The Lobby and the Iraq War

Here are some references to articles describing
the role the Israel Lobby played
in inveigling the U.S. into war with Iraq.

Those under the heading of “Endnote”
come from the cited endnote in Mearsheimer and Walt’s paper
“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”.

Endnote 150

Within the United States,
the main driving force behind the Iraq war
was a small band of neoconservatives,
many with close ties to Israel’s Likud party.
The influence of the neoconservatives
is clearly reflected in the following articles
(listed in chronological order).

The Iraq Hawks
by Seymour Hersh,
New Yorker, 2001-12-24/31

Bomb Saddam?
by Joshua Micah Marshall,
Washington Monthly, 2002-06

White House Push for Iraqi Strike Is on Hold
by Dana Milbank,
Washington Post, 2002-08-18

Iraq course set from tight White House circle
[Showdown with Saddam: The Decision to Act]
By John Diamond, Judy Keen, Dave Moniz, Susan Page and Barbara Slavin,
USA Today, 2002-09-11

On the Job and at Home,
Influential Hawks' 30-Year Friendship Evolves

Graphic: Intersecting Careers of Four Bush Advisers
New York Times, 2002-09-11

[This begins with a great joke.
Who says Cheney doesn’t have a sense of humor?]

A Rose By Another Name:
The Bush Administration's Dual Loyalties

Counterpunch, 2002-12-13
[For the revised version, see 2004-09-06-Christison.]

The Pentagon Muzzles the CIA
by Robert Dreyfuss,
The American Prospect, 2002-12-16

U.S. Decision On Iraq Has Puzzling Past
Opponents of War Wonder When, How Policy Was Set

by Glenn Kessler,
Washington Post, 2003-01-12

[Although not mentioned in the Mearsheimer-Walt paper,
a related reference that I like is:]

The Likudnik Factor
by Mickey Kaus,
Slate, 2003-02-14

[An excerpt:]

Am I suggesting these people might have dual loyalties?
To paraphrase Leon Wieseltier, why only two?

First Stop, Iraq
by Michael Elliott and James Carney,
Time, 2003-03-31

Pro-Israel Hawks and the Second Gulf War
by Joel Beinin,
Middle East Report Online, 2003-04-06

Bush's Brain Trust
by Sam Tanenhaus,
Vanity Fair, 2003-07

[This is a really long article, about 10 print pages,
but it contains a great deal of useful background information.
At least for now, I am including the whole thing.
To skip to the end, click here.]

Is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz driving U.S. foreign policy? After 9/11, when George W. Bush needed a worldview, the neoconservatives, led by Wolfowitz, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and the controversial "prince of darkness" Richard Perle, provided it. Not since J.F.K.'s Best and Brightest has an intellectual junta had this much muscle. But even the neocons aren't quite sure what they've wrought in the Middle East. Examining their ideological roots and their bitterest bureaucratic brawls, Sam Tanenhaus charts the triumph of a radical faith in American power

One evening in February, some of Washington's leading hawks gathered at the Metropolitan Club, only a block from the White House, to celebrate the publication of The War over Iraq, a tautly argued pro-war polemic co-written by Lawrence F. Kaplan, a 33-year-old senior editor at The New Republic, and William Kristol, 50, the publisher and editor of The Weekly Standard, by all odds the capital's most influential journal of opinion these days.

Like most significant Beltway occasions, this one was deeply political, and what it marked was the ascendancy of the thinkers, activists, and policymakers known as neoconservatives. "Regular Republicans," such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, were also on hand. But the neocon-ness of the event was clinched when Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz spoke to the crowd. To this audience, Wolfowitz, 59, was well known as the principal author of the most important neoconservative text of the day: the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive, or "preventive," military action. Its first chapter, the invasion of Iraq, would commence in a month.

At the time, with the last stabs at diplomacy being made, the official White House line was that war could still be averted. But Wolfowitz spoke of it as an impending event. "There was no if," Kaplan told me in April. "His talk was clearly framed as when." Not that he sounded triumphant. He never does. (His boss, Donald Rumsfeld, is triumphant enough for two.) Wolfowitz, for all his hawkishness, is disarmingly soft-spoken, thoughtful, deliberate. His remarks were sober but also inspiring. "It sounded like a general rallying his troops for the battle ahead," one guest recalls.

The tone was appropriate because many in his audience were warriors of a kind, intellectual warriors who had been waging a battle of ideas, for more than three decades in some cases. But politics is timing. At the outset of the Bush presidency, there seemed to be little interest at the top in neocon thinking. But then, following the trauma of September 11, George Bush needed a plan-more than a plan, an answer, a way of looking at America and its place in the world-and the neocons, with their muscular idealism, had one perfectly in place.

For Wolfowitz, the memory of September 11 is especially vivid because he was at his office in the outer ring of the Pentagon, on the side of the building opposite where the hijacked American Airlines 757 hit. One hundred and twenty-five Pentagon employees were killed that day. "We had just had a breakfast with some congressmen," Wolfowitz told me in May. He and Rumsfeld were lobbying for increased defense spending. The pair had warned their visitors that "we were in for some nasty surprises" from America's overseas adversaries and that "the nature of surprise is you don't know what it's going to be."

Indeed. Word soon came that a plane had flown directly into the World Trade Center. "We turned on the TV and saw shots of the second plane hitting. There didn't seem much to do," Wolfowitz says. Then, half an hour later, at 9:43, he and his colleagues felt a jolt shudder through the Pentagon. "The whole building shook. My first reaction was that it was an earthquake." But Rumsfeld instantly made the connection with what was happening in New York. He raced off to the impact site to see what had happened. "Next we heard there had been a bomb and the building had to be evacuated," Wolfowitz recalls. Smoke and fumes filled the offices. The surviving staff struggled out to the 29-acre complex's parade grounds. A small "command group"-Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Richard Meyers, then the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (he has since moved up to the top job)-returned to the building. "That's an experience I will never forget," says Wolfowitz-the "huge fire, the acrid smoke seeping in." Soon he was whisked off, for security reasons, to "this bizarre location prepared to survive nuclear war, way uptown."

It was a scene out of a low-budget Cold War disaster film. But this was a new era with new enemies. To Wolfowitz, it was clear "the old approach to terrorism was not acceptable any longer." Passivity was now riskier than action. "This is just the beginning of what these bastards could do if they get access to modern weapons," Wolfowitz remembers thinking. That weekend, in front of the president at Camp David, he would startle some officials by advocating an attack not on al-Qaeda's bases in Afghanistan but on Saddam Hussein's Iraq. "After 9/11, Iraq was the one issue" for Wolfowitz, says a senior administration official. "Even before then he was pretty well focused on it."

Meanwhile, on September 11, across the Potomac, fellows at the American Enterprise Institute, soon to emerge as the Bush administration's favorite think tank, were receiving similarly aggressive counsel from Wolfowitz's longtime friend and ally Richard Perle, who was on the phone from France. Perle, himself an A.E.I. fellow, was also the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a high-powered 30-member group (Henry Kissinger and Newt Gingrich also belong) that periodically gives advice to the secretary of defense. Like Wolfowitz, Perle is never at a loss for a big-picture reading. One who consulted him that day was presidential speechwriter David Frum, who along with other administration staffers had taken shelter at A.E.I.'s offices after the White House was evacuated. Frum spent an hour on the phone with Perle. "I remember very clearly what he said," Frum recalls. "'Whatever else the president says, he must make clear that he's holding responsible not just terrorists but whoever harbors those terrorists.'"

