Bush-Bashing by Bill Bennett

Patrick J. Buchanan – March 22, 2002

“Your words can be interpreted in such ways that they hurt national resolve,” thundered William J. Bennett at Jimmy Carter’s remark that President Bush’s “axis of evil” phrase was unhelpful.

Imputing a near lack of patriotism to war critics, Bennett that day launched his Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, AVOT. Mission: Stalk and shame the war critics. “Our goal,” said Bennett, “is to fortify public opinion in the war against terrorism.”

Only days later, a perfect AVOT target came into view. Under the contemptuous headline – “Where Bush Rewards Terror” – some wretch had accused our president of making “concessions to terrorism” and “ceding … lands to dictators.”

Stunned by this attack on our commander in chief on the op-ed page of the Washington Post, I wondered: “Where is AVOT? Where is Bill?” Then I noted the name of the miscreant who had savaged our president. It seemed familiar. Indeed it was – “William J. Bennett”!

What had the president done to merit Bennett’s invoking of Munich and the Holocaust? (“The world, we thought, would long note what the long march of Jewish blood libels, mixed with the ceding of land to dictators, caused.”)

The president had suggested that Ariel Sharon’s rampage through refugee camps with tanks, where hundreds were cut down including women and children, was “not helpful.” Worse, his vice president had agreed to meet with Yasser Arafat, if Arafat showed seriousness in trying to halt the violence.

What is going on here? Bennett’s piece is a shot across the president’s bow by a front man for “Bibi’s Boys,” those acolytes of the once-and-future Prime Minister “Bibi” Netanyahu. Their scribblings may be found, disguised as “conservative commentary,” on op-ed pages of the major media and in National Review, Commentary, The New Republic and The Weekly Standard.

Bibi’s Boys have seized upon Sept. 11 as their last, best hope to morph America’s war into Israel’s war. They look with anticipation to what Norman Podhoretz calls “World War IV,” a clash of civilizations between America and Islam, with Israel as America’s first, even if only, ally.

“America’s fate and Israel’s fate are one and the same,” proclaims Bennett.

But how can this be? Between 1776 and 1948, America grew from 13 rural colonies on the seaboard of North America into the greatest economic and military power in history – a republic without peer – before Israel ever existed. In what sense, then, are our fates “one and the same”? Bennett’s answer: “We are both democracies.”

Well, yes, but the United States and Britain are both democracies, and were allies in two world wars. But that did not prevent President Eisenhower from telling Britain – and Israel’s David Ben Gurion – to get out of Suez and Sinai in 1956.

Bennett is constantly calling for “moral clarity.” But, mental clarity is also in order here. While Israel is indeed our ally in the war on terror, its annexations of Arab land, its dispossession of the Palestinian people, and its denial of their right to a homeland and state of their own on land their fathers farmed for a thousand years are a principal cause of this war and a primary reason why America’s reputation has been ravaged in the Arab world.

Bennett also savages the president’s father for having restrained Israel in 1991. “[W]hen the United States asked Israel not to defend itself after Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles at it during the liberation of Kuwait,” America sent the world a message, says Bennett. “The message is this: Jewish blood is cheap. … Terrorism works. The message may not be deliberate, but it is tragically clear.”

This is a blood libel against the president’s father. In 1991, he gave Israel Patriot missile batteries, $5 billion in aid and $10 billion in loan guarantees, then smashed Israel’s mortal enemy, Iraq, asking only that America be allowed to do it ourselves. To Bennett, this translates into “Jewish blood is cheap.” Someone should remind Bennett that, in the Gulf War, it was American blood that was shed.

“Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza is not the problem for the Arabs. Democracy is the problem,” writes Bennett. But is Bennett saying that if Israel became a dictatorship, she would be welcome in the Middle East? This is nonsense.

The president must and does condemn as barbaric and evil these terror attacks on Israeli civilians. But if America is to be the Great Power broker of peace in the Middle East, we must make clear where American policy differs from Sharonite practices – or Ariel Sharon will drag America’s reputation through the mud and blood of Ramallah and Bethlehem until there is nothing left of it.

But if the president does, as he must, he must also expect more of the same from Bibi’s Boys.