Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Jonathan Calt Harris Launches Ad Hominem Attack on Juan Cole

FrontPage magazine.com :: Juan Cole, Media -- and MESA -- Darling by Jonathan Calt Harris:

Please Note that Harris launched this attack on the Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. How very fitting. JBOC

"Juan Cole, Media -- and MESA -- Darling
By Jonathan Calt Harris
FrontPageMagazine.com | December 7, 2004

Professional organizations choose their leaders as much for their symbolism as for organizational ability. The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is the foremost professional organization representing academics working on this region. Once a bastion of respectable scholars, the organization has fallen on hard times, becoming today a hive of academic opposition of America, Israel, and, in the larger sense, rationalism itself.

It was Stanford University’s Joel Beinin, president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) in 2002, who famously articulated the group’s post-9/11 osterich mentality by praising “great wisdom” of his colleagues for avoiding the study of terrorism. Coupled with entire panels of anti-Israel “scholars” and special sessions on “American imperialism,” and the three-day event can look more like an Arab political rally than a conference of specialists.

But the organization out-did itself when, in November 2004, it elected Juan Cole as its next president. Cole has a string of impressive titles, being a professor of modern Middle East and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, editor of the International Journal of Middle East Studies, and author of a weblog focusing on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. He emerged in 2003 as a Middle East expert for the media (The New York Times,[1] Washington Post,[2] National Public Radio)[3] and for influential leftist bloggers such as Josh Marshall, Brad Delong, or Mark A. R. Kleinman.[4]

But what the academics validated – and the major media are drawing on – is one strange professor. Cole’s view is shaped by his fundamental belief in a conspiracy of Jewish “neo-conservatives” that largely runs U.S. policy toward the Middle East. His recurrent theme is that a nebulous ‘pro-Likud’ cabal controls the U.S. government from a small number of key positions in the Executive Branch. He never names the leaders or organizations behind this fabulously clever and utterly secret conspiracy but vaguely associates it with AIPAC, MEMRI, and any prominent Jew in the Bush administration.

Here are some examples.
· “The Neocons wanted to knock down Saddam, Khamenei and al-Asad in hopes that those countries would be so weakened and preoccupied with internal power struggles that Sharon would have an unimpeded opportunity to pursue his dreams of Greater Israel.”[5]

· “It may be that the powerful Likudniks inside the US government are deliberately engineering a diplomatic rift in NATO, so as to ensure that Paris and Moscow cannot position themselves to influence Washington’s position (usually supine) toward Sharon’s excesses.”[6]

· Paul Wolfowitz’ attitude to NATO allies is “so gratuitous and immature that one can only guess something else lay behind it,” that something being a wish to create bad blood between the U.S. government and states that are, in Cole terms “no longer a knee-jerk supporter of Israeli militarism and expansionism.”[7]

The ‘normal’ level of conspiracy thinking, associated with Lyndon Larouche on the right or Noam Chomsky on the left, is barely adequate to contain Cole’s frantic theorizing. When Karen Kwiatkowsky, a retired US Air Force Lt. Colonel critical of US policy in Iraq, analyzed the war aims of the Neocon network, Cole berated her for not pointing to a Jewish conspiracy. “I am surprised she left out what surely was the Neocons’ major concern, which is that Iraq, Iran and Syria stood in the way of Ariel Sharon’s continued theft of Arab land in the Occupied territories and potentially elsewhere.”[8]

Cole’s odd ideas do not stop there. He does not blink at presenting such howlers as: “Much of the Arab world has a formal peace treaty with Israel,”[9] and “Chemical weapons are not weapons of mass destruction.”[10] The latter in particular would come as news to the tens of thousands who suffered death and disfigurement thanks to such weapons during the almost decade-long Iran-Iraq War.

Ignoring facts that even CBS accepted, Cole states that “Saddam Hussein never gave any real support to the Palestinian cause, and he did not pay suicide bombers to blow themselves up.”[11] And even if he did, Cole insists, “Supporting orphans is, in any case, not the same as funding terrorism.”[12] One must wonder whether making orphans is terrorism in Cole’s eyes.

