What’s up with Valerie Plame?

Valerie Plame

A lot has been written on the Valerie Plame twitter debacle.  Just google her name and you’ll find pages of links to analysis, ridicule, irony, and exposé.

Probably the best (and longest) analysis of the situation is by Vox Tablet columnist James Kirchick, “Valerie Plame’s Real Blunder” (reprinted in part below).  Alan Dershowitz, as always, has weighed in on the issue: “Valerie Plame Knew Exactly What She Was Doing.”

SFMEW February lecturer Dennis Ross has reminisced about the broader issue of “how Jews were perceived in the national security apparatus for a long time” in his New York Times op-ed: “Memories of an Anti-Semitic State Department“.  Ross notes in his article:

Ms. Wilson, whose identity as a covert operative was leaked in 2003 by members of the George W. Bush administration nettled by the opposition of her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to the Iraq war, repeated the well-worn narrative that Jewish neoconservatives promoted the invasion of Iraq — and are beating the drum for a conflict with Iran.  

Of course, most Jews are not neoconservatives, and most neoconservatives are not Jewish. In any case, it was two influential non-Jews, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who played the central role with President Bush in deciding to invade Iraq in 2003.

You can also read Molly Roberts in the Washington Post: “The other problem with Valerie Plame’s horrible anti-Semitic tweet.”  In 2014 the ADL put the owner of the Unz Review under the spotlight with an analysis of his activities:  “Ron Unz: Controversial Writer and Funder of Anti-israel Activists.

So what more is there to say about Plame’s faux pas?  At least two things.  First, Plame is the darling of the left here in Santa Fe.  We in Santa Fe therefore have a responsibility to be vigilant to be sure that her form of Jew hatred doesn’t get excused because she is so well-liked.  We need to be on the look-out for any backsliding of her apology.  If you see something, say something by sending an email to info@sfmew.org.

Second, we need to challenge any possible sense that she can play for sympathy as a  “martyr” of persecution because of her being called-out by the Jewish community.  We cannot let the legitimate criticism of her anti-Semitism become a type of badge of courage.  If you encounter that from her, or similar claims from your friends or others, we ask that you vigorously challenge the notion that somehow the criticism was not justified.

Do you have more to add to the discussion?  If so, comment on our website at the end of the Kirchick reprint.

One more thing:  before we get to Kirchick’s article, be sure to buy your ticket(s) to hear SFMEW-sponsored Amb. Yoram Ettinger speaking on “The Myth about Palestinian-Israeli Demographics” on November 1st.  Go to our event webpage by clicking here (http://www.sfmew.org/ettinger/) to find out more.

We wish you and yours a gmar chatimah tovah (literally, “finish with a good signature,” but figuratively “may you be written in the book of life”) on this Yom Kippur.

Valerie Plame’s Real Blunder

Forget the hysterics and the apologies: The former CIA agent had the temerity to express an all-too-common view about nefarious Jewish influence over American politics.

by James Kirchick

Valerie Plame’s Real Blunder

Last week, Valerie Plame Wilson got into trouble for retweeting a vile anti-Semitic screed accusing American Jews of being dual loyalist war mongers. The problem wasn’t what she was saying—similar accusations have been made by everyone from Barack Obama on down for years. The problem was how she was saying it: Unlike her allies in the progressive camp, Plame was foolish enough to implicate all Jews in advocating war with Iran, instead of simply identifying a few convenient culprits for calumny.

Plame, you may recall, became a hero to progressives when she claimed that officials in the George W. Bush administration “outed” her to Washington Post columnist Robert Novak as revenge after her husband – former Ambassador Joseph Wilson–publicly disputed intelligence that the president had cited in his case for war in Iraq. That the entire story ended up being a load of bunk didn’t stop the couple from becoming liberal media sweethearts, replete with a Vanity Fair spread and frequent appearances at gala events and fundraisers. Plame wrote a bestselling memoir that inspired a film starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, and, just a few months ago, a stage play produced here in Washington, D.C.

