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April 29, 2003

Are Jews Driving American Policy?

The Neoconservative-Conspiracy Theory: Pure Myth

Conspiracy theories abound but are here shown as truly ugly and nonsensical, in this piece from Chronicle of Higher Education.
The ruins of Saddam Hussein's shattered tyranny may provide additional evidence of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, but one poisonous by-product has already begun to seep from under the rubble. It is a conspiracy theory purporting to explain how the foreign policy of the world's greatest power, the United States, has been captured by a sinister and hitherto little-known cabal.

A small band of neoconservative (read, Jewish) defense intellectuals, led by the "mastermind," Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (according to Michael Lind, writing in the New Statesman), has taken advantage of 9/11 to put their ideas over on an ignorant, inexperienced, and "easily manipulated" president (Eric Alterman in The Nation), his "elderly figurehead" Defense Secretary (as Lind put it), and the "dutiful servant of power" who is our secretary of state (Edward Said, London Review of Books).

Thus empowered, this neoconservative conspiracy, "a product of the influential Jewish-American faction of the Trotskyist movement of the '30s and '40s" (Lind), with its own "fanatic" and "totalitarian morality" (William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune) has fomented war with Iraq -- not in the interest of the United States, but in the service of Israel's Likud government (Patrick J. Buchanan and Alterman).

This sinister mythology is worthy of the Iraqi information minister, Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, who became notorious for telling Western journalists not to believe their own eyes as American tanks rolled into view just across the Tigris River. And indeed versions of it do circulate in the Arab world. (For example, a prominent Saudi professor from King Faisal University, Umaya Jalahma, speaking at a prestigious think tank of the Arab League, has revealed that the U.S. attack on Iraq was actually timed to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Purim.) But the neocon-conspiracy notion is especially conspicuous in writing by leftist authors in the pages of journals like The Washington Monthly and those cited above, as well as in the arguments of paleoconservatives like Buchanan and his magazine, The American Conservative.

Many of those who disseminate the new theory had strenuously opposed war with Iraq and predicted dire consequences in the event American forces were to invade. The critics had warned of such things as massive resistance by the Iraqi military and people, a quagmire on the order of Vietnam, Saddam's use of weapons of mass destruction (though some of the same voices loudly questioned whether Iraq had such weapons at all), Scud missile attacks that would draw Israel into the fray, destruction of Iraq's oil fields (thus creating an ecological catastrophe), and an inflamed and radicalized Middle East in which moderate governments would be overthrown by an enraged Arab street. [more]