The Peter Principles: J'Accuse

By PETER ROFF, UPI National Political Analyst  |  March 14, 2003 at 3:35 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 13 (UPI) -- Politically aware Americans on both sides of the aisle are, presumably, very much on edge. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer repeatedly refers, as has the president, to the diplomatic effort to disarm Hussein as being in "the very last stages."

As war with Saddam Hussein gets ever closer, anxieties increase.

"The president is going the last mile," Fleischer said about the ongoing diplomatic efforts during Thursday's press briefing. "There is an end to that road," he reminded the White House press corps, suggesting yet again that armed conflict may be imminent. Sunday's three-way summit in the Azores announced Friday suggest just how imminent.

Among opponents of the war, there is an increasing level of panic, a sense that they will not be able to prevent a U.S.-led assault on Iraq even if the United Nations Security Council refuses to vote in support of such a move.

With tensions so high, it is not much of a surprise that Northern Virginia Rep. Jim Moran is coming under attack. Responding to a question at an anti-war forum held at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Reston, Va., Moran seemed to suggest that war plans had moved forward because the American Jewish community had not been vocal enough in its opposition.

"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this," Moran said. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."

For his comments Moran has been branded an "anti-Semite" and has stepped down from his position in the party's leadership. Six of his congressional colleagues, Reps. Tom Lantos and Henry Waxman of California, Martin Frost of Texas, Nita Lowey of New York, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Sander Levin of Michigan, have written House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stating their belief that Moran should not seek re-election in 2004 and that, if he does, they will not support him.

This is particularly significant because Frost and Lowey are both former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party organization whose mission is to secure the re-election of incumbents and that leads the Democrats' effort to take back control of the House.

Moran, a seven-term veteran of the House, says he is sorry if his remarks were offensive. For many, that apology has not been enough.

The leader of the Jewish Community Council of Washington, Ron Halber, issued a strong rebuke to Moran.

"The Jewish community is deeply offended," he said. "Besides being patently untrue and foolish, your (Moran's) poisonous remarks are reminiscent of age-old vicious canards that have been hurled against Jews for generations," his group said in a letter to the congressman.

An examination of Moran's record in Congress clearly demonstrates he is not what might be called a friend to Israel. He has voted against U.S. aid to our strongest ally in the region and voted against the 1991 Gulf War. For many years he has received financial and political support from members of the large community of Arab-Americans who live in Northern Virginia.

Having warm relations with Arab-Americans, voting against U.S. aid to Israel, or opposing the 1991 Gulf War does not, of itself, make anyone an anti-Semite. Nevertheless, he has been stuck with that label, and for good reason.

As Halber says in his letter, Moran's statements evoke centuries-old slurs that small groups of Jews control world events. By suggesting that the American Jewish community has not used its influence to stop the war from occurring suggests that they have political access not available to the public writ large

It is one thing to oppose the war. It is quite another to suggest, as Moran may have unconsciously done, that sinister forces, Jewish forces, are at work to bring it about. In this, he is of a piece with other opponents of the war, on the left and the right, who refer repeatedly to the influence that Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Pearle, National Security Council staffer Eliot Abrams, Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, AEI Freedom Scholar Michael Ledeen and others have had in formulating U.S. policy towards the Gulf.

These men are passionate in their love of freedom and of their own country. Their public pronouncements on developments in the Middle East over the past two years indicate strongly that they see Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, represents a continuing and growing threat to the safety and security of the United States and its allies. As Israel is one of these threatened allies and as all of these men are all Jewish is seen by some anti-war critics as definitive proof that, to borrow a phrase from an earlier time, a Zionist conspiracy is at work to bring the world to war.

It is this imagery that Moran's remarks bring to mind, the imagery of anti-Semitism in its finest European form.

One can oppose the war without being an anti-Semite. One can support the war with being a Zionist. To say, as Moran did and in contrast to the available polling data, that the American Jewish community is for the war and is exercising its considerable political influence to bring it about is, if not anti-Semitic on its face, evocative of the same lies about power and influence told about Capt. Alfred Dreyfus a little over a century ago.

It is rightly condemned.

(The Peter Principles is a regular column on politics, culture and the media by Peter Roff, UPI political analyst who has worked in Washington for 20 years.)

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