A few months back, leftist Jewish critics, such as Frank Rich, Abraham Foxman and Leon Wieseltier, trashed Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, for what they called its blatant anti-Semitism, warning of the danger the movie could create for Jews wherever the movie was shown. So far, 50 million people have seen the movie in America, and nobody has been seen running out of a cineplex calling for Jewish blood.
They are yelling for Jewish blood however, in many countries around the world, especially Muslims leaving their mosques after furious incitement by their Wahhabi-trained imams. On this subject, we hear less from some of these same critics, particularly Frank Rich, who this week found the time to laud the latest Michael Moore screed, presumably for its dedication to truthfulness.
The Passion has not generated any pogroms in America, but a new insidious strand of Jew-hatred is creeping out of the closet and making its appearance in widely broadcast mainstream media. In an utterly shameful program on CBS's 60 Minutes last night, Steve Kroft conducted a fawning interview with retired General Anthony Zinni, the latest in the collection of recent authors brought onto the show to trash the Bush administration over Iraq, the war or terror, tax cuts, you name it. First was former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, then Richard Clarke, and then Bob Woodward.
Credit some of this to sleaziness -- other Viacom companies publish some of these authors’ books (not always mentioned during 60 Minutes). So these plugs which are broadcast before millions of viewers are a boost to sales, as well as a blow to Bush, creating real political and commercial synergy for CBS.
In years past, ABC news, and its anchorman Peter Jennings, were the kings of disdain for the Bush Administration, and of course for Israel. A few weeks back, Ted Koppel devoted a longer-than-usual segment of Nightline to showing the faces and reading the names of all the soldiers killed in Iraq. To accompany the many caustic programs about Israel’s security measures, Koppel broadcast a puff piece on Palestinian suicide bombers last year. But CBS has lapped the field this year. The Woodward interview was of interest, since Woodward’s book is not, on balance, a body slam on the Administration. In fact the Bush campaign links to it on its website. But interviewer Mike Wallace made a point of pushing Woodward on only the sections of the book where the Administration came off unfavorably.
Despite having 15 minutes for a story, instead of the 30 seconds to a minute on the nightly news, 60 Minutes has always been a program lacking in nuance, or (hold the laughter) balance. Within about 15 seconds, each segment’s slant is obvious. Last night featured three puff pieces: one with Zinni, one with a convicted murderer of four people who has become a “good guy” on death row, and one with a philanthropist who sponsors inner city kids for college.
But the Zinni piece was the lead, and the most important. Zinni has been a critic of the war with Iraq for some time. He believes Iraq was successfully contained before we went to war. This, in itself, is a reasonable position to take. This was a war of choice. Zinni also argues that if we chose to go to war, we needed more force strength. So he agrees with the Powell doctrine that you need lots of manpower, to insure a successful military campaign and post war outcome.
Zinni says we had too few men at the start, and for the post war period. He also says that Ambassador Bremer has made some mistakes (I guess Zinni never has), including dismissing the Iraqi army, which he says eliminated any ability to get Iraqis to help secure the country, and was responsible for our forces being viewed as an occupation army. In itself, these criticisms are nothing new, and in fact, if this is the sum of what Zinni had to say, one wonders what contribution to the debate CBS thought he was making. Some supporters of the war effort agree with part of the Zinni critique -- particularly on the size of our force commitment.
But Zinni is not comfortable just with criticism of how the war or post war effort was run. He needs to blame people, and he wants heads to fall. And he names names -- in particular the group he calls the “neocons”, naming five men: Doug Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, Richard Perle, and Ellot Abrams, as the key ideologues who caused this war to occur. And their real justification for pushing the US to war, we learn from Zinni, were not the three stated by the Administration -- weapons of mass destruction, terror links, or gross human rights violations.
Rather, it was to secure Israel, and to remake the Middle East in our image, a noble but unrealistic vision, according to the General. The fact that the named neocons are all Jewish, Zinni says, is accidental. He says this is irrelevant to him. But if it is irrelevant, why does he only provide the names of Jewish neocons? Are there no others? How Jewish is Jeanne Kirkpatrick or Bill Bennett? And what evidence does he have for his charge that the war was fought for Israel? Zinni never even touches on the three justifications the Administration offered for the war in the 60 Minutes segment. But Steve Kroft repeats the neocon slander, and the link to Israel, and names the Jewish names. This after all is the important part of the story.
