A Neocon By Any Other Name
The neoconservative movement is going underground – in plain sight. Now there’s a unique political tactic. How to hide, while the eyes of the whole world are upon you? It’s easy: simply declare it a hate crime to call things by their right names.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page is not usually the place to find comedy – unless it’s of the unintentional variety. But a great exception was apparently made in the case of one Julia Gorin, whose bio credits her with being part of "The Right Stuff," a claque of ostensibly conservative comedians performing under the slogan "comedy – for real Americans!" I can hear her now, exhorting an indifferent audience to laugh – or be declared illegal combatants.
But Gorin’s subject matter is no laughing matter.
She starts out her essay apparently miffed that Pat Buchanan got a gig on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, and that host Jon Stewart and Pat "bonded" over their common opposition to the "liberation," as Gorin puts it, of Iraq. Oh, it was terrrrrible, she whines, that awful Buchanan "derided ‘neoconservatives’ four times in the course of the six-minute interview."
But why, one has to ask, was Ms. Gorin sitting there counting words? After all, that isn’t exactly what one would call listening. But she wasn’t interested in what Pat had to say. She was busy keeping score, because, you see, she has a score of her own to settle:
"In his efforts to promote his and his guest’s common agenda, Mr. Stewart didn’t ask Mr. Buchanan what he meant by ‘neoconservatives.’ It was clear that the Jewish Mr. Stewart didn’t realize that Mr. Buchanan was using what has become an epithet for ‘Jews’ – an epithet employed most often by the left."
Air America is a major "culprit," according to Gorin. Janeane Garofalo "and other hosts" routinely attack "the neocons" – and mention only Wolfowitz, Perle, Abrams, and Libby. What, she cries, no gentiles? Quick! Someone dial 911 – there’s a hate crime in progress!
But Richard Perle comes in for his fair share of opprobrium not because he’s Jewish, but because he’s Richard Perle, war profiteer and bloodthirsty shrike – a seemingly semi-permanent fixture on the national security scene, and one who has been around since forever. The same bad apples keep showing up: Elliott "Iran-Contra" Abrams, Paul "Liberate Lithuania!" Wolfowitz, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who entered government service in 1981. These guys hire each other, promote each other’s work, and reinforce a commonly-held view that U.S. military power, wielded by a righteous elite, is destined to impose "benevolent global hegemony" on a reluctant world.
In short, we’ve had to listen to these war birds screech up a storm since the 1970s. Why shouldn’t we name them? Does anybody need an explanation of why, in a discussion of American foreign policy, Paul Wolfowitz’s name comes up – other than that he’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, Rummy’s right-hand man, and widely recognized as the intellectual architect of this war?
For Gorin to pretend that the neocons are a phenomenon that requires some detailed explanation, as if they’d just recently dropped down from Mars and into our political life, is laughable – and not the kind of laugh a comedian is usually after.
No doubt aware that her act isn’t working, Gorin goes into her Lenny Bruce imitation in a vain attempt to shock her audience into reacting:
"When a member of the enlightened classes, or Pat Buchanan, makes reference to a ‘neocon,’ what he’s saying is ‘yid.’ That’s right, ‘neoconservative,’ particularly in its shortened form, when employed by a nonconservative (or by Buchananites) and therefore meant derogatorily, is the modern, albeit more specific, word for ‘kike’ that the left can say."
I like the part about "particularly in its shortened form" – as if abbreviation is a form of denigration. But how, exactly, does that work? Is paleocon – the shortened form of paleoconservative – also a subtle put-down with definite ethnic implications (paleo-con = paleface?). Just about every ideology, left and right, has its prefixed version these days: there are neoliberals (short form: neo-libs), even neo-commies (short form: neo-coms). Why not neocons?
Gorin’s line of guff – that to attack the neocons (there, I said it! And isn’t that just tough!) is to attack "the Jews" – has been marketed before, to little avail. Neoconservatism has been the subject of too many books and scholarly essays, not to mention articles and documentaries in the popular media – including one self-regarding orgy of neocon narcissism, broadcast on PBS, in which the participants repeatedly referred to themselves as "neocons" and "neoconservatives" almost as many times as they described themselves as "intellectuals."