Cole is capable of dangerous sophistry regarding his own chosen subject of study: “Are there Muslims who are fascists? Sure. But there is no Islamic fascism, since “Islam” has to do with the highest ideals of the religion.”[13] (That one needs to be read several times to take in its full stupidity.) He applies a particularly brazen double standard, decrying the term “Islamo-fascist” as “thoroughly abhorrent” and a form of bigotry, even as he routinely brands Zionism as “racist”[14] and “fascist.”[15]

He also exhibits a conceited disdain for Americans: when a February 2004 poll revealed that 51% of Americans believed Iraq had WMD’s at the start of the war, Cole succinctly responded that “Half the American public is terminally stupid.”[16]

So why have so many media outlets turned to such as obviously perverse source? Seeing half the American public as beneath contempt may explain in part why Cole resonates with liberal media, even as they try in vain to understand the presidential election results. Perhaps also because Cole’s anti-Israel rhetoric is accompanied by anti-Bush tirades.

Bush’s domestic policies are “Draconian,” and he “has rampaged around the world alienating allies and ignoring vital conflicts.”[17] Anything Bush does Cole abominates. He dismisses the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis, for example, as “public relations and manipulation of journalists.”[18] The Bush administration came into the White House “obsessed with Iraq” while Clinton “tried and tried hard” to get Bin Laden.[19] Cole is forgiving to some, but certainly not to others.

Cole’s proclamations reveal an all too-typical mindset for a Middle East specialist. He is blindly anti-Israel to the point of being an antisemitic conspiracy theorist, an apologist for radical Islam, and someone who despises American public opinion. And try as he does to discount allegations of bias in academia, his stunningly crude conclusions accepts the point: “someone who has academic skills but is a Republican would just have enormous opportunities and could easily become a multi-millionnaire. In contrast, academics on the Left would not be welcome in corporate boardrooms.”[20]

MESA’s anti-American and anti-Israel bias is well known, making Cole’s selection aptly symbolic of a profession in crisis. But that the media turns to the strange mental world Juan Cole inhabits, a world filled with false facts, distortions, and sophism, with Jewish conspiracies and contempt for the American people, is a serious problem.

Jonathan Calt Harris, a writer for Campus Watch, lives in Illinois.


[1] The New York Times, Cited 114 times in a 30 day period, notably in 'Lawrence Of Arabia' Redux by Frank Rich, Arts & Leisure Section, Sunday April 14, 2004 issue, http://www.nytimes.com/.

[2] Washington Post, Quoted May 2, 2004, April 10, 2004, etc http://www.washingtonpost.com/.

[3] National Public Radio, http://www.npr.org/

[4] Brad Delong’s Semi-Daily Journal, http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2004_archives/000027.html

[5] “Kwiatkowski on the Neoconservative coup at the Pentagon”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 02/01/2004-02/29/2004, posted, 08:56:05 AM, Monday, February 23, 2004, http://www.juancole.com/2004_02_01_juancole_archive.html#107752296558090480.

[6] “Wolfowitz Throws Tantrum at France, Germany, Russia, and Canada: The Failure of Emotional Intelligence”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 12/01/2004-12/31/2004, posted, 8:38:10 AM, Friday, December 12, 2003, http://www.juancole.com/2003_12_01_juancole_archive.html#107121469040903099

[7] “Wolfowitz Throws Tantrum at France, Germany, Russia, and Canada: The Failure of Emotional Intelligence”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 12/01/2004-12/31/2004, posted, 8:38:10 AM, Friday, December 12, 2003, http://www.juancole.com/2003_12_01_juancole_archive.html#107121469040903099

[8] “Kwiatkowski on the Neoconservative coup at the Pentagon”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 02/01/2004-02/29/2004, posted, 08:56:05 AM, Monday, February 23, 2004, http://www.juancole.com/2004_02_01_juancole_archive.html#107752296558090480.

