It is a rule of thumb that has been tried and tested many times over the last
2,000 years. When things go bad, blame the Jews.
So it can hardly be termed a surprise that the problems that have arisen for
the United States in Iraq have led some of the conflict's fiercest critics to
trot out the same bag of tired tricks. When in doubt, they always turn to the
familiar refrain of thinly and not-so-thinly veiled canards directed at Israel
and the Jews.
The Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal, accompanied by a rise in insurgent
violence in Iraq, has left the Bush administration looking shaky. But these
setbacks aren't sufficient for the partisans and radicals determined to end the war
on terror, and to return the country to its pre-Sept. 11 indifference to the
Islamist assault on America.
>From the beginning of the debate over Iraq, discrediting some of the war's
more prominent architects has always meant one thing: smearing them as Zionist
tools determined to drag America into a war for Israel's sake. It is a now
familiar rhetorical drill: Claim that the war is an invention of the
"neoconservatives," then produce a roster of the neocons that is solely inhabited by Jews.
DIPLOMATIC FLOP TURNS ACCUSER
The latest instance of this little trick was seen Sunday night on the CBS
news show "60 Minutes," which featured a softball interview with retired Marine
Gen. Anthony C. Zinni. Zinni rose briefly to fame in 2002 during a brief stint
as Washington's envoy to the Middle East, an experience that gave new meaning
to the word fiasco. The man was so ineffective that the post itself was
obsolescent. The general who'd helped inflame Arab expectations that the U.S. would
pressure Israel to appease Palestinian terrorists dropped from the public eye.
But there's no keeping a publicity-hungry ex-military man down. Zinni used
the commencement of the war in Iraq to begin to try and even the score with his
political foes inside the Pentagon. This campaign of self-aggrandizement via
anti-war rhetoric has now reached its climax with the publication of a book
(co-authored by techno-thriller maven Tom Clancy), coupled with the "60 Minutes"
Correspondent Steve Croft played right into Zinni's hands as he described the
Iraq invasion planners as "a group of policymakers within the administration
known as 'the neoconservatives,' who saw the invasion of Iraq as a way to
stabilize American interests in the region and strengthen the position of Israel.
They include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of
Defense Douglas Feith; Former Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle; National
Security Council member Eliot Abrams; and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of
staff, Lewis 'Scooter" Libby.'
Following in the footsteps of other media outlets, including Business Week,
that have played the same tune, Croft managed to list only those members of the
administration who are Jewish. That's a neat trick when you remember that
neither Bush, Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld nor any member of
the Cabinet is Jewish. Nor did he mention the fact that a broad cross-section
of the defense and intelligence establishment viewed Iraq and Saddam Hussein as
threats to U.S. security and to the security of "moderate" Arab states.
Responding to previous criticisms of his singling out Jews, Zinni stretched
his thin supply of credibility to the breaking point: "Because I mentioned the
neoconservatives … I was called anti-Semitic. I certainly didn't criticize
who they were. I certainly don't know what their ethnic religious backgrounds
are. And I'm not interested."
Given the confrontational culture of the "60 Minutes" genre, you would have
expected Croft to nail Zinni for uttering such disingenuous tripe. At the very
least, you would expect a follow-up question. But just because he plays
"journalist" on television like the rest of "60 Minutes" on-screen celebrities
doesn't mean he actually practices the craft of journalism. Zinni was
allowed to get away with not only spreading a whopper of a lie, he wasn't even
challenged to defend it.
Zinni's screed is, of course, just the tip of a growing anti-Semitic iceberg
that stands ready to sink public discourse on the war into a morass of hate.
Other recent entries in the "blame the Jews" derby included Sen. Ernest
"Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.), who told the Senate that the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee has been dictating policy to the White House and Congress for
decades, and that the reason the Bush administration went to war was to gain
Days later, another variation on the theme was voiced by United Press
International editor-at-large Arnaud de Borchgrave, who wrote in a May 24 column in
The Washington Times that the reason Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi was dropped
by his former sponsors in the Pentagon is that he had reneged on a pledge to
recognize Israel and sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state once he was
installed in power in Baghdad.
JEWS CONTROL EVERYTHING?
The embattled Chalabi was never in any position to make good on such a
pledge, and it's highly unlikely that the Pentagon demanded he even do any such
thing. But if, like de Borchgrave, you are a longtime critic of Israel, anything
even an unsubstantiated story like this one is fair game.
And for those who are fascinated with the bizarre anti-Israel slurs
circulated in the Arab media, such as the disgusting lie that Israel was behind the
Sept. 11 terror acts, another example has popped up. The conservative Web site
NewsMax.com circulated a story on May 24 that claimed "Israeli nationals" were
behind the Iraq prison controversy. The unattributed report proved once again
that in the anti-Semitic mindset, everything even the perversions of
out-of-control American reservists can be blamed on Israel or the Jews.
Whether or not the war in Iraq proves to be a success (and heaven help the
Middle East if our Islamist foes win), the idea that this project was all an
Israeli plot is an obvious falsehood. Whatever possible gains in security the war
inadvertently made for Israel are far outweighed by the potential boost to
the American security and regional stability.
Should the tables turn in the coming months and American strategy is seen as
succeeding in Iraq, you can expect to hear talk of Jewish plots cease. But
don't worry, the next time anything else goes wrong, we know whose heads are
going to be offered up on a plate.