Iraq and the neocons: The more things change…

…the more they stay the same. Or, as Yogi Berra put it, its deja vu all over again. The recent arguing (on this blog and just about everywhere else) over Iraq and the neo-cons and the supposed hijacking of U.S. foreign policy by Israel–and particularly the inevitable invocation ofPat Buchanan in this context–has prompted me to dig out something I wrote back in the fall of 1990, in the prelude to Operation Desert Storm, the conflict that set the template for the current horrific world situation. Up until now, it has appeared nowhere in cyber-space–just in a crumbling hard copy in my personal files. I think it provides some useful insights to the origin of the current debate…

Reading it over has been a little depressing. The kids who are fighting in Iraq now were in kindergarden then, and the world was a different place. There was no World Wide Web, the Internet was in its infancy and cellular phones were still exotic. I followed the news from Iraq via shortwave radio, and frantically scribbled notes. It seems quaint now. Yet we are having exactly the same argument today.

I should note that my own views have changed slightly (but not fundamentally) since then. But I have resisted the temptation to rewrite, and present the piece precisely as it originally appeared. I have only added a few relevant links, and a clarifying note at the end.

The anti-Semitic backlash I predicted in my final paragraph has not arrived. But the influence of right-wing Zionists in American politics has grown far greater–and hence my fears about that backlash are even deeper than they were then. Certainly the Buchananite line has gained far more mainstream currency in the intervening years. The most depressing thing is that this mode of thinking is no longer the exclusive domain of the populist right, but of growing portions of the ostensible “left.”

Without further ado, I present this historical relic. From the now long-defunct Lower Manhattan weekly Downtown of Oct. 31, 1990:

Iraq, Anti-Semitism and the Split on the Right

by Bill Weinberg

During the long era of the Cold War, the right could always be counted on to behave as a monolithic bloc when it came to supprting U.S. military adventures abroad. Therefore, I was happily surprised when it became evident that the right is deeply split over whether to support President Bush’s troop build-up in Saudi Arabia in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait–one always likes to see dissension within the enemy’s ranks.

I was especially glad to find that syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan, who as a Nixon White House speech writer had been such an effective propagandist for the Pentagon’s genocidal campaign in Indochina, was publicly dissenting from the White House war drive this time around. I was even naive enough to believe that Buchanan was simply a principled Cold Warrior who really believed that the (now-defunct) Soviet empire was a threat to world freedom which the U.S. had a responsibility to defend against in such places as Southeast Asia and Central America, but that Iraq’s belligerence and expansionism is purely an Arab problem, best left to the Arabs to resolve.

Buchanan portrayed this post-Cold War split on the right as one between the traditional conservatives of the Old Right and the neo-conservatives of the New Right. In his view, the “neo-cons” who jumped on the New Right bandwagon in the ’80s, many of them former liberal Democrats, lacked the perspective of seasoned Old Right hawks such as himself who could recognize a situation in which the U.S. had no business intervening.

This obviously was not the complete explanation. While one of the biggest loudmouths in favor of U.S. military intervention in the Persian Gulf is New York Times columnist (and former top Times editor) Abe Rosenthal, who did indeed lurch to the right in the ’80s, his fellow Times columnist William Safire is actually comparing Iraq’s Hussein to Adolf Hitler in the effort to build a ruling-class consensus for the Middle East war drive–and he, like Buchanan, had been a Nixon White House speech-writer. National Review publisher William F. Buckley, one of the oldest pillars of the Old Right edifice, has also proclaimed himself solidly behind the White House’s war moves.

Nonetheless, I was willing to give Buchanan the benefit of the doubt when Rosenthal’s column accused him of anti-Semitism for balking at support for the Arabia troop build-up. In fact, I was even more furious at Rosenthal than I usually am after reading one of his columns (invariably a uniquely unpleasant experience). As a Jew (in terms of ethnicity if not religion) who unequivocally opposes U.S. military intervention in the Middle East, I felt like Rosenthal’s accusation was a particularly cheap shot. Cynicially using such accusations for political ends delegitimizes them in the public eye at times when they are really called for–the boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome.

With so much actual anti-Semitism in evidence these days, I am particularly impatient with such abuses.

You can imagine, then, that I was doubly furious when the very next time Buchanan opened his mouth, he proved that Rosenthal’s accusation had been accurate–whether it had been made in good faith or not (I’m inclined to think not).

Buchanan, citing a list of opinion-makers with Jewish-sounding last names as those pushing for war in the Middle East, warns that those “humping up that bloody road to Baghdad” will, in contrast, be kids with “names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales and Leroy Brown.”

This kind of populist appeal to anti-Semitism is, of course, inherently irrational. Once these kinds of emotions are in play it does no good to point out there will be servicemen with names like Zuckerman and Cohen as well as McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales and Brown facing bullets and poison gas in the Arabian deserts if war comes–and there will also be people with Jewish last names protesting the war every step of the way. I know that for sure, because I will be one of them.

Now the real nature of the split on the right becomes apparent. It is not a split between the New Right and the Old Right, but a split between the Zionist Right and the more traditional anti-Semitic Right.

Which is more dangerous? Perhaps that is not such a useful question–these two currents merely fuel each other. As Israel continues along the increasingly militaristic and racist path that it has been on at least since 1967, Rosenthal and the Zionist Right will continue to turn a blind eye to (or openly condone) its abuses while simultaneously maintaining that that they speak for all Jews, as if we were the monolithic bloc that the anti-Semites say we are. This will only contribute to the anti-Semitic reaction which is currently building on both the Right and the Left. Not that the blather of the Rosenthals and Safires in any way lets the Buchanans off the hook for their Jew-baiting–irrational hate-mongering is irrational hate-mongering, no matter how you slice it.

