October 27, 1999


Let any American begin to advocate a noninterventionist foreign policy, and, sooner or later, he is going to have to deal with the accusation of "anti-Semitism." To those readers living outside the US, this may seem like a non sequiteur – after all, what has anti-Semitism got to do with anti-interventionism? Logically, the answer is: nothing. Politically, however, the answer is: everything. But why? How could these two seemingly disparate issues be so melded in the public mind – or, at least, in the collective consciousness of the punditocracy? This could well be the subject of a book, but for the purposes of this column let me just point to a specific example to give the reader the full flavor of this topic: the nearly decade-long crusade of Norman Podhoretz to label Pat Buchanan an "anti-Semite," the latest eruption of which is an article in the Wall Street Journal [October 25, 1999], "Buchanan and Anti-Semitism."


Podhoretz, for those who do not know, has been buzzing angrily around New York intellectual circles since the 50s. He has undergone many incarnations, at least politically: first as a left-wing Democrat on the periphery of the New Left, then as a Scoop Jackson Democrat, and finally as a "neoconservative" whose desire to nuke the Soviet Union overrode his loyalty to leftist domestic initiatives. Podhoretz stunned practically everyone, even those who agreed with his support of the Vietnam War, with his, uh, unusual thesis, in an essay entitled "The Culture of Appeasement," that antiwar sentiment was attributable to the evil influence of homosexuals in our culture: the works of Allen Ginsberg, Gore Vidal, and James Baldwin figured prominently in his analysis. According to Podhoretz, the intellectual and political atmosphere of the times was the result of, I kid you not, homosexual lust: after all, if we killed all the handsome young soldiers, who would there be left for the queers to bed?


Podhoretz's argument – if such it can be called – taken to its logical conclusion, amounts to this: all opposition to war is a manifestation of homoeroticism. Given this Podhoretizian axiom, it might safely be said that there is nary a nelly bone in Norman's body, for since his break with the Left in the late sixties he has never met a war he didn't support – oh, what a man!


Now this is a man who, today, is telling us that Pat Buchanan is a dangerous hater. If that doesn't beat all records for shameless hypocrisy, then what does? In the Podhoretzian worldview, a small cliquish minority – the Learned Elders of Sodom – exert a powerful and one might almost say controlling influence over the culture, and manipulate events to suit their selfish (in this case sexual) needs. I think I sense a certain pattern here, I get this chill of déjà vu, the sense that all of this seems somehow familiar. There is something distinctly Hitlerian in this thesis, at least stylistically, and now I see what Alan Wald meant when he wrote, in his book The New York Intellectuals, that "a consistent feature of Podhoretz's critique of his fellow intellectuals is the projection of his own motives onto others." For in smearing Buchanan as an anti-Semite, this champion scapegoater and hater par excellence underscores yet another of his distinctly Hitlerian traits: a propaganda style similar to that of Joseph Goebbels, whose expertise in the art of the Big Lie propelled the National Socialists to power.


Typically disingenuous, Podhoretz opens his screed by informing us that the question of Buchanan's alleged anti-Semitism "first flared up in 1990 during the months preceding the Gulf War." Podhoretz would know all about this, since he was the major source of the phony charge; at one point, Commentary, a magazine edited by Podhoretz, became a virtual anthology of Anti-Buchananiana. According to Podhoretz, this wave of hatred directed at Buchanan "fell into a dormant state after a flurry of heated debate provoked by his challenge to George Bush in 1992." Conveniently left out is the fact that Poddy & Co. were also behind this "flurry," which had by this time spread from strictly Podhoretzian precincts to the wider circles of his neoconservative cronies, Bill Bennett and Charles Krauthammer. "Now, with his challenge to another George Bush – a challenge he is expected to intensify by announcing today that he is leaving the Republican Party to seek the Reform Party's nomination for president – it has burst into flames again." Ignited, one might add, by the very same people repeating the same lies – all of which Podhoretz seems to have crammed into his poisonous piece.


Pat's recent book, A Republic, Not an Empire, Podhoretz avers is "soft on Hitler." Without offering a single quote to back up his claim, nor even a single phrase with quote marks around it, he simply lies and says that the book claims Hitler had no real grudge against the Jews. Here we see an example of the Big Lie technique that would have made Goebbels proud: not only a lie, but a complete inversion of the truth. For the reality is that Buchanan holds the Allies, and specifically Great Britain and France, at least partially responsible for the Holocaust in the West – ironically echoing some Jewish leaders and Holocaust scholars who indict the entire West as well as the Germans in making the Holocaust possible. In guaranteeing Poland's independence, Buchanan argues, the Western powers diverted Hitler away from his real goal, the conquest of the Soviet Union: the Holocaust could have been minimized, in the West, if not entirely prevented.