That night Bush would go on television and say precisely this. Two months later, Frum would invent the phrase "axis of hate," later revised to "axis of evil"-a textbook neoconservative formulation.

Some argue that there's no longer any difference in conservative thinking between neo and non-neo. But when the term "neoconservative" first achieved currency, in the mid-1970s, it referred to a loose confederacy of ex-liberals who had drifted steadily rightward, repudiating the excesses of the welfare state and post-Vietnam distrust of American power. While mainstream conservatives inclined toward isolationism or Realpolitik, neocons inhabited a political shadowland where idealism mingled with ideology. They still do. Beneath Wolfowitz's hyperrational exterior, for instance, there is an electric current of moral fervor-righteous passion, some would say. Perle and Kristol, both highly sophisticated men, invoke the words "good" and "evil" quite as naturally as President Bush does, though with a very different resonance. Neocons are steeped in the knowledge-personal, in some cases-of Europe's 20th-century totalitarian horrors. They bring a rare sense of historical drama to politics; for them foreign-policy issues come drenched in crisis. Saddam is not merely a brutal dictator whom the world would be better off without-he is the stepchild of Hitler or Stalin, or both.

To be a neocon today is to believe that the optimal world is one in which the United States asserts its might and promulgates its ideas, embracing its "unipolar" status, whether or not other nations agree. So dominant has this outlook become that it has transformed perceptions of the Bush administration, and of George Bush himself, at least in the eyes of those who mistrust him. Yesterday's servant of oil and gas companies is now "the callow instrument of neoconservative ideologues," as The New York Review of Books recently put it. Others warn darkly of a "cabal" or "conspiracy" of mostly Jewish "kosher conservatives" who have "hijacked" the government even as they secretly serve the interests of Israel's Likud Party. There are rumors of a "shadow government," being run from Wolfowitz's office, which is said to have usurped intelligence operations from the C.I.A. There is talk, too, that Kristol, whose Weekly Standard is read intently by some at the White House, has planted a sleeper cell of neoconservatives in the upper reaches of the Bush administration.

"People think there's a conspiracy," says an amused Kristol, who like all Beltway pros can dismiss an idea even as he reinforces it. "It's not as if Paul and Richard and I get together every month and decide what the next move is going to be." But, yes, he admits, "Bush moved a little after 9/11. Certainly he says things now he wasn't saying two years ago." But "if it's a cabal, it's the most visible cabal ever." After all, "we write articles." For his part, Wolfowitz is less amused, bristling at any suggestion of secrecy. "It's completely out in the open who holds these views in this administration. It couldn't be more transparent."

The neocons are not usurpers. They are the new establishment, and not since the "Wise Men," who formulated the first Cold War policies for Harry Truman in the late 1940s, or the Harvard brain trust that advised John Kennedy have intellectuals had so direct an impact on the nation's politics. Of course, the policies of those two administrations produced very different results. The Wise Men made the United States the world's great stabilizing force via the Marshall Plan and nato. Their heirs in the Kennedy and Johnson White Houses-"the Best and the Brightest," in David Halberstam's famous phrase-gave us Vietnam. And no one is quite sure what the results will be this time, not even, for all their confidence and proclaimed moral clarity, the neocons themselves. "There's no relevant experience to draw on," confesses Perle, who has been advocating regime change in Iraq for years, when asked how long it will take to create a viable government there. Or as Wolfowitz admits, contradicting some of his more optimistic colleagues, "Getting post-Saddam Iraq right may take years."

Born in 1943, Wolfowitz grew up in an atmosphere of intense moral and intellectual seriousness. His father, Jacob, had emigrated from Poland as a 10-year-old and came of age in New York during the Great Depression, teaching high school for a number of years while earning his doctorate in mathematics. He eventually joined the faculty at Columbia and later Cornell. Paul, the younger of two children, inherited his father's intellect and also his moral passion. As an undergrad at Cornell, Paul met Allan Bloom, a charismatic, erudite professor of political philosophy, who was the resident adviser at Telluride, the dorm for gifted students, where Wolfowitz lived. Wolfowitz credits Bloom in large part for his discovery that the "study of politics [is] a serious business." A math and biochemistry major, Wolfowitz also immersed himself in the study of global politics, which, according to friends, displeased his father, who scorned the social sciences.

Though admitted to M.I.T.'s graduate program in biophysical chemistry, Wolfowitz, "unbeknownst to my father," had applied as well to the University of Chicago. Its political-science faculty had just added a new member, Albert Wohlstetter, a brilliant and eccentric geo-military thinker whose analyses of America's porous nuclear defenses, written at the Rand Corporation, in Santa Monica, California, had shocked the Pentagon into overhauling its weapons systems. He and Wolfowitz met at the first student-faculty tea held after the younger man arrived at Chicago in 1965, at age 21. Described by one colleague as "an impossible person, a mad genius," Wohlstetter had the guru's talent for engaging young minds. According to Wolfowitz, when "Albert learned I was a math major he immediately glommed on to me," sensing in Wolfowitz a possible recruit to the "technical and technological" approach to military strategy favored by Wohlstetter, whose enthusiasm for inventive nuclear scenarios is said to have inspired Terry Southern and Stanley Kubrick to make him one of several models for Dr. Strangelove. Contrary to that image, Wohlstetter had not learned "to love the bomb." He was, rather, a practical visionary convinced that the regnant nuclear theology of the period-with its belief that the "delicate balance of terror" held the superpowers in check-was also keeping American policymakers from thinking more creatively, and thus less apocalyptically, about weapons and war.

At Chicago, Wolfowitz also met another important preceptor, Leo Strauss, an emigre German Jewish philosopher who had been Bloom's mentor. Strauss's philosophy is complex, allusive, and nuanced, steeped in close readings of Plato. Among the ideas that would influence neoconservatism was his belief that modern European liberalism had been a disaster climaxed by the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin. Mankind's last best hope was the United States; its civil democracy was a kind of blessed historical accident. Strauss, who died in 1973, "is a remarkable figure" from whom, Wolfowitz says, he learned a great deal in the two seminars he took, though he scoffs at the notion, much bruited of late, that Strauss's ideas can be linked to the Iraq war. "A product of fevered minds," he insists.

In any event, Wolfowitz knew his future lay not in political theory-as abstract in its way as math-but in the practical realm of policy. He jumped when Wohlstetter suggested he go to Washington for a few weeks in the spring of 1969 to work as a "scout," canvassing opinions on Capitol Hill for a group of Cold Warriors who supported the anti-ballistic missile (abm), a futuristic defense system that the new president, Richard Nixon, was struggling to get through Congress. During the project, which lasted a few weeks, Wolfowitz met a senator, his first, Henry M. Jackson, of Washington State. A Democrat, "Scoop" Jackson was a classic first-generation neocon, liberal on social issues but fiercely anti-Soviet. Wolfowitz was impressed when a shirtsleeved Jackson-a national figure being talked of as a future president-got down on the floor to master a chart Wolfowitz had made countering charges that the ABM was unworkable.

