A Commentary Exchange on Islam
Jude Wanniski
August 28, 2002


Memo To: Neal Kozodoy, editor, Commentary
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Thanks for running my letter

To tell you the truth, Neal, I never thought you would run my letter about Joshua Muravchik's article in the May issue. I'd even forgotten about it when it showed up in the new September issue, along with a response from Joshua. I'll run both my letter and his response here and at the conclusion take issue with a few of his comments. Now that I've been published in the periodical of the American Jewish Committee, perhaps you will entertain the idea of a full-length article by me. I notice you have former CIA Director Jim Woolsey writing in the current issue about how to defeat the Arab "oil weapon." In the 1970's, when I was associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, I wrote the energy editorials at a time when the oil price was quadrupling and, for the first time, an "oil weapon" appeared that previously had not threatened Israel's interests. I do know a lot about the topic.

I must point out that there are many errors in Mr. Woolsey's article, the most glaring being his statement that once Saudi and Kuwaiti oil was secured at the end of the Gulf War, the coalition "permitted hundreds of thousands of these [Kurdish and Shiite] rebels to be slaughtered by Saddam's Republican Guards." The original assertion was made that 100,000 rebels were killed by poison gas at the end of the Iran-Iraq war, not the Gulf War. Wrong war. The charge since has been altered to 80,000 to 100,000 killed by machine guns after they had been rounded up and trucked to the South of Iraq and buried in mass graves. The U.S. Army War College says none of this happened and no mass graves which could easily be located by satellite have ever been found. You may appreciate my finding that Mr. Woolsey is the first director of Central Intelligence in our history with an IQ in double digits. He knows even less about oil than about the various Middle East wars.


Joshua Muravchik recommends a variety of methods for teaching the Islamic world to behave itself ["Heart, Minds, and the War Against Terror", May]. These include winning the war on terrorism by whatever means necessary and lecturing the Islamic masses through electronic media (as if the cold war were won with Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America). He also seems wistful about the Pentagon's decision to scrap the Office of Strategic Influence, claiming that it was never meant to produce propaganda.

But missing from Mr. Muravchik's essay is any call to pay attention to the terrorists' complaints. A policy of "all talk and no listen" in politics as in a family-is almost always a recipe for disaster. In 1998, when Jesse Helms chaired the Senate foreign relations committee, I twice issued public pleas asking him to hold hearings to discuss what the Muslims who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 sought to accomplish. What had so deranged their minds that they would do something so uncivilized? I told the Senator that if we failed to address this underlying problem, there would be others who would come back to finish the job at the World Trade Center. There were no hearings.

Listening to petitions from those with a grievance does not mean you must give in to them. But a child who knows that his parents have listened carefully to a request and turned it down with a reasoned response will be less likely to burn down the barn than if the parents simply say, "Shut up and go to your room."

The reason there were no hearings, I surmise, is that the Jewish community was afraid its "parents" in Washington would ask it to share with its Muslim siblings. A clear majority of Jews in Israel and in America support the idea of a Palestinian state living peacefully next to a Jewish state. But Jewish and Palestinian extremists are like two spoiled brats who want it all for themselves.

JUDE WANNISKI Morristown, New Jersey

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As for Jude Wanniski, ordinarily I would discourage COMMENTARY from publishing letters by writers who have clearly gone off the deep end. In this case, however, it may be useful to allow Mr. Wanniski to expose himself, since it is likely that most readers will recall him only as a once influential advocate of "supply side" economics and may be unaware of the subjects to which he has addressed himself obsessively in recent times.

His letter is emblematic. He claims that "the Jewish community" prevented Senator Helms from heeding his sage counsel to hold hearings in order to give the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 the opportunity to explain what was on their minds. Even if their demands were not all met, this, he seems to reason, would have made the bombers feel better and led somehow to the emergence of a peace-loving Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel. Such a happy outcome would have pleased the "clear majority" of Jews and displeased only Jewish extremists-which does make it hard to understand why "the Jewish community" blocked it.

The logic of this argument is, in short, not linear. But it is of a piece with much else that Mr. Wanniski has to offer these days. He has made himself the principal champion of Saddam Hussein and Louis Farrakhan. The former, he says, is concealing no weapons, did not use poison gas against Iraqi Kurds, and was not behind the assassination attempt on George H. W Bush in Kuwait in 1993. Nor was Saddam attempting to acquire nuclear weapons until Israel drove him to do it in 1981 by bombing the bombing the Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak, which "was being used for peaceful purposes." True, it was bad of the Iraqi ruler to invade Kuwait in 1990, but, since he acted with the approval of the U.S. government, who are we to judge?

Then there is Farrakhan, who, says Mr. Wanniski, is "emerging as the spiritual leader of the entire Islamic world." In 1999, Farrakhan gave a speech explaining that Jews had falsely branded him anti-Semitic because, "when God sends a prophet into the world to point out where we went wrong, we don't ordinarily say, 'you're right, thank you."' (In other words, Farrakhan was sent by God to chasten the Jews.) This was hailed by Mr. Wanniski as "by far the best speech I've heard from anyone in this last decade," and was posted on Mr. Wanniski's website although, as he gushed in a letter to Farrakhan, readers "really should get the audiotape to appreciate what you can do in a 90-minute address."

A third self-defined prophet whom Mr. Wanniski has courted is Lyndon LaRouche, the anti-Semitic conspiracist and migrant from extreme Left to extreme Right. Presumably what attracted Mr. Wanniski was not LaRouche's conviction for credit-card fraud but his relentless expose of the Henry Kissinger-Queen of England-Zionist plot to control the world. The LaRouche-Wanniski partnership faltered, however, or so Mr. Wanniski told the New Republic's Jonathan Chait, because of LaRouche's refusal to embrace supply-side theory. (Apparently Mr. Wanniski believes that Farrakhan has embraced it, and perhaps Saddam, too.)

Mr. Wanniski has a conspiracy theory of his own, claiming that the U.S. government is secretly controlled by Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. The latter in particular evokes the full measure of Mr. Wanniski's mania. "Richard Perle" he writes, "is a madman, totally out of control. Possessed by the forces of Darkness . . . the most evil man on the face of the earth. Hannibal Lecter [in the movie Silence of the Lambs] only ate his victims one at a time. Perle likes to eat them en masse." If Perle is not stopped, he warns, "another six million Jews [will] perish in a second Holocaust."

Is he himself an anti Semite? Mr. Wanniski waxes indignant at the suggestion. "I know anti-Semitism when I see it," he says, "and can assure you neither [Farrakhan] nor I have a speck of anti-Semitism in our hearts or souls." That's a relief.

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Joshua Muravchik is correct in that I seem to be the principle champion of Saddam Hussein and Min. Louis Farrakhan, but that's only because I have done serious due diligence in sorting out what they have said and done and what they are alleged to have said and done and never did. I find that Saddam Hussein most definitely did not commit genocide against his own people and that it is also pure propaganda he tried to murder former President Bush in early 1993. Joshua might make the argument that Saddam was thinking about developing a nuclear weapon before the Osirak power plant was bombed in 1981, with Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz assisting from the Pentagon. But there is no record that he embarked on a secret nuclear program until Osiraq was blown up by the Israeli air force. Osirak was built to produce electricity for Baghdad, a "peaceful purpose," and could not have been used for nuclear weapons without the International Atomic Energy Agency discovering it.

My "partnership" with Lyndon LaRouche was only a loose contact with his chief economist at the time, David Goldman. All contact with LaRouche ended when Goldman became chief economist at my firm, since leaving Polyconomics to run an investment bank. I did tell Jonathan Chait of the New Republic that while LaRouche and I agreed on monetary policy and a gold standard, he would not accept the concept of a dynamic fiscal policy associated with the Laffer Curve.

As for "anti-Semitism," I do not believe I am anti-Semitic in the slightest nor do I believe Minister Louis Farrakhan is anti-Semitic in the slightest. Nor does he believe I am anti-Semitic or that he is anti-Semitic. We admire and respect the Jewish people and recognize Judaism as the original wellspring of Christianity and Islam. Joshua Muravchik is not really a "reporter," but an intellectual, who is not trained to ask questions to discover facts. He is thus not as informed as he might be.