Can We Talk?

By Alterman, Eric | The Nation, April 21, 2003 | Go to article overview

Can We Talk?


Alterman, Eric, The Nation


C.L. Sulzberger would not have liked this war. Back in 1937, New York Times Washington bureau chief Arthur Krock was hoping to be named editorial page editor. As Gay Talese tells it in The Kingdom and the Power, Sulzberger would not even discuss it. He explained to Krock, "It's a Jewish paper and we have a number of Jewish reporters working for us. But in all the years I've been here, we have never put a Jew in the showcase."

This war has put Jews in the showcase as never before. Its primary intellectual architects-Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith-are all Jewish neoconservatives. So, too, are many of its prominent media cheerleaders, including William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer and Marty Peretz. Joe Lieberman, the nation's most conspicuous Jewish politician, has been an avid booster, going so far as to rebuke his former partner Al Gore and much of his own party.

Then there's the "Jews control the media" problem. It's probably not particularly relevant that the families who own the Times and the Washington Post are Jewish, but let's not pretend this is so in the case of the Jewish editors of, say, U.S. News & World Report and The New Republic. Mortimer Zuckerman is head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Peretz is unofficial chair of the American Arab Defamation Committee. Neither is shy about filling his magazine with news Jews can use.

To make matters worse, many of these Jewish hard-liners-"Likudniks" in the current parlance-appear, at least from a distance, to be behaving in accordance with traditional anti-Jewish stereotypes. Much to the delight of genuine antiSemites of the left and right, the idea of a new war to remove Saddam was partially conceived at the behest of Likud politician Benjamin Netanyahu in a document written expressly for him by Perle, Feith and others in 1996. Some, like Perle, apparently see the influence they wield as an opportunity to get rich. What's more, many of these same Jews joined Rumsfeld and Cheney in underselling the difficulty of the war, in what may have been a ruse designed to embroil America in a broad military conflagration that would help smite Israel's enemies. Did Perle, for instance, genuinely believe "support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder"? Is Wolfowitz really so ignorant of history as to believe the Iraqis would welcome us as "their hoped-for liberators"?

The character of this Administration, unfortunately, adds further fuel to the stereotypical fire. Unlike, say, Tony Blair, George W. Bush does not readily give the impression of having a geopolitical clue. Hence, he appears rather easily manipulated by the smart fellows with their fancy concepts and Ivy League degrees who surround him. (Yes, I know about Bush's degrees, but they're never part of the story.) Rapidly shifting conventional wisdom has already begun to blame Bush advisers' "bum advice," according to one Washington Post report, for the war's decidedly not-so-cakewalklike character. A really good conspiracy theorist would begin to wonder if the Jews are being set up to take the fall when things go badly.

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