[9] “Reply to Yglesias”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 02/01/2004-02/29/2004, posted, 08:56:05 AM, Tuesday, February 03, 2004, http://www.juancole.com/2004_02_01_juancole_archive.html#107579821269071212

[10] “No WMD. Nada. Bubkes.”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 01/01/2004-01/31/2004, posted, 07:30:18 AM, Friday, January 09, 2004, http://www.juancole.com/2004_01_01_juancole_archive.html#107362981816050962

[11] “Arguing with Bush”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 04/01/2004-04/30/2004, posted, 07:30:34 AM, Wednesday, April 14, 2004, http://www.juancole.com/2004_04_01_juancole_archive.html#108192862382575758

[12] Ibid.

[13] “The Passion of Christ in the World Religions”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 02/01/2004-02/29/2004, posted, 09:45:35 AM, Thursday, February 26, 2004, http://www.juancole.com/2004_02_01_juancole_archive.html#107778513556398947

[14] “200,000 Israeli Fascists Demand Colonization of Gaza”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 07/01/2004-07/31/2004, posted, 07:08:33 AM, Monday, July 26, 2004,http://www.juancole.com/2004_07_01_juancole_archive.html#109082345965499075

[15] Juan Cole, Informed Comment 03/01/2003-03/31/2003, posted, 08:46:04 AM, Wednesday, March 21, 2003, http://www.juancole.com/2003_03_01_juancole_archive.html#91111573

[16] “About Half the American Public is Terminally Stupid”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 02/01/2004-02/29/2004, posted 09:03:49 AM, Tuesday, February 24, 2004, http://www.juancole.com/2004_02_01_juancole_archive.html#107760982966050756

[17] “Bush Says Edwards Lacks Experience”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 07/01/2004-07/31/2004, posted, 6:11:14 PM, Thursday, July 8, 2004, http://www.juancole.com/2004_07_01_juancole_archive.html#108932580567821673

[18] “Bremer Flees Iraq Two Days Early”, Juan Cole, Informed Comment 06/01/2004-06/30/2004, posted, 02:02:46 PM, Monday, June 28, 2004, http://www.juancole.com/2004_06_01_juancole_archive.html#108843853517271330

[19] “September 11 Report Due Today,” Juan Cole, Informed Comment, Thursday, July 22, 2004, posted 7/22/2004. 10:13:44 AM, http://www.juancole.com/2004_07_01_juancole_archive.html#109050676416130353

[20] “Shock of the Week: Liberals in Liberal Arts,” Juan Cole, Informed Comment, Sunday, November 28, 2004, posted 05:00:06 PM, http://www.juancole.com/2004/11/shock-of-week liberals-in-liberal-arts.html"

www.jta.org: AIPAC Friends begin SMEAR of Szady to hide Spy Scandal

JTA NEWS: "Jewish confidence remains high
as FBI probe of AIPAC intensifies
By Ron Kampeas and Matthew E. Berger

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (JTA) — The public resurrection of a federal investigation involving Washington’s top pro-Israel lobby has done little to shake Jewish confidence in the group — but some organizations worry about the long road that now appears ahead.
FBI investigators searched the Washington headquarters of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Dec. 1, the second search in five months.

At the same time, the agents subpoenaed four top officials to appear before a grand jury in Virginia later this month.

The four were Howard Kohr, the group’s executive director; Richard Fishman, the managing director; Renee Rothstein, the communications director; and Raphael Danziger, the research director.

Sources told JTA that federal investigators have interviewed several former AIPAC employees in recent weeks.

An FBI official confirmed the search but had no further comment, and a spokesman for the U.S. Attorneys Office also would not comment.

A new report also suggests two of the alleged targets in the investigation — Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s director of foreign policy issues, and Keith Weissman, an Iran specialist — may have been set up by the FBI.

The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday that the FBI directed a Pentagon official to give the two AIPAC staffers intelligence about alleged dangers facing Israeli agents in northern Iraq, which Rosen and Weissman later allegedly shared with Israeli officials in Washington.

AIPAC continues to defend the integrity of the organization.

“Neither AIPAC nor any member of our staff has broken any law, nor has AIPAC or its employees ever received information they believed was secret or classified,” a statement from the group said.

AIPAC’s support on Capitol Hill and among U.S. Jews has been steadfast since the controversy first erupted in August. The latest developments have hardly dented that wall, especially among the grass roots.

Hannah Rosenthal, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella group for Jewish community relations councils, said JCRCs around the country have not received calls about the latest developments — a sharp contrast with August, when JCPA conference calls on the matter drew hundreds of participants.

“It’s kind of amazing how low priority this issue is,” she said. “I think a lot of people think the investigation will show there’s nothing there and we’ll move on.”

Still, Jewish leaders expressed anxiety at what appeared to be a long haul for AIPAC.

“A lot of people thought, when nobody followed up, that they were going to just let it die,” Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said of the FBI investigation.

“But you know when people bring charges to a grand jury, chances are this will be the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a former prosecutor, said this “is obviously a very serious matter.”

“It does not necessarily mean there will be indictments or that we know who the targets are, but a grand jury has a great deal of power, they can call witnesses, documents, people who go can’t bring lawyers — it’s usually all very exhausting.”

A former top Justice Department official suggested that going to a grand jury meant the investigation had become adversarial.

“You can’t automatically sound the alarm, but more often than not it means that they don’t believe” that those under investigation have been “totally cooperative,” said Bill Mateja, a former U.S. Attorney in Texas who until last month was the top federal corporate fraud official.

Less often, Mateja said, a U.S. attorney will refer a matter to a grand jury simply to wrap it up, “crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.”

Levenson said it was significant that Weissman and Rosen were not among those subpoenaed — targets of a probe almost never appear before a grand jury in the early stages of the investigation.

“Usually the people who are brought in at the initial stages are designated as witnesses, rather than targets,” she said. “You work from the outside in. The targets are the people in the middle of the bull’s-eye.”

When investigators first arrived at AIPAC’s offices in August, seizing computer files and interviewing Rosen and Weissman, many suggested that AIPAC was secondary to an investigation into Larry Franklin, a Pentagon analyst suspected of passing the group classified documents on Iran.

However, insiders say the investigation has appeared to be moving away from Franklin and toward Rosen and AIPAC.

Making things even murkier was the Jerusalem Post account, which alleged that Franklin, already under FBI investigation, cooperated with authorities and, at the FBI’s request, detailed for Rosen and Weissman presumed threats to Israelis in northern Iraq.

The AIPAC staffers allegedly passed that information on to Israel.

If there was such a setup, sources close to those being investigated told JTA, it was so subtle that its nefariousness apparently went unnoticed by its targets, who were unaware that what they were allegedly doing would be considered illegal.

AIPAC said in its statement: “We continue to cooperate fully with the governmental authorities and believe any court of law or grand jury will conclude that AIPAC employees have always acted legally, properly and appropriately.”

The sources insisted that whatever information Rosen and Weissman passed on, it did not involve an exchange of documents, classified or otherwise.

Even if Weissman and Rosen passed on information they knew to be classified, it is not clear that it was illegal.

Two former federal prosecutors said that government officials have an obligation not to disclose classified information, but the obligations to civilians who receive that information are not as clear.

If an outsider bribes or otherwise induces a government official to give him classified information, he could be guilty of conspiracy, one of the former prosecutors said; but, at least according to the Jerusalem Post account, that was not the case.

Some former AIPAC employees suggested the group could be under investigation for acting as an agent for Israel. Under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a foreign agent is any individual or group that works under the direction of a foreign government.

But AIPAC has always maintained that it represents American supporters of the Jewish state, not Israel itself.