Jonah Goldberg, David Brooks, and Joshua Muravchik had earlier tried this self-disappearing act by baldly asserting "We’re all neoconservatives now." But that was before their crazed foreign policy ideas had murdered untold thousands in Iraq – and provoked real revulsion on the right as well as the left. We aren’t all neocons, especially now – and that is precisely what Gorin’s diktat, forbidding us to even utter the word, aims to suppress.
There’s a rebellion on the right, ably represented by Buchanan, the target of Gorin’s ire, a backlash against the monumental conceit of a War Party that promised a cakewalk and delivered, instead, a "catastrophic success." John Kerry isn’t the only one claiming to have been duped into war, and, as the situation on the ground deteriorates, we’ll see open disaffection from Republicans in Congress. Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.
Gorin’s playing the ethnic card is no surprise: that is what third- and fourth-rate comedians do when all else fails. Her big problem is that it’s a lie. Jews oppose neoconservative policies far more than most other sectors of the population. By large majorities, they are against the war, against the GOP, and against everything the neoconservatives stand for. The biggest supporters of the Neocons’ War are to be found among the "born again" followers of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, the Christian jihadists of the Bible Belt who pine for World War IV almost as much as Norman Podhoretz.
Gorin’s is a fallback position, an acknowledgement that, yes, there really is such a creature as a neocon, but I – Julia Gorin – will decide who gets to call me that. In short, if there’s going to be a debate about the proper direction of U.S. foreign policy – and no discussion of foreign policy in the modern era is possible without reference to neoconservatism – then the neocons are determined to define the terms, set the rules, and control the discussion from the outset. "So let’s go over the rules," she rants:
"Just because we call ourselves ‘neocons,’ it doesn’t mean you can. Of course, if you’re right-leaning and don’t intend the word disparagingly, you get a pass. Just know that unless you’re aware that ‘neoconservative’ also includes last names like Bennett, Kirkpatrick, Sowell, Kemp and Ashcroft, when you refer to someone as a neocon, you’re saying ‘Jew.’"
BLITZER: The notion that a lot of these neoconservatives are Jewish, that’s come up several times, and that you’re pointing to that is seen by some as anti-Semitism.
BUCHANAN: I can’t help it that many of these folks – if Norman Podhoretz calls for World War IV, an invasion of six or seven countries, and I go after him, he cannot defend himself on the grounds that he is simply Jewish. Bill Bennett’s a neoconservative. Jeane Kirkpatrick’s a neoconservative. Robert Bartley’s a neoconservative. John Bolton’s a neoconservative. None of them are Jewish. All of them are mentioned in [my] book.
In any case, the idea that a common word can be appropriated, and its usage controlled by self-appointed censors, is hardly "conservative": it is positively Soviet.
Gorin complains when Wolfowitz, Perle, etc., are named, because all the names are Jewish. But she doesn’t mention a non-Jewish neocon who made headlines recently, the formerly obscure but now perhaps soon to be famous Lawrence A. Franklin. A specialist on Iraq working out of the Defense Department’s policy shop, Franklin is a devout Catholic and minor neoconservative ideologue who stands accused of passing classified information to Israel via two gentlemen from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Washington’s powerful pro-Israel lobby.
Why did he do it, if he did do it? Ideological zeal is the explanation given, which brings us to a central tenet of neoconservatism, and that is the perfect alignment of American and Israeli national interests. This has been the battle-cry of both the neocons and AIPAC since long before the smoke cleared on 9/11. Israel has played the same role abroad as our neocons have at home, agitating for a war that would transform the Middle East – and, not so indirectly, advance their own interests, including territorial aggrandizement culminating in the creation of a Greater Israel and the extension of Israeli influence as far as Kurdistan.
Of course, the interests of separate nations are never perfectly aligned, never mind identical, which is why supposed allies spy on one another all the time. In Israel’s case, however, the penetration of our secrets was seemingly made possible by high-level moles with top priority access to all sorts of information. Franklin was just the small fish, and, now that he’s been "turned," and is squealing like a stuck pig, the big fish neocons who aided Israel’s campaign of espionage and disinformation live in mortal fear of exposure.
