Kristol Clear: The Source of America’s Wars

One reason neocons have been able to sow so much mischief is that they feed into deeply embedded American beliefs about democratism and ‘chosenness.’

– Paul Gottfried ((Paul Gottfried, “The Transparent Cabal,” Taki’s Magazine, September 17, 2008.))

Americans feeling let down by Barack Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan should take careful note of those who welcomed yet another “surge.” ((Frederick W. Kagan, “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq,” AEI Online, January 5, 2007.)) It might help them to identify the source of their seemingly endless wars.

For instance, in a recent Washington Post opinion piece, William Kristol described Obama’s West Point speech as “encouraging.” It was “a good thing,” he said, that Obama was finally speaking as “a war president.” ((William Kristol, “A War President,” Washington Post, December 1, 2009.))

But if the comments on the Post website are anything to go by, few ordinary Americans take Kristol’s armchair warmongering seriously anymore. After all, as one poster quizzically asked, “A column by William Kristol the neocon that was wrong about everything from 2000-2008?”

Although Kristol, like the rest of the neocons, “erred” about Iraq’s WMDs and Saddam’s links to Al Qaeda and 9/11, it would be a fatal error indeed to dismiss him as a fool.

In order to understand what motivates Bill Kristol’s professed hyper-patriotism, with its consistently disastrous prescriptions, it’s worth recalling how his father, Irving Kristol, reacted to Vietnam War critic Senator George McGovern. The presidential contender’s proposed cut in U.S. military expenditure would, according to the “godfather” of neoconservatism, “drive a knife in the heart ofIsrael.”

“Jews don’t like big military budgets,” the elder Kristol explained in a Jewish publication in 1973. “But it is now an interest of the Jews to have a large and powerful military establishment in the United States … American Jews who care about the survival of the state of Israel have to say, no, we don’t want to cut the military budget, it is important to keep that military budget big, so that we can defend Israel.” ((Philip Weiss, “30 Years Ago, Neocons Were More Candid About Their Israel-Centered Views,” Mondoweiss, May 23, 2007.))

American Greatness

Following his father’s advice, William Kristol has been a fervent supporter of massive U.S. military spending. In 1996, he co-authored with Robert Kagan an influential neocon manifesto titled “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy.” It recommended that “America should pursue a vision of benevolent hegemony as bold as Reagan’s in the 1970s and wield its authority unabashedly.

“The defense budget should be increased dramatically, citizens should be educated to appreciate the military’s vital work abroad, andmoral clarity should direct a foreign policy that puts the heat on dictators and authoritarian regimes.”

In response, another influential opinion-maker, Charles Krauthammer, hailed Kristol and Kagan as “the main proponents of what you might call the American greatness school.” It is hardly a coincidence, however, that all three advocates of “American greatness” care passionately about what Irving Kristol euphemistically referred to as “the survival of the state of Israel.” Or that many of those “dictators and authoritarian regimes” just happened to stand in the way of Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.

The following year, Kristol and Kagan co-founded the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a pressure group which sought to advance their “neo-Reaganite” vision. In the late 1990s, they did this mainly by writing letters to Bill Clinton, urging him to oust Saddam Hussein.

In September 2000, PNAC published “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” in which they famously acknowledged that “the process of transformation … is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”

One year later, they got their wished for “new Pearl Harbor” on September 11. The mass murder of almost 3,000 Americans was, asBenjamin Netanyahu indelicately put it, “very good” for Israel. ((James Bennet, “Spilled Blood Is Seen as Bond That Draws 2 Nations Closer,” New York Times, September 12, 2001.))

Kristol’s War

Immediately, Kristol’s Weekly Standard began linking Iraq to the attacks. Writing in The American Conservative, Scott McConnell explained the strategy: “Their rhetoric – which laid down a line from which the magazine would not waver over the next 18 months – was to link Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden in virtually every paragraph, to join them at the hip in the minds of readers.” ((Scott McConnell, “The Weekly Standard’s War,” American Conservative, November 21, 2005.))

The “Saddam must go” campaign, begun in a Kristol and Kagan editorial as far back as 1997, became so relentless that Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen dubbed it “Kristol’s War.” ((Richard H. Curtiss, “Rupert Murdoch and William Kristol: Using the Press to Advance Israel’s Interests,” Washington Report, June 2003.))

The Iraq War has, of course, also been called “Wolfowitz’s War.” But it could just as aptly have been named after Perle, Feith, Libby, Zelikow, Lieberman, or any of the other pro-Israeli insiders who took America to war by way of deception. ((Jeff Gates, Guilt By Association: How Deception and Self-Deceit Took America to War, 2008.))

