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Barking mad in Connecticut

By Michael J. Smith on Thursday July 6, 2006 06:58 PM

We always knew Lieberman was a creep, but it just now came clearly into focus, for me at least, that he's also insane. Thanks to the fine folks at antiwar.com, I found this speech, from 2004, delivered to the quaintly-named Committee On The Present Danger (which has to find a new Present Danger every so often):
What we are fighting against is an Islamic terrorist totalitarian movement which is as dire a threat to individual liberty as the fascist and communist totalitarian threats we faced and defeated were in the last century.... What we are fighting against is the prospect of a new evil empire, a radical Islamic caliphate which would suppress the freedom of its people and threaten the security of every other nation's citizens...

Restoring the caliphate -- the seat of secular and ecclesiastical power that existed for centuries across a wide territory -- is their goal.... They would create a new evil empire, stretching from Istanbul to Islamabad, from Khartoum to Kabul, from Kuala Lampur to Bangkok, and beyond.

A new Caliphate! Jeee-hosaphat. And don't you love the "beyond", as applied to Bangkok? What's "beyond" Bangkok? Honolulu? Hollywood?

This demented reverie is clearly the product of some insulated, self-referential, cultic world of discourse. More specifically, it's a case of Caliban determined to see his own face in a mirror.

Some years ago, I was sitting harmlessly in a diner on the upper west side of Manhattan, trying to read a book -- a shallow detective novel, probably -- when two young men, obviously Columbia students, slid into the booth next to me. They were both wearing yarmulkes (so what were they doing in this treyf joint? I dunno, ask them) and they fell to talking about some program they'd just heard. "So -- once we get across the Bosphorus -- it's a cakewalk, all the way to Berlin. Our tanks -- they've got nothing to compare." It took me a while to figure out that what they had in their minds was a fantasy of Israel -- that's the "we" -- dominating Western Europe militarily. And "they", of course, was -- well, everybody in Europe, from Pristina to Paris.

Now in one way these two were crazy, obviously, and in another way not. I bet they graduated from Columbia and got good jobs and I don't suppose they spend much time, these days, fantasizing about Israel as a global power. But their craziness, quite clearly, was a shared craziness, a collective craziness. They had come from a meeting, at an Ivy League university -- a third-rate one, to be sure, but still -- and these were ideas they were hearing bruited about.

Now I can't be absolutely sure that either of them grew up to be Joe Lieberman. I didn't really get a good look. I was mostly listening, and pretending not to, a harder thing than it sounds. But reading Joe's words about the International Caliphate Conspiracy, I couldn't help thinking back to the hothouse world my two zealots lived in. Joe's picture of the Caliphate is an uncanny mirror-image of my guys' apocalyptic vision of Much Much Much Greater Israel.

This stuff about the new Caliphate is utterly mad. But Joe, like my neighbors in that diner, long since razed to make room for Columbia dorms, is not a pathetic solitary madman. He has a community of thought behind him. The Committee on the Present (And Never Ending, You Can Be Sure Of That) Danger includes people who have published books, people who have won prizes. I do believe Saul Bellow was part of it, even before his death became too obvious to deny.

So... we have a guy who's not only vile, but a dangerous, delusional, cultish madman, "representing" the Nutmeg State. And we have nice, well-spoken, good-looking people like Barbara Boxer going to bat for him. Because, forsooth, the Democratic Party is our last best hope.

Well, if that's true, folks -- then we are fucked.

Comments (29)


Lieberman's Committe On The Never Ending Danger's speech is such a gold mine -- I overlooked this nugget:

The ideals for which we fight in Iraq today are "Wilsonian." And they were upheld and advanced by other Democratic leaders against freedom's foes in their time, leaders like Franklin Roosevelt... Harry Truman... John F. Kennedy... Henry M. Jackson... Bill Clinton.
Couldn'ta said it better myself, Joe. Though I might be sentimental enough to give FDR a pass. Wonder why he didn't mention LBJ -- oh yeah. Those... those... Knee-grows. Very embarrassing, that.

Tim D:

I wouldn't scoff at the corrupting influence of this "New Caliphate" idea. My father is a liberal Democrat - (so liberal that he says he is going to vote for Zeese in '06), and yet he too believes that there is a vast Muslim conspiracy to destroy everything that is dear to us, if not us in general!! Another liberal - no idea what political party he belongs to though - that comes to mind at the moment is James Howard Kunstler! If you ever read his overly dramatic "The Long Emergency" you'll detect an overtly anti-Muslim attitude pretty quickly. I don't know where I am going with this exactly, but I guess my point is that this idea of militant pan-Islamism seems to have nested in the hearts and minds of many good, honest people. It really is the new communism for Americans...


Dem loyalists might get all misty-eyed -- and their spectacles might accordingly get all fogged up -- about the virtuous qualities of the great men who wore the party label and occupied 1600 Pennsylvania.

