Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, is of a type not seen in many years: he seems to personify the virtue of rationality and the spirit of rectitude combined. He seems, in short, the incarnation of an age gone by. This, in concert with his boyish yet stern visage, imbues him with authority and a distinctively American air: he looks vaguely like Charles Lindbergh, another American hero sprung from the heartland, and this physical resemblance raises, in my own mind, a possible propaganda ploy by Libby’s defenders.
We haven’t yet heard much about how the prosecution of Libby is part of an “anti-Semitic” plot, but if two other Cheney aides often mentioned as possible targets John Hannah and David Wurmser are indicted, or implicated, as rumored, you can bet your bottom dollar we will be hearing it loud and clear. Just as we heard it when Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s longtime chief lobbyist and the architect of its amazing success and Keith Weissman, his aide, were indicted [.pdf] for spying on behalf of Israel. These two are accused of culling classified information from Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin and face charges of violating the Espionage Act the same charges Fitzgerald may yet make in the Libby case.
It was only a matter of time, I surmised, before this “defense” of Libby was launched: after all, here we have an Irish-Catholic prosecutor going after someone of the Jewish faith, with perhaps two other victims of the “pogrom” waiting in the wings. In ethnicity-conscious America, where political correctness is not just a left-wing phenomenon, this factor is bound to come up sooner or later.
It didn’t take long. Michael J. Gaynor, a New York lawyer and a columnist for several right-wing Web sites, was first out of the gate:
“In a perverse sense, it seems fitting that I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby has been made a scapegoat.
“After all, he is Jewish (and scapegoating Jews was not an innovation by Adolf Hitler or ended when Hitler committed suicide), he was not generally known until he was indicted, Webster’s Dictionary‘s primary definition of ‘scapegoat’ is ‘a goat upon whose head are symbolically placed the sins of the people after which he is sent into the wilderness in the biblical ceremony for Yom Kippur,’ and additional definitions include ‘one that bears the blame for others’ and ‘one that is the object of irrational hostility.'”
What’s perverse here is the “logic” of Mr. Gaynor’s argument: where is the evidence that Fitzgerald is prosecuting the vice president’s former chief of staff on account of Scooter’s religion? That Gaynor has no use for such old-fashioned devices as logic and proof is evident by the second sentence of his screed, when he resorts to the reductio ad Hitlerum, as Leo Strauss dubbed it. Certainly Scooter himself who studied under Paul Wolfowitz, a student of Strauss, at Yale could tell him as much.
Libby and most of his supporters are much too smart to utilize such an obviously idiotic defense, and yet a more sophisticated variation of the reductio ad Hitlerum is attempted in a piece entitled “Libby Jewish? Some Wonder How Neo-Con’s Faith Impacts Leak Scandal,” put out by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Author Ron Kampeas interviews prominent neoconservative intellectual Joshua Muravchik.
“When Joshua Muravchik, perhaps the pre-eminent expert on the interventionist foreign policy that has become known as neo-conservatism, was looking for non-Jewish neo-cons to prove that the movement isn’t pervasively Jewish, he naturally included Lewis Libby.
“‘Non-Jews figuring prominently in current foreign-policy debates and today called neo-cons include Libby, [John] Bolton, American Enterprise Institute president Christopher DeMuth, and Gary Schmitt of the Project for the New American Century,’ Muravchik wrote in Commentary magazine two years ago.
“‘Go easy on me,’ Muravchik laughingly told a reporter this week, after it emerged that the man at the center of the White House leak scandal indeed is Jewish.”
OK, so Libby is Jewish so what? No big deal right? Not according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “Across the blogosphere,” we are informed,
“Anti-Semitic and anti-Israel conspiracy theorists were quick to tie Libby’s Jewishness to his role in selling the Iraq war, imagining once again a neo-con cabal that has a singular agenda: promoting Israel at all costs.”
No links are provided to document this veritable tsunami of anti-Libby, anti-Semitic hate, which is supposedly rolling in a great dark wave from one end of cyberspace to the other. David Duke is mentioned and that’s it. But never mind: the point is that all sorts of creepy crawly bad guys hate Libby, because, you see, he’s a Jew, and
“Yet the fact that many people in Washington including neo-conservatives had no idea that Libby was Jewish underscores how tenuous the Jewish-neo-con link actually is, said Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Jewish himself. ‘One key measure of the falsity of the argument is that the non-Jewish neo-cons are equally pro-Israel as Jewish neo-cons,’ he said.”
