the Middle East through training, technical assistance and mentoring." FDD received a separate $426,457 grant for fiscal 2005 to "provide[] advanced personalized, practical campaign training to female candidates in the Middle East and North Africa region running in elections in 2006 and 2007."

Additionally, the State Department announced on November 3, 2006, the inaugural meeting of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion, of which May was listed as a member.

According to a Media Matters for America Nexis search of all news for "(cliff! w/2 may) and (may w/30 iraq) and ((may w/50 (state w/5 department)) or (may w/50 democracy promotion))," May has not disclosed his connections to the State Department -- financial and other -- during his on-air appearances or in items published in print.

May has, however, vociferously defended the Bush administration's conduct of the Iraq war. On the August 23 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, May defended the "surge" strategy and Gen. David Petraeus' execution of it:

MAY: And on the present, if we start to say we're leaving on this timetable no matter what the conditions are, we lose all power to facilitate reconciliation. Understand -- and I think you both do understand this -- you must have security in place before you can have a process of political development. They're not going to be simultaneous and you can't have political development without military progress. We are having military progress. Now Petraeus needs some more time.

And he has said two things. One is, he is turning power over to Iraqis more and more. And two, by next summer, he can draw down -- not eliminate our troops. We'll need to keep their backs.

May was also quoted praising Petraeus and the "surge" in an August 10 Washington Times article:

"There is no question that there have been very substantial and significant changes since the new strategy has been implemented by General Petraeus," said Clifford May, president of the nonpartisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on counterterrorism.

"A lot of people think it's merely a surge, more troop numbers; that's very far from reality. It's 180 degrees from what Petraeus' predecessors were doing in Iraq and is much more a classic counter-insurgency strategy and it is having a huge impact. ... Al Qaeda is being crushed," Mr May said.

From May's September 5 Scripps Howard News Service column:

We now have a chance to seriously degrade AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] -- which American intelligence calls the "most visible and capable (al Qaeda) affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the (U.S) homeland." We now have a chance to deliver a painful physical, psychological and intellectual blow to global al Qaeda -- to demonstrate who the "strong horse" really is.

Al Qaeda's hope: that Congress will save them by legislating America's retreat from Iraq; that lawmakers in Washington will vote to stop fighting al Qaeda in Iraq and to abandon those Iraqis who have been fighting with us and relying on us.

Six years after 9/11, in the midst of a global conflict against al Qaeda and its enablers, is there a more serious mistake we could make?

May has appeared in the media several other times to defend Iraq strategy, such as on the August 24 edition of CNN Newsroom, the May 23 edition of Tucker, the April 11 edition of Tucker, and the November 29, 2006, edition of CNBC's Kudlow & Company.

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