The Rougemont Templars went on Crusade. They may have descended from Jeanne de Rougemont the Queen Mother of the Habsburgs and most of European Royalty. The Neo-Con Crusade is part of the Grail Legend, thanks to the Grail Scholar, Denis de Rougemont – and my study!
THE US involvement with the disastrous Iraqi war ended four months ago; it cost it in excess of 4,500 dead, 30,000 wounded, and more than a trillion dollars.
The invasion launched in March 2003 was a conflict of choice, since no compelling rationale existed to justify it. Yet, at the time it was vigorously promoted with a well-orchestrated campaign, conducted through mass media, and argued by a coalition of zealous politicians known as neoconservatives.
Supporters of the invasion were generally sympathisers of Israel, and believed that Saddam Hussein was a peril to the Jewish state and inimical to the US interests. As it turned out, the Iraqi ruler was far more concerned about a threat from Iran, and his bedraggled army presented no real danger to Israel, let alone the US, his frequent empty blusters against the Jewish state notwithstanding.
In the months preceding the invasion, the perception was generated that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons, which he was ready to transfer to Al Qaeda terrorists. It is now clear that most if not all the damning information was drawn from faulty or unreliable intelligence reports that ultimately proved fallacious. The realisation of the pointlessness of the Iraqi war drove the popularity of President Bush to one of the lowest levels for any president.
Nearly a decade has passed since the US and Britain invaded Iraq, the involvement lasting nearly nine years. The repercussions of the invasion, nevertheless, continue to torment the Iraqi population, while thousands of returning American war veterans suffer from devastating physical and mental disabilities. Although withdrawn from Iraq, US forces continue to battle the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan as they have been doing for 11 years.
Initially, the war had some worthy objective: to rid the country of the brutal, misogynistic Taliban rule. America, however, was unprepared for the enormous task of reconstruction and radical transformation of Afghan society, which had stubbornly resisted such changes for millenniums. The war is no longer popular. Recent opinion polls have shown that a clear majority (69 per cent) of American public is tired of the conflict, and would like the troops brought home.
While the situation in Afghanistan remains volatile, there are signs of an incipient conflict with Iran on the issue of nuclear arms development. Much of the rhetoric urging a military strike against Iran is driven by the same coalition of forces that pushed this country to invade Iraq nearly a decade ago — Israel’s supporters, evangelical Christians and conservative politicians. They believe that a nuclear Iran would constitute an existential threat to Israel.
Iran is already reeling under punitive economic sanctions mandated by the UN, but many from both Democratic and Republican parties would like to see military action against Iran’s nuclear installations. The Iranian leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, does not help his cause or earn world sympathy as, while stridently denying any intention of making nuclear weapons, he makes inflammatory statements against Israel, threatening to wipe the country out of existence.
Such bluster is ill-advised, but more importantly is devoid of any real credibility, since Israel has a powerful arsenal of nuclear weapons and an efficient delivery system, capable of reaching Iranian metropolises.
It is unlikely that in this election year, with all the economic and financial problems facing the country, the Obama administration will initiate a new conflict with Iran by targeting its uranium enrichment facilities. President Obama has made that much clear, repudiating “the loose talk of war.” Even the Israeli rhetoric has largely cooled, although only two months ago a unilateral Israeli strike looked very likely.
The US has apparently succeeded, at least temporarily, in restraining the hawkish Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, from attacking Iranian uranium-enrichment facilities, since it would drag the US into the conflict, with unforeseeable consequences. Various opinion polls suggest that the Israeli public also has no appetite for initiating the war with Iran, inviting retaliatory attacks.
The powerful influence that the Israeli government can exert on the US foreign policy was evident last month, when its highly influential lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), held its annual convention in Washington D.C. The highest officials of the US government, senators, congressmen, along with the president and his Republican rivals, made their appearance and reaffirmed their commitment to Israel in its confrontation with Iran. The support of the US politicians does not flow gratuitously or entirely for altruistic considerations.
