John Fund vs. the Truth

John Fund, former editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal and now a familiar talking head on cable gabfests, used to hang out with libertarians. He even used to claim to be one. Back in the day, he would visit the offices of Libertarian Review to chat with the editor – the late Roy A. Childs, Jr. – and anybody else who happened to be in the vicinity. Everybody thought he was a nice guy. Boy, were they wrong…

In the early 1980s, he started working for Bob Novak and the late Rowland Evans as a reporter, then rose through the journalistic ranks to become deputy features editor of the Wall Street Journal and a member of the editorial board. He spent much of the ’90s rolling in the muck of Monica-gate and building a career as a 100-percent-certified neocon shill. He is now a columnist for the WSJ, where his latest screed against the admission of a former Taliban supporter to Yale appeared alongside his attempt to smear Professor Juan Cole and torpedo that distinguished scholar’s prospective appointment to the Yale faculty.

Fund has been on a jihad against Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, a former Taliban supporter and Mullah Omar‘s roving international ambassador, who has since been admitted to Yale as a student. In a series of columns, Fund avers that Hashemi is “unrepentant,” or perhaps not repentant enough, and in any case somehow still serves as an apologist for the fallen regime. For his past crimes – thought crimes, not actual crimes – Fund would have him barred from Yale and maybe even put behind bars.

As one Yale professor, who chose anonymity rather than be subjected to a campaign of organized harassment, pointed out, “half the U.S.-approved Afghan government, including President Hamid Karzai, are former members of the Taliban. ‘If that standard is good enough for the U.S. government,’" he averred, “‘why should it be any different for Yale?'”

Why, indeed.

The absurdity of the Fund-amentalist hate campaign against Hashemi ought to be apparent to anyone who keeps up with events on the ground in Afghanistan, where President Karzai recently

“Urged Taliban leader Mullah Omar to ‘get in touch’ if he wants to talk peace. … Karzai spokesman Khaleeq Ahmed said Friday that the Afghan government has a reconciliation commission that has encouraged more than 1,000 ex-Taliban members to embrace the new constitution and government and reject violence. But not every Taliban is welcome, he said. ‘There are those who have burned schools and killed doctors, nurses, and many other innocent Afghans.'”

Which raises the question: If former Taliban are good enough for the democratically elected “government” of “President” Karzai – who, in reality, barely controls Kabul, let alone the countryside – why is the U.S. adamantly refusing to negotiate? The Taliban, too, disdain talks, at least with Karzai. If any talking is to be done, it will likely be with the real commanders of the enemy army – the ones in Washington, not Kabul.

Since 9/11, the 26-year-old Hashemi, who hopes to become a full-time student in a degree-oriented course of studies, has disavowed the Taliban. Admitted to Yale in 2005, he participated in a dialogue group that sought to reconcile Jews and Muslims, and said he wanted to educate himself in an effort to support his family.

He didn’t burn any schools. He didn’t kill a single doctor, or so much as lay a hand on a nurse. As to what measure of responsibility for the slaughter of Afghanistan’s innocents is his to bear, I can’t imagine it’s more than Donald Rumsfeld’s. Yet now he has become the victim of a hate campaign, a convenient target for ideological vultures in search of fresh carrion. The uniquely personal circumstances of Hashemi’s life have been erased, and he has become a symbol, grist for their endless mill of demagoguery and high dudgeon.

The neocon propaganda machine, in which Fund is a rather small but squeaky cog, is a perpetual motion machine of hate. Constantly in search of new victims, Fund and his kind function as talent scouts in search of fresh hate-objects: the Dixie Chicks, Michael Moore, Stephen Walt and John J. Mearsheimer – anyone who commits any number of impermissible heresies, such as, in the case of the latter two gentlemen, challenging our Israel-centric foreign policy in the Middle East.

Who grasps the specifics of Hashemi’s personal and ideological odyssey with such certainty that they can see into his soul? By what method will these new Grand Inquisitors peer into his innards and declare that he’s been insufficiently reeducated?

