Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

April 10, 2002

The Andrew Sullivan Conspiracy Cookbook & other matters

Here's USA Today's Jack Kelley on the perils of looking cross-eyed at Israel:

"Last August, I wrote one cover story on Jewish vigilantes in the West Bank and how they fired on a taxi carrying Palestinian women and children, received 3,000 e-mails per day for 10 straight days. After that we had to switch my e-mail address. Got seven death threats and got a bouquet of white funeral flowers right – sent to our building. Now I got – I got the message right there. It basically says if you write something we don't like, you will pay a price, and Israel right now is shooting itself in its foot. You don't go after the messenger."

And that's on the home front. In Israel, the IDF is using reporters for target practice. Twenty were shot up or shot at, reports the Los Angeles Times. We keep hearing about how Israel is the "only democracy" in the Middle East, but they'll do this to foreign reporters, then what would they be willing to do to Israeli media people – indeed, what have they done to them, if anything? I haven't heard this angle on the story. Has anyone?


There's a new development on the anthrax front: according to Newsweek, the anthrax terrorist invented a whole new strain of the dreaded pathogen, one far more sophisticated and deadly than any seen before. Pretty interesting stuff, but the way they report it is, well, retarded. Give the opening paragraph a look:

"Last fall FBI profilers announced that the person who sent deadly anthrax-laced letters to news organizations and Capitol Hill was probably a grudge-bearing, sociopathic male laboratory nerd with knowledge of the geography of Trenton, N.J. But a new scientific analysis sent to top government officials suggests the anthrax attacker may be a scientific whiz so smart that he succeeded in making a "weaponized" form of the bacterium more sophisticated than any previously known."

Uh, I'm puzzled. You mean you can't be "a grudge-bearing, sociopathic male laboratory nerd" and "a scientific whiz so smart" that you've invented a whole new form of mass death? So what is the "but" doing at the beginning of the second sentence?

In spite of Newsweek's goofy suggestion of a Russian cabal, which they rate as more probable than an Iraqi plot, the FBI is now administering polygraph tests to all scientists at the Ft. Detrick facility. They're getting closer. Earth to FBI: Hey, guys, he's over here, and here, and also here.


Andrew Sullivan is soooo dizzy, really, and so stubborn when he's wrong. Take, for example, that poem he was convinced blamed the West for the WTC attack. When he got lots of letters saying wrong, you misinterpreted the poet's intent, he hemmed and hawed but stuck to his guns. The would-be Grand Inquisitor of American literature only relented when he finally got a letter from the author, Frank Bidart, explaining that, no, it was actually meant as a curse to be cast upon the souls of the terrorists. To the objective reader, this was clear from the poem's opening lines. Of course, only someone looking for what wasn't there could've missed it:

"May breath for a dead moment cease as jerking your

head upward you hear as if in slow motion floor

collapse evenly upon floor as one hundred and ten

floors descend upon you.

May what you have made descend upon you.

May the listening ears of your victims their eyes their


enter you, and eat like acid

the bubble of rectitude that allowed you breath."

Sounds like a curse to me, and one directed at the hijackers, not the US. That's glaringly obvious by the fifth line: Bidart is clearly addressing Mohammed Atta and his fellow death-dealers when he says "may what you have made descend upon you." He also refers to "your victims." Were there any other victims in the rubble of the World Trade Center that day – and whose victims were they if not the hijackers'?


It's the same thing with the anthrax story. Some people see only what they want to see: ideological blinders filter out anything too challenging. Sullivan, you'll remember, demanded that we nuke Iraq because he was convinced – without any evidence, naturally – that Iraq was responsible:

"At this point, it seems to me that a refusal to extend the war to Iraq is not even an option. We have to extend it to Iraq. It is by far the most likely source of this weapon; it is clearly willing to use such weapons in the future; and no war against terrorism of this kind can be won without dealing decisively with the Iraqi threat. We no longer have any choice in the matter." ~ Andrew Sullivan, 10/17/01


When it turned out that the anthrax could only have been made in 24 labs, all of them in the US, he just shut up about it. A call from to have him retract his, uh, policy proposal, went unanswered. Now, here he is admitting that

"Every now and again, I get an email telling me to recant my early suspicion that the anthrax attacks of last fall were probably terrorist-insprired. Every time the FBI suggests that a domestic source was responsible, emails come in telling me to drop my fear that Saddam or other foreign governments were involved. The truth, of course, is that we still don't know. But the evidence unearthed by Michael Hosenball et al at Newsweek this week suggests that, whoever did it, he or she was a real pro. My suspicion is that it was a warning from Iraq that any attempt to disarm Saddam would lead to an immediate chemical or biological response in the U.S. I'm sorry, but that's still my suspicion. I'd be happy and relieved to be disproved, but so far, the signs are nothing but ominous."


Notice the word choice: "That's my suspicion." Iraq is under "suspicion," just like the Bidart poem. It's a moral question, for Sullivan, not a factual one. It doesn't matter what the FBI says. It doesn't matter that they have a former scientist at Ft. Detrick on video stealing into the laboratory at night, and that dozens of sample pathogens have gone missing, including ebola and one slide marked "X." It doesn't matter that there was an attempt to frame an Egyptian scientist at Ft. Detrick for bio-terrorism, and a campaign of harassment directed at him by a clique of his colleagues. For Sullivan, "the signs" matter – and they just happen to confirm his preconceptions.