In late 2002, the earth collapsed below Senator Trent Lott, for making a joke about Strom Thurmond at a dinner gala that appeared to excuse his segregationist past. When Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd did the same thing, whitewashing former Klansman and now Senator Robert Bryd of West Virginia a few weeks back, the major media ignored the story. Then two weeks ago, the doddering and thankfully retiring Senator Fritz Hollings penned an op-ed for a South Carolina newspaper charging that the war in Iraq was fought for Israel, and to win Jewish votes for the Bush administration, and blaming three Jews for pushing us to war: Perle, Wolfowitz, and columnist Charles Krauthammer (if you are scoring, Perle and Wolfowitz now lead the villainy derby with two mentions each). With few exceptions, the mainstream media failed to report on Hollings’s original charge, or his incoherent speech in Congress defending the article last week.
None of this Jew-baiting is accidental. The road is being prepared for an ugly smear campaign against Jews and Israel. If the war is lost, then the American dead, and all the money spent, will be laid at the feet of a few Jewish political writers and government officials, most of whom are completely unknown to the vast majority of Americans, who can rarely name their Senators or Congressman.
Part of this is simply politics, albeit an unusually ugly and dangerous politics. Think of the ads in the 2000 campaign run by the NAACP, about James Byrd being dragged from a truck in Jasper, Texas with the money line read by the murdered man’s daughter: “when George Bush did not support new hates crimes legislation in Texas, it was like my father was lynched a second time”.
It is telling, and unfortunate, that the Jewish voices who feared the passions aroused by The Passion, are silent about the Jew-baiting over the war. We have not yet heard from Leon Wieseltier or Frank Rich about this (and with Rich, you know you won’t). Abe Foxman, to his credit, was quick to denounce Hollings for his rant. For many Jews on the left, policy differences with the Administration and the need to defeat George Bush trump any need for consistency in their responses to threats to America’s Jews.
The absurdity of the charge that the Jewish neocons led us to war requires one to believe that Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld, and Condoleeza Rice are push-overs, without real views of their own, and they were therefore easily manipulated by the nefarious neocons. So Lewis Libby is the power behind Cheney, and Elliot Abrams the man behind Condoleeza Rice (how un-feminist to make this charge). Feith and Wolfowitz need only whisper in Rummy’s ear, and he marches soldiers off to war. And masterminding all of it from afar, is the Prince of Darkness, Richard Perle. Now we have all learned these last few years that Dick Cheney tells George Bush what to do, so there is no need for Zinni to link any of the neocons directly to Bush.
It is remarkable that people could buy such nonsense. We are not dealing here with an unusually cautious Presidency. That was the last one, except when it came to undergarments. But this Administration, if anything, has thrown caution to the wind. George Bush has risked his Presidency on Iraq. Bill Clinton feared losing a single man in battle, and had Dick Morris conduct a poll to determine how the public would react to his potential vacation locations one year.
The leaders of this Administration appear to have great confidence in the actions they have taken and to believe in the justifications they have provided for their actions. There is a lot less self-doubt with this team than the last one. One may think this is a good thing or a bad thing. That is beside the point. But to argue that the leaders -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice -- are a bunch of wimps, manipulated by underlings, would be pretty far-fetched, even without the Jewish conspiracy charge.
But the Jewish conspiracy charge is not accidental. Zinni, and his ilk do not have any serious hope that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld or Rice will resign. Rumsfeld seems to have weathered the attacks against him for now. But the underlings are more vulnerable, and so are the Jews.
For decades, Jews were not welcome in the State Department or intelligence agencies because of the professed fear by others in these agencies or departments that they would be a fifth column for Israel. The real problem of course, is that a fifth column already exists: generations of diplomats and politicians, in thrall to Arabia, who follow their government service by joining the Saudi sponsored think tanks, and Middle East institutes on campus, or as journalists penning the Arab party line.
This was considered a natural and positive (lucrative) phenomenon. Of course, keep these oily wallets open for the next generation. But these pesky Jews have upset the natural order. They are threatening the money train, and have hijacked foreign policy, all for Ariel Sharon, of course. So in the end, these attacks have a more insidious purpose: not just to tar the Jews in America, but to undermine support for Israel, by the malicious suggestion that Israel is really creating American foreign policy through its neocon strike force, and that Sharon is responsible for sending American boys off to die for Israel.
The left was happy to call Pat Buchanan on the rug for similar anti-Semitic slanders during the first Gulf War (given the elder Bush’s frosty relationship with Israel, the Buchanan charge was laughable). Now the charges are being made by mainstream voices and aired on national television to wide audiences. The purveyors of this trash (the Steve Krofts of the world) are either knaves, or accomplices. Somewhere, Pat Buchanan is smiling.