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Politics
U.S. Media Airs Alleged Jewish Role in Iraq War
Thu Mar 13, 3:51 PM ET
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By Jonathan Wright

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With an invasion of Iraq (news - web sites) 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 (news - web sites) 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 (news - web sites) ... 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 (news - web sites), 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 (news - web sites) adviser Richard Perle, National Security Council Middle East official Elliot Abrams and Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites).

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 (news - web sites), an isolationist opposed to foreign adventures by the United States.

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?" he wrote.

Buchanan, who said before the 1991 Gulf War (news - web sites) 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," is undeterred.

"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.


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