As promised by President Obama, last month saw the pullout of the last U.S. troops from Iraq. The war ended not with a flourish, but with what seemed almost like a shrug. Having spent billions of dollars on the “liberation” of Iraq and having witnessed the lost and shattered lives of so many soldiers and civilians — and seeing the country itself revert to civil strife nearly the moment we left — many Americans wondered what we and the world gained from the venture. Certainly, had we known in 2003 the ultimate costs of the war, how many of us would have been behind it?
The war has ended, but not a pernicious line of argument that blames Jews and Israel’s supporters for the policies and pressures that brought us there. In a blog post for The Economist, a writer calling himself M.S. returns to the old libel that a group of Jewish neoconservatives not only pressed the United States to invade Iraq in 2003, but did so because of their support for Israel. “M.S.” does not go as far as some, acknowledging that “it would be ridiculous, and anti-Semitic, to cast the Iraq war as a conspiracy monocausally driven by a cabal of Jewish neocons and the Israeli government.” But the writer goes on to say that the neocons’ analysis and advocacy were among “the important causes of the war.”
Bloggers less shy about blaming the Jews and Israel leaped on the post as proof that their views had entered the mainstream and belonged there. But as JTA’s Ron Kampeas writes in an important response to the anti-Israel bloggers, the Bush administration invaded Iraq “principally because it was attached to a policy of maintaining U.S. preeminence in a vitally important region.” In order to build support for this policy, the administration cultivated various interest groups and cohorts, including Democrats, the media, and, yes, Jews. But just because the justification for war meshed with the interests of certain Jewish groups and some Israeli policy makers, that does not presume cause and effect.
There is another libel embedded in the charge that Jews “caused” the Iraq war. It is not just that some Jews advanced the argument for invading Iraq, say these critics: It is that in doing so they put their interests and those of Israel ahead of their country’s. So deep is these critics’ animus against a Jewish state that they cannot imagine any shared interests between the United States and Israel, between Jews and gentiles. Their disdain for an ethnic group’s activism in politics and policy is not just anti-Semitic, it is un-American.