Busting neoconservative blame game

Posted: Mar 14, 2003 12:00 AM

It's the Jews' turn. Over the last year, a number of anti-war arguments have taken center stage. It's a war for oil. It's a war to distract from the war on terrorism or the economy. It's a war to boost the president's ratings or to avenge Saddam's attempt to assassinate the elder Bush. And now, it's the Jews.

"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this," Virginia Democratic congressman Jim Moran said the other day.

The same week that news came out, Pat Buchanan announced from the pages of his odd little magazine that "a neoconservative clique seeks to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interest."

He went on: "We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars … we charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian people's right to a homeland of their own."

In case you didn't know, "neoconservative" is generally - but not always - longhand for "Jewish conservatives."

This has been a long time coming. Buchanan's Jewish problem is well established, of course. He made the same arguments in 1991 about the first Persian Gulf War when, by the way, the majority of Jews in Congress voted against a war waged by an administration whose secretary of state, James Baker, had once declared "F**k the Jews!"

Buchanan's hardly alone, alas. Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC's "Hardball" has been talking about "neoconservatives" in the current Bush administration the way Joe McCarthy used to talk about communists in the State Department.

For example, obsessed with the influence of Bill Kristol, the Jewish editor of The Weekly Standard, Matthews asked The Washington Post's Dana Milbank about the neoconservatives in the Bush Administration: "Are they loyal to the Kristol neoconservative movement, or to the president?"

Meanwhile, Bob Novak, co-host of CNN's "Crossfire" and arguably the dean of conservative political columnists, has been arguing for years that the war with Iraq is nothing more than an attempt to advance the interests of Israel and its prime minister, Ariel Sharon. And, of course, on the hard left, the charge that American Jews are pushing America to war for Israel's defense is made every day and in every way.

Now, I don't know if anti-Semitism motivates any of these people. And in a sense, I don't care. Oh, sure, on a personal level I suppose I care a little. I'd certainly be interested to hear that Jim Moran spends his free time photocopying the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or that Pat Buchanan donates the proceeds of his books to B'nai B'rith. But as a political matter, I don't really care. It's irrelevant. A distraction.

The charge of anti-Semitism is too hard to prove, too easy to dispute and changes the issue from facts to motives.

What should matter are the facts and the arguments that present them. And, so far, those whining about the pernicious influence of the Jews when it comes this war don't have many facts and even fewer good arguments.

Matthews and Buchanan both claim that the Republican Party has been taken over -"hijacked," in Buchanan's phrase -by rabid neoconservatives with names like Wolfowitz, Perle and Frum. These neocons are forcing a war down the throats of honest conservatives and Republicans.

Well, according to the latest CBS poll, 90 percent of Republicans favor war (The Washington Post has it at 86 percent of Republicans). Pretty much every prominent conservative in the country, Jews and gentiles alike -with the exception of Buchanan and Novak -back President Bush. Indeed, a growing majority of Americans back the president, too.

I follow this debate pretty closely, and I've got to tell you, I haven't heard the president once say we're doing this for Israel. I haven't heard Powell or Rumsfeld or Cheney say it, either.

Which brings me back to motives. Buchanan likes to attack the motives of neocons while whining about the neocon counterattack on his motives. Who cares? Maybe Bush is going to war because he's a born-again Jew lover. Or maybe he's doing this because he thinks aliens told him to. It doesn't matter. The only arguments he's ever offered were moral and strategic and based in America's interests, not Israel's. Those were the arguments that persuaded the Republican Party, the U.S. Congress and the American people.

Buchanan, Moran, Matthews, et al. lost those arguments. And, like sore losers, they blame motives. They're blaming Jews or neocons. Others blame oil or polls or vengeance. But, in the end, these blame games are fact-free. And that really makes them losers.