Pro-Israel donors have contributed over $47m since 2000 to various candidates of both parties seeking elections to the US Congress. While the debate about how aggressive the US policy should be towards Iran is driven mainly by the most hawkish Israeli supporters, it is no secret that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, fearful of a nuclear Iran, will shed no tears if Iran’s nuclear capabilities are crippled.
Paradoxically, opposition to any military action against Iran also comes from an unlikely source, some liberal Jewish groups in America. In recent years, a coalition of progressive Jews, known as J Street, that supports the two-state solution, one Jewish and the other Palestinians, has gained much strength and visibility.
They present an alternative to the more hawkish groups such as AIPAC, and advocate a diplomatic resolution, as opposed to use of military force, of the Iranian nuclear problem. J Street has established itself as a moderate lobbying group, with a broad, holistic vision of Middle East disputes, dispelling the notion that the American-Jewish community is monolithic and blindly supports all Israeli policies.
The writer is a freelance contributor.
The major link between the conservative think tanks and the Israel lobby is the Washington-based and Likud-supporting Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa), which co-opts many non-Jewish defense experts by sending them on trips to Israel. It flew out the retired general Jay Garner, now slated by Bush to be proconsul of occupied Iraq. In October 2000, he cosigned a Jinsa letter that began: “We … believe that during the current upheavals in Israel, the Israel Defense Forces have exercised remarkable restraint in the face of lethal violence orchestrated by the leadership of [the] Palestinian Authority.”
The Israel lobby itself is divided into Jewish and Christian wings. Wolfowitz and Feith have close ties to the Jewish-American Israel lobby. Wolfowitz, who has relatives in Israel, has served as the Bush administration’s liaison to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Feith was given an award by the Zionist Organization of America, citing him as a “pro-Israel activist.” While out of power in the Clinton years, Feith collaborated with Perle to coauthor a policy paper for Likud that advised the Israeli government to end the Oslo peace process, reoccupy the territories, and crush Yasser Arafat’s government.
Such experts are not typical of Jewish-Americans, who mostly voted for Gore in 2000. The most fervent supporters of Likud in the Republican electorate are Southern Protestant fundamentalists. The religious right believes that God gave all of Palestine to the Jews, and fundamentalist congregations spend millions to subsidize Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
The War Party may have gotten its war. But it has also gotten something it did not bargain for. Its membership lists and associations have been exposed and its motives challenged. In a rare moment in U.S. journalism, Tim Russert put this question directly to Richard Perle: “Can you assure American viewers … that we’re in this situation against Saddam Hussein and his removal for American security interests? And what would be the link in terms of Israel?”
Suddenly, the Israeli connection is on the table, and the War Party is not amused. Finding themselves in an unanticipated firefight, our neoconservative friends are doing what comes naturally, seeking student deferments from political combat by claiming the status of a persecuted minority group. People who claim to be writing the foreign policy of the world superpower, one would think, would be a little more manly in the schoolyard of politics. Not so.
Former Wall Street Journal editor Max Boot kicked off the campaign. When these “Buchananites toss around ‘neoconservative’—and cite names like Wolfowitz and Cohen—it sometimes sounds as if what they really mean is ‘Jewish conservative.’” Yet Boot readily concedes that a passionate attachment to Israel is a “key tenet of neoconservatism.” He also claims that the National Security Strategy of President Bush “sounds as if it could have come straight out from the pages of Commentary magazine, the neocon bible.” (For the uninitiated, Commentary, the bible in which Boot seeks divine guidance, is the monthly of the American Jewish Committee.)
David Brooks of the Weekly Standard wails that attacks based on the Israel tie have put him through personal hell: “Now I get a steady stream of anti-Semitic screeds in my e-mail, my voicemail and in my mailbox. … Anti-Semitism is alive and thriving. It’s just that its epicenter is no longer on the Buchananite Right, but on the peace-movement left.”
Washington Post columnist Robert Kagan endures his own purgatory abroad: “In London … one finds Britain’s finest minds propounding, in sophisticated language and melodious Oxbridge accents, the conspiracy theories of Pat Buchanan concerning the ‘neoconservative’ (read: Jewish) hijacking of American foreign policy.”
Lawrence Kaplan of the New Republic charges that our little magazine “has been transformed into a forum for those who contend that President Bush has become a client of … Ariel Sharon and the ‘neoconservative war party.’”