Yeah, isn't it funny how, whenever I bring up the Israeli "art student" spy story that Fox News, LeMonde, Jane's Intelligence Digest, and a host of other mainstream news organizations have reported, I'm told that I'm peddling a "conspiracy theory" – but it's okay to posit an Iraqi conspiracy to poison half of North America on the basis of absolutely zero evidence.


Oh yes, the War Party has plenty of conspiracy theories, each one loonier than the other. Okay, now, put on your tin-foil hats, and getta loada this one from columnist Jack Kelley:

"Jayna Davis, an investigative reporter in Oklahoma City, has uncovered evidence of Iraqi involvement in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. When Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for his role in the bombing, was captured, he had on his person several Iraqi telephone numbers.

"Davis obtained affidavits from several witnesses claiming to have seen McVeigh in the company of a 'Middle Eastern-looking person' who resembled the sketch of John Doe Number Two. … An Iraqi connection could explain the frequent trips to the Philippines of McVeigh confederate Terry Nichols…."

Gee, how come nobody brought this up while McVeigh was still alive and kicking? Back then, you'll remember, the government "lost" a lot of the evidence, which it then couldn't hand over to the defense. The defense attorney cried foul, but it was too late.

There was also some question about how a few guys with a truck and a bunch of fertilizer could've pulled this off on their own, without anyone getting a hint of it – especially as part of a far-right movement so riddled with police agents and informers. But the rush to execute McVeigh went into high gear and he's not around to deny an Iraqi connection. How convenient.

With the key witness dead, and the US government apparently sitting on the evidence for reasons of its own, this is the sort of conspiracy theory that can never be disproved – and that's enough for conspiracy theorist Kelley. Remember, we don't need evidence: following the Andrew Sullivan Conspiracy Cookbook for cooking up wars, the main ingredient is suspicion, and whatever spices are in the cupboard.


In answer to your letters asking how our fundraising effort is doing: we've raised $12,200, so far, in about three weeks – 60 percent of our $20,000 goal. Pretty good, for a little operation like this: but given the situation we are in – what with the complete prostration of the Cato group before the War God, and the lavish budget of the War Party's propaganda machine – pretty good isn't good enough. Look, I know things are tough, the economy is tightening up – but, just imagine not waking up to a freshly updated page. Believe me, you don't want to go there…. So, c'mon, don't assume others will fill the gap, 'cause maybe they won't, or can't. As the big banner headline says on the front page: Will survive the war hysteria? It's up to you….


God, I looove our hit report, which tells us how many visits, unique visitors, hits, and most importantly where they're coming from, what they're reading, and how long they're spending on each (original) article. But what really fascinates me is the demographics. In terms of visits, take a look at the geographical reach of a typical Monday. Out of 27,541 visits, there were 16,609 unique visitors spread across the globe thusly:


North America

Western Europe



Northern Europe

Middle East

Eastern Europe

Pacific Islands

South America

Sub-Saharan Africa

Caribbean Islands

North Africa

Central America















Our Middle Eastern numbers match our Northern European audience, but it sure didn't start out that way. Visitors from the supposedly technologically backward nations of the region are logging on at an increasing rate, with the country-by-country breakdown pinpointing areas of growth: Israel doesn't show up in the top 20 (although it has), but Saudi Arabia and Qatar are 17th and 18th respectively. We're big in Malaysia, too: they're number 8 with 195 visitors.


While the Anglosphere – the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia – takes the top four spots, a spiraling proportion of our audience comes from the farthest frontiers of the Empire. We worked hard to win a Japanese audience, and I'm proud of the fact that Japan regularly clocks in at number 6 (241 visits). Go, Nippon, go!


There's something in our new software package that I've never seen before: at least it wasn't a category included in previous versions. Number 9 on the hit parade is something called "EU" – and since they can't possibly mean "eeeeyew!" (can they?), then it must be European Union, although all of the European Union members are also listed separately. Behold the cyber-birth of the Monster. Eerie, to say the least.

HURTLING INTO THE FUTURE is powerful engine that is generating waves all over the Internet – and all over the globe, and I'm proud of our achievement. We would like to expand, to start a summer school for activists, to sponsor a campus tour, and perhaps a series of debates and other events to bring the community and friends together in some place other than cyberspace.

But, remember, we can't do it without you: we need not only your financial but also your moral support. The great emails I get, including the friendly criticism, are a form of payment, the kind that can't be measured in terms of dollars and cents. As the world hurtles headlong into catastrophe, it's nice to know that such thoughtful, decent people exist – and it was nice knowin' ya….

But seriously, I don't really believe that. The part about hurtling toward catastrophe and all. Oh, we're hurtling, alright, but there's a chance – a good chance – that we can avoid or ameliorate the catastrophic consequences of a new world war if we act, now, to prevent it.

Yet knowledge must precede action, especially in this case. That's where comes in. We can win the battle for public opinion, not only in the US but internationally – and is the key. Take a look at those numbers: they are growing by the day. Now, we must do everything in our power to make them grow bigger, faster – before it's too late.


In my last column, I gave the impression that Sheldon Richman was made unwelcome at the Cato Institute because of his views on war or the Middle East. Sheldon writes to tell me that is not true. I stand corrected.

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