Wolfowitz's fellow scout on the ABM project was another protege of Wohlstetter's, a 27-year-old graduate continued on page 164 continued from page 118 student in political science named Richard Perle. The son of a textile manufacturer and his wife who had moved from New York to Los Angeles, Perle was the opposite of an academic overachiever. In fact, he was flunking Spanish at Hollywood High School when he caught the eye of a classmate, Joan Wohlstetter, Albert's daughter, who invited him home to swim in the family pool. Her father was there, and he stirred Perle's untapped intellectual depths, engaging him in a conversation about military strategy that lasted, in one form or another, until Wohlstetter's death in 1997. Perle's formal education came at the University of Southern California (Chicago turned him down) and then at Princeton, where he was working on his M.A. when Wolfowitz met him.

After the ABM project ended, Wolfowitz returned to academia, but Perle joined Jackson's staff and remained there for the next 11 years. Following the death of his parents-his mother in 1969, his father two years later-Perle found a surrogate father in Jackson. The pair were on a mission to shred detente, the bold new strategy devised by Nixon and his foreign-policy guru, Henry Kissinger, as a means of easing superpower tensions. To hard-liners, detente was morally repugnant since it glossed over Soviet crimes. It was also harebrained: Jackson favored the opposite strategy of upping the arms budget to put the screws to an already feeble Soviet economy.

Perle's work habits were unorthodox-he kept to a schedule of his own making, which might not start till late morning and then continue deep into the night-but he seemed born for bureaucratic intrigue. He and the senator made a rugged team, with Perle mastering legislative detail while Jackson made the public case, crushing his adversaries in open and closed debate. "There was a good-cop/bad-cop dynamic," says Jackson's biographer, Robert Kaufman. "What Nixon was to Eisenhower, Perle was to Jackson." Wolfowitz, meanwhile, grew restless on the tenure track in Yale's political-science department and in 1973 moved to Washington, eventually enlisting with a group Wohlstetter put together called the New Alternatives Workshop. Its mission, Wolfowitz says, was "to look at the implications of new technology," particularly weapons that "promised great improvements in accuracy." The fruits of the group's research and lobbying efforts would be evident a decade and a half later with the first Gulf War's smart bombs. "It was a considerable matter of personal satisfaction to watch those missiles turn right-angle corners in the Gulf War in '91, doing what Albert envisioned 15 years before," Wolfowitz says today.

During this time, Wolfowitz and Perle became even closer, though their styles are very different. "Richard has joie de vivre," says someone who knows both Perle and Wolfowitz well. While the former "could have sold anything to anyone, Wolfowitz has this academic personality-balanced, slow, methodical, always worried about uncertainty." Their tastes differ, too. Perle lives large and is as learned in the offerings of the world's shopping capitals as he is in throw weights. His first wife was working at a travel agency when he met her in Denmark. (A friend refers to this as Perle's "Philip Roth period.") The ascetic Wolfowitz is quieter, absent from the D.C. party circuit, invisible to the press until only recently. He closely guards his private life. Although he is separated from his wife, Clare, an anthropologist who has been described as his college sweetheart, Wolfowitz remains a devoted family man, close to their three children.

It was in the 70s that neoconservatism matured into a formal movement with munificent funding and tentacular "outreach." Magazines such as The Public Interest and Commentary spread the gospel while organizations such as the Committee on the Present Danger mobilized intellectuals who'd had enough of the counterculture, of squishy "anti-American" liberalism, of dithering leaders who had "lost their nerve," of an increasing mood of comity with the Soviets. At this point most neocons were still-barely-Democrats. (And some, including Perle, remain nominal members of the party.) The decisive break came in 1980 when they backed the most radical of major Republicans, Ronald Reagan, whose landslide victory unlocked the doors to real power for neocons, who flocked to Washington.

One such was Bill Kristol, the leading figure in a new generation of neoconservatives who had been raised in the movement. He is the son of the writer and editor Irving Kristol, a seminal neocon thinker who has been called the movement's "godfather," and of the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb. Born in 1952, Bill Kristol was raised in the world of New York intellectuals. As a boy, growing up on West 81st Street, he played ball in Riverside Park and maneuvered his way among the in-crowd at the Collegiate School. But at Harvard he got serious. His mentor, Harvey Mansfield, a professor of government, introduced him to Strauss's writings, and Kristol became a devotee who played in a "Straussian" touch-football game on weekends.

Kristol got a Ph.D. at Harvard and taught briefly at the University of Pennsylvania and, back in Cambridge, at the Kennedy School of Government. But "I just wasn't cut out to do serious academic work," he has said. William Bennett, Reagan's second secretary of education-and a friend of Irving Kristol's-gave Bill a staff job and then, rolling the dice on a fresh talent, promoted him to chief of staff. There Kristol mastered the art of political P.R.: feeding leaks to the media, timing news cycles, and all the rest. Under George H. W. Bush, he became, at age 36, Vice President Dan Quayle's chief of staff, assigned the task of creating an aura of gravitas around the most lightweight public figure of the day. Quayle may have profited less from the arrangement than did Kristol, who got a lot of ink, sometimes at his boss's expense.

Wolfowitz and Perle also thrived during the Reagan-Bush years. As assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Wolfowitz persuaded Reagan to cut his ties to Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippine dictator, an accomplishment Wolfowitz proudly cites in conversation-and that others claim as a landmark moment in neoconservative foreign policy. Next he became ambassador to Indonesia, where he concluded his three-year tour with a speech boldly calling for more political openness, endearing himself to the people while angering their dictator, Suharto. In a burst of bravado, he told The New York Times in April 2001 that his picture still hangs in the homes of citizens there.

But it was Richard Perle who entered the public consciousness at home. The former "Scoopite" found a place in the Reagan administration, thanks to the well-connected Republican arms-control specialist Kenneth Adelman, who had also eased Wolfowitz's way. "In 1980, I was pushing for Perle to be at the Defense Department," Adelman says today. Frank Carlucci, who was slated for the department's number-two slot, had heard stories about Perle's irregular work habits and called Adelman for advice. "Frank said, 'What do you think?' I said, 'It's worth the trouble. It's worth every bit of it.'" Perle, appointed assistant secretary of defense, maintained his erratic ways. According to Adelman, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger held a small staff meeting every morning promptly at eight. "Some people would give their right arm to attend," says Adelman. "Face time with the secretary. Richard would roll in at 10, be behind all day long." But, reprising the act he'd perfected under Jackson, Perle was also widely assumed to be doing Weinberger's thinking for him. "Richard Perle is extremely able, very knowledgeable about the background of arms control, which I was not," Weinberger told me recently. "When I came into office I needed a great deal of briefing." And Perle supplied it. He also excelled in "interagency" disputes with the State Department, pummeling opponents who favored soft negotiations with the Soviets. Dubbed the "prince of darkness," a one-man wrecking crew of arms negotiations, Perle became the darling of the hard-liners.

He was also a figure-about-town. He had married a Capitol Hill aide, Leslie Barr, and had a son, Jonathan (now in law school). The local press corps now faithfully reported Perle's off-duty activities, which by Washington standards were fairly louche: Perle and his beluga caviar, his imported French bread and cappuccino, his Monte Cristo cigars and Gauloises, his abandoned plans to invest in a chain of souffle restaurants (that was in the 70s). When he quit government in June 1987-the allure of private business, of sitting on corporate boards and setting up venture-capital firms, was too great-The Washington Post, in a three-part, 10,000-word retrospective (remarkable for a third-rank policy official), suggested he had "done more to shape the administration's nuclear arms policy than perhaps any individual except Reagan himself." It was no small accomplishment, and it has grown over time; that policy, many believe, helped bring the Soviets to their knees.