What's really telling is Joe's choice of the one homely character who never occupied the White House... the Senator from Boeing. Then again, it makes a lotta sense: the Senator from General Dynamics and Sikorsky as a latter-day Scoop.

Jesus Reyes:

Of course, Henry Jackson is the most important name on that list because that is where Perle and his thugs made the transition to neoconservatism. It was somewhere in that period that Irving Kristol got mugged.

And yes, we are fucked. Dick Morris worked for the Calderon campaign in Mexico and the shit they just pulled down there is unbelievable. I cant even imagine what 2008 will be. Surely the machines have been fixed for Joe.

J. Alva Scruggs:

A lot of these people simply never grew up. Defining yourself and your purpose by an enemy who Must Be Fought Now!, especially an imaginary, amorphous enemy, is so tediously childish. They've never been able to individuate in any significant way.


good comments, all. Google up the recent article on the Committee for the Present Danger -- a bipartisan elite group which periodically reforms itself to drum up support for expanded military spending. Truly, a creepy bunch!
As for Leiberman's Islam-0-phobia -- what do you expect from Sharon's first buddy in America?

J. Alva Scruggs:

Lieberman has whatever convictions make him electable at any given time. That means appealing to the pro-war, pro-choice -- but only for worthy white people -- bloc, which has the money to fund him. In his past, he adopted a civil rights stance. He saw which way the wind was blowing later on and got himself a makeover. He'd throw his Zionist pals to the wolves if it would help his career.


There is no denying that those hyping the "Islamofascist threat" are the same people backing Israel in its war against the Palestinians. Understandably, they delight in seeing the world's only superpower entangled in a war with their opponents.

The only interesting question is the degree of cynicism behind their analysis of the Middle East. Is the Zionist depiction of all Muslims as murderous psychopaths slouching out of a barbaric culture (and this, with various degrees of subtlety, is the consistent position promoted by all Zionists across the political spectrum--from Bernard Lewis to Thomas Friedman to Charles Krauthammer), is this just a cynical manipulation of public opinion by people who really know better, or is it a glimpse into their true hearts?

Increasingly, I've come to believe that Lieberman et al. actually believe this stuff. What we're seeing is just the same racism that is at the core of Zionism. They really do take this "chosen people" stuff seriously.


Tim D's remarks, above, about the power of the 'Islamofascist' construct, and its similarity to other constructs (the Red Menace, the Yellow Peril, etc.) is right on the money. What all these notions have in common, I think, is that they're driven by a need to represent Goliath as David -- to depict the hegemon as victim. Even good-hearted liberal-type folks have a hard time, sometimes, coming to grips with the idea that we are the black hats.

I have a feeling this may be more of a problem the older you are. Unless you're a young person writing for The Nation or working for the Democratic Party, experiences which will turn you into a twenty-something alter-kaker inside a week.


Peace Through Justice wonders if fear of Islam reflects the real beliefs of Zionists or is merely put on for public consumption (so that Goliath appears to be David, as MJS wittily remarks.) Think of US attitudes toward native Americans in the 19th century and you'll come close to the truth. Call it racism, or just call it intolerance toward anyone who gets in the way of your divinely appointed project.

hey hey... great piece.
linked to it over at Mcat.


what a rondele in CT. Blogometer had a few trenchant things to say.


Lieberman's an asshole but he wiped the floor with Ned Lamont in the debate.


The only interesting question is the degree of cynicism behind their analysis of the Middle East. Is the Zionist depiction of all Muslims as murderous psychopaths slouching out of a barbaric culture (and this, with various degrees of subtlety, is the consistent position promoted by all Zionists across the political spectrum--from Bernard Lewis to Thomas Friedman to Charles Krauthammer), is this just a cynical manipulation of public opinion by people who really know better, or is it a glimpse into their true hearts?

Robert Fisk argues it's pure cycnicism.


One curious thing these Zionist nutters, united in their fear and loathing of Muslims in general and Arabs in particular, never seem to realize is that most of the time when there were pogroms or ethnic cleansing carried out against Jews, they were lumped together with Muslims in the Christian European imaginary of threats (akin to the "Jewish-Bolshevik" conspiracy in Aryan minds). Isabella and Ferdinand booted out both Muslims and Jews from Spain in 1492, Czarist oppression of Jews went hand in hand with brutality against Muslims, Jewish inmates of Nazi death camps were known as "Musulmans", etc.). It would take a talented psychoanalyst to cobble together a plausible explanation for this obsessive hatred based on fancy theories of projection, persecution complex, mirroring, etc., etc.

Tim D:

I think PTJ's comments raise an interesting point. In Finkelstein's last book, he talked about the possibility of Israel's egregious human rights violations in the OT increasing the level of anti-Semitism in the world, but I think a better question, with the answer being much clearer in my mind, is whether the overwhelmingly pro-Israeli media coverage of that conflict in this country hasn't been the root cause of anti-Muslim sentiment here