Joe Klein Speaks Truth to Power

It’s been just about a month since Joe Klein’s column accusing "Jewish neoconservatives" of having "divided loyalties" appeared in Time magazine, and already the controversy surrounding it is taking on the grand scale of an opera – perhaps a stage adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery." His original sin was writing this:

"The notion that we could just waltz in and inject democracy into an extremely complicated, devout and ancient culture smacked – still smacks – of neocolonialist legerdemain. The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives – people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary – plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel. And then there is the question – made manifest by the no-bid contracts offered U.S. oil companies by the Iraqis – of two oil executives, Bush and Cheney, securing a new source of business for their Texas buddies.

"The surge has reduced violence. We should all be thrilled about that – and honored by the brilliance of those who have served in Iraq. But what we’re talking about here is whipped cream on a pile of fertilizer – a regional policy unprecedented in its stupidity and squalor."

I cite this passage in its full context, rather than lift out the controversial phrases, because the offending column was, after all, about the surge, and the utter irrelevance of its alleged success – a view I expressed here, just the other day. At any rate, Klein stuck the knife in the neocons’ back at the tail end of a long peroration on the complete futility of this war, and he concludes by pointing the finger of blame – not only at "Jewish neoconservatives," but also at Bush’s oilmen buddies back home on the range.

However, it’s difficult to believe Bush launched his "global democratic revolution," first implanting the revolutionary flag in the arid soil of the Middle East, to enrich his cowboy buddies – whose said Iraqi riches, I might add, have yet to materialize.

Insofar as these cowboy oilmen were involved, it was as the financial patrons of the neoconservatives: Paul Gottfried and others have documented how the neocons, a relatively small group, grabbed the lion’s share of big-time donors among the major conservative foundations.

Sure, lots of people made money out of the war, and are continuing to do so, and yet they didn’t launch this crusade to transform the Middle East into Kansas with lots of sand. Its original authors, the real intellectual and political sparkplugs who energized Bush’s bout of Napoleonic adventurism, were the neocons, who began calling for the "liberation" of Iraq the moment Papa Bush ordered US troops to stop short of taking Baghdad at the close of the first Iraq war.

The neocons chafed and griped at this "betrayal" for all the years they spent in the political wilderness, out of power albeit ensconced in lower-level jobs, tucked safely away at the National Endowment for Democracy, where they couldn’t do much harm.

That changed when Bush II entered the White House: they descended on Washington like a plague of locusts, and settled at the top of the tree. The neocon network, headquartered in the office of the Vice President, extended its tentacles into virtually every major power-center in Washington, with the Department of State and the ranks of the CIA, to some degree, the only holdouts.

On September 11, 2001, the neocons were in place, ready to take advantage of the worst terrorist attack in our history. Willing and able to implement their preconceived war plans, deciding to attack Iraq rather than al-Qaeda’s Afghan stronghold "because it was doable," as Paul Wolfowitz, the intellectual eminence grise of the administration’s Israel-firsters, bluntly put it.

For a long time there has been a reaction building among Jewish progressives – a phrase that seems oddly redundant – against the domination of pro-Israel and Jewish organizations by right-wing extremists who represent nothing but their own prejudices, and certainly do not represent the American Jewish community. As I have pointed out before, without American Jews the organized antiwar movement would be significantly smaller as well as a lot less organized. That is certainly the case around’s virtual office.

In any case, Klein’s outspokenness – which, I think, underestimates the power of Christian neoconservatives, and not only evangelicals – is part of this new frankness about the ethnic factor in American politics, which is coming to the fore in this era of Obamamania, and that’s all to the good.

Now that he has gotten his letter from Abe Foxman – been there, done that – Klein ought to wear it as a badge of honor. Foxman, for his part, has been discredited as an embarrassment and a bit of a buffoon, with his brazen attempts to shut down all criticism of the "correct line" on Israel and its American amen corner.

In his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, Klein goes on at length about this thesis that a group of individuals with key ties to the far right wing of Israeli politics achieved prominent positions within the administration’s foreign policy circles and deliberately plotted a course that was detrimental to the United States in order to further Israel’s interests. This isn’t disloyalty, as such, but a case, as Klein puts it, of "divided loyalties," one in which too many allowed their sympathies for the Jewish state to override common sense, simple logic, and the lessons of history.

Klein really has the neocons in a lather, and it’s a wonderful sight to behold: they hate stuff like this, and they’re baring their teeth fangs first, like Jennifer Rubin of Commentary:

"Try as I might to formulate a further response to Joe Klein’s rant, I cannot. One can argue facts, one can differ on interpretation of events, or one can discuss policy. But one cannot debate raging venom."

Rubin’s invective amounts, in effect, to the position taken by radical leftists who regularly disrupt far right-wing meetings and other events they consider beyond the pale, which is: you can’t debate fascists. You fight them in the streets, and enact anti-hate laws to shut them up: you jail them and beat them up. But you don’t sit down to tea with them and have a serious discussion. Rubin’s is a neocon version of this "no platform for fascists" stance: she purports to be shocked that such views as Klein’s are allowed to be expressed at all: "More disconcerting than Klein’s raving," she moans, "is that the canard of Jewish disloyalty has now apparently found a home at a major MSM publication." Why, the poor dear has a case of the vapors: won’t someone shut that man up?

Writing in National Review, Peter Wehner urges Klein to give up interviews as well as blogging:. After characterizing the Time columnist as motivated by "anger and even hatred," and his arguments as expressions of "unfiltered rage," Wehner avers:

"Joe Klein is free to say what he wants. And the rest of us are free to point out the foolish and ad hominem nature of his pronouncements, as well as his past words."

I have to say that Wehner certainly does a bang-up job of debunking Klein’s claim, in the Atlantic interview, that he opposed the Iraq war: Wehner cites chapter and verse, with links, showing that Klein drank the neocon Kool-Aid, too, albeit not as deeply as others. Klein, at least, was able to recover: Wehner is too far gone for that.

Ad hominem is the only way to go for the neocons, at this point, and it’s always been their weapon of choice: look what they tried to do to Pat Buchanan. Not to mention John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and a long list of others too numerous to mention: in his Atlantic interview, Klein mentions one poor guy who served for a time on Barack Obama’s advisory group:

"They seem to have the power to hurt people’s careers. I was really angry about what happened with Rob Malley. You know, it’s amazing to be attacked as an antisemite by extremists who I think are very dangerous. And they seem to think, when you look at what Pete Wehner said, or what Jennifer Rubin said on their blog a couple of days ago, ‘I can’t imagine why Time hasn’t shut this guy down and fired him and blah blah blah blah blah.’ That’s what they want to do. They want to stifle opinions that are different from theirs. I’m certainly not going to back down."

Good for Joe! – and good for "J Street," and good for Philip Weiss, who has done yeoman’s work in this area: people are finally beginning to stand up in the Jewish community, and say: Enough with the extremism. Enough is enough. Let them join with the overwhelming majority of the American people who want to take back our foreign policy from a small but influential minority of Israeli-centric ideologues, and start putting American interests first, in the Middle East and everywhere.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was 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].