Plame put her progressive fans in a difficult spot when, on Thursday, she tweeted out an article entitled “America’s Jews are driving America’s wars” to her 50,000 followers. Published on the website of Ron Unz, an eccentric paleoconservative businessman, and penned by Philip Giraldi, like Plame a former employee of the CIA, the article – illustrated with the requisite photo of a smirking William Kristol–was as anti-Semitic as its title implied. “Jewish groups and deep pocket individual donors not only control the politicians, they own and run the media and entertainment industries, meaning that no one will hear about or from the offending party ever again,” Giraldi began. Having goaded the United States into war with Iraq, “American Jews,” he continued, “have been very successful at faking the Iranian threat” and “constitute a cabal of sanctimonious chairborne warriors who prefer to do the heavy thinking while they let others do the fighting and dying.” To mitigate this cancer at the heart of the American body politic, Giraldi proposes that Jews be barred from assuming “national security positions involving the Middle East” and that “those American Jews who lack any shred of integrity” be publicly identified in all media appearances “kind-of-like a warning label on a bottle of rat poison” or, as were an earlier generation of problematic Jews, with a yellow star.

“We don’t need a war with Iran because Israel wants one and some rich and powerful American Jews are happy to deliver,” Giraldi concluded.

Within minutes of Plame posting the article, uproar ensued. Plame initially took umbrage at the suggestion she was endorsing anti-Semitism, telling her critics “First of all, calm down. Retweets don’t imply endorsement.” The article, she insisted, was “provocative, but thoughtful” and “Many neocon hawks ARE Jewish.” She followed this with the obligatory disclaimer that “Just FYI, I am of Jewish descent” and that those criticizing her ought to “Read the entire article and try, just for a moment, to put aside your biases and think clearly.”

About an hour later, having castigated her detractors for being perfunctory in their reading comprehension and impulsive in their rush to judgment, Plame claimed that she had merely “skimmed the piece” she had, just moments ago, told her critics to read the entirety of, and “didn’t do my homework on the platform this piece came from.” This, in spite of the fact that she had repeatedly, over the course of several years, tweeted out articles by Giraldi from the Unz website, including one alleging a group of “dancing Israelis” celebrating the attack on the Twin Towers (“I never heard this story,” Plame commented) and another entitled “Why I still dislike Israel” (“Well put, Mr. Giraldi,” she concurred). In a subsequent email to Business Insider, Plame adopted the mien of a haplessly busy housewife, so up to her eyeballs with “8 workmen…the dog is going nuts, and kids are texting one [sic] asking for things they forgot for school” that she didn’t realize she was promoting content fit for Der Stürmer. Needless to say, this excuse was about as convincing as someone claiming that they didn’t know articles headlined “Black people are lazy criminals” was racist or “Homosexuals are diseased perverts” was homophobic.

Though her name may not draw the recognition it did a decade ago, Plame is not some peripheral character on the political fringe. Until Sunday, when she resigned(via Twitter), she sat on the board of the Ploughshares Fund, the non-profit organization that spearheaded the public relations campaign for the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear agreement, and she appeared in a video promoting the deal alongside other noted Middle East experts Jack Black and Morgan Freeman. Nor is Giraldi as marginal as his screeds for The Unz Review would suggest; in 2015, years before the term would be popularized by a paranoid American president, The New York Times saw fit to solicit Giraldi’s contribution to a symposium on the matter of “deep states.” While his peers wrote about intelligence apparatuses in authoritarian countries like Egypt and Turkey, Giraldi set his sights on the “Washington-New York axis of national security officials and financial services executives.”

Giraldi’s jeremiad, and Plame’s schizophrenic endorsement of it, shocked a lot of people. But it shouldn’t have. For dark insinuations about nefarious Jewish political influence, dual loyalty to Israel, and “warmongering” on behalf of a foreign country have been central themes of far right and not-so-far left political discourse for quite some time. They were staples of anti-Iraq War rhetoric in the early 2000s and more recently the pro-Iranian nuclear deal “echo chamber” created and nurtured by the Obama White House. This discourse is like a game in which the Project for the New American Century, the 1996 “Clean Break” memo, Sheldon Adelson, Leo Strauss, Alcove II at City University, Benjamin Netanyahu, and various Jewish Bush administration officials stand in for numbers on a bingo card. If Giraldi had simply replaced “Jews” with “neocons,” his piece could have been published in any number of respectable publications and Plame wouldn’t be denying accusations she’s an anti-Semite. Their mistake was being too general, castigating all Jews instead of just the Bad Jews.

