Bintel Blog

Peter Beinart on Norman Podhoretz’s Bluster Problem

By Daniel Treiman

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Former New Republic editor Peter Beinart eviscerates neo-con chieftain Norman Podhoretz’s new book “World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism” in The New York Times Book Review:

His assertions are bold, sweeping and almost wholly unencumbered by evidence. We learn, for instance, that “almost to a man, Muslim clerics in their sermons” endorsed the 9/11 attacks. “Just about everyone in the whole world who was intent on discrediting the Bush doctrine,” he tells us, claimed that Jews were behind the Iraq war. And none of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib “so far as anyone knew, was even maimed, let alone killed.”

But what really gets Beinart — hardly a starry-eyed dove himself — is the Commentary editor’s blustering antagonism toward his domestic political opponents. Beinart writes:

The most astonishing part of “World War IV” is Podhoretz’s incessant use of violent imagery to describe American politics. Critics of the Iraq war represent a “domestic insurgency” with a “life-and-death stake” in America’s defeat. And their dispute with the president’s supporters represents “a war of ideas on the home front.” “In its own way,” Podhoretz declares, “this war of ideas is no less bloody than the one being fought by our troops in the Middle East.”

No less bloody? That’s good to know. Next time I talk to my sister-in-law, an emergency medicine doctor serving at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, I’ll tell her we have it just as rough here at home. Norman Podhoretz is practically dodging I.E.D.’s on his way to Zabar’s.

Not content to demolish only one right-winger per review, Beinart also knocks down Michael Ledeen’s new book “The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots’ Quest for Destruction”:

…Ledeen’s effort to lay virtually every attack by Muslims against Americans at Tehran’s feet takes him into rather bizarre territory. He says the 1998 bombings of the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania “were in large part Iranian operations,” which would come as news to the 9/11 Commission, which attributed them solely to Al Qaeda. He says Shiite Iran was largely behind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a man famous for his genocidal hatred of Shiites. He claims that “most” Iraqi insurgents are “under Iranian guidance and/or control,” not just Shiite warlords like Moktada al-Sadr, but Sunni militants as well — the very people who say they are fighting to prevent Iranian domination. In Ledeen’s view, in fact, Sunni-Shiite conflict — the very thing that most observers think is tearing Iraq apart — is largely a mirage, because Iran controls both sides. And Al Qaeda is a mirage too, a mere front for the regime in Tehran. “When you hear ‘Al Qaeda,’ ” Ledeen writes, “it’s probably wise to think ‘Iran.’ ” Not surprisingly, he thinks the mullahs were probably behind 9/11.

If this kind of statement sounds oddly familiar, it should. It’s the 2007 equivalent of the claims made in 2002 and 2003 about Iraq. The years between 9/11 and the Iraq war gave rise to a cottage industry — led by Ledeen’s colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, Laurie Mylroie — charging that Saddam Hussein was the hidden mastermind behind a decade of jihadist terror….

The full review is here.

UPDATE: Podhoretz speaks (about his book):


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