“There he goes again,” became the political catchphrase that entered the American political lexicon when it was used by then Governor Ronald Reagan in his October 28, 1980 presidential debate in Cleveland, OH, with President Jimmy Carter. To Carter’s repeated charges that he would cut Medicare, Reagan quipped. “There he goes again.”
Joe Murray ("An Empire We Are Not," The Bulletin 07/09/2007) has similarly charged in what has now become a mantra, that America is fighting Israel’s wars in the Middle East, and that neo-cons are to blame for America’s entanglement in Iraq.
The themes Murray uses are vintage Pat Buchanan, including the codeword “neo-con” designed to mark the Jews in The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neo-conservative think-tank based in Washington, DC co-founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan in early 1997. Leading members of the PNAC however, were not Jews and included Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. George W. Bush’s worldview coincided with that of the PNAC and he recruited a number of PNAC members into his administration.
The neo-cons advocated a Reaganite policy of projecting American military strength along with moral clarity in contrast to the weak and failing policies of Jimmy Carter which gave rise to American global retreat and resulted in the Ayatollahs taking power in Iran, and the spread of global Islamic terrorism. The Carter years exposed America as a “paper Tiger” and the thinking of the PNAC was that American global leadership is good for America and the world.
Much like Buchanan, Murray substitutes “Tel Aviv” for Israel, ignoring the fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. But far more is wrong with Murray’s understanding of global realities. He writes, “To the neo-conservative movement, 9/11 was an opportunity to use democracy as a preventive weapon to secure the Middle East for the interests of Tel Aviv and plunge America into… wars that were not her own and have her fight nations that did not want war with us.” Radical Islam’s war on America commenced with the 1979 Iranian revolution - pre-dating September 11th by 22 years and preceded the end of the Cold War by at least a full decade.
For the Jihadists in Tehran, America was and is the “great Satan” to be expelled from the Middle East. The Iranian Islamists unable to take America on directly, in a conventional war, opted to wage war on America by conducting a terrorist war, providing funds, arms, training, intelligence, and personnel. The Bin Laden variety of Sunni-Muslim Jihadists targeted America as soon as they saw themselves victorious against the Soviet Union in 1987. For Bin Laden, America was seen as an easier obstacle to achieve his goal of an Islamic Caliphate.
What exactly does Murray mean by “opportunity to use democracy as a preventive weapon to secure the Middle East for the interests of Tel Aviv and plunge America into wars not her own?” Are we to understand that the introduction of democracy is solely in the interest of Israel? Foolish me, all these years, I thought that securing the tenets of democracy – civil rights, human rights, religious rights, freedom of the press, for all people was an American ideal pursued by successive administrations dating back to the founding fathers of our nation! 19th century American missionaries, who established American universities in Cairo and Beirut, reflected values inherent in a pluralist democracy, and did so with the blessings and support of the U.S. governments. That, dear readers, all happened at least a century before the Jewish State existed.
Democratic governments and ending the reverence for terror emanating from the countries of the Arab Middle East are prerequisites for peace. Support for democracy is not, however, merely in Israel’s interest. The creation of stable and more responsible Arab governments will serve to secure the commercial interests of America and the West as well as universal security.
As a corollary to Murray’s contention, one must ask, in which of the wars Israel has fought since its establishment in 1948 did America intervene with its troops to fight Israel’s wars? Was it 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, or 2006? In the Yom Kippur War of 1973 the U.S. re-supplied Israel with arms, while the Soviet’s armed the Arabs with much greater quantities – but there were no US troops involved. U.S. troops were indeed in the Middle East during the First Gulf War of 1990-1991 to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s brutal and illegal occupation. Murray’s inclination to implicate Israel is, it seems, obfuscating the history.
Vital oil interests to a heavily dependent industrial world were at stake and Saddam’s actions demanded a concerted response. Israel had absolutely nothing to do with this war and, indeed was attacked by Saddam’s Scud missiles, which struck a number of cities (as was Saudi Arabia).
If we follow Buchanan’s mindset we can uncover Murray’s logic. For Buchanan - the isolationist - America had no reason to remove Saddam by force in the Iraq War of 2003. The invading of Iraq therefore, had to be a neo-con/Jewish plot to secure Israel. The fact is that Saudi Arabia, like Kuwait before it, would have been Saddam’s next target - not Israel, does not matter to either Buchanan or Murray.
Saddam’s possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), as conveyed by the intelligence community to the Bush administration and members of Congress, his support of terrorist groups (hosting Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaeda operatives) plotting against America, mass killings of Kurds and Shiites, and his threat to neighboring states were more than enough reasons to invade with the consent of the U.S. Congress: Democrats and Republicans. Moreover, Saddam’s attempted assassination of George H. Bush, the president’s father, and his quest for nuclear weapons to avenge his humiliation suffered at the hands of America in 1991, made the U.S. a prime target for Saddam, and a threat to American security.
Murray suggested that "The fact that none of these regimes (Syria, Iraq, Libya, Iran and Gaza!) had a hand in 9/11, and most issued public condemnations, meant nothing, as these "regimes" were Israel's enemies, and neo-conservative logic meant they were America's enemies.” There he goes again with his selective memory. Whether these terrorist-sponsoring states - Iran, Syria, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Libya (until recently), and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) with its component groups, had anything to do with 9/11 is still an open question. What is certain however is that all of them killed Americans directly and indirectly through proxies, and Iran and Syria continue to harm Americans in Iraq. In 1983, 241 Americans Marines lost their lives in Beirut and there were multiple American casualties as a result of the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut the same year.
What is clear, however, is that the war being waged by Iran and Syria against America is ideological and is not about Israel. Islamists and radical regimes such as Syria and Iran fight America - the infidel/kefir in Arabic – hoping to undermine its influence in the region and repress its cause-to bring democracy, pluralism, separation of church and state, religious freedom, and government accountability. These values are repugnant to the Middle East Arab dictatorships including Syria and non-Arab Iran. Furthermore, democracy and peace threatens their long-term survival. This was as true during the Clinton administration and as it is today during the Bush administration, and as it will be in the future.
Had Murray been in London in 1939 he would have agreed with the majority of British parliamentarians who preferred to stay out of war and appease Nazi Germany. Winston Churchill unpopular views would not have won him a popularity contest in 1939, just as Bush is failing to win over Congress regarding the war in Iraq and its significance to the overall war on terror. Sadly, history shows us that too often momentary political advantages seem to trump principal and long-term benefits.
Ronald Reagan won the 1980 election by a great majority and, in spite of Carter’s repeated charges that Reagan would cut Medicare, it never happened. Murray’s repeated harping on Buchanan’s theme of “blame Israel first” deserves the same Reaganite refrain, “There he goes again.”