But if the 80s were the peak for neocons, the 90s were the nadir. Fate installed the elder George Bush in the White House when the Soviet Union finally split at the seams. But instead of offering a third Reagan term, Bush proved, to neocon eyes, a throwback to squeamish, ruling-class governance. There was the classic, Vietnam-redux "loss of nerve" during the Gulf War when Bush withdrew U.S. forces rather than take Saddam down. Next came his refusal to intervene in Bosnia because, explained Secretary of State James Baker, "we have no dog in that fight." Wolfowitz, now the under-secretary of defense for policy, told friends he was appalled. Today, Perle calls Baker's statement "morally reprehensible." The neocon vision of creating a Pax Americana, of the virtuous democracy that would guide the world from darkness into light, had been betrayed.

But not altogether. In 1992, Wolfowitz's staff, working from briefing papers he had prepared, drafted an continued on page 168 continued from page 165 in-house defense policy "guidance" asserting that the unipolar moment had come, that the United States should assert its interests over much of the globe, challenging even friendly nations, which were depicted as potential rivals. An adversary, alarmed by the report's hints of messianism, leaked it to The New York Times, which ran a huge page-one story followed by a scorching editorial warning that the "go-it-alone" approach was "downright perverse." Unnamed officials sprinted away from the "dumb report"-in hindsight, the blueprint for the Bush doctrine as well as, Wolfowitz argues, the Clinton administration's interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo.

After Bush's defeat in 1992, friends tried to persuade Wolfowitz to go into investment banking. It was easy to see why: ex-politicos with Pentagon connections, Perle included, were making millions as "access capitalists." It was becoming, in fact, a new Washington industry. But Wolfowitz wasn't interested. "The gravy that there's a lot of in Washington is sort of beside the point for him," says an old friend. Instead, he accepted the deanship at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins.

It was Kristol who tended the neoconservatism flame in Washington during the Clinton interregnum. He set up his own power base, an advocacy group called the Project for the Republican Future, and with his staff of 10 produced a blizzard of policy statements which he promoted by fax and in his silken TV commentary. In 1994, after helping sink Hillary Clinton's health plan and pushing Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, Kristol, along with two conservative journalists, his fellow "minicon" John Podhoretz (son of the writer and editor Norman Podhoretz) and the more traditional Republican Fred Barnes, decided to start The Weekly Standard, a Washington-based political journal that would occupy the same, sometimes prickly place on the right that The New Republic did on the left. Its manifestos attacked Republicans for hibernating away from the world and Democrats for being too naive about it. In January 1998, Kristol generated an open letter to Clinton-signed as well by Perle, Wolfowitz, and five others who now hold important positions in the Bush administration-declaring that "containment" of Iraq had failed and the only solution was "removing Saddam's regime." But no one took this too seriously. It was just the kooky neocons conjuring up new evil empires.

When the 2000 campaign began, the assumption was that the Republican front-runner, George W. Bush, would rely on his father's most trusted advisers-Baker, Brent Scowcroft, and Condoleezza Rice-and that the old and hated Bush policies of cautious realism would prevail. Kristol backed John McCain, likening him to Teddy Roosevelt, the avatar of a new epoch of "national greatness." But some had inklings that the younger Bush might not be a carbon copy of his father. When the campaign started up, both Wolfowitz and Perle were brought in to brief Bush on foreign policy. "The first time I met Bush 43 I knew he was different," Perle says. "Two things became clear. One, he didn't know very much. The other was he had the confidence to ask questions that revealed he didn't know very much. Most people are reluctant to say when they don't know something, a word or term they haven't heard before. Not him. You'd raise a point, and he'd say, 'I didn't realize that. Can you explain that?' He was eager to learn.... I came away thinking he had some of Scoop's qualities of character. You got the sense that if he believed something he'd pursue it tenaciously." Wolfowitz, too, would soon be telling Washington acquaintances that Bush was "the new Scoop Jackson," that he cut through the murk, wanted to be told what needed doing and how it should be done.

as the campaign wore on, Bush and Wolfowitz grew closer. There were many phone calls from Austin. Wolfowitz's intimates began to think he'd be named secretary of defense if Bush won. "There was a huge expectation," says a friend. "He had the resume as much as anyone else who's held the position." But if Wolfowitz was disappointed by Bush's choice of Rumsfeld, he didn't let on-he admired Rumsfeld and told friends he was eager to work for him. Indeed, the secretary was a kind of honorary neocon.

Perle made it clear he didn't want a job in the administration, so Rumsfeld named him chairman of the Defense Policy Board. As an "outsider insider," with access to classified documents but not officially a member of the administration, Perle was free to do what he did best-stir things up. But Perle would get in trouble for appearing to violate the Defense Policy Board's "conduct" rules on at least two occasions. One came when he took a $125,000 retainer from Global Crossing, the bankrupt telecom company, which had sought his advice on Defense Department objections to the firm's sale to an Asian venture. After a media squall, Perle said the fee would be donated to the families of American soldiers killed or injured in Iraq. He stepped down as Defense Policy chairman, though he remains on the board. The skilled infighter also threatened rashly to sue The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh for libel over an article detailing Perle's alleged conflicts of interest.

As Bush took office, the Standard looked as if it had been left out of the game altogether. First, there was the inopportune McCain endorsement. Then, after Kristol in TV-pundit mode had predicted a victory for Al Gore, Ari Fleischer, then a Bush-campaign spokesman, phoned to let him know his words had been "duly noted." As Kristol says diplomatically, "The Bush people aren't big on constructive criticism." Now, when conservative journalists are invited to White House "schmoozes," Kristol is conspicuously left off the list. "I'm sort of not persona non grata, nor persona grata," he says.

In any case, neoconservatism was never about making friends. It was about remaking American politics, and the world too, if the opportunity came. And on September 11 it did. Soon the most intense and hard-fought interagency debate in modern memory was under way, as Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to limit the administration's military response to al-Qaeda and the Taliban while Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz pushed to widen it. A pivotal moment came on Saturday, September 15, when Bush summoned his top advisers for a contentious meeting at Camp David. There are several published accounts of this marathon session, all incomplete because the participants were interviewed while the war in Iraq was still pending. The fullest account of the meeting to date, in Bob Woodward's book Bush at War, describes a coffee break during which Bush told a small group-it included Cheney, his chief of staff, I. Louis ("Scooter") Libby, and Wolfowitz-that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry B. Shelton, who personally opposed attacking Iraq, had presented "unimaginative" options for going after the country. Wolfowitz, Woodward writes, then "expanded on the arguments about how war against Iraq might be easier than against Afghanistan." This account ends with Wolfowitz being scolded by White House chief of staff Andrew Card for interrupting Rumsfeld to pursue the point with the larger group. The president, Wolfowitz and the rest were reportedly told, had heard enough about Iraq.

