On Ross Vachon's "Semitism Gone Wild"

not psychopathology




As all my readers know, I write from an objective, moderate outlook and eschew emotions such as hatred. As evidence that my writings are uncontaminated by hatred, I proudly cite the fact that I am one of only a few people on Planet Earth who have been legally declared innocent of the crime of "hate speech" — in my case, by a tribunal in South Africa. Let it be said that not only do I not hate Jews, I also do not hate the neoconservatives — though I believe one should be allowed to shed light on their policies and apparent motivation. (I also disagree with those policies, but I try not to let my views get in the way of analysis.)

It seems, however, that some critics of the neocons go overboard. Because they disagree with neocon policies, they portray the neocons themselves in the most negative light — as pathologically evil people. A prime example of that genre is an article appearing recently at William Bowles's investigating the "new" imperialism site. The piece, "Semitism Gone Wild: The Psychopathology of Neo-Conservatism: A Clinical History" (December 30, 2003) was written by the obviously knowledgeable Ross Vachon. It is desirable to distinguish the line of analysis that Vachon's article represents from my own. (Vachon is described as a regular contributor to CounterPunch, but I haven't noticed this piece at that site; perhaps it is too extreme for Alexander Cockburn.)

I make no effort here to try to placate professional "anti-anti-Semites," who would likely claim that an apparently evenhanded presentation of the neoconservatives' leading role in the war on Iraq is a far more sinister form of "anti-Semitism" than Vachon's — because the former is a more sophisticated cover for "hate."

Vachon begins by looking back in time to point out the Old Testament vengeance that was inherent in the Morgenthau Plan for the post-World War II treatment, or rather punishment, of Germany. And of course the Hebrews of the Old Testament were called upon by God to exterminate some of their enemies — Canaanites, Amalekites, and so on. Vachon writes:

Vengeance is mine sayeth the Treasury Secretary [Henry Morgenthau]. A hungry and bombed-out homeless nation of millions would be left to die, starved or frozen to death. All frauleins of child-bearing age were to be sterilized at the point of a gun. Famed German industry to be utterly destroyed. The once proud Fatherland to be thrust backwards 700 years into an agrarian blight of death, disease, and despair. In Germany, time would stand still. It'd always be The Middle Ages: 1200 A.D.

Treasury Secretary Morgenthau was Jewish, and many Jews sought revenge against the Germans because of the Nazis' murderous treatment of Jews. It was "an eye for an eye" justice. Vachon somewhat one-sidedly presents the Marshall Plan as a Christian counter-proposal to the Jewish plan of vengeance. But in reality, the goal of reviving Germany was motivated not simply by Christian charity and compassion — though I think that was a factor — but also by rational self-interest (from the standpoint of the U.S. empire), since an impoverished Germany could pave the way for a Soviet Communist takeover of Europe. And the Soviets were now seen as America's major enemy.

By the same token, the actual architect of the Morgenthau Plan, Harry Dexter White (originally "Weiss"), was also Jewish and was consciously, deliberately working to advance the interests of the Soviet Union. Moscow hoped that so ruthless a policy would drive the German people into its hands, for it was promising comparatively mild treatment for a "socialist" Germany. [See Freda Utley, The High Cost of Vengeance (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1949), excerpts posted at Freda Utley.com.]

But despite the existence of a minority of Jews who consciously sought to advance the power of Stalinist Russia, it is fair to say that the bulk of Jewish support (including Henry Morgenthau's) for the Morgenthau Plan was based more on a desire to hurt the Germans than a desire to somehow advance Jewish interests. The Jewish desire for ruthless, even self-destructive, revenge against their former German oppressors is illustrated in the phrase "Semitism gone wild," which Vachon attributes to the wartime secretary of state, Cordell Hull. In contrast, David Irving, in his work on the Morgenthau Plan, finds the phrase in War Secretary Henry Stimson's Diary:

I have yet to meet a man who is not horrified with the "Carthaginian" attitude of the Treasury. It is Semitism gone wild for vengeance and, if it is ultimately carried out (I can't believe that it will be) it as sure as fate will lay the seeds for another war in the next generation.

Moving forward to the present, Vachon correctly identifies the neocons as the driving force for the Iraq war of 2003:

The desktop bombardiers — Perle, Wolfowitz & Co. — were beyond dispute the driving force behind the war. What's a mere 10,000 or so dead Iraqi innocents, 400 and counting dead Americans, 4 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars a month, the plunder and rape of an ancient civilization — when it comes to 'securing the realm,' to make the world safe for Israel.

... Jewish control over America's foreign policy has morphed it into one indistinguishable from the foreign policy of Israel's ruling Likud Party. America's grandly styled imperial overreach is centered around Israel's security needs.

All of that is fundamentally true, but Vachon goes on to denigrate the personal traits of the neocons:

They're morally repulsive people. Other Jews find them wicked and odious. Neo-conservatism is the idiot bastard child of Leon Trotsky and Mona Charen. The Mad Bolshevik and Crazy Yenta lay down together, and a foul belief system was born. The Neo stands for Neo-Nazi, and quite like the original, brown-shirted party animals, the Neo-Con Party is rife with leeches, louts, humbugs, mediocrities, lowlives, sickos, and buffoons. At any AEI (American Enterprise Institute) gathering, the first four rows of fellows are always a terrible eyesore. It's the official America's Ugliest Man Contest. Bring your own sick bag.

I've heard many other critics of the neocons say comparable things, though usually in private. I, on the other hand, avoid making personal attacks, and it does seem questionable how any people with such negative personal traits could ever succeed through exercising the arts of persuasion, which the neocons seem to have done.

And what is the neocons' objective, according to Vachon? "To untether America's huge thermonuclear arsenal from its traditional restraints, converting them to tactical weapons to be dropped on the Muslim hordes. Incinerating one billion Muslims strong [sic] is not merely a hot and sticky group-fantasy nurtured by a neo-con hive. It is the heartless, soulless, gelatinous core of the neo-con faith." Vachon also adverts to "serial Morganthau Plans. Monstrosities Past, Present, and Future. All proudly owned up to by Perle, Wolfowitz & Co."

Are the neocons really so pathological that they seek literal extermination of their enemies? Does the neocon desire to destroy enemies take precedence over their goal of advancing the interests of Israel? Is the neocons' motivation analogous to the Jewish motivation for the Morgenthau Plan? I just don't see it. To me it does not appear that any objective the neocons seek is based on revenge, hatred, or pathology. Rather, I believe the neocons are closely attuned to advancing Israeli interests, as they see them — that is, from the Likudnik perspective. Their goal of weakening Israel's enemies is clearly a rational one. And they have managed to achieve much of it.

The neocons, as well as Ariel Sharon, act within the range of what is possible. The neocons in the Bush administration push the envelope to achieve their goals, but they act with enough caution so as not to get into trouble. Since they are protected by the "criticism-equals-anti-Semitism" shield, they simply can get away with a lot without being called on it. They undoubtedly want regime change in Syria and Iran, but they are going about it in a very cautious and manipulative manner. That does not seem to be the approach that pathological people hell-bent on exterminating their enemies would take.

January 30, 2004

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