If you don’t think that anti-Semitism is a threat in this day and age, check out the following letter which a Jewish Marine captain stationed in California recently passed on to the New York-based Jewish Chaplains Council, the agency which coordinates Jewish chaplains and laity in the U.S. military. Addressed merely to “Any Servicemember” or “Any White Servicemember, Operation Desert Shield,” the letter reads:


Dear American Warrior:

I am a member of White Christian Women. I was hoping to correspond with a white servicemember. I believe that our men should not be in Iraq fighting Israel’s battles! Are we citizens of America or citizens of Israel?

I don’t want America’s men dying for an unworthy cause. What will happen if the majority of the white American men die? I think I know; the white women in the U.S. will marry nonwhites! I don’t think that you as a white man would like to see that happen. I think the Aryan race is the most beautiful race. We have so much to live for! Speaking for the white women, I know that we think that white men are the race of men that we want to have children with. The sweet little wisps of fair hair on pink baby skin are precious to me. I don’t want to see my white friends having mixed babies because there may be no white men left to have children with!

We do respect the other races and their cultures, with the exception of the Jewish people. We hate thier anti-Christ beliefs, and their Talmud, which advocates hating Christians. The Talmud also describes other horrible perversions with small children, including ritual sacrifice.

Now I hope you know where we are coming from. If only you knew about the Jewish control in America, I doubt you would be fighting the war for the Jews in Israel. If you would like to write to a White Christian Woman, that [sic] believes in racial purity and the survival of our American men, we would be more than happy to write to a proud warrior.

Always working for GOD, RACE & NATION,

[woman’s name signed]

PS [handwritten]

I pray that you come home soon to protect the women and children who are left unprotected.

Potent stuff. Apart from the demographic paranoia many whites experience these days about the reality that Blacks and Latinos are breeding faster than they are, and apart from the visceral disgust at Judaism that this propaganda has played upon since medieval times, the mere emotional impact that recieving a letter written and signed by a woman can have on a scared and lonely serviceman about to be sent off to face death in a strange land is no doubt sufficient enticement for many young men to write for more information. But there’s more. The next page features a photo of President Bush wearing a yarmulke, bending forward, lips pursed. The print reads:

George Bush isn’t…puckering up to kiss someone’s posterior. With his beanie carefully intact, he is, however, preparing a big smooch on the Wailing Wall during a recent junket to Israel.

George Bush says, “Your boys are going over to the Midest to protect the American way of life.” What he was thinking, though, was “Why should Jews fight and die when there are enough gung-ho goyim boys to do it for them?”…

DON’T BE BUSH WACKED! More American lives will ever be required to advance JEWISH interests around the world in the many years to come!

For more info: contact Christian Identity Soldiers
[address, Las Vegas]

The most disturbing thing about this propaganda is that, apart from the play to demographic paranoia and the medieval myths about baby-sacrifice, it saying almost exactly what Buchanan is saying. The primary difference is one of tone, not content.

Despite the Rambo-mania of the Reagan years, this country has still not quite recovered from the “Vietnam Syndrome.” As war looms nearer in the Middle East, fear and resentment of the U.S. troop mobilization will mount at home. For those who think that the U.S. should gracefully accept its inevitable decline as a world power, this is potentially good news. But if Jews once again serve as convenient scapegoats, then the true culprits may ride out the storm intact.

Those culprits are, first and foremost, the Cold Warriors, the Pentagon and its corporate contractors, who are nervously seeking a new global role for themselves following the dematerialization of the Soviet threat which had justified their existence since 1945. Secondly, they are the big U.S. oil companies which rake in mega-profits in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states. Finally, they are the right-wing Zionists who see military might and thermonuclear intimidation rather than negotiations and a two-state solution as the answers to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is the last group, hardly the most important in the equation, which provides such convenient fuel for the fires of anti-Semitic propaganda, despite the fact that it does not even speak for all Zionists, much less all Jews. Widespread Jewish repudiation of this brand of Zionism would deprive the anti-Semites of much of their propaganda ammo, and is long overdue anyway.

Such a repudiation could mean the difference between the split on the right serving the interests of peace–or merely paving the way for yet another paroxysm of anti-Jewish hatred of the sort which history has seen far too many already: propping up an essentially unjuststatus quo by deflecting popular anger onto the eternal “other.”
NOTE: There is one error in this piece. The column in which Buchanan cited pro-war Jewish opinion-makers (A.M. Rosenthal, Charles Krauthammer, Richard Perle and Henry Kissinger) and that in which he made the McAllister-Murphy-Gonzales-Brown reference were not the same–they ran four days apart in August of 1990. This was noted in a 1999 apologia for Buchanan by George Szamuely in the weekly New York Press (which was Downtown’s right-wing competition), now online, predictably, at The exact citations are on the website of the conservative but principled Christians Against Buchanan. Szamuely thinks that the fact that the references ran in separate columns lets Buchanan off the hook. Christians Against Buchanan (and I) do not. Those who feel the ideological link I drew between Buchanan and the ultra-creepy Christian Identity movement is spurious are referred to a 1996 analysis by Michael Novic of People Against Racist Terror (PART) which notes that then-Buchanan presidential campaign advisor Larry Pratt, leader of Gun Owners of America, attended a seminal 1992 radical-right conclave in Estes Park, Colorado, presided over and hosted by Christian Identity “minister” Pete Peters. Pratt presented a proposal based on his book Armed People Victorious, for Christian militias in the U.S., modeled on the “civil patrols” established by Guatemala’s military dictatorship in the ’80s. Also in attendance was Louis Beam, a veteran Klansman representing the Aryan Nations, who presented a paper entitledLeaderless Resistance, later viewed as a founding document of the militia movement, and a probable source of inspiration for Timothy McVeigh.–BW, May 14, 2005