What rings particularly false about Muravchik’s spiel is that, outside of a few isolated nutballs, no one is making any such argument. Setting up a strawman, Muravchik proceeds to knock it down with much fanfare, yet not before reiterating the same point made in his 2003 piece which I commented on here that any mention of the word “neocon” is an anti-Semitic “libel.”
The writer Elizabeth Drew, the historian Paul Buhl, and the BBC: all, in Muravchik’s view, incited anti-Semitism by presenting the neocons who are, after all, just harmless Great Society liberals with a slightly harder edge as members of “a strange, veiled group, almost a cabal whose purpose is to manipulate U.S. policy for ulterior purposes.”
At the very moment when such insiders as Brent Scowcroft and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson are describing just such a cabal and Americans are increasingly angry at having been lied to and, yes, manipulated into war under false pretenses Muravchik’s Commentary essay, considered in retrospect, reads like a preemptive attack. Who, us a cabal? Why, who would say such a thing? Only David Duke, the “hard Left,” and various anti-Semites who have seemingly taken over the BBC! Muravchik was especially peeved about a particular BBC program on the neocons:
“On the show itself, [Richard] Perle was introduced as ‘the neocons’ political godfather,’ a suggestive term whose implication was reinforced by a question put separately to him and another guest: ‘Are you a Mafia?'”
“Suggestive” of what? That Perle is Italian?
“As the camera panned over the building that houses AEI [the American Enterprise Institute] and the other arms of this ‘mafia,’ we heard from the announcer that here was where the ‘future is being plotted.'”
Well then, wasn’t it? As reported in La Repubblica by Carlo Bonini and Giuseppi d’Avanzo, in the second in their fascinating series of articles on the Niger uranium forgeries, AEI played an instrumental role in the plot to lie us into war:
“Ahmed Chalabi and his right-hand men, [Aras Habib] Karim and [Francis] Brooke, travel with the Pentagon and American Enterprise Institute teams. Here’s an example: The three men who alternate in 2004 in Baghdad at Chalabi’s side as ‘liaison officer’ with the Pentagon are Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute; Harold Rhode, aide to Douglas Feith at the Office of Special Plans and ‘Islamic Affairs Advisor’ to Paul Wolfowitz. They were already serving in this capacity on the eve of the invasion.”
In collaboration with a team from Italian military intelligence, this crew, with the help of more than a few shady characters, produced and disseminated the Niger uranium forgeries that were then spirited off to Washington, D.C. Michael Ledeen, a senior scholar in residence at AEI, is identified by La Repubblica as the plotters’ contact man in Washington.
As a conduit for the forgeries, AEI was the nerve center of the duplicitous shenanigans that took place around fabricating “evidence” of Iraqi WMD: neocon ideologues like Larry Franklin, since charged with being a spy for Israel, were involved in this network, and Chalabi, the neocons’ Che Guevara, was in it up to his neck.
Back in 2003, Muravchik asked: “What exactly is being ‘plotted’?” That is now a question that many people are asking, and one of them is the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case. Muravchik and Libby’s neocon defenders are eager to delegitimize their inquries, and toward that end they cast about for bogeymen and variations on the reductio ad Hitlerum argument: Lyndon LaRouche was the bogeyman of choice in Muravchik’s Commentary piece, although I now see they’ve settled on former Ku Klux Klan screwball David Duke.
What would the neocons do without the David Dukes and Lyndon LaRouches of this world? To say nothing of Hitler? By associating these names with the “persecution” of poor innocent little Scooter, who’s just a nice Jewish boy who went to Yale, Libby’s neocon fan club achieves its purpose: smearing Fitzgerald, albeit indirectly. The clear implication of all this is that the prosecution itself must be motivated by some unacknowledged agenda: after all, if they’re just getting him on what is a “technicality,” according to Kay Bailey Hutchison, then that leaves plenty of room for inferring that this is an American version of the Dreyfus case.
It won’t work.
The argument made by Muravchik in his 2003 piece that there are plenty of non-Jewish neocons, and that they are just as pro-Israel as neocons who happen to be Jews is incontestably true, and only the most marginal types have argued otherwise. Larry Franklin, the devoutly Catholic Pentagon analyst who handed over vitally important U.S. secrets to Israel and faces a trial sometime next year, is a case in point.
However, this doesn’t invalidate the point made by the neocons’ critics, and some opponents of the war, who maintain that the invasion of Iraq was undertaken for Israel’s benefit, to the exclusion of American interests. In retrospect, as Israel extends its influence into Kurdistan, creates a Palestinian bantustan in the occupied territories, and moves to humble its enemies in Lebanon, Syria, and even Iran, the main beneficiary of the Iraqi break-up is not Washington which faces a rising insurgency and skyrocketing casualties but Tel Aviv.
“Why did the U.S. invade Iraq?” asks New Yorker writer George Packer. “It still isn’t possible to be sure and this remains the most remarkable thing about the Iraq war.”
As Americans look back and wonder how did we get here, who got us here, and why? the answer that is beginning to dawn on them is being mightily resisted by Muravchik and his ilk. The neocons are now facing the political and legal consequences of their actions, and they don’t like being identified as a “cabal” because that’s just what they are. Read the indictment [.pdf] of Scooter Libby, and you’ll see how the cabal operated: efficiently, ruthlessly, and without regard for the national security of the United States.
To what, then, did they owe their allegiance? It’s a question tied in to the mystery at the core of the CIA leak investigation: What motivated Libby to lie so obviously, and so stupidly?
To ensure the reelection of George W. Bush? That’s what E. J. Dionne thinks. Yet if Libby hadn’t lied, Fitzgerald would not have prosecuted him for perjury and, as Fitzgerald said at his press conference, “we would not be standing here today.” There would have been no press conference, no indictment, and no post-investigation report unless the truth would have led to other, more serious charges, perhaps conspiracy to transmit classified information in violation of the Espionage Act.
Fitzgerald said that failure to bring such charges should not be interpreted as downplaying the seriousness of Libby’s crimes. However, Libby threw sand in the prosecutor’s eyes, stopping the investigation beyond a certain point. Muravchik and his fellow neocons have been engaged in a long campaign of sand-throwing, denying that any such movement known as neoconservatism even exists in spite of the proclamation of its founder that it is alive and well, albeit more a “persuasion” than a movement and smearing anyone who uses the now familiar vernacular, “neocon,” to describe the War Party.
According to the comedienne Julia Gorin, writing in the august pages of the Wall Street Journal, the word “neocon” has
“Become an epithet for ‘Jews’ an epithet employed most often by the left. One big culprit has been Air America. Tune in to the proudly liberal radio network, and you’ll hear actress-turned-activist Janeane Garofalo and other hosts frequently blast the ‘influence’ of the ‘neocons’ on the Bush Administration, then go on to name names such as Wolfowitz, Perle, Abrams and Libby. Not a single gentile name makes the list, so it’s the Jewish influence to which the network takes particular exception. Others have gotten in trouble for pointing this out, but let’s give up the charade. 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 once appeared on Bill Maher’s old show with Ms. Gorin, where she showed the same snarling disregard for logical thinking, a disability on full display above: in Gorin’s universe, to even mention a Jewish-sounding name in connection with any disreputable act, never mind a criminal one, is proof positive you’re Hitler reincarnated. In this view, the prosecution of Libby is intrinsically anti-Semitic, and Fitzgerald’s indictment and perhaps others that may come down the pike is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion translated into legalese. Libby? Hannah? Wurmser? Gee, how come “not a single Gentile makes the list?”
Who knows, perhaps Karl Rove will make the list maybe even Dick Cheney. One hopes that will satisfy Ms. Gorin, although somehow I doubt it. In any case, it looks like she wasn’t the only one besides David Duke who noticed Libby’s religious affiliation, and surely Mark A. R. Kleiman qualifies as prescient for having made this little remark way back in October 2003.
While there may be some merit to the idea that Libby lied to protect Bush’s reelection campaign, there’s more to it than that. Libby hardly acted alone: he was part of a bigger operation a cabal, if you will and their crimes go way beyond outing a CIA agent. The underlying crime in this case is the fabrication of the case for war epitomized by the Niger uranium forgeries, which were accepted by the White House as authentic evidence of Iraqi WMD and cited in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech, in spite of Italy’s warning that they were fake. Joe Wilson went to Niger to debunk a forgery that nevertheless made its way to the president’s desk, disguised as “intelligence” and the cabal that produced this fake struck back at his wife when Ambassador Wilson drew undue attention to their perfidy.
There is a cancer at the very heart of this administration, and we should think of prosecutor Fitzgerald as a surgeon whose job it is to excise it. Whether the patient will survive the operation is a question all are asking. Yet the health of the nation requires that we go ahead with it, come what may. Any attempt to distract, obstruct, or somehow derail this necessary medical procedure such as smearing the doctor as a “quack,” or even a crank is just the tumor talking.