Friends and foes

Broadsides from the pirate captain of the Jet Set

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Some days you pick up the newspaper and you don't know whether to laugh or cry,' writes Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. Actually, I haven't been shedding too many crocodile tears lately, until, that is, a Sam Schulman column reached me via the miracle of the post. Talk about bursting out laughing. Schulman is an American friend of mine whom I once entrusted with running a section of the New York Press, Taki's Top Drawer, now mercifully extinct. Schulman's thesis in a jiffy: anyone who is anti-war is objectively if not intentionally helping to bring about genocide of the Jews. He writes of 'complicitous pacifists', and counts Jews among their number.

This is the kind of nonsense being hawked about by neo-cons nowadays, but before I get to those chappies, a brief defence of the 'cowardly' Frogs. It's apparently very patriotic nowadays in the Land of Free Speech for blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Orientals and Eskimos to call the French all sorts of epithets, the kindest of which is weasel, mother-er, yellow-bellied... you get my drift. (French rifle for sale. Never been fired. Only dropped once.) This might make sense coming from a descendant of the 300 Spartans who fell to a man at Thermopylae, but, when beer-bellied Mr New Jersey hawks it about, frankly it makes one reach for the sick bag. Just off the bat, the French lost 120,000 dead by June 1940 - more than twice the number of Americans killed over ten years in Vietnam.

In Dienbienphu the French-led garrison fought like Spartans - without air cover, only 105 mm guns, limited ammo and at the end no medical supplies - a condition no American soldier would have accepted ten years later in that miserable country. (Can you see an American general -Patton excluded - naming his outposts after his many mistresses, Dominique, Elianne, Gabrielle, Beatrice, Isabelle, as de Castries did?) La gloire of France, its culture (by far the greatest in Europe), its laws and traditions, its great history, its beautiful cities, its generals and kings are things as foreign to Mr New Jersey as combat is to Tony Blair. But never mind. It gets a lot worse.

In the American Conservative's last issue Pat Buchanan wrote a devastating piece accusing a neo-conservative clique of seeking to ensnare America in a series of wars that are not in Uncle Sam's interest. It was a J'accuse worthy of Zola. In a moderate tone he listed facts and figures which are undeniable to anyone of good faith, including a letter sent to George W. Bush by a cabal of intellectuals telling the commander-in-chief, nine days after the attack on the twin towers and the Pentagon, that if he did not follow their war plans, he would be charged with surrender. Among the 40 signatories instructing Bush how the war on terror must be conducted were names like Bennett, Podhoretz, Kirkpatrick, Perle, Kristol and Krauthammer.

To retain the signatories' support Bush was told to target Syria and Iran and to overthrow Saddam. Furthermore, a list of Middle East regimes that Podhoretz, Ledeen, Netanyahu and the Wall Street Journal regard as targets for destruction included Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and 'militant Islam'. Asks Pat: 'Who would benefit from a war of civilisations between the West and Islam? Answer: One nation, one leader, one party. Israel, Sharon, Likud.'

He went on to say that the neo-cons seek American empire, while Sharonites seek hegemony over the Middle East. The two agendas coincide precisely. The origins of this plan go back before the 9/11 attack. According to Buchanan, a principal draftsman of the plan was overheard in 1970 on a federal wiretap discussing classified information from the National Security Council with the Israeli embassy.

Now, says Buchanan, 'President Bush is on notice: should he pressure Israel to trade land for peace, the Oslo formula in which his father and Yitzak Rabin believed, he will, as was his father, be denounced as an anti-Semite and a Munich-style appeaser by both Israelis and their neo-conservative allies inside his own Big Tent.'

Buchanan concludes that Israel and America are friends and the former has rights to peace and secure borders. America is committed to Israel's wellbeing, and rightly so. But US interests and those of Israel are not identical. When they collide, American ones must prevail. This has caused a mini firestorm in America, and Buchanan, of course, has been smeared as an anti-Semite.