If he collaborated with evil, as opposed to actively committing evil, we have, after all, forgiven a lot worse. If Hashemi apologized for the Taliban regime, other sorts of former apologists have had an easier time of it. Take, for example, all those “former” Communists and sometime Trotskyites who apologized for the monumental crimes of the Soviet Union and who today are reincarnated as some of our leading neocons. If Hashemi, in his early twenties, was defending the Taliban’s demolition of ancient statues of Buddha, Irving Kristol and the neocons-to-be of City College’s famed “Alcove B” were defending the crimes of Lenin and Trotsky. The former is being hounded out of school, while the latter are celebrated “public intellectuals.” I guess the lesson, here, is that if you’re going to be an apologist, it pays to do it on a grand scale: to attach yourself to major league thugs rather than small-time hoods like Mullah Omar & Co.

In his new career path as Yale’s very own Torquemada, Fund can hardly content himself with a single victim. And luckily there is a fresh supply on the way in the person of Professor Juan Cole, currently of the University of Michigan and a prospective member of the Yale faculty, where he will fill a newly created academic niche of professor of Middle East studies. Cole is a distinguished scholar, conversant in Arabic and Farsi, with a truckload of academic credentials and a growing visibility on the more serious talking-heads circuit as a knowledgeable and reasonable critic of our interventionist foreign policy. This makes him a perfect target for the Fund-amentalists, who, in the person of Fund himself, proclaim their displeasure:

“Mr. Cole’s appointment would be problematic on several fronts. First, his scholarship is largely on the 19th-century Middle East, not on contemporary issues. ‘He has since abandoned scholarship in favor of blog commentary,’ says Michael Rubin, a Yale graduate and editor of the Middle East Quarterly. Mr. Cole’s postings at his blog, Informed Comment, appear to be a far cry from scholarship. They feature highly polemical writing and dubious conspiracy theories.”

Ah yes, good old Michael Rubin, who, when last heard from, was touting the virtues of the Lincoln Group to the New York Times – without revealing that he had been the beneficiary of that Pentagon contractor’s largess. (This is the same Lincoln Group, you’ll recall, who paid Iraqi clerics to deliver the “right” sort of sermons and bought “news” articles in the Iraqi media, where payola journalism is the norm.)

“In justifying all the time he spends on his blog, Mr. Cole told the Yale Herald that ‘when you become a public intellectual, it has the effect of dragging you into a lot of mud.’ Mr. Cole has done his share of splattering. He calls Israel ‘the most dangerous regime in the Middle East.'”

This last is a fabricated quote. Try Googling the phrase. You won’t come up with anything but allegations that he wrote those words – the right-wing blogospheric echo-chamber that reinforces its delusions by the sheer power of repetition. The quote, in short, is a lie. But lying comes easy to the Smear Brigade, and to John Fund in particular. And therein lies a tale…

Back in the late 1970s, before he became the high-and-mighty journalistic fountainhead of neocon orthodoxy, Fund was active in the Libertarian Party, or was at least enough of a fellow traveler to make a 45-minute presentation at a party meeting announcing his decision to run for a school board seat in Sacramento, Calif., where he lived at the time. Libertarians were treated to subsequent reports of his campaign’s fantastic progress, which was touted by Fund as a model for all libertarians to follow. It was a two-way race, and we were all told how it was even possible that Fund could win – which, for a tiny, albeit enormously ambitious political movement such as the LP at that time, was a Very Big Deal.

At any rate, Election Day came ’round, and my good friend Eric Garris – now the webmaster of Antiwar.com – was writing an article about the LP’s political fortunes and was eager to know the results of Fund’s much-hyped campaign. So he was somewhat puzzled when the registrar of voters in Sacramento told him that, no, he was positive there was no John Fund on the ballot for school board. Yes, it was explained, Fund had taken out papers – but had never actually turned them in.

Eric called Fund and asked him how his campaign had done. Fund’s reply: Oh, fantastic, we got 46 percent of the vote!

Oh really? replied Eric. Then how come the registrar says you weren’t even a candidate?

Confronted with his lie, Fund tearfully confessed to fabricating the entire story: not that there wasn’t a campaign, but, you see, it was somebody else’s campaign. Fund had merely projected himself onto another person’s candidacy and reported developments as if he had filed his papers and carried through with his intent to run.

Definitely weird, in a creepy sort of way, and perfectly illustrative of the rich fantasy life that leads, in the fully formed adult, into an expert lying propagandist of the sleazier sort. One gets the definite impression that these types believe their own lies, at least to some extent, which is why they are often so convincing. Fund, who projects himself as a serious, even sober human being, had all of us fooled about his mythical candidacy. We took him seriously – a mistake, and one that ought not to be repeated by readers of his “On the Trail” column in the WSJ. Anyone who has been on the trail of Fund knows that he’s not above outright fabrication if he thinks it will serve his ends, whatever those might be.

