This post is not really about Israel, but –as I will explain– there are people who would insist on making it so. First, I want to inform readers about two recent articles of mine, published online in conjunction with last month’s centennial of the start of World War I, on the lessons we should draw from a century of wars and armed interventions undertaken by Western powers since 1914. My contention is that some of these were justified –even vital in some cases– while others were a bad idea.
I believe that my conclusions defy what passes for conventional left/right divisions. In fact, the title chosen by The Forward, hints at a rightward direction: “A Century After World War I, We Don’t Put Ourselves on the Line for Beliefs” (subtitled: “The End of Sacrifice”); while the History News Network implies a more left-wing interpretation of what I wrote in my longer piece, “The Real Lessons of 1914,” featuring the following teaser quote: “What we should learn from World War I is not to engage in quixotic military crusades, nor to mount wars of choice in the face of overwhelming international opposition.”
This is part of my conclusion, but it leaves out my final sentence: “But we should also know, as the run-up to World War II instructed, that being overly gun-shy in a dangerous world presents its own set of risks.” In both pieces, I lament that we’ve hesitated to arm the moderate opposition to Assad in Syria, and that we stopped short of bombing his forces last year. Yet on another front, I advise that we have no direct military role to play in opposing Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Weiss is personally pleasant but single-minded in his quest to discredit everything about Israel and the Zionist movement, including its left-wing components. (Read M.J. Rosenberg on this.) In listening to an early July segment of the NPR program, “On The Media,” I was struck by the glee with which Weiss described a crescendo of media criticism of Israel over its offensive against Gaza this summer, and how Brooke Gladstone –the program’s co-host and one of my favorite radio personalities– let him rant without interruption; his hatred for Israel is palpable.
When I pointed out that Weiss has written a number of times for the magazine founded by Pat Buchanan, The American Conservative (which often publishes critical articles on Israel), he used his considerable journalistic research skills to find the one article I had written for The New York Sun, a neoconservative daily that had a very short lifespan as a print publication. On January 22, 2003, I published an op-ed called “The Liberal Case for War” (this article’s not online). Like a number of liberals at that time, I initially supported an armed intervention to overthrow the bloodthirsty, serial aggressor regime of Saddam Hussein.
Weiss refused to believe my protestations that I turned against the idea of invading Iraq after Colin Powell famously failed to enlist United Nations support. I still applauded the fact that Saddam was overthrown, but not the unilateral way in which it was done. (In retrospect, I think it’s also important to mention two bone-headed decisions made by L. Paul Bremer: to ban even low-ranking members of the Ba’ath party from state employment, and to disband Saddam’s army, just as key officers were negotiating to support the Coalition Provisional Authority — which, according to the 2007 award-winning documentary film No End In Sight, triggered the Sunni insurgency and ensuing sectarian violence.) But Weiss still saw me as part of a “Zionist” war-mongering machine.
|Jeremiah S. Gutman|
Our president at the time, the late civil rights attorney Jeremiah S. Gutman, prominently wore a button that read, “He lied, they died,” clearly indicating his belief that George W. had lied about the WMDs that were never found in Saddam’s Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003. We never discussed the matter, but I’m sure that most members of our organization felt closer to Gutman’s consistent anti-invasion stance than to my own more centrist and evolving perspective.
There were one or two other pieces I wrote in a source no longer available online (apparently the late Ami Isseroff’s Mideast Web site), that Weiss used against me; in one I favored the late Christopher Hitchens in a NYC debate with the British Ba’athist apologist and extremist politician George Galloway on Iraq and Middle East policy (even though I did not share Hitchens’ overall cheer-leading for the U.S. in Iraq). In another (or maybe the same piece), I discussed my take on Iraq, while also daring to criticize the anti-war movement, which you may recall, gave Tikkun’s Michael Lerner a hard time for supporting the rights of both Israel and the Palestinians. The following are links to my prolonged 2008 debate with Weiss, which he published at Mondoweiss:
Sep 7, 2008 – Ralph Seliger of Meretz USA responded to my comments on his challenges. Then I respond to his response below. I don’t know how far to take …
Oct 10, 2008 – Ralph Seliger has responded to my lengthy critique of the other day: I was waiting until after Yom Kippur to share something else with you, but …
Oct 10, 2008 – Ralph Seliger writes: If my feelings about Iraq were so centered on Israel, wouldn’
t I have continued to support the invasion even after the UN …
– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2008/10/it-remains-to-be-seen-whether-mr-bush-will-have-the-staying-power-and-the-wisdom-to-entirely-reverse-his-campaign-rhetoric-a.html#sthash.zZVB3jW3.dpuf