In fact, according to an informed source, Wolfowitz not only engaged Bush much more directly over coffee than has been reported, but also may have sold him on an eventual reckoning with Saddam. Wolfowitz agreed with Bush: Shelton's plan-a limited series of "pinprick" bombings-was indeed unimaginative. But, Wolfowitz is said to have countered, "we have very good options for dealing with Iraq," and he laid them out. "Think about the fact that the second-largest city in Iraq"-Basra-"is full of Shia who hate Saddam," he told the president. Consider, too, that Basra lies "within 60 kilometers of the Kuwaiti border and within 60 percent of Iraq's total oil production." Bush was impressed. "It was clear [Wolfowitz's argument] stuck with him," says this source. Wolfowitz puts it this way, with characteristic precision: "To the extent it was a debate about timing and tactics, the president clearly came down on the side of Afghanistan first. To the extent it was a debate about strategy and what the larger goal was, it is at least clear with 20/20 hindsight that the president came down on the side of the larger goal." In truth, Wolfowitz had presented in broadest outline the full-scale invasion that would be enacted 18 months later.

Since then, Wolfowitz's fixation on Iraq has led even some in the administration to accuse him of tunnel vision. "If you look around the world at other issues, he's nonexistent," says one senior official. "He's not a major player on any other issue." At interagency meetings, this source says, Wolfowitz often can't state a Defense Department position because he "has no idea where Rummy [stands]." Nor has his thinking about Iraq been in sync with others'-as became clear when the administration's rationale for going to war kept changing. When we spoke in May, as U.S. inspectors were failing to find weapons of mass destruction, Wolfowitz admitted that from the outset, contrary to so many claims from the White House, Iraq's supposed cache of W.M.D. had never been the most compelling casus belli. It was simply one of several: "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." Everyone meaning, presumably, Powell and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Almost unnoticed but huge," he said, is another reason: removing Saddam will allow the U.S. to take its troops out of Saudi Arabia, where their presence has been one of al-Qaeda's biggest grievances. "Just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door" to a more peaceful Middle East, Wolfowitz said, adding, "I don't want to speak in messianic terms." (The risks of doing so were brought home three days after our interview when eight Americans were killed by al-Qaeda bombs in Riyadh.)

There are other intriguing byways in Wolfowitz's thinking about Iraq. For one thing, he seems confident Saddam was connected to the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the theory advanced by the Iraqi specialist and A.E.I. adjunct fellow Laurie Mylroie in her book The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks. Says Wolfowitz, "The acknowledged incontrovertible fact is the only indicted participant [still at large]"-Iraqi-American Abdul Rahman Yasin-"fled to Iraq and has been there ever since. [He] may be there today." Wolfowitz also has entertained the theory, advanced by Mylroie on the basis of telephone logs and other evidence, that Saddam was involved in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. "I first heard the notion from Paul," says a longtime friend. "He showed me Timothy McVeigh's Web site that said there was nothing worse than the suffering of Iraqi children under the sanctions. He was interested in this question. I don't think he'd reached any conclusion." Perle, too, finds the theory plausible. "I think Laurie makes a significantly strong case and [it] deserves investigation," he says. Wolfowitz, when asked directly about the Oklahoma City connection, declined comment.

Whatever the justifications, Wolfowitz has staked a great deal on the so-called war of choice in Iraq. If his master plan works he may well be remembered as a giant of foreign policy-Wolfowitz of Arabia, as some in the Middle East now call him. If not, the consequences will haunt him, and us all, for many years to come.

In the meantime, the neocons dominate a moment in which righteousness radiates outward from the centers of power. "Iraq is in a small way the reverse of Vietnam," says Kristol, offering yet another gloss on the war. He means a favorable outcome could restore America's pre-Vietnam faith in itself. This is admirable, but also unsettling. It suggests that for the neocons, or some of them at least, the war "over" Iraq is really being fought at home-that it is part of the larger struggle for the American soul that they have been waging now for 30 years.

[End of Sam Tanenhaus’s “Bush’s Brain Trust”]

Dual Loyalties:
The Bush Neocons and Israel

Counterpunch, 2004-09-16
[For the original version, see 2002-12-13-Christison.]

Endnote 151

In addition,
key leaders of the Lobby’s major organizations
lent their voices to the campaign for war.

No time for equivocation
by Mortimer B. Zuckerman

Clear and compelling proof
by Mortimer B. Zuckerman

The high price of waiting
by Mortimer B. Zuckerman

Endnote 152

An Unseemly Silence
Forward, 2004-05-07

As President Bush attempted to sell
the American public and the international community
on the need for a war in Iraq,
America's most important Jewish organizations
rallied as one to his defense.
In statement after statement community leaders
stressed the need to rid the world
of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction.

Some groups went even further,
arguing that the removal of the Iraqi leader
would represent a significant step toward
bringing peace to the Middle East and
winning America's war on terrorism.

Hussein Asylum
by Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of Jewish Week

President Bush, a born-again Bible reader,
appears to have rejected the Christian position and adopted instead
the Jewish stance on self-defense and responding to evil people.
The issue for the U.S. should not be whether to oust Saddam,
but how.

Elie Wiesel, Bush, and Iraq

The following is excerpted
from pages 320–321 of Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack, published in 2004.
Emphasis and comments are added.

Elie Wiesel, writer, survivor of Auschwitz and Nobel Peace Prize Winner,
came to see [Condoleezza] Rice on 2003-02-27
[three weeks before the war with Iraq]
and the president dropped by her office.
Rice moved to the couch so the president could take the chair closest to Wiesel.

Wiesel told the president that
Iraq was a terrorist state
and that
the moral imperative was for intervention.
If the West had intervened in Europe in 1938, he said,
World War II and the Holocaust could have been prevented.
“It’s a moral issue.
In the name of morality
how can we not intervene?”


Bush told Wiesel,
“If we don’t disarm Saddam Hussein,
he will put a weapon of mass destruction on Israel
and they will do what they think they have to do,
and we have to avoid that.”
[Israel has made it fairly clear
that any use of WMD against it will bring a nuclear response.]

The prospect of a military exchange between Iraq and Israel would be a disaster,
no doubt foreclosing any possibility
of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states
joining any effort against Saddam.

In the face of such evils, neutrality was impossible, Wiesel said.
Indecision only promoted and assisted the evil and the aggressor,
not the victims.

“I’m against silence.”

In the days after, Bush routinely repeated Wiesel’s comments.
“That was a meaningful moment for me,”
he recalled later,
“because it was a confirming moment.
I said to myself,
Gosh, if Elie Wiesel feels that way,
who knows the pain and suffering and agony of tyranny,
then others feel that way too.
And so
I am not alone.”

[Alone in what?
Alone in thinking that war with Iraq was necessary?
That seems to be the meaning.
If so, that means that Wiesel
(one of American Jewry’s most prominent and respected figures)
figured most significantly in Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.]

American Jewish Support for the Iraq War

ADL Commends President Bush's Message To International Community On Iraq Calling It 'Clear And Forceful'

[Links, coloring, and emphasis are added.]

New York, N.Y., September 12, 2002 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today commended President George W. Bush for "clearly and forcefully" calling on the international community at the United Nations General Assembly to take a stand against the threat to democracy and freedom posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

In a letter to President Bush, Glen A. Tobias, ADL National Chairman and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said:
We want to commend you for your very strong speech this morning
before the United Nations General Assembly.

You clearly and forcefully laid out
the danger Iraq poses to the stability and safety of the region
the imperative of action by the international community
to prevent President Saddam Hussein's use of non-conventional weaponry.

As you eloquently stated,
this is a defining moment for the international community
to stand up against a threat to democracy and freedom.
We hope they will join the United States in meeting this challenge.

