Joe Klein plays the dual loyalty card


Time magazine columnist Joe Klein has triggered a firestorm with a recent blog post asserting that the neocons and Joe Lieberman’s support for the Iraq war and tough action against Iran raises questions about dual loyalty:

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.

He also seemed to endorse the theory that the president and vice president are sending American troops to die in order to boost oil company profits:

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 column drew swift criticism from members of the Commentary crowd, including Peter Wehner and Jennifer Rubin.

Klein fired back:

Then, what can one say about Jennifer Rubin, who accuses me of antisemitism? I must say that’s rather thrilling coming from the Commentary crowd. You want evidence of divided loyalties? How about the “benign domino theory” that so many Jewish neoconservatives talked to me about–off the record, of course–in the runup to the Iraq war, the idea that Israel’s security could be won by taking out Saddam, which would set off a cascade of disaster for Israel’s enemies in the region? As my grandmother would say, feh! Do you actually deny that the casus belli that dare not speak its name wasn’t, as I wrote in February 2003, a desire to make the world safe for Israel? Why the rush now to bomb Iran, a country that poses some threat to Israel but none–for the moment–to the United States…unless we go ahead, attack it, and the mullahs unleash Hezbollah terrorists against us? Do you really believe the mullahs would stage a nuclear attack on Israel, destroying the third most holy site in Islam and killing untold numbers of Muslims? I am not ruling out the use of force against Iran–it may come to that–but you folks seem to embrace it gleefully.

Furthermore, as a Jew, I find it offensive that the American Jewish Committee would support such an ideologically unbalanced publication as Commentary, one that spouts a Likudnik bellicosity that is out of sync with the beliefs of the vast majority of American Jews. A question to all concerned: When was the last time you opposed a policy, any policy, of the Israeli government–other than one that attempted to move toward peace?

Before I could tweak him, Klein was able to post this correction: “The American Jewish Committee is no longer associated with Commentary, thank God.”

As for when the last time a prominent neocon opposed a “policy, any policy, of the Israeli government – other than one that attempted to move toward peace”… How about Doug Feith playing a main, if not lead, role in cracking down on Israeli arms deals with China? It’s hard to think of any other issue that caused a bigger problem in U.S.-Israeli relations during the Bush administration – and Feith reportedly was the one delivering the hammer on Jerusalem.

This isn’t just a case of overlooking an example. There is a larger point here: Feith and his ideological brethren may have what Klein thinks is a crazy world view, but it is just that – a world view, as in China and Taiwan, Contras and Sandinistas, etc.

As for the question of fighting a war to make Israel safe, it may or may not be a bad idea – but plenty of non-Jews support the concept and it wouldn’t be the only time the United States determined that it was in America’s interest to take up arms to aid an ally. So why the talk about “dual loyalty”? At least Tim Russert was polite – and responsible – enough to raise the issue in a form of a question, and allow for a response.

Bonus: The O.U.’s D.C. blog has audio of McCain ripping Klein.

Recommended from JTA