Even the NY Times can't resist the temptation to print such drivel
Last week, Joel Mowbray launched a mud salvo
against retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, whom he accused of being anti-Semitic. Gen. Zinni, a former commander of CENTCOM, has recently criticized the "neo-conservative" policy makers in the Bush Administration for their foreign policy decisions (which Zinni was a part of for a while as Secretary Powell's envoy to the Middle East peace process). Mowbray thinks "neo-con" is really just code for "Jewish", because of high-profile Jews in the administration like Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. Here's a short bit of his argument:
Technically, the former head of the Central Command in the Middle East didn't say "Jews." He instead used a term that has become a new favorite for anti-Semites: "neoconservatives." As the name implies, "neoconservative" was originally meant to denote someone who is a newcomer to the right. In the 90's, many people self-identified themselves as "neocons," but today that term has become synonymous with "Jews."
And if anybody should know better, it's Gen. Zinni. It is well-known that those who are labeled "neocons" within the administration—whether the number-two official at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, or undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith—are almost always Jews.
Sadly typical is a Business Week article this May that identified Wolfowitz, Feith, Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle, former Reagan administration official Ken Adelman and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol—all Jews—as "neocons," yet Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—neither one Jewish—as simply "key allies." Policy beliefs and worldviews were not different between these two groups; only religion distinguishes them.
Given that the "neocons" do not control the Departments of State or Defense nor the National Security Council—gentiles all head those agencies—and given that the White House is clearly run by non-Jews, how is it that Zinni claims that the "neocons" were responsible for the U.S. liberating Iraq? As he explains to the Post, "Somehow, the neocons captured the president. They captured the vice president."
Comes now David Brooks, new center-right columnist for the New York Times, with a new salvo of mud
directed at retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark. Brooks picks up the argument right where Mowbray leaves off, extending it to cover Gen. Clark and his criticisms of the neo-cons.
Theories about the tightly knit neocon cabal came in waves. One day you read that neocons were pushing plans to finish off Iraq and move into Syria. Web sites appeared detailing neocon conspiracies; my favorite described a neocon outing organized by Dick Cheney to hunt for humans. The Asian press had the most lurid stories; the European press the most thorough. Every day, it seemed, Le Monde or some deep-thinking German paper would have an exposé on the neocon cabal, complete with charts connecting all the conspirators.Analysis
The full-mooners fixated on a think tank called the Project for the New American Century, which has a staff of five and issues memos on foreign policy. To hear these people describe it, PNAC is sort of a Yiddish Trilateral Commission, the nexus of the sprawling neocon tentacles.
We'd sit around the magazine guffawing at the ludicrous stories that kept sprouting, but belief in shadowy neocon influence has now hardened into common knowledge. Wesley Clark, among others, cannot go a week without bringing it up.
In truth, the people labeled neocons (con is short for "conservative" and neo is short for "Jewish") travel in widely different circles and don't actually have much contact with one another. The ones outside government have almost no contact with President Bush. There have been hundreds of references, for example, to Richard Perle's insidious power over administration policy, but I've been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office. If he's shaping their decisions, he must be microwaving his ideas into their fillings.
: I thought Mowbray's column was a slanderous form of manure when I read it, and I still feel that way. I even opined
in a group discussion that "Next thing you know, they'll use this slur against Wes Clark." I didn't think that would actually come to pass, since there's nothing in the record to suggest that either Gen. Zinni or Gen. Clark is an anti-Semite. And for what it's worth, I think Josh Marshall's right that the neo-cons deserve some criticism
for mismanaging our foreign policy. Indeed, in all of the reports I've read on both men, the exact opposite is true. Gen. Zinni did yeoman's work as commander of CENTCOM, as described in The Mission
by Dana Priest. And he did great work as Secretary Powell's envoy to Israel and Palestine, at a time when neither side wanted to talk. Similarly, Gen. Clark has evidenced a particular sensitivity to Jews and other persecuted peoples (e.g. the Kosovar Albanians) while in uniform. (Arguably, the Kosovo War was about exorcising U.S. and European demons for their collective failure to act during the Holocaust.) Maybe that's because he's half Jewish? Gen. Clark's original last name was Kanne -- his father Benjamin Kanne was Jewish, and he subsequently was raised as a Protestant who converted to Catholicism in Vietnam. I don't think Clark is truly the self-loathing type, and I don't think he's an anti-Semite. But this is convenient mud for conservatives who want to tar two men before the Democratic party.
Anti-Semite is one of the slurs du jour
in American politics. It's like "racist" or "sexist" or "former drug addict" -- it instantly tars a person and taints everything they've ever said. And it doesn't have to be proven, since the existence of anti-Semitism is presumed in so many bastions of American society. (Including, I might add, the American military.) Its use reminds me of the old political joke. One political operative says to the other: "Let's just say the guy sleeps with pigs." The other says "But that's not true." The first operative, who I'll name Karl, says "Who cares? The rumor will stick, and he'll spend the rest of the campaign trying to explain that he doesn't sleep with farm animals."
I'm not so naive as to think that such slander has no place or history in politics. It's a dirty business, and anyone with a thin skin should stay out of politics. But the irony here is that the neo-con's defenders are now committing the same bad act with with the neo-cons themselves are charged -- distortion of the facts in order to make an argument. Granted, all the neo-con defenders are doing is bending the record to make a baseless charge of anti-Semitism, while the neo-cons themselves distorted the facts in order to launch a war. But the parallel is still there. It's like one of my law professors says: "When the facts and the law aren't on your side... that's when you really
get creative."Update I
: Mark Lewis puts it more directly
on his site: "Clark = Anti-Semite??? Or perhaps David Brooks = Jackass." I'll go for the latter. Mark also points us to Josh Marshall's comments
on the matter. Josh has written some great stuff on neo-cons and their influence on contemporary American foreign policy, so his commentary is worth reading.Update II
: Kevin Drum
adds his voice to the fray, along with Mark Kleiman
. I imagine this will be an issue discussed tomorrow night by Wes Clark during his "wireside" chat with several notable bloggers.