Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Laughable parsing excuses

Ironically, from someone who supposedly is bravely standing up against the undue influence of Israel on U.S. foreign policy. Who? Joe Klein, a columist from Time magazine. He wrote this in a blogpost about the recent Repub debate:

“Iowa Republicans are not neoconservatives. Ron Paul has gained ground after a debate in which his refusal to join the Iran warhawks was front and center. Indeed, in my travels around the country, I don’t meet many neoconservatives outside of Washington and New York. It’s one thing to just adore Israel, as the evangelical Christians do; it’s another thing entirely to send American kids off to war, yet again, to fight for Israel’s national security.”

Dig the emphasized bit folks. What is the straightforward reading of this snippet?

My Sanka version:

1. Hooray Rue Paul, for calling out the undue influence of the Israelis as they press for military action against Iran.


2. We have sent our boys to foreign wars more than once to fight for Israel's security.

Right? That is the natural read. So. Elliot Abrams takes to the e-pages of the Weekly Standard (noted viper's nest of neo-cons), and takes Klein to task:

Now, Klein has chosen his medium well: Time has a history of anti-Semitism, illustrated by its famous 1977 story about Israel’s prime minister that began “Menachem Begin (rhymes with Fagin).” But Klein’s thoughts are about as ugly as ever appear outside of Pat Buchanan’s publications. “There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East-the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States,” Buchanan said in 1990.

How different is that from what Klein just wrote? After all, Klein is saying (1) neoconservatives are Jews, and Jews are neoconservatives; (2) Evangelicals like Israel but they are real Americans who put their own country first, unlike Jews; (3) and what those Jews/neoconservatives really want is to send American boys off to fight Israel’s wars, sparing Israeli kids and of course their own kids, who are apparently not “American kids” and anyway do not fight for their country.

Now, Abrams might be reading a bit into it, with that last bit about the neo-cons and Israelis consciously warmongering and making concurrent efforts at sparing their own kids. I'm willing to say Klein didn't intend to communicate that particular libel, but the balance of Abrams' reading of the passage seems to be a fair reading of Klein's intent.

Well, Klein received strong reactions to the original, from others for whom he holds more respect, one from his friend Jeff Goldberg. He also took note of the criticisms of Abrams, and in the process of defending himself and NYT columnist Tom ( the 'stache of understanding) Friedman from charges of being anti-Semitic and/or anti-Israeli, had this to say about the passage in that original column.

A few hours ago, I received an anguished email from my friend Jeff Goldberg, who was incensed that I’d written this sentence:

“It’s another thing entirely to send American kids off to war, yet again, to fight for Israel’s national security.” [emphasis his]

Jeff had jumped to a silly conclusion. I was concerned about sending American kids off to war yet again. I separated the phrase with commas in order to emphasize the too-many-times we’ve sent our troops overseas in the past decade. It might have been more accurate if I’d written “to send American kids off to war yet again–this time, to fight for Israel’s national security.” Which I believe is what the warmongering against Iran is all about. But the thought that we’d gone to war in the past, especially in Iraq, to fight for Israel’s national security was nowhere in my mind. Nowhere. I don’t believe we’ve ever gone to war to fight for Israel’s national security. Period.

Hmm. One wonders if a ride on the way back machine, and perusal of Klein's columns penned during the Bush years would bear out that claim. Hmm. Just a-wonderin'.

How exactly are we to take this?

In his State of the Union message, President Bush devoted only a single, lapidary sentence to the most nagging of all foreign policy dilemmas: "In the Middle East, we will continue to seek peace between a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine." This was both appropriate and misleading. It was appropriate because the Bush Administration hasn't done very much to bring about peace in the Middle East; in fact, it has allowed a bad situation to grow worse. And it was misleading because a stronger Israel is very much embedded in the rationale for war with Iraq. It is a part of the argument that dare not speak its name, a fantasy quietly cherished by the neo-conservative faction in the Bush Administration and by many leaders of the American Jewish community.

There's more in that column, but that's the lead in.

I'm sure there is some plausible concatenation of comma parsing that will explain away the straightforward reading of that one too... Yep. No doubt. Stay classy Klein.