Neoconservative responsibility for the Iraq war
(Mondoweiss) -- by Philip Weiss --
The other day I published a dialogue with Ron Kampeas of JTA on the question,
Do Jewish neoconservatives bear responsibility for the Iraq war disaster? Two very smart friends in the media have sent me addendums to the discussion.
Both are more thoughtful than my (quick) response to Kampeas. Letter one:
You are missing data points in this debate that fit your argument, and which you could cite in your defense....MORE...LINK
Yes, Cheney and the White House rose to office looking to unseat Saddam, but where did the motivation to do this spring from? The Bush administration ethos was not built in a day, on January 20, 2001. Remember, Iraq was decimated after the First Gulf War, yet that article you cited the other day on Israel's Eastern Front tells us Israelis were already in a huff about Iraq rebuilding immediately after the war: "Iraq was in fact the primary threat that the IDF believed it faced until the mid-1990s following the First Gulf War," till the focus allegedly shifted to Iran.
In fact, the Israeli focus on Iraq ties together neatly with Clean Break , wherein a group of U.S. neoconservatives wrote lines for a partisan political speech for incoming prime minister Bibi Netanyahu, and included policy background. That document clearly states these U.S. neoconservatives' interest in upending Saddam and rather hilariously proposed that replacing Saddam with a Hashemite kingdom (Democracy!) would weaken Iran's position. That was 1996. In 1997, Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, two leaders of the neoconservative movement, launched the Project for a New American Century. The 'founding principles' and subsequent letters and documents of PNAC were signed by a who's who of neoconservative allies like Cheney and Rumsfeld, but the signatory lists for each are dominated by neoconservatives, including but not limited to Norman Podhoretz, whose views with regard to Israeli/Jewish interests you've delved into at length.
By 1998, the group issued its letter to Clinton on Iraq, making "the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power" a top policy priority, and prescribed "a willingness to undertake military action." The signatories included again non-Jewish aggressive nationalists like Bolton and Rumsfeld, but the list is again dominated by the neoconservatives who would, like those colleagues, move into positions of power in the Bush administration, among them Perle, Abrams, Wolfowitz and of course the group's founders.
In 2000 Kristol and Kagan launched a book, 'Present Dangers', where Perle wrote the chapter on Iraq. Weeks after 9/11, another PNAC letter prioritized Iraq. In April 2002, yet another letter "urg(ing) [Bush] to accelerate plans for removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq," including, as you mention, citing terror against Israel as a reason.
People will dismiss these points as conspiracy theorizing. But is this history real? Does anyone deny it happening? Is it just a coincidence that the champions of these causes, clearly linked by Clean Break to issues of Israel, ended up in prominent posts in the Bush administration which by then merely happened to come into office already decided on leveling Iraq? Can we deny that these efforts were unequivocally spear-headed -- both in public opinion and in policy apparatuses -- by dyed-in-the-wool neoconservatives? (Remember: the Cheneys, Rumsfelds and Boltons signed the letters, but the organization itself was founded by two neoconservative leaders.)
Kampeas's bit about anti-Semitism is a weird strawman. It's not that The Jews caused the war, but rather that Some Jews -- Jewish neoconservatives, who despite common acquiescence to their narratives in the larger Jewish establishment, still constitute a vast minority of American Jews -- were leaders in the push for war with Iraq.
One can hypothesize that they were not the single, deciding factor in the push, but one cannot deny the simple fact that they, along with, yes, a few of their aggressive nationalist allies in tow, led the charge for war with Iraq. Then it actually happened. But not, we're told, just because of them.
You should ask Kampeas: What other group, if not neoconservatives who happen to be Jewish, pressed this hard early and often for attacking Iraq? I want names and citations.