Knowing John Fund, I’m not shocked that he made up that Juan Cole quote. That’s about what I would expect from an inveterate liar. His acquaintance with the facts – on any subject – is cursory, at best: he lingers over them only long enough to confirm his ideological prejudices. It is a journalistic method perfectly suited to the slash-and-burn, smear-and-fear tactics routinely employed by the neocons.

What really riles Fund, being a good little neocon and all, is what he contends is a “recurring theme” on Cole’s part that

“The American Israel Public Affairs Committee effectively controls Congress and much of U.S. foreign policy. In an article titled ‘Dual Loyalties,’ he wrote, ‘I simply think that we deserve to have American public servants who are centrally committed to the interests of the United States, rather than to the interests of a foreign political party,’ namely Israel’s right-wing Likud, which was the ruling party until Ariel Sharon formed the centrist Kadima Party. Mr. Cole claims that ‘pro-Likud intellectuals’ routinely ‘use the Pentagon as Israel’s Gurkha regiment, fighting elective wars on behalf of Tel Aviv.'”

Fund acts as if this view is somehow unprecedented – in academic circles, at least – but then goes on to cite John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, both prominent academics, and their thesis that replicates Cole’s own views. You might think this would militate against Cole’s alleged academic isolation and Fund’s accusation that he is not a scholar but a polemicist, but not in the Bizarro World of the new Fund-amentalists, whose inverted system of logic teaches that circular reasoning is the crux of true knowledge. Fund helpfully informs us that

“Mr. Cole appears to be the only prominent academic in America to have embraced ‘The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,’ a highly controversial paper by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard.”

Aside from the prominence of the two authors, which is in itself reason to consider their arguments, Professor Cole, a prospective head of Middle East studies at Yale, adds his own credentials to the thesis that American Likudniks have succeeded where their Israeli counterparts seem to have failed.

It’s almost funny that Fund, in denigrating the Walt-Mearsheimer piece – none of whose points he addresses – drags out poor old Noam Chomsky. From hate-object to esteemed authority cited on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal: what an extraordinary achievement, and I hope Chomsky takes pleasure in this milestone. One has to wonder, however, if the Journal is really endorsing the Chomskyite analysis, which naturally blames capitalism, and not the neocons, for the tragedy of Iraq.

Back before the war ever began, Norman Podhoretz warned his fellow neocons that the campuses could once again become a fulcrum of antiwar dissent, the genesis of a movement that would gain enough momentum to make Washington think twice before committing us to a campaign to build an American empire in the Middle East. We would lose our nerve, just like we did in Vietnam – which, he averred, was “a popular war” (italics in original) – and the forces of “anti-Americanism,” symbolized by Susan Sontag and other villains, would triumph. The clear implication being that if we allowed these academic types to get out of hand, history would repeat itself in a resounding defeat on the home front – although, Poddy admitted, much depends on how well (or badly) the military aspect of the campaign in Iraq turns out.

It turned out very badly indeed, and so the War Party is starved for a victory – even if it has to be a vicarious one over Hashemi or Cole. There is a whole campaign afoot to purge academia of anyone who holds foreign policy views on the Middle East that conflict with neoconservative orthodoxy. They have even proposed cutting off federal funds to universities and colleges that don’t toe the party line – rather as if the nation’s schools had been taken over by the Scaife Foundation or the John M. Olin Foundation.

The neocons are backed into a corner: their policy is a bloody and damned expensive failure, and their own ranks are thinned by defections and demoralization. Yet still these shrikes are shrieking for more victims, their shrillness piercing the air with a call to purge the universities of “treason.” Professional witch-hunters like David Horowitz, the ex-Commie-turned-neocon who aspires to be the arbiter of a new form of government-enforced political correctness, have turned this effort into a rising new industry and a source of employment for a whole generation of slanderers and sleaze-balls, who make a living sliming their betters.

Driven to the edge of desperation by the GOP’s plummeting poll numbers and the looming prospect of losing power, the neocons have become little more than a raging lynch mob, eager to take as many of their enemies down with them as possible. It’s no surprise that the champion of the mob known as “Nail Yale” – the group targeting Hashemi and Cole organized by right-wing Yale alumni – is a liar of some renown. It all goes with the territory…

Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].