Referencing Charles Lindbergh, he accuses Paul Schroeder, Chris Matthews, Robert Novak, Georgie Anne Geyer, Jason Vest of the Nation, and Gary Hart of implying that “members of the Bush team have been doing Israel’s bidding and, by extension, exhibiting ‘dual loyalties.’” Kaplan thunders:
The real problem with such claims is not just that they are untrue. The problem is that they are toxic. Invoking the specter of dual loyalty to mute criticism and debate amounts to more than the everyday pollution of public discourse. It is the nullification of public discourse, for how can one refute accusations grounded in ethnicity? The charges are, ipso facto, impossible to disprove. And so they are meant to be.
What is going on here? Slate’s Mickey Kaus nails it in the headline of his retort: “Lawrence Kaplan Plays the Anti-Semitic Card.”
What Kaplan, Brooks, Boot, and Kagan are doing is what the Rev. Jesse Jackson does when caught with some mammoth contribution from a Fortune 500 company he has lately accused of discriminating. He plays the race card. So, too, the neoconservatives are trying to fend off critics by assassinating their character and impugning their motives.
Indeed, it is the charge of “anti-Semitism” itself that is toxic. For this venerable slander is designed to nullify public discourse by smearing and intimidating foes and censoring and blacklisting them and any who would publish them. Neocons say we attack them because they are Jewish. We do not. We attack them because their warmongering threatens our country, even as it finds a reliable echo in Ariel Sharon.
And this time the boys have cried “wolf” once too often. It is not working. As Kaus notes, Kaplan’s own New Republic carries Harvard professor Stanley Hoffman. In writing of the four power centers in this capital that are clamoring for war, Hoffman himself describes the fourth thus:
And, finally, there is a loose collection of friends of Israel, who believe in the identity of interests between the Jewish state and the United States. … These analysts look on foreign policy through the lens of one dominant concern: Is it good or bad for Israel? Since that nation’s founding in 1948, these thinkers have never been in very good odor at the State Department, but now they are well ensconced in the Pentagon, around such strategists as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith.
“If Stanley Hoffman can say this,” asks Kaus, “why can’t Chris Matthews?” Kaus also notes that Kaplan somehow failed to mention the most devastating piece tying the neoconservatives to Sharon and his Likud Party.
In a Feb. 9 front-page article in the Washington Post, Robert Kaiser quotes a senior U.S. official as saying, “The Likudniks are really in charge now.” Kaiser names Perle, Wolfowitz, and Feith as members of a pro-Israel network inside the administration and adds David Wurmser of the Defense Department and Elliott Abrams of the National Security Council. (Abrams is the son-in-law of Norman Podhoretz, editor emeritus of Commentary, whose magazine has for decades branded critics of Israel as anti-Semites.)
Noting that Sharon repeatedly claims a “special closeness” to the Bushites, Kaiser writes, “For the first time a U.S. administration and a Likud government are pursuing nearly identical policies.” And a valid question is: how did this come to be, and while it is surely in Sharon’s interest, is it in America’s interest?
This is a time for truth. For America is about to make a momentous decision: whether to launch a series of wars in the Middle East that could ignite the Clash of Civilizations against which Harvard professor Samuel Huntington has warned, a war we believe would be a tragedy and a disaster for this Republic. To avert this war, to answer the neocon smears, we ask that our readers review their agenda as stated in their words. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. As Al Smith used to say, “Nothing un-American can live in the sunlight.”
We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords. We charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian people’s right to a homeland of their own. We charge that they have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity.
Not in our lifetimes has America been so isolated from old friends. Far worse, President Bush is being lured into a trap baited for him by these neocons that could cost him his office and cause America to forfeit years of peace won for us by the sacrifices of two generations in the Cold War.
They charge us with anti-Semitism—i.e., a hatred of Jews for their faith, heritage, or ancestry. False. The truth is, those hurling these charges harbor a “passionate attachment” to a nation not our own that causes them to subordinate the interests of their own country and to act on an assumption that, somehow, what’s good for Israel is good for America.