That’s why the clueless Gorin is being trotted out with her tired "I’m a victim" act – and in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, yet! The neocons are getting ready to confront one of the biggest espionage scandals in the annals of spookery: the story of how Israel launched a covert operation designed to lure and lie us into war. It wouldn’t be the first time a smaller, weaker nation maneuvered a larger imperial power into doing their fighting for them, but never before had such a job been pulled off with such finesse – and so openly!
Oh, sure, the espionage part of it was undercover, naturally enough, but the aboveground open conspiracy was a much bigger, more expensive operation. The architecture of the neoconservative movement, an extensive and complexly interwoven network of thinktanks, foundations, magazines, newspapers, and action organizations, is an impressive edifice. But the underground adjunct served a vital function: it allowed the neocons’ foreign allies to better control the terms of the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel.
Until now, that is….
While federal prosecutors have put the kibosh on "leaks" from the ongoing investigation, that has only provoked a flood of apologias, which accuse the chief investigator of – you guessed it! – "anti-Semitism." The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:
"David Szady, the senior FBI counterintelligence official currently heading the controversial investigation of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is well-known to senior Jewish communal officials, who assert he has targeted Jews in the past.
"Now, an investigation reveals that Szady was involved in a well-publicized case involving a Jewish former CIA staff attorney who sued the FBI, the CIA and its top officials for religious discrimination. Although not named in the suit, Szady headed the elite department that former CIA Director George Tenet admitted in 1999 was involved with ‘insensitive, unprofessional and highly inappropriate’ language regarding the case of the attorney, Adam Ciralsky."
But if I were trying to downplay the extent and seriousness of Israel’s spy operations in the U.S., the last subject I would bring up is the Ciralsky case. Author Jerry Pournelle points out this Feb. 7, 2000 Associated Press dispatch:
"An agency memo said a Jewish attorney who says the CIA fired him because of anti-Semitism within the agency failed two lie-detector tests about whether he gave or sold US secrets ‘to an Israeli national.’ Adam Ciralsky, 28, of Milwaukee, joined the spy agency in December 1996 as a contract employee in the Office of General Counsel. By the following October, Ciralsky had been placed on unpaid leave. His top-secret security clearance was revoked in July 1998, and he was fired in late 1999. Ciralsky was airing his complaints against the agency Sunday night on CBS’ 60 Minutes.
"The agency said it acted against Ciralsky because he did not fully reveal a relationship with two people holding dual US- Israeli citizenship, both employees of Israeli defense firms with possible ties to Israeli intelligence. Bill Harlow, CIA public affairs director, disputed Ciralsky’s allegations of anti-Semitism. He said the allegations had been reviewed by the agency’s inspector general, by several congressional panels and by a citizens’ review group.
"The memorandum about Ciralsky’s case, first reported by The Washington Post, was written by Alan Wade, the CIA’s associate deputy director for security. The memo said Ciralsky failed two polygraph examinations. The questions he was asked, Wade wrote, were about ‘deliberately compromising US government classified information to an Israeli national, accepting compensation from an Israeli national in exchange for US government classified information, and deliberately concealing from the US government a relationship with an Israeli national.’ The CIA’s Harlow refused to discuss the memo. He said the agency had been willing to publicly discuss details of Ciralsky’s case, but that his lawyers had blocked them from doing so by invoking the Privacy Act."
It doesn’t sound to me like Szady was committing a hate crime: he was merely doing his job, which is the serious business of counterintelligence. Before we hurl mud at a competent and loyal public servant, let Ciralsky come clean by waiving his Privacy Act privileges and letting the whole story come out.
As the campaign to exonerate the crew of Pollardites in the Pentagon revs up even before the indictments come down, the smears directed at Szady are the first shots of the neocons’ war for survival. Backed up against a wall, discredited by the war they wanted and still defend, faced with charges of treason and maybe even a little jail time, you can bet they’ll fight to the death.
But if Julia Gorin is one of the heavier guns in their arsenal, I think they’d better start thinking about negotiating a truce, or even entering a plea bargain. I don’t know if Ms. Gorin is much of a hit on the Republican Ladies Club chicken-and-dumplings circuit, but a humorless ideologue pretending to be a third-rate comedienne is hardly an act with a whole lot of promise. Drop the political correctness, Julie, and get yourself another shtick – conservatives aren’t buying it, and neither is anybody else.
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