Some Jewish leaders suggested that AIPAC — with its reputation for erring unstintingly on the side of caution when it comes to lobbying rules — was the least likely group to walk into such a trap.

“They have always been scrupulous about the rules and not stepping over the line,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, the executive director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) suggested the FBI was creating a “moral dilemma” for AIPAC officials, trying to entrap them to tell Israelis about information that could save innocent lives.

Wexler wrote to President Bush last Friday, asking him to investigate media leaks and other ethical lapses in the AIPAC investigation.

He told JTA he hopes the matter will be broached when the Senate holds confirmations for Bush’s choices for secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who now serves as national security adviser, and for attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, who in his new role would oversee the FBI.

“The president is responsible for the particulars of this investigation and the apparent increased action that has transpired,” Wexler said.

Jewish organizational leaders say their biggest concern right now is how the negative media attention paid to AIPAC will reflect the broader perception of American Jews and Israel advocacy.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the community will stand together, although some Jewish activists may become anxious.

“People get impatient,” Foxman said, noting ADL was subject to its own investigation a decade ago by the Justice Department.

“This will impact on the community. Some will be less confident in standing together. That’s very normal.”

Others will note the positive signals, he said, including the fact that both Bush and Rice spoke to AIPAC during the two years the FBI investigation has presumably been going on, and that AIPAC officials met Rice at the White House late last month.

AIPAC was eager to underscore such successes, saying that membership and fund raising have only increased since the case first made headlines in August.

“On Capitol Hill in the last three months alone, several measures that strengthen America’s policies in the Middle East have been passed with overwhelming support,” AIPAC said in a statement.

“Israel’s annual foreign aid package has just been approved by Congress, giving Israel some $2.6 billion and extending the duration of Israel’s loan guarantees.”

The group also noted that the Senate recently passed by unanimous vote a bill expanding homeland security cooperation between Israel and the United States.

The Senate also approved a resolution supporting Israel’s disengagement plan and Bush’s call for democracy as a prerequisite for Middle East peace, and the “road map” peace plan.

The extension of the loan guarantees was an especially sweet victory, considering the administration cut a portion of the guarantees last year to punish Israel for settlement activity.

Still, the grand jury deliberations will preoccupy key AIPAC staffers at a critical time for Israel, when its government is seeking administration and congressional support for renewed talks with the Palestinians and ahead of a planned, controversial withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

If the grand jury probe leads to indictments and convictions of senior AIPAC staffers, the organization could suffer damage, a top Washington lobby watcher said.

“If it turns out that AIPAC staffers were involved in illegal activities, it will hurt AIPAC’s reputation on the Hill,” said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. “It will present a problem in terms of people having to deal with them.”

What ensues depends on whether those at the center of any emerging scandal acted as rogues or were part of a pattern, Noble said.

“AIPAC is a powerful lobbying group, it does have a certain amount of capital, but that can be used up quickly in a really damaging situation,” Noble said.

Steve Pomerantz, a former FBI investigator who consults for Jewish organizations, said the nature of the subpoenas suggests that FBI investigators know what they’re looking for.

“This is not a fishing expedition,” he said. “It’s clear to me they have some specific information which is leading them in a specific direction.”

Some Jewish organizational officials have raised concerns in the past about David Szady, the senior FBI counterintelligence official overseeing the probe, and whether he targeted Jews inside the agency.

A JTA investigation in September linked Szady to at least one case where a former CIA official, who is Jewish, sued the FBI and CIA for religious discrimination.

“He’s bad, very bad,” one senior Jewish organizational executive said in that report.

Pomerantz said he had never seen anything to suggest that Szady is anti-Semitic. In any case, he said, the idea that an individual could hijack the nation’s premier law enforcement agency for a personal agenda was far-fetched.

“The FBI is not suicidal,” he said. “They are not taking on AIPAC lightly or without full knowledge that this is a powerful organization seen positively by this administration.”"