Buchanan's thesis that Hitler and Stalin would have annihilated or at least exhausted each other in a prolonged death struggle is certainly debatable. Indeed, the subject has been vigorously debated, mostly by scholars, the moment hostilities ended, and eminent historians have taken both sides in what has been an interesting and lively discussion. But why is a position taken by dozens of eminent scholars anti-Semitic? Was the respected British historian A. J. P. Taylor an anti-Semite for drawing very similar conclusions? What about the conservative writer William Henry Chamberlain, whose view reflected that of the general conservative movement up to the late 1950s and into the early 1960s. How about Charles Austin Beard, the distinguished liberal historian and the dean of his profession in the 1930s? Were all these people closet Nazis, Norman?


Well, you see, says Norman, the evidence is cumulative. Why, Pat has defended "practically anyone" accused of being a Nazi war criminal, writes Podhoretz, citing only "John Demjanjuk, a native of Ukraine who had been indicted as the exceptionally sadistic guard known as Ivan the Terrible at the Treblinka death camp." Podhoretz reluctantly concedes that, yes, it did turn out to be a case of mistaken identity, but what about the new accusation that Demjanjuk was a prison guard at another camp? Yet Buchanan's newspaper columns on the Demjanjuk case only claimed what was later proved entirely correct – that this was a case of mistaken identity. And that was it. But of course, Podhoretz clearly believes that even questioning the case against Demjanjuk is an anti-Semitic act. Listen, Norman, your real beef is not with Buchanan, but with the Israeli Supreme Court, which exonerated and freed Demjanjuk.


On the theory that the more mud is flung at Pat the more chance there is some will stick, the smear artists under the expert tutelage of Podhoretz have developed a whole Buchanan Mythos, an interlocking series of narratives that validate their delusional system. But the rules of this alternate universe, the laws by which it operates, have nothing to do with logic or reason and everything to do with innuendo and sheer fabrication. It is a fantasy version of Pat Buchanan, a monster from the Podhoretzian Id. Like Dr. Morbius in the classic 1950s science fiction movie Forbidden Planet, Podhoretz is merely conjuring demons out of his own subconscious desires and hidden motives. The result is nothing that bears the least resemblance to Patrick J. Buchanan, either the man or his ideas.


Incredibly, the self-styled "Reaganite" Podhoretz brings up Bitburg, declaring that "through Mr. Reagan's mouth, Mr. Buchanan declared that the soldiers buried there, who included members of SS units (reportedly not the special one in charge of implementing the Holocaust, but still . . .) were 'victims of the Nazis just as surely as the victims in concentration camps.' No more disgusting example of moral equivalence can ever have been recorded or can scarcely even be imagined (though a close second might be Mr. Buchanan's comparison of the Nazi camps with those set up by Gen. Eisenhower for German prisoners of war)." But if Nazism was an evil ideology, which the German people had foisted on them, then why weren't German soldiers victimized by it as well? The evasive argument that Bitburg housed the bodies of SS troops, who were ideologically committed to Nazi ideology – made at the time by President Reagan's liberal critics – is not even bothered with by Podhoretz He merely launches into a paroxysm of self-parodying hyperbole, as if everyone agrees with his bigoted Germanophobic premise – that there are no good Germans, by definition, and all were responsible for Hitler's crimes. This is the kind of collective guilt thesis that one might expect out of someone on the Left, say, a member of some obscure Marxist sect, or perhaps a liberal of unusual sternness. The point is that, while enjoying a reputation as one of the foremost opponents of liberal hegemony in the world of ideas, Podhoretz is capable of wielding the sword of political correctness when it suits his purposes. This is called having your cake and eating it too.


Podhoretz has been given free reign by the editorial page editors of the Wall Street Journal to be as hypocritical and sloppy as he wants. The sloppiness is in the outright fabrication that the author of this vile piece resorts to: whether out of contempt for his audience, or perhaps the onset of Alzeheimer's, Podhoretz offers the following as the definitive proof, the jewel in the crown of his case against Buchanan:

"Reinforcing the notorious 'amen corner' crack, Mr. Buchanan went on to list four prominent Jews who thought war might be necessary. Almost immediately thereafter, he counterpoised them with 'kids with names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales and Leroy Brown,' who would actually do the fighting if these Jews had their way. Here we had another insult added to another big lie."


