Here we go again: Blaming the Jews for the Iraq war

Here we go again: Blaming the Jews for the Iraq war

Although self-publishing has gained increasing traction lately, the idea of launching one’s own publishing company "to facilitate the publication of my first book" makes John Hostettler’s "Nothing for the Nation: Who Got What Out of Iraq" an especially vivid example of chutzpah. And while Hostettler, a Republican congressman from Indiana from 1995 to ‘007, defends his vote against the war in Iraq on several grounds, his contention that President George W. Bush depended on intelligence provided by neoconservatives "with Jewish backgrounds" — whose real interest was in promoting the security of Israel — demands our attention.

Of course, Hostettler’s reasoning is nothing new, following the line of attack in "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" by academics John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt.

His conclusions are similar to theirs: Individuals in government, who always have Jewish surnames and Israeli connections, provided crucial intelligence on Iraq and were concerned not with the American republic but with Israel’s security. Like his predecessors, Hostettler’s claim of "dual loyalty" by prominent Jews repeats age-old slanders of Jewish disloyalty to their countries and outlandish notions of secret Jewish cabals pulling international strings.

Hostettler presents his case in a lineal, pedestrian, and almost timid manner. At first he focuses on justifying his opposition to U.S. military intervention in Iraq and to condemning President Bush for using personal motives — a vendetta for Saddam’s attempted assassination of Bush II’s father, the 41st president — for taking America into war.

In defense of his own actions — or perhaps patting himself on the back for his foresight — Hostettler claims to have asked at several briefings: "’Where are the weapons of mass destruction?’" and concludes that he "could not justify support of a preemptive military strike on Iraq based on the intelligence that was available to me." In the end, he was one of just six Republicans who voted against giving the president the authority to go to war.

Hostettler gets to the red meat of his thesis when he focuses on the neoconservatives, relying on names such as Kristol, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, and Shulsky to convey the specter of a covert cabal that has intrigued to encourage the United States to go to war for the benefit of Israel.

Hostettler claims that it was only after the "distressing news … of the lack of WMD" that he learned members of the Office of Special Plans had played a much more critical role in the intelligence "analysis" before the votes in Congress. He notes that OSP’s Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith had, in 1986, "established a law firm with partner Marc Zell, who was a resident of Israel [emphasis added]." He refers to others who had been in government, like David Wurmser and Paul Wolfowitz, and who suggested the presence of a WMD program in Iraq. Hostettler began to entertain the idea that the links among them "were something more than coincidental." Presumably, that something more is their being Jewish and not their shared politics.

He cites financial contributions to the GOP made by Jack Rosen of the "liberal-leaning" American Jewish Congress. He refers to William "Bill" Kristol as "a well-known spokesman in the neoconservative political movement" and quotes another writer as describing Kristol as "of Jewish background." That being Jewish may inform someone’s politics but not be determinative of them is a line of thought of which Hostettler is incapable.

On one occasion he asks an unnamed speaker at one of Rep. Ron Paul’s Liberty Caucus meetings, "Why did Messrs. Wolfowitz, Feith, Wurmser, [Abram] Shulsky, and [Lawrence] Franklin fashion intelligence in support of the spurious claim of the presence of a WMD program in Iraq to draw the United States into a conflict that would lead to the demise of the regime of Saddam Hussein?" The answer? "’In the defense of the nation Israel.’"

At this point, the reader begins to suspect that Hostettler is a conspiracy theorist of the first order. For someone who was a six-term congressman, he seems to have a grievous lack of understanding of the messy and argumentative way policy — foreign or domestic — actually gets made. He gives no credit to those American Jewish organizations that had diverse opinions on a war in Iraq and who today maintain various agendas regarding the peace process in the Middle East; they are hardly shy about advertising their policy prescriptions.

Furthermore, in highlighting all those Jewish neocon names, Hostettler neglects the non-Jewish colleagues with whom they served, and those other members at the highest echelons of the Bush administration — Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Vice President Dick Cheney, none of them Jewish — who may have had at least an opportunity or two to offer their own assessments about the advisability of going to war. Do they bear no responsibility for reading and analyzing intelligence reports?

Hostettler has settled upon the oldest answer to policy failures in which, having failed to persuade his colleagues to act otherwise, he must unfortunately feel implicated: It’s the Jews that did it.

Sadly, this is the conspiracy theory that keeps on ticking.

Abraham H. Foxman is national director of the Anti-Defamation League and author of "The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control."