- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With
an invasion of Iraq looming, some critics of the war have revived allegations
the U.S. campaign is the brainchild of Jewish neoconservatives who promoted
the idea in the 1990s and assumed positions of power when the Bush administration
took office in 2001.
- Rep. James Moran, a Virginia Democrat, brought down a
torrent of opprobrium on his head this month when he said the United States
would not be planning an invasion of Iraq "if it were not for the
strong support of the Jewish community."
- "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential
enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and
I think they should," a newspaper quoted him as saying.
- The White House condemned his remark as "shocking,"
as did congressional leaders of both parties. Moran later apologized.
- Rep. Jim Kolbe, an Arizona Republican, asked Secretary
of State Colin Powell directly on Thursday whether there was any truth
to the claim that supporters of Israel or any other group were conspiring
to influence U.S. policy.
- "It (policy on Iraq) is not driven by any small
cabal that is buried away somewhere that is telling President Bush ...
what our policies should be," Powell replied, speaking to a subcommittee
of the House Appropriations Committee.
- The Washington Post, which has been mostly supportive
of the Bush administration on Iraq, took up the attack on Moran on Wednesday,
saying it was "demonstrably wrong" that Bush's Iraq policy is
motivated primarily by the desire to protect Israel.
- "The argument moves from merely wrong to patently
offensive when it attributes to Jews or 'the Jewish community' a single
view and a nefarious influence," it added.
- AIRING IN EDITORIAL PAGES
- The two big East Coast newspapers, the Post and The New
York Times, have given the conspiracy theory some airing on their op-ed
pages, if only to try to quash it.
- "How the Bush administration has arrived at the
brink of war with (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein, and to what extent
Israeli influence has brought it there, is a legitimate question about
which there is ample room for disagreement," Lawrence Kaplan wrote
in the Post.
- Bill Keller, in The New York Times on Sunday, said the
theory deserved some attention because the idea that the war was about
Israel was "more widely held than you may think" and because
it has "sprouted from a seed of truth."
- The alleged seed of truth is that several key second-tier
officials in the Bush administration are Jewish neoconservatives who have
advocated overthrowing Saddam Hussein to enhance the security of Israel.
- The group is said to include Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Pentagon adviser
Richard Perle, National Security Council Middle East official Elliot Abrams
and Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
- Some of their allies are former members or advisers to
the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a Washington organization
which argues that the security of the United States and Israel is inextricably
intertwined, or to the like-minded Center for Security Policy.
- That group includes Cheney, Feith, Perle and Under Secretaries
of State John Bolton and Paula Dobriansky.
- Feith put the case in public last month when he told
a Senate committee that democracy in Iraq could help bring to power the
kind of Palestinians Israel wants to talk to.
- The most prominent U.S. politician accusing them of foisting
the war on Bush for Israel's sake is former Reform Party presidential candidate
Patrick Buchanan, an isolationist opposed to foreign adventures by the
- Buchanan, writing in the American Conservative this week,
said: "The War Party may have gotten its war. But it has also gotten
something it did not bargain for.
- "Suddenly, the Israeli connection is on the table,
and the War Party is not amused. Finding themselves in an unanticipated
firefight, our neoconservative friends are ... claiming the status of a
persecuted minority group."
- Keller said the element of truth was that the interests
of Israel and the United States coincide in the case of Iraq.
- "(That) does not mean that a Zionist fifth column
has hijacked the president's brain. ... Making the world safer for us --
defusing terrorism and beginning to reform a region that is a source of
toxic hostility to what we stand for -- happens to make the world safer
for Israel as well," he said.
- The public debate so far has been mainly over whether
it is anti-Semitic even to suggest that the neoconservatives may have a
dual loyalty to Israel and to the United States, not so much over whether
the allegation might be true.
- Kaplan said that, although the debate was legitimate,
the accusation of impaired loyalty was beyond the pale.
- "Invoking the specter of dual loyalty ... amounts
to more than the everyday pollution of public discourse. It is the nullification
of public discourse, for how can one refute accusations grounded in ethnicity?"
- Buchanan, who said before the 1991 Gulf War that the
only groups beating the drums for war in the Middle East were "the
Israeli defense ministry and its 'amen corner' in the United States,"
- "Those hurling these charges (of anti-Semitism)
harbor a 'passionate attachment' to a nation not our own that causes them
to subordinate the interests of their own country and to act on an assumption
that, somehow, what's good for Israel is good for America," he wrote.