What Podhoretz leaves out is that the "McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales and Leroy Brown" phrase was in a piece written in answer to a pro-war editorial in the London Economist – the point of giving them ethnic names was to underscore the fact that the causalities would not be primarily British. Let's get clear on this: Buchanan's turn of phrase had nothing whatever to do with the Jewishness or non-Jewishness of American servicemen and servicewomen fighting in the Gulf. The Anti-Defamation League crib sheet that the intellectually lazy Podhoretz lifted, without attribution, has simply taken a few sentences from one newspaper column and inserted it into another. This crude cut-and-paste technique is supposed to convince us that Pat Buchanan is an anti-Semite. It doesn't. However, it does convince any reasonable person that Norman Podhoretz is a senile and quite vicious old man whose word cannot be taken seriously on anything. Did he imagine, or care, that someone would check this transpositioning of quotations and discover his Clintonian relationship with the truth?


This kind of outright fabrication bears a striking resemblance to the methodology of the Holocaust deniers whom Podhoretz attempts to link to Buchanan. They will grasp at any straw, no matter how short, to buttress their preordained "conclusion" that the Holocaust never happened – in spite of voluminous testimony to the contrary. This is pathology, not ideology, and Podhoretz displays similar symptoms. The testimony of Pat's fellow journalists, who effectively dismissed the charges of anti-Semitism in 1992 and 1996, is not evidence of Pat's innocence, according to Podhoretz, but only of a kind of silent collaboration on their part. Pat's views on Israel were not only evidence of anti-Semitism but "they were so manifestly false that it was hard to see how anyone as intelligent as Buchanan could believe them." Ipso facto, he didn't really believe them, he was just trying to get at the Jews. But what does this say about those journalists who defended him – say, Robert Novak, Al Hunt, Fred Barnes, and others – are all these people closet anti-Semites, Norman?


Finally, Podhoretz makes the incredible claim that the change in Buchanan's stance regarding our relationship with Israel is due to his alleged anti-Semitism:

"Buchanan had once been friendly to Israel as an ally of the U.S. being targeted by the Soviet-sponsored Palestine Liberation Organization. Conversely, he had always regarded any such movement as an enemy of the US This rule applied to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, to the FMLN in El Salvador, to the African National Congress in South Africa and so on; and it had once, naturally and logically, applied to the PLO as well. Yet all of a sudden, Mr. Buchanan was comparing the PLO's struggle against Israel to that of the American revolutionaries against the British."


Suddenly? Did nothing significant take place in the interim, that goes unnoticed or unmentioned by Podhoretz? What he conveniently leaves out is that the Cold War ended: Communism imploded and with it the US interest in opposing the PLO's program of Palestinian statehood as a matter of high principle. This, and not the phony charge of "anti-Semitism," explains Buchanan's change of mind on the question of the Israeli-US relationship. This seminal event had a decisive impact on his views in the foreign policy realm generally, as anyone who has followed his writings since that time can readily attest. Of course, Podhoretz and his right-wing Social Democrat friends seem either to have missed the downing of the Berlin Wall, or else are so consumed by nostalgia for the Cold War that they cannot admit that it is truly over: still they agitate ceaselessly for military interventions from here to Bosnia to East Timor to the very ends of the earth.


This brings to mind another comment by Wald in his book on The New York Intellectuals:

"The young Podhoretz was extraordinarily impressed when Lionel Trilling, 'one of the most intelligent men in the world,' remarked to him that 'everyone wants power. The only question is what kind.' This seems to have encouraged Podhoretz to explain the behavior of others in the same way [power hungry] in which he now saw his own behavior."

Buchanan's real crime is not his supposed anti-Semitism, but his speaking truth to power.


I will not burden my readers with any more details of Podhoretz's case against Pat Buchanan – the specifics are not important, anyway, since anyone who falsifies the record as blatantly and carelessly as Podhoretz has hardly merits that kind of line-by-line analysis. But I want to make one last point, and that is that Norman Podhoretz and his amen corner on the Left are the biggest and best boosters of anti-Semitism this country has ever seen. The average American, looking at the members of the Aryan Nations goose-stepping down the street, is repulsed, and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion will never make it to the top of the bestseller lists. But if people are constantly told that opposition to war and interventionism, opposition to foreign aid, limits on immigration, and any one of a number of common sense conservative principles – held not only by Buchanan but by millions of Americans – is evidence of anti-Semitism, then that is the single biggest impetus to anti-Semitism imaginable. To counterpose the Jewish community to those who oppose intervention abroad and dare to question the official history or the conventional wisdom on this or that subject – to equate anti-Semitism with opposition to orthodoxy – is to play a very dangerous game. As low as my opinion of Podhoretz is, it is hard for me to consider the possibility that this may be just what he intends. Suffice to say that I have three words of advice to Norman Podhoretz: don't go there.

Check out Justin Raimondo's article, “China and the New Cold War”

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).

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