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Dr. Barry Rubin has been sending out a daily e-mail since the start of the war. I have always found him to be incisive and cogent, and offer his latest piece for your consideration. -- Don Cohen Letter from Washington for Sunday, April 6, 2003 By Barry Rubin (Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Institute, Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya. http://gloria.idc.ac.il/index2.html) One of the greatest myths emerging from this war was that it was launched by a 'neo-conservative' cabal in the U.S. government. The irony is that it is so easily demonstrable not to be true, yet this idea has gained enormous currency among anti-war groups, Middle East experts, and no doubt a large portion of the general public. Other than challenging this claim in the name of historical accuracy or just plain truth, there are two particular reasons why this myth must be questioned. First, 'neo-conservative' is a codeword for Jewish. As antisemites did with big business moguls in the nineteenth century and Communist leaders in the twentieth, the trick here is to take all those involved in some aspect of public life and single out those who are Jewish. The implication made is that this is a Jewish-led movement conducted not in the interests of all the, in this case, American people, but to the benefit of Jews, and in this case Israel. As a whole, the American people do not buy this notion but, as the great British political philosopher George Orwell put it, there are many ideas so stupid that only an intellectual would believe them. In this case, there is not even any Rothschild or Trotsky, Jews who actually did play a big role in big business and the Russian revolution. In the top dozen of so policymakers involved in the war, the only Jewish person must be Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, neither a neoconservative nor anyone with particular ties to Israel. The biggest alleged conspirator is Richard Perle who was only head of the Defense Policy Board. Among the architects and main architects of this war, Perle must rank about 50th. But the fact that he is Jewish and could credibly be called a neoconservative made him a focal point for abuse and a stupendous magnification of his importance. Another new codeword that helps conceal the covert antisemitism of much said about the Middle East today is the epithet of 'Likud supporter.' The implication here is that there are good liberal Jews and bad conservative Jews. But since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of the Likud party, is in power, the implication is that anyone who is pro-Israel must be pro-Sharon and hence pro-Likud. Since the intention is to imply that the war is being conducted in Israel's interest or even at Israel's command, then, the same claim is being made. I don't want to give the impression that these ideas are widespread, but they have taken deep root in the antiwar movement and among Middle East experts as well as in other circles. The fact that the president, vice-president, secretary of state, secretary of defense, military commanders, and just about everyone else at the Bush administration's top levels isn't Jewish, neo-conservative, or has a record as a lover of Israel has no effect on the conspiracy mongers. But it does reduce the number of people in the United States, though not necessarily in Europe or the Arab world, who will believe this nonsense. There is, however, another and perhaps even more important implication of the neo-conservative myth. Instead of being swayed by events, information, and perceptions, the claim being made is that the advocates and architects of this war ordered it out of a predetermined ideological framework. In other words, the claim is being asserted, that the facts have nothing to do with their decisions. This is also demonstrably untrue. When the Bush administration came to power, it actually supported a relatively soft line on Iraq, or at least one consistent with the preceding Clinton administration. Only events, most notably but not exclusively, September 11, 2001, shaped their thinking. Of course, Iraq's own behavior and intelligence information were also important determinants of their policy. There is a critical point here that is incredibly obvious but has often been missed. With the Cold War over and the United States the world's sole superpower, it was necessary for any American leadership to determine its goals, priorities, and conception of the U.S. role in the world. What are the most pressing tasks and the greatest dangers? Even without September 11, it was understandable that the main area of instability and likely crisis in the world was the Middle East. Similarly, the countries that were most antagonistic to the United States were Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, while the movements most desirous of injuring the United States were radical Islamist ones. After a brief flurry of concern over China, which obviously was not much of a danger, the focus shifted to these Middle Eastern regimes. It is a mistake to perceive American conservatives as isolationists, which is a fairly rare posture among them nowadays, or too stupid to think of any idea themselves without Jews or ex-liberals telling them what to believe. Conservatives have long looked for external threats to America, especially those carrying alien ideologies. One need think only of the origins of the Cold War and of anti-Communism a century ago to recognize that this is a parallel for what is happening today. While the decision to attack Iraq was made by a specific group of leaders, and might not have been chosen by others, the fact is that it is a policy set by a moderately conservative administration which developed a post-Cold War vision for America's international role acting in response to real problems. Its world view has now become the dominant interpretation in the United States, a point reinforced by the relatively high degree of success for the military effort in Iraq. PS: Literally one minute before sending this to you, I received the column of Jihad Khazan of al-Hayat newspaper. One must understand that Khazan is relatively moderate in the context of the Arab media. His column begins as follows: "Members of the Likudist gang inside the American administration, which Secretary of State Colin Powell asserted its existence by denying it, have pervaded universities, research centers and the administration." He continues to say that this group is responsible for current U.S. policy--which he says is being militarily defeated in Iraq--and supports the "Nazi" practices of Israel. He also explains that Israeli agents tell Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld what to say. He doesn't use the term neo-conservative, preferring phrases like "radical Sharonist Likudist"--a label he puts on the American general named to run the transitional civil administration in Iraq--but the point is pretty much the same. Now if this is what one of the smartest, most relatively rational, most familiar with the West, and most relatively moderate Arab writers can say, how can the Arab world possibly--from the standpoint of its own interests--deal effectively with the United States in diplomatic terms?