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Maybe Thomas Ricks Is Anti-Semitic, Too

Clark Stooksbury [1] points out Don Feder’s predictable, trashy attack [2] on conservative antiwar critics, where Feder reprises the old anti-Buchanan “neocon means Jew” trope popularised by Max Boot (matched in absurdity only by Boot’s claim that neocons don’t exist):

Instead of Jews, Buchanan says “neo-cons.” Thus, the neo-cons have hijacked U.S. foreign policy. The neo-cons are whispering in Bush’s ear. The neo-cons are responsible for our disastrous interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The neo-cons are plotting war with Syria and Iran – all to benefit Israel. (Nobody else is threatened by whack-job mullahs with nuclear weapons, you understand.)

Um, didn’t Wolfowitz push the invasion of Iraq? Didn’t Frum author the looney “axis of evil” speech? Aren’t Cliff May and Michael Ledeen obsessed with attacking Iran or at least undermining Tehran? Didn’t The Weekly Standard, standard-bearer of neoconservatism today, have wacky cover stories in the summer of 2003 saying, “On to Iran”? Weren’t these the same people pushing the lies that Iraq’s mythical WMDs were moved to Syria as a means of provoking war with Damascus? Doesn’t The Wall Street Journal editorial page constantly shill for the most aggressive form of American hegemony and the interests of Israel? Were former prominent members of the administration, the DoD and their associates not closely personally tied to Likud, or at the very least did they not share the ideological assumptions of the more extreme members of Likud vis-a-vis the Near East scene? Do all of these not share enthusiasm for democratism, the projection of American power for “American values” and frequent recourse to military action to facilitate political change? Is that not what neoconservative foreign policy is? Has administration policy not been significantly in line with most, if not all, of these policy recommendations? Maybe, just maybe, the policies these people advocate have arguments in their favour, but they retreat so quickly to the desperate ploy of name-calling that it suggests that they are embarrassed by their own ideas when they are called to account for them. (Note also Feder’s dishonest or ignorant lumping of Afghanistan in with conservative criticism of the Iraq adventure, when antiwar conservatives have never denied the need to go to Afghanistan and have, in fact, objected to Iraq in part because it detracted from the priority of securing victory in Afghanistan.)

Almost worse than his anti-Semitic rant, Feder has found Gibson to be antiwar, “[h]is reputed conservatism notwithstanding…” Naturally, one can only have “reputed conservatism” if you are opposed to a war as delightful and high-minded as the invasion of Iraq. One has to wonder what disappoints Feder more: Gibson’s apparent crack about Jewish warmongers or his opposition to the war that Feder and the neocons pushed with all their might.

Which brings me to my main point. I have read about half of Thomas Ricks’ Fiasco, and in the first half Ricks certainly points to the role of prominent neoconservatives in pushing a war with Iraq, propagandising it and justifying it. PNAC gets mentioned on more than one occasion. Obviously, these people were never the only ones pushing for war, nor were they ultimately the ones who decided on it, but they played a large role in putting it on the agenda, persuading Mr. Bush and making sure that the invasion went ahead. If those individuals are not responsible for the policy decisions they proposed, defended and implemented, we have no accountability at all in our government. In pointing out these individuals perhaps Ricks, the Post‘s Pentagon correspondent, harbours all those “anti-Semitic” thoughts that we antiwar conservatives are supposed to have–it’s a wide-ranging, all-encompassing conspiracy that spans the political spectrum! I wouldn’t to say that Mr. Feder is obsessed with seeing anti-Semites in his political enemies, but what would you call someone who intentionally reads the worst into everything critics of neoconservatives say? By and large, you do not need to read into what neocons say: they say the bizarre things they believe right up front. Such visionary things as “the road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad” (Krauthammer) and “the Iraqis will welcome us as liberators” (Wolfowitz) and “we are in World War IV” (Woolsey) and so on.

Fiasco, by the way, has so far been a quick, good read and vindicates those mean, old antiwar conservatives on every page. Long-time regular readers of The American Conservative [3] will get a feeling of deja vu as they read many of Ricks’ reports about the pre-war debate and the fraudulent methods of the administration and its supporters.