Read more online on our web site at http://www.adl.org/PresRele/UnitedNations_94/4159_62

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

What Bush Isn't Saying About Iraq
President Bush won't discuss two big reasons he wants to invade Iraq.
By Michael Kinsley
Posted [at Slate] Thursday, Oct. 24, 2002, at 3:40 PM ET

[Emphasis is added.]

So, why exactly is Iraq different from North Korea? Both are founding members of President Bush's "axis of evil," and both deserve that honor. North Korea has now admitted to a nuclear weapons development program on about the same timeline as what we only suspect about Iraq. So, why are we barely complaining in one case and off to war in the other?

Bush addressed this conundrum the other day. "Saddam Hussein is unique," he explained. "He has thumbed his nose at the world for 11 years … and for 11 years he has said, 'No, I refuse to disarm.' " The North Koreans, by contrast, said, "Yes, we will disarm"—they promised to stop building nukes in exchange for help in developing peaceful nuclear power—and then they didn't do it. I guess that's a difference, but it sounds as if we're punishing Saddam for his honesty.

Bush's public case for going to war against Iraq is full of logical inconsistencies, exaggerations, and outright lies. It reeks of ex-post-facto: First came the desire, and then came the reasons. But this raises a troubling question, especially for opponents of Bush's policy: If his ostensible reasons are unpersuasive even to him, what are his real reasons? There must be some: Nobody starts a war as a lark. It would be easier to dismiss the whole exercise if there were an obvious ulterior motive. Without one, you are left wondering, "Am I missing something?"

Tariq Aziz has a theory. Saddam Hussein's deputy told the New York Times this week, "The reason for this warmongering policy toward Iraq is oil and Israel." Although no one wishes to agree with Tariq Aziz, he has put succinctly what many people in Washington apparently believe. They do not think the concern over potential use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons is negligible or insincere, but they do think that "oil and Israel" is a pretty good summary of what, for President Bush, makes Iraq different from your run-of-the-mill evil dictatorship. Yet this presumption about Bush, and these issues themselves, barely appear in the flood of speculation and argument about Bush War II.

"President Bush" is, of course, a metaphor. Much Washington political commentary and analysis is basically a discussion of what or whom the term "President Bush" is a metaphor for. Is it Karl Rove? Is it still Karen Hughes, although she has decamped? Even more than most presidents, Bush is regarded as the sum total of his advisers. Regarding Iraq, the advisers themselves are also used as metaphors, often in plural to signify a stereotype. "The Cheneys and the Rumsfelds" evokes a retro world of confident white CEOs in suits, oil barons, and the military industrial complex. "The Wolfowitzes and the Richard Perles" evokes—well, you know what it evokes.

The idea that oil is a factor in official thinking about Iraq shouldn't even be controversial. Protecting oil supplies from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait was an explicit—though disingenuously underemphasized—reason for Bush War I. After all, we couldn't claim to be fighting to restore democracy to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, let alone Iraq. This time around, the fact that Bush and Cheney are both oil men is suggestive, but the implication is not clear. A war to topple Saddam will raise oil prices in the short run but probably lower them in the longer run by stabilizing the supply. An oil man could have sincerely mixed feelings about these prospects. Surely, though, even a sensible opponent of the war ought to register a steady oil supply as one of the better reasons for it.

The lack of public discussion about
the role of Israel in the thinking of "President Bush"
is easier to understand, but weird nevertheless.
It is the proverbial elephant in the room:
Everybody sees it, no one mentions it.
The reason is obvious and admirable:
Neither supporters nor opponents of a war against Iraq wish
to evoke the classic anti-Semitic image of the king's Jewish advisers
whispering poison into his ear and
betraying the country to foreign interests.
But the consequence of this massive "Shhhhhhhhh!" is to make
a perfectly valid American concern for a democratic ally
in a region of nutty theocracies, rotting monarchies, and worse
seem furtive and suspicious.

Having brought this up, I hasten to add a few self-protective points.
The president's advisors, Jewish and non-Jewish, are patriotic Americans
who sincerely believe that
the interests of America and Israel coincide.

What's more, they are right about that,
though they may be wrong about where that shared interest lies.
Among Jewish Americans, including me,
there are people who hold every conceivable opinion about war with Iraq
with every variation of intensity,
including passionate opposition and complete indifference.
Jews are undoubtedly overrepresented
in what little organized antiwar movement there may be
(thus feeding another variant of the anti-Semitic stereotype).

Why and whether an American war against Iraq would be good for Israel is far from clear and is the subject of vigorous debate in Israel itself—but not in America. Theories range from the mundane to the exotic to the paranoid: Clearing out a neighborhood troublemaker before he gets the bomb is reason enough. Or, deposing Saddam will set off a complex regional chain reaction that will somehow turn the Arab nations into peaceful bourgeois societies. Or, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon actually wants a huge regional conflagration that he can use as an excuse and cover for expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank. In any event, the downside risk for Israel—of carnage, military and civilian—is like America's, only far greater.

But we'd better not talk about it.

Michael Kinsley is Slate's founding editor.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2073093/

Is War Opposition Anti-Semitic?

ADL Says Organizers of Antiwar Protests in Washington and San Francisco
Have History of Attacking Israel and Jews

Anti-Defamation League, 2003-01-15

[The complete press release:]

New York, NY, January 15, 2003 ... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed concern that antiwar protest rallies scheduled to take place this weekend in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco may employ inflammatory anti-Israel and anti-Jewish statements and rhetoric.

Organizers of the January 18 "National March in Washington to Demand: No War Against Iraq", the San Francisco rally, and other events scheduled for this weekend have previously embraced statements supporting Palestinian terrorism, equating Zionism with Nazism, and calling for the destruction of the Jewish state.

"Given the rhetoric at past rallies organized by this group, we are extremely concerned that the message of this weekend's antiwar protests will be tainted with hateful calls for Israel's destruction and comparisons of Israeli actions to the Nazi extermination of Jews during the Holocaust," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "While we have always said that there is a time and place for criticism of Israel, we remain very much concerned and alert to those pro-Palestinian forces in this country who resort to anti-Semitism, and who may use the war in Iraq as a pretext for attacking Israel and Jews."

The antiwar rallies are primarily being organized by the International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition. Past rallies by ANSWER have included significant anti-Israel propaganda, including claims that Israel is guilty of "war crimes" against Palestinians and that Israel is a "racist state." The group was responsible for last year's largest anti-Israel rally, the "National March for Palestine Against War and Racism" in Washington on April 20, 2002, which served as a forum for supporting violence and terror organizations, and a proliferation of anti-Semitic expression.

Other supporters of the D.C. rally include the Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University chapters of Free Palestine Now!, which justify their participation by arguing that, "Any U.S. attack on Iraq will be used as an excuse for the Israeli government led by war criminal Ariel Sharon to implement the policy of 'transfer' of the Palestinian inhabitants to the occupied territories." Free Palestine Now! plans to participate in a "feeder march" sponsored by various antiwar, anti-globalization, anti-capitalist and pro-Palestinian groups, including SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Tax Aid to Israel Now).

BACKGROUND: International ANSWER Coalition

Since September 2001, ANSWER has organized many antiwar protests around the country. The largest and most disturbing was on April 20, 2002 in Washington, D.C. Called the "National March for Palestine Against War and Racism," the massive rally was attended by approximately 200,000 people, including thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators. The rally served as a forum for supporting violence and terror organizations, and for a proliferation of anti-Semitic expression.