The mess Plame created for herself is an illustration of what happens when you go “too far” in what’s now the acceptable pursuit of Jew-baiting, which was mainstreamed by the anti-Iraq war “netroots,” further perfected by Obama administration sycophants in selling the Iran Deal and then, in different form, enthusiastically endorsed and used by Steve Bannon and Trump during last year’s presidential campaign. Herewith is a chronological collection of comments from elected officials, commentators and former military officers along this theme:

— In October 2002, an Illinois State Senator named Barack Obama delivered a speech in Chicago opposing war with Iraq. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war,” Obama declared. “What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.” Few of the people listening to the speech that day could have known whom the future president was talking about. Presaging Giraldi’s condemnation of “chairborne warriors,” Obama set his sights not on the Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, House Speaker, Senate Majority Leader, or Senate Minority Leader–all of whom had far more influential roles in the decision-making process leading up to war, and all gentiles – but on two Jewish individuals, one of whom, Perle, did not even serve in the Bush administration but sat on a nondescript advisory committee to the Defense Department, and who would otherwise have remained obscure had not their ethnic background taken on totemic importance in the fevered imaginations of conspiracy theorists.

[Kirchick then goes on to list 16 additional examples of comments from elected officials.  We won’t reprint them here – you can find them in the original article. Kirchick then finishes his article…]

Given this lineage, Plame’s mistake was not so much what she said but how she said it. Most of the individuals cited above had the political nous to avoid categorical statements about Jews. Jim Moran made sure to note that AIPAC “did not represent the mainstream of American Jewish thinking at all.” Wesley Clark insisted, “the Jewish community is divided” between peace-loving Jews and the “New York money people.” When John Mearsheimer delivered a speech in 2010 divvying up American Jews between the “New Afrikaners” like then-Anti Defamation League head Abe Foxman, The New York Times columnist Bret Stephens and Washington Posteditorial page editor Fred Hiatt, who “will support Israel even if it is an apartheid state,” and “Righteous Jews” like Noam Chomsky, Philip Weiss and Richard Falk who “believe that self-determination applies to Palestinians as well as Jews,” his reputation did not take a major hit. Mainstream news outlets did not stop soliciting his opinions on major international events or bromides blaming “the West” for Russia’s rape of Ukraine.

Consider the response to Plame from Ishaan Tharoor, resident tier mondiste of the Washington Post. “Couching your critique of neocons on their supposed Jewishness is the single dumbest critique possible,” he tweeted. “It also absurdly ignores the countless US Jews who oppose neocons and are on frontlines of progressive foreign policy.” Tharoor didn’t take issue with the substance of Plame’s critique so much as its breadth; she went after all Jews instead of singling out the Bad Jews, the “neocons,” against whom charges of dual loyalty and the like are presumably applicable. And the ability to choose who sits on which side of the Good Jew/Bad Jew dichotomy is one which “progressives” uniquely possess.

Accusations of dual loyalty have trailed Jews for centuries all over the world. But since 9/11 in particular, it has become increasingly acceptable for mainstream figures and institutions, up to and including the President of the United States, to impugn the national allegiance of Jewish American legislators, officials, writers, activists and ordinary citizens. Progressives patting themselves on the back for condemning Plame’s obvious and unvarnished anti-Semitism might reflect upon how they’ve been enabling such rhetoric for the past 16 years.

James Kirchick, a visiting fellow with the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, is a columnist at Tablet magazine and the author ofThe End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age. His Twitter feed is @jkirchick.

Santa Fe Middle East Watch is a beneficiary organization of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico.