The Commentary pages of The Bulletin served lately as an arena for a duel between Joe Murray, and Pat Barron and this writer. Murray (a Pat Buchanan acolyte) repeated his charge (The Same Old Song 7/20/07) once again that America fought the Iraq War and the Cold War to benefit Israel, and that these wars were instigated by the (Jewish) neo-cons.
In his attempt to paint Pat Barron and myself as neo-cons, Joe Murray devoted his piece to the failure of the neo-cons strategy in Iraq. Labels aside - and wrong ones at that - Murray comes up short in his explanations.
Murray posits: “Puder is upset because I charged …that America is fighting Israel’s wars in the Middle East, and that the neo-cons are to blame for America’s entanglement in Iraq. Aren’t both of these statements true? Which nation was best served by an attack on Iraq?”
Mr. Murray, there is a clear answer to your charge.
Iran benefited from the war first and foremost, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to a lesser extent, and Israel is faced as a result of the war with a greater strategic threat from Iran.
Saddam’s removal benefited the Kuwaitis and Saudis who would have been his next target for conquest, had America not engaged Hussein in 1991 and liberated Kuwait.
America’s Gulf wars were not fought for Israel - they were fought to insure the West’s oil supply, which Saddam threatened among other things.
In my previous piece (There He Goes Again-7/17/07) I asked Murray to indicate which wars America/Americans had fought for Israel? Instead of responding to that question, Murray chose to engage in his worn out thesis regarding the neo-cons. The truth is that Israel has explicitly refrained throughout its history from asking the U.S. to fight on its behalf. And, the U.S. (Nixon administration) restrained Israel from achieving a full victory in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Instead of destroying the Egyptian Third Army, the Israel Defense Forces (under pressure from the U.S.) allowed the surrounded and cut off Egyptian army to withdraw, supplying the Egyptian troops with food and water.
In the Sinai Campaign of October 1956, the Eisenhower Administration compelled Britain, France and Israel to end their campaign against Egyptian dictator Abdul Nasser following his nationalization of the Suez Canal, and put pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Sinai. The Israeli campaign was a reaction to Nasser’s use of Palestinian terrorists from Gaza (then called fedayeen) to attack Israeli civilians inside the Armistice Lines (aka “Green Line”). A note of history: Despite the fact that there was no “occupation” then, many use the excuse that this terrorism is a reaction to occupation.
During Israel’s War of Independence, the U.S. imposed an embargo against weapon sales to the Middle East, a severe blow to the nascent Jewish state since the Arabs were heavily supplied by Britain. And, there was no post-war American attempt to aid the Holocaust survivors in 1948, whose families were murdered in Europe while the U.S. under FDR did nothing to help.
Exactly when did the U.S. fight Israel’s wars Mr. Murray? Was it in 1967? The First Lebanon War in 1982, the Second Lebanon War in 2006? The answer is never.
Murray implies that the neo-cons twisted President Bush’s arm to go to war. Let’s be clear: President George W. Bush and the State Department make foreign policy not the neo-cons. Individuals with certain convictions might have been called upon to advise the president on Iraq, but the ultimate decision rests with the president, and is subject to a Congressional veto.
Among the supporters of the Iraq war were a majority of Americans who sought to bring down the genocidal dictator who had gassed his own people as well as his Iranian enemies. It was accepted by most thinking people that a dictator and a regime that would use lethal gassing of fellow Iraqis would not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction on Americans or Europeans. Saddam might not have used WMD’s directly against his western enemies, but he might have done it indirectly, by supplying such weapons of mass destruction to Islamic terrorist groups.
Murray’s charge that “neo-cons supported the Cold War effort because Israel was threatened by the Soviets” is ludicrous. The Project for the New American Century that spawned what Pat Barron referred to humorously as the “dreaded neo-cons” and what Murray accused of “entangling America in Iraq” was formed in 1997, towards the end of the Clinton Administration (the Cold War had already been won). There has been bipartisan support of Israel’s right to exist since Truman’s administration, and fighting the Cold War had nothing to do with Israel. The Cold War was an ideological war between two superpowers seeking to reshape the world. Soviet totalitarianism found common ground with Arab totalitarians while America and Israel found amity in their belief in freedom and democracy. To that extent, everyone in America, with the exception of the Communists and the far left, supported the U.S. government.
The U.S. counter-balanced the Soviet’s pro-Arab stance by vetoing anti-Israel U.N. Resolutions, but always tempered its positions with sensitivity towards “our Arab friends” the Saudis. In the climate of the Cold War, Israel’s victories boosted U.S. prestige and standing in the world
Peter Galbraith, in his book The End of Iraq, points out that he fully supported the removal of Saddam Hussein even if it took a war to do it. Galbraith’s book subtitle, How American Incompetence Created a War without End reflects this writer’s post-Iraq war observations. Like Galbraith, I too supported the removal of Saddam Hussein, albeit, with a warning that Iraq is like Humpty Dumpty, and if we break it, we won’t be able to put it together again.
Any chance to get it right in Iraq, however, was foiled by critical mistakes made by the Bush administration in May 2003, when the inexperienced civilian L. Paul Bremer, III replaced General Jay Garner. Bremer abolished the Iraqi army, thus depriving hundreds of thousands of Iraqi breadwinners the ability to support their families. Instead of immediately establishing an Iraqi civilian authority, the U.S. engaged in what Galbraith described as indecision. “The president did not decide whether to turn power over to an interim Iraqi government or have the U.S. run the country in a manner of the postwar occupation of Germany and Japan.” That has little to do with neo-cons and a lot to do with critical indecision.
Frankly, the antecedents of the U.S. failures in Iraq point directly to president G. H. Bush. In 1991, Bush Sr. had an opportunity to bring down Saddam and his clique of Tikritis but chose not to do so because the Saudis, Turks, and Jordanians (all Sunni Muslim states) advised against it. Bush Sr. then called on the oppressed Shiites and Kurds to rebel against Saddam and bring him down. When they answered his call, the Bush Sr. administration abandoned them to the brutal genocidal campaign waged by Saddam. George W.’s Iraq war might have a lot to do with shoring up his father’s legacy.
Murray muddied the water when he suggested that this writer accused him of anti-Semitism, which is simply a cheap shot. In my article cited above I suggested that Pat Buchanan has emphasized the Jewish origin of some of the neo-cons, to make hay for his anti-Israel positions. What this writer wrote was: “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)…” The word “anti-Semitism” did not appear in my article.
There is no merit to Murray’s criticism of the Jewish State (Murray conveniently ignores the fact that Israel is ostensibly a Jewish State) because his criticism holds Israel, and by association the American Jewish Community, to a different standard than any other country.
Like his mentor Pat Buchanan, Murray singles out Israel as the culprit for America’s involvement in Iraq or the Cold War, and it is certainly more than criticism, it is collective blame of a people - the Jewish people that make up “Secular Israel.”