In “Irving Kristol, RIP,” editor Justin Raimondo described Kristol’s legacy as “war, war, and yet more war, as far as the eye can see.” ((Justin Raimondo, “Irving Kristol, RIP,”, September 21, 2009.))

Unless Americans soon realize that they’ve been deceived by those for whom “American greatness” is merely a means to advance “the survival of the state of Israel,” that legacy promises to be an enduring one.

Maidhc Ó Cathail writes extensively on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East. Read other articles by Maidhc, or visit Maidhc's website.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on December 18th, 2009 at 11:13am #

    ?All US columnists, including kristol, appear to have adopted the most important US dogmas: Greatness of america, God bless america, and US constitution being infallible.

    I think they base their thinkings-writings on these three major and some minor dogmas.
    These dogmas are backed by judiciary, cia, fbi, city police, media, all schooling, and armed services.
    So why wld kristol fear any criticism or avoid being deliberately stupid? Mns of most econo-military-politicly powerful people wld vigourously defend what he said beacuase that’s what they say.

    Don’t we know what “greatness of america” and “god bless america mean”?
    Well, that means what “Sieg Heil” meant.
    That’s all one needs to know to know america numero uno: ab 0001 to 2% of usans! tnx

  2. Deadbeat said on December 18th, 2009 at 1:00pm #

    Kristol was instrumental in the Project For a New American Century and his like-minded neo-con (read Zionist) cronies were extremely influential in the Bush Administration. This is a fact that Mr. Dawson (and many on the Left) has chosen to deny. It is ludicrous and highly insulting of Mr. Dawson to co-opt “racism” as a cover for Zionism when the real racism is Zionism itself.

  3. Michael Kenny said on December 18th, 2009 at 1:22pm #

    The amusing thig, of course, is that Kristol and his cronies destroyed the US by bogging it down in two unwinnable wars, thereby wrecking its economy and destroying its political credibility. But since Israel cannot exist without being propped up by American might, Kristol in fact destroyed Israel!

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain said on December 19th, 2009 at 2:15am #

    The reality of Zionist policy since the foundation of Israel is of ceaseless aggression, absolute and vicious racism and cruelty in dealing with its victims, increasing penetration and control of Western politics, particularly the ‘Anglosphere’ and ever growing mendacity and arrogance as its power burgeoned. At least since the late 1980s a peace deal with the Palestinians, acceptable to the rest of the Arab and Moslem world, has been there, for the taking. But Israel has refused, at every opportunity, to compromise, one inch. Why?
    I would say that the reason is plain. Not only does the original Zionist project of an ‘Eretz Yisrael’, ‘from the Nile to the Euphrates’, as stated by Herzl and Ben-Gurion remain the ultimate ambition of the Zionazi hardcore (if not, surely, of all Israeli Jews)but other Israelis plainly see Israel as a Judaic redoubt and bolt-hole from which various economic crimes can be organised and executed.Hence Israel is a centre for drug trafficking, the human organ trade, ‘blood diamonds’, the arms trade, human trafficking and economic crime (we all know where Madoff’s loot ended up, and just why the US SEC refused to investigate him for years). Not bad for one tiny country. Of course, as Michael Kenny notes, Israeli arrogance and belligerence, and the single-minded manipulation by the Judaic Lobby of its puppet hyper-power, cannot go on indefinitely.I suspect that Israel will eventually be forced, by the decline of US power, to compromise, rather than violently and arrogantly insisting that it is a Holy State set above international law and basic decency. China’s rise, which the Zionists are obsessed with de-railing, is their greatest fear, as they do not, and cannot control China, as they do the West. When a cunning and calculating and talented group of twenty million, only a malignant minority of which are determined to run the world, meet a culture even more ancient and resolute than their own, it would be best recognise your limitations. Somehow, what with their delusional of absolute supremacy, I doubt that they will, which could prove their greatest error.

  5. Deadbeat said on December 19th, 2009 at 2:38am #

    China’s rise, which the Zionists are obsessed with de-railing, is their greatest fear, as they do not, and cannot control China, as they do the West

    Just wondering out loud but could this a basis for the Left’s histrionic over “climate change”? Watching Democracy Now! for the past two weeks if I wasn’t familiar with the show I would have thought that Naomi Klein was a foremost scientist with all the attention Goodman gave to her. We are well aware however of her “Shock Doctrine” cover of Zionist War on Iraq.

  6. Spen said on December 19th, 2009 at 3:08am #

  7. beverly said on December 20th, 2009 at 12:05pm #

    Interesting how fervent war hawks and defenders of Israel at all costs such as Kristol rarely serve in the military, nor do their kids. Telling a few jokes at a USO show doesn’t count, Senator Franken.

    Since war is so necessary and the patriotic thing to do, one would think these types would be the first in line to enlist.

  8. Marty Sinjohn said on December 20th, 2009 at 4:30pm #

    In my 61 years on this planet, I never imagined that I would come anywhere near agreeing with an article such as this. I doubt I would have finished the article before I discounted it as anti-Semitic drivel, until recently.

    I hate to say it. It makes me sick to my stomach to write these words, but the events of the last 8 years, on top of all the policies and behavior I have managed to ignore in the so-called holy land and surrounding areas as well as at home for the last 40 or so years, have caused me to question everything. I guess it took something like 9/11 to jar me out of habitual thinking drummed into me as a child.

    I was raised under the cloud of the, then, recent horror of the Nazi crimes against humanity. My mother, in particular, was extremely impressed by the criminal cruelty to the Jewish people. By impressed, I mean it caused her to be very protective of the Jewish people. She would not countenance “Jew jokes” nor anything else she considered anti-Jewish. I grew up to be like her in that way. A friend of mine once said that she always thought of me when something “god-awful” happened in the place called Palestine by some and Israel by others. (“I know you’ll be looking for a Jew to protect.” LOL!)

    I have, at times, been very outspoken in my defense of Jewish people everywhere.

    Mother warned me often that I should never think that “it” can’t happen here. Of course, she was talking about the wholesale persecution, even unto death, of any hated minority. (I never knew if she had read C.S. Lewis or had merely come up with the warning on her own. ) It didn’t take much to convince me. I grew up in the deep south. I never doubted that “it” could happen.

    Now, I must be equally outspoken in questioning my country’s knee jerk defense of Israel as if it is somehow exceptional in the same way that the Neocons see the U.S. as exceptional; entitled to do any damn thing they want to in the name of something I no longer understand as I once thought I did.

    I have one Jewish friend where I live now. (Of course, I still I have others across the country in the many places where I have lived in the past.) Several years ago she said that she might move to Israel where she could feel safe. My jaw hit the floor. This woman is a highly educated professional. I stammered, asking her to listen to what she was saying. “You can’t possibly think that Israel is a safe place to be!”

    Sometimes I cannot help but think that some of our fellow citizens are not always rational about the issue of Israel and Jewish Neocons are not alone in their crusade to defend Israel, no matter what it takes or who gets hurt in the process, even when Israeli policies are responsible for the misery, suffering and death of an untold number of Palestinians.

    What’s worse, Neocons in both Israel and the U.S. have allied themselves with christian fundamentalist (end-timers, rapture Christians, Dominionists and others of the far-right religious fringe). In my mind, this is an unholy alliance if there ever was one. “Cynical” is the word that comes to mind and cynicism is a state of mind that should be avoided at all costs; it shows a pathological disintegration in the nation of Israel and in her supporters in the U.S..

    The ghettos in which the Palestinians live are reminiscent of other ghettos filled with Europe’s Jewish population before and during the terror that was Nazi Germany.

    Allow me to make clear that I am aghast at terrorist atrocities by Hamas or any other group or nation, no matter at whom it is directed. Nevertheless, the U.S. has lost all credibility as an honest broker of peace and, of course, social and economic justice that must accompany a lasting peace in a land made unholy by the blood of innocents and the theft of the land itself.

    Who are the innocents? The people from all three Abrahamic traditions who can envision true peace, even in this historically war-torn area of the world; those yet too young to hate others simply because it is “tradition” to do so and those who refuse to live a hateful life.

    The Allied powers of WWII made a mistake when they took land away from people who had lived in the land known as Palestine for as long as anyone can remember and by giving that land to Eastern and Western European Jews, among others.

    What’s done is done in the modern land of Palestine/Israel. I doubt we can ever undo it, at least not in my lifetime. Nevertheless, it is time to find the best of the religious teachings of the three traditions to which this land is of such apparently great importance and apply those teachings to the conflict which has, in may ways, consumed the world for the last 60 some odd years, if not since the beginning of recorded history.

    In doing so, we must not ignore the deeply corrupting effects of corporatism, sometimes quite obvious and at other times hidden just beneath the excuse of religion.

    And by “we,” I mean the concerned people of the world; those who are sick and tired of the carnage over a city named peace.

  9. bozh said on December 20th, 2009 at 4:45pm #

    An occupied people such as greeks, albanians, norwegians, yugoslavs, pal’n are morally and legaly obligated to resist militarily their respective sieges and occupations.
    However, i have not ever recomended pal’ns resist militarily their siege or occupation by US/nato lands. NATO/US/Zionists love pal’ns when they resist occupation by violence. It just gives nato/us/isr another excuse to expand or steal more land! tnx