In 2006, I wrote about a nasty smear campaign mounted against Juan Cole, who’d been nominated for a prestigious endowed chair in history at Yale. Jewish pro-Israel alumni and right-wing blogs trumpeted Cole’s alleged anti-Semitic utterances and his supposed hatred for Israel. The campaign worked. While his appointment was approved by the department, through an unprecedented intervention it was eventually scuttled and he returned happily to his position teaching at the University of Michigan.
Now, the NY Times’ James Risen reports a U.S. intelligence official was dragooned into a CIA investigation involving Cole in an attempt to find out embarrassing information about him that could damage his reputation. The official notes there were at least two separate attempts to do this which he frustrated each time. It is, of course, illegal for the CIA to investigate U.S. citizens. Which seems to me to give Juan a built-in lawsuit. I’d give up on a Congressional investigation since the Obama administration seems almost as backward on national security as the Bush administration was.
What the article doesn’t reveal is who in the U.S. government initiated the request for an investigation of Cole. It seems clear to me that this would not have come from the CIA itself. In fact, the official reveals that the discussions began after his boss came back from a White House meeting. My money of course is on the devil himself, Dick Cheney. This is the part of the story I’d like to see expanded. I’m hoping Juan has filed an FOIA request, though if Cheney was smart he wouldn’t have left any fingerprints that would lead directly back to him. It’s just too damn bad he can’t sue Cheney himself if he’s the culprit.
An equally intriguing question would be whether members of the Republican pro-Israel Jewish community and/or the Israeli government were interested in this little adventure. They certainly would’ve been able to get Cheney’s ear. So the question, if Cheney was the initiator, would be whether he thought this up himself or the issue was brought to him by others. And if so, whom.
I wouldn’t bank too much on Cheney, a major war criminal, or any such people ever being held to account. Our morality in matters such as you describe becomes extremely selective. As to the Jewish Republican Coalition, to call them dinosaurs would insult those ancient reptilians, many of whom were herbivores.
Dick Cheney cannot be held to account since true patriots will always stand by any hawk, particularly by a chickenhawk.
Gene Schulman says
I can’t imagine why the administration, past or present, would be after Juan Cole. After all, look at the position he has taken on the Libya fiasco: The party line all the way. Perhaps a few Israel lobbyists might want his skin, But Norman Finkelstein he’s not.
j cole supports warsss.
j cole supports israels right to exist (on palestinian land) and israel’s right to defend itself (aka terrorizing those whose land and resources israel covets).
no one targeted cole. like the hoopla against finklestein, this is to give his discredited reputation some creds.
Juan Cole has friends in Israeli academia and has clearly spoken out against boycotts of Israeli academia – he is hardly an enemy of Israel. He does point out, correctly, that the ‘Jabotinskyists’ do not speak for all Jews, which is a key reason why the right-wingers are gunning for him.
I am so angry about this! The word ‘livid’ comes to mind. And “seeing red.”
We must get to the bottom of this, no matter high up it goes.
P.S. I can’t help but wonder whether “Pricky Dick” Cheney and his trusty Scooter might have been involved.
RE: “We must get to the bottom of this, no matter high up it goes.” – me, above
SHOULD HAVE READ: We must get to the bottom of this, no matter how high up it goes.
I appear to be dropping entire words today, not just the occasional letter. That’s not a very good sign!
P.S. SPEAKING OF SIGNS –
VIDEO – GAYbriel’s Mission: Sara Palin
Meet the Archangel GayBriel as he begins God’s mission to give guidance to all the Republican Presidential Candidates praying to him for help in making the difficult to decision about running for President against the Great Satin Obama.
PART 1 (02:27) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebEZ8sE2Kag
PART 2 (02:35) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=769JgGq5tw4
Richard Silverstein says
I’ve heard from another source very close to this story that there are suspicions it may’ve been the Texas Tornado, Karl Rove, & been timed for the 2006 midterm elections.
Ah yes, George W. Bush’s very own “Turd Blossom”! Of course, as I understand the way things worked in that (mal)administration, Cheney would still have had to sign off on it.
Of course. How soon everyone forgets Karl Rove.
This is so Nixonesque. It reminds me of Tricky Dick’s attempts to discredit Daniel Ellsberg.
RE: “It reminds me of Tricky Dick’s attempts to discredit Daniel Ellsberg.” – Mary
MY COMMENT: Dead on! That’s why I immediately suspected the involvement of “Pricky Dick” Cheney! At any rate, this smear job against Cole was at least “inspired” by Dicks “Tricky” and “Pricky”. And perhaps a “Sticky” as well, to complete the evil trinity.
There’s an easier less expensive solution to ensure that Amerikan campuses hire the ‘right sort’ of academics.
They should institute a “loyalty oath to Israel first” requirement for all instructors in academia here.
If FM Lieberman does for the US what he’s done to Israel it would eliminate dissent & trouble making human rights activists.
Then the US govt could ‘borrow’ mossad to keep their eye on things… isn’t that exactly where it’s all going anyway?
Remember what Emmanuel Goldstein wrote? Ignorance is Strength.
….And AOL has the worst photo of Juan Cole possible, a still from an old video where he looks like he is blinking. Spastics.
As for the smearing, that was bad, but this is how bad things are for academics who specialize in Middle Eastern affairs or Semetic languages – you have to teach things from the “Israel is a holy, blameless creature”* angle or they say you work for Al-Manar on the weekends.
* I stole that from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Mike: Trains are holy, blameless creatures….
It’s hard to compare two very different situations but I was lately forced into the sad conclusion the most significant difference between the old SA’s international standing and that of present day Israel is that SA’s never attained a complete stranglehold on American politics.
To a lesser extent, such forces are present also in mainstream media.
Reading this post (and comments), it appears a similar process emerges also in academia.
Has everyone gone rhino overthere, or will it still take some time before they do?
Leonid Levin says
I respect Juan Cole. He is a distinguished ME scholar, has lived in the ME, speaks arabic, and writes a lot of reasonable stuff on his blog. These attempts to tarnish his reputation are despicable and unworthy of the “greatest nation” in the world.
I don’t think Cheney was behind this. Cheney wasn’t really concerned about Israel. He was an oil man.
Ken Hoop says
It’s absolutely true that Cole should be placed under suspicion. Not by the elite but by true anti-interventionists.
Few have acquired more than he an anti-war veneer
without being antiwar. One might have believed he would have exercised caution approving the Libyan attack since his failure to oppose the Iraq War even when many on the left and right (e.g.Buchanan-Scott Ritter) were presenting evidence undermining the WMD intelligence before it commenced. One would have been wrong to so believe.
Richard Silverstein says
You’re truly out of yr mind. His entire blog is devoted to analysis of the war & flaws in U.S. policy. Did you parachute in fr. anothe planet or galaxy? As for intervention in Libya, you must have a soft spot in yr heart for Arab dictators.
Besides, the issue is about whether there was illegal spying, or an intention to spy, on an American citizen by the CIA. Not what Juan Cole’s politics are. Except, of course, that we all have a right to be critical of the government without fears of repercussions.