ANSWER has played a key role in bringing Arab and Muslim Groups into the anti-war and anti-racism movements, which has led to extreme invective against Israel during protests. Among the groups that have endorsed ANSWER events and participated in rallies are Al-Awda and the Islamic Association for Palestine - groups that have actively engaged in anti-Israel boycott campaigns.

The rallies in Washington and San Francisco promise a repeat of what has occurred at other recent protests against U.S. policy, with the inclusion of significant anti-Israel propaganda and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

In addition to the larger rallies, the Student ANSWER group is planning a "Youth and Student Action Against War and Racism" on January 19, a march that will lead from the office of the Justice Department to the White House.

Read more online on our web site at http://www.adl.org/PresRele/ASUS_12/4220_12

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.


The Reluctant Warrior
by Eliot A. Cohen
Wall Street Journal, 2003-02-06

[Here are the last two paragraphs;
emphasis and comments have been added.]

Copyright Dow Jones & Company Inc Feb 6, 2003

There is, however, something else out there,
something deeper, uglier, and far less rational,
an artesian river of hatred that has seeped in pools to the surface.
It finds expression in the venom with which a British playwright can declare
the "pervasive public nightmare of American hysteria, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and belligerence"
worse than the cancer that nearly killed him.
It appears in the hysteria that greeted
Donald Rumsfeld's off-hand remark about "old Europe" --
after months in which French and German leaders
could not conceal their contempt for their American counterparts.
It surfaces in petulant complaints that
U.S. policy is controlled by "neoconservative hawks"
whose protege state, Israel, is the root of al Qaeda terrorism
and the ultimate cause of war with Iraq.

In other words, it appears in
anti-Semitism of a type long thought dead in the West,
a loathing that ascribes to Jews a malignant intent.

[So, according to Eliot Cohen,
if one asserts the statement italicized above,
one must be motivated by the sentiment in boldface above.
Mr. Cohen demonstrates himself thereby as an idiot.
Leaving aside the issue of what is the meaning of the word “anti-Semitism,”
surely one who asserts the italicized statement
need not be motivated by loathing,
nor need “ascribe to Jews a malignant intent,” rather just a selfish one.
But what I do loathe are people,
like Mr. Cohen and his ilk (who seem to dominate the ADL nowadays),
who refuse to acknowledge that critics of organized American Jewry
may be motivated by concerns which are every bit as ethical and moral
as those which American Jews profess,
just not as centered in the question “Is it good for the Jews?”.]

This subterranean stream will continue to flow,
despite Mr. Powell's evidence and his eloquence.
It will be there -- and perhaps stronger -- the next time,
whenever the next time may be.
If Americans do not recognize it or choose to ignore it, we do so at our peril.
How to dam, divert, or dry it up is a great if subtle problem for the future,
and not, alas, to be solved in a single speech,
no matter how detailed or powerful.


Mr. Cohen, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins,
is the author, most recently, of
"Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime"
(Free Press, 2002).

Miscellaneous Articles


Why American Jewish groups support war with Iraq

Usually allied with liberal causes,
many American Jews support toppling Saddam Hussein.
If there's a peace movement, it will have to get started without them.

By Michelle Goldberg
Salon, 2002-09-14

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

Once a pillar of the American peace movement,

mainstream Jewish groups and leaders
are now among the strongest supporters
of an American invasion of Baghdad.

Observers on both sides say that trend translates into
greater Democratic disarray
on the question of whether and how to fight
the Bush administration’s invasion plans.

In the last year,
America’s war on Islamist terror has further eroded
the easy identification of Jews with liberal causes,
a link already strained by conflict over the Middle East.

The two-year intifada has left even liberal Jews
despairing of the prospect for peace with the Palestinians, and
the foreign-policy stance adopted by Ariel Sharon’s hard-line Israeli government
has largely been supported
by a community that used to be a bastion of liberalism.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, of course,
has made it policy to support whatever Bush decides to do on Iraq.

[One may suspect that that statement bears the implicit caveat:
As long as Bush is doing what is desired by Israel.]

But even some liberal Jewish leaders favor invading Baghdad.
Rabbi David Saperstein, a liberal Washington lobbyist
who heads the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism,
which represents 1.5 million American Jews,
usually acts as a bulwark against the excesses of the right.
Yet about a war with Iraq, he says,

“The Jewish community would want to see
a forceful resolution
to the threat that Saddam Hussein poses.”

There’s near-unanimity among mainstream Jewish groups
about the need for the U.S. to confront that threat.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman
of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, says,
“In the American Jewish community,
there’s a great deal of support for the president’s stand.”

And David Harris,
deputy executive director of the
American National Jewish Democratic Council,
argues that American and Israeli interests on Iraq mesh:

“What’s good for Israel is good for America,

because it lends stability to the region and because it’s a strategic ally.”

Support for the war from the leaders of a traditionally Democratic bloc
creates a potentially perilous situation
for any Democrat tempted to oppose the administration’s Iraq plans.

In fact,
among Jewish lobbyists in the Beltway,
support for the impending war is almost taken for granted
several are puzzled by the very suggestion
that any kind of strenuous opposition to an Iraq invasion might emerge.
This pains some old-school Jewish lefties,
who see the weakening of a traditional constraint on Republican excess
and who fear that Jews will take the blame should the war go wrong.

“It’s a further testimony to the blindness of American Jewish leadership,”
says Rabbi Michael Lerner, head of the left-wing Jewish organization Tikkun.

“Israel is the only country in the world
that’s enthusiastically backing
the United States policy of a war with Iraq.

This presents a terrible image of the Jewish people
at a time when the United States itself
is deeply divided about the wisdom of the war,
and it puts the Jewish people in grave jeopardy.”

William Quandt, a former member of the National Security Council
and Middle East negotiator for President Jimmy Carter,
agrees that
if the war drags on and
the perception that it was undertaken in Israel’s interest grows,
there’s a danger of an anti-Semitic backlash.
“The more immediate danger from Iraq, if there is a danger, is not to us,
it’s to Israel,” he says.
A friend of his who supports the war recently said to him,

“Israel is the unspoken issue in this crisis.
This is about Israel’s security even more than our security,
but you haven’t heard anyone saying that.”

Not in the United States, maybe,
but in the Arab world, that’s a common refrain.
“The Arab world appears, for once, to be unanimous,”
Agence France-Presse reported last week.
“It opposes U.S. military action to topple the Iraqi regime,
a project which it sees
as designed to seal Israeli domination of the Middle East.

That might be an overstatement, but it’s not just paranoid fantasy.

the Bush administration’s agenda meshes almost completely
with that of the Israeli right’s,

it’s partly because
the same thinkers
laid the foundations for both governments’ policies.

[How about that.]


Such close ties
between those Israel hawks and the Bush administration

give the Zionist conspiracy theorists something to talk about.
“There’s enough of a grain of truth in it
that it makes the [American] agenda suspect,” says Quandt.
“The way in which
this group of Americans
is quoted as speaking on behalf of Israel

is very interesting.
Could a group of people in my business -- Arabists --
get together and simulate speaking
in the voice of [Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak?
Most of us would be out of a job.

It would look as if
you were working not for your own country’s interest.
The lack of any line
between American interests and Israeli interests,

that’s what people in the Arab world will see in this paper.”

The unusually direct links
between the two countries’ foreign policies

almost guarantees
broad Jewish support for Bush’s military initiatives.

As peace activist and former Israeli Knesset member Marcia Freedman says,

“Sharon has publicly encouraged the Bush administration
to make war with Iraq.

The Sharon government
sees it as an opportunity to reshuffle the cards in the Middle East.”

many American Jewish organizations,
she says,
“have chosen to unquestioningly support
the policies and positions of the Sharon government.

If they were going to oppose the war,
they would be opposing
the stated position of the current government of Israel.”

Yet Jews have traditionally been loud dissenters from conservative policies.
On Iraq, such dissent has been muted, at best.
The loudest antiwar voices have come
not from Democrats and liberals
but from Republican foreign-policy “realists,”
none of them Jewish.

While widespread Democratic silence
has more to do with the party’s general timorousness
(as well as the genuine pro-war sentiment of Democrats like
former Sen. Bob Kerrey,
Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., or
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.)
than with Jewish pressure,
it’s hardly preposterous to suggest that
some Democrats may be responding
to the concerns of one of their important constituencies.

“It would be unfair to put this on the Jews,” says Lerner, but
“I certainly think that there are people
who would normally be expected
to play a role that would challenge pro-war policies,
who have become quiet
because of their own ambivalence about Saddam Hussein,
particularly with regard to
the threat he poses to Israel.”

It’s crucial to note that
there is principled Jewish support of a war with Iraq
that’s based on more than just slavish devotion to the Likud line.
American Jews
have been paying close attention to Saddam Hussein’s atrocities for a long time,
and thus some liberal Jews
see the conflict in terms starkly different from their gentile brethren,
many of whom have just tuned in to the story.

Rabbi Saperstein, whom the Washington Post once called
the “quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill,”
says that
Jews “remember the Scud missiles that were aimed at Israel.
Jews hear Saddam’s threats and rhetoric, not just against Israel
but against others as well.”

Thus while some liberals see the proposed war with Iraq as
another American intervention
in the mold of Vietnam and certain South American adventures,
Saperstein compares it to Bosnia and other humanitarian missions.
Although Jews were “very dovish on the Vietnam War,”
he says
they’ve “always been fairly supportive of American interventions
for humanitarian and moral purposes.
Think back to World War II --
there was Jewish recognition that the Nazis had to be dealt with.”

Framed that way, Jewish support for a war with Iraq makes perfect sense.
But Freedman, for one, argues that such parallels are fallacious.
“What is happening in Iraq today
isn’t very different than what is happening in most of the Arab world,”

she says.
“It is not a democracy,
but it’s also the case that
most of the hardships there
are caused by the severity of the sanctions.

We’re not going in to rescue freedom and democracy in Iraq.”

If that turns out to be true, says Lerner,
“and the war drags on and involves many American deaths
and a great deal of unnecessary pain to the Iraqi people,
the American Jewish leadership and state of Israel
are putting Jews in a precarious position,
in which we may be blamed for the craziness of this war.”

[For an update, coincidentally precisely five years later,
on where American Jewish groups stand on the war, see
2007-09-14-Jewish-Week-Iraq: “Jewish Groups Still MIA On Iraq”.]


'The Forward'
Allows Jewish Liberals to Rewrite Their Support for Iraq Debacle

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-01-13

[Emphasis is added.]

The deepening political crisis surrounding Iraq
has generated fears in the Jewish community
that Americans are going to blame Jews for the failure—
so many Jewish leaders supported
the invasion of a country that had many times attacked Israel,
but never attacked the United States.

Detailing that support was of course a theme of Walt & Mearsheimer’s paper,
to which The Forward responded with an editorial,
In Dark Times, Blame the Jews.”
This week The Forward publishes another attack on Walt/Mearsheimer,
by Israeli liberal Yossi Alpher, who claims that
then-P.M. Ariel Sharon
vigorously opposed the invasion ahead of time,
and warned the U.S. not to do it.

Had Sharon made his criticism public,
citing the dangers posed to vital Israeli interests,
might he have made a difference in the prewar debate
in the United States and the world?
he would have poured cold water on the postwar assertions of critics,
like professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer,
who have fingered
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and
pro-Israelis in the administration
for instigating the war...

There were, of course, neoconservative types in Israel
who did encourage the United States to occupy Iraq
and advocated democratic elections wherever possible in the Middle East.
But there were also many Israelis, this writer included,
who spoke out openly and publicly against the American scheme.

This is rank misrepresentation.
Whether or not Sharon warned the U.S. in a back channel,
Israeli leadership opinion and U.S. Jewish leadership opinion
was 4-square for the invasion.
Leftwing Jews like Tony Kushner and myself
demonstrated against the war and spoke out forcefully,
and were marginalized for doing so.
Alpher is either lying or deluding himself
when he says he opposed the war.
Why did he write this in bitterlemons before the war,
in October 2002:
Israel is and will be cheering on the American effort,
while the sentiments of the Palestinian population,
as well as its key institutions,
will be with Saddam Hussein
Or this just before the war:
Removing Saddam is good enough.

An American-led attempt to conquer Iraq,
remove the Saddam Hussein regime and
destroy its weapons of mass destruction
will almost certainly succeed.
An American occupying force in Iraq
will almost certainly pressure neighboring Syria and Iran
to reconsider some of their more hostile and repressive actions.

[History has not exactly agreed with that.]
For Israel and other moderate countries in the region,
this is good news.
And it is good enough....
we shall have to suffice with the destruction of
a regime of psychopaths who finance Palestinian terrorism
and pontificate about the destruction of Israel.
Or this as the war began:
The American war on Iraq,
however problematic for much of the world,
for most of us in Israel a welcome attempt by a friend and ally
to deal with a strategic danger
that we have been struggling to cope with on our own
for decades
Or this, about the power of the neocons
(whom he treats as a sideshow in his latest article):
But [the] willful alienation by Washington
of the global community and the multilateral approach
also bespeaks an extraordinary sense of power in the US,
cultivated particularly by the neoconservative lobby.

The sad fact is that
many Jewish liberals joined the neocons
in pushing the Iraq invasion:

Pollack, Friedman, Berman, Alpher,
the hits go on and on.

I’ve said before that the war represents a crisis for Jewish identity:
it reveals the degree to which
Jewish identity is now built upon the demonization of Arabs,
hundreds of thousands of whom
are now dying and fleeing and suffering in incomprehensible ways
in part because of crazy ideas hatched in thinktanks.
The Forward is responding with cowardice to an intellectual chore:
What was the Jewish role in this mess?
Progressive Jews have a part to play in this soul-searching.
As LRB editor Mary Kay Wilmers, a progressive Jew herself,
who published Walt and Mearsheimer,
said to me months ago:
“It seems that the American left is also claimed by the Israel lobby.”


I don't mean to say I told you so, but...
By Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2010-02-08

[Walt quotes the following from former British PM Tony Blair,
regarding his discussions with then U.S. president Bush in Crawford, Texas in April 2002:]

“As I recall that discussion,
it was less to do with specifics about
what we were going to do on Iraq or, indeed, the Middle East,
the Israel issue was a big, big issue at the time.
I think, in fact, I remember, actually,
there may have been conversations that we had even with Israelis,
the two of us, whilst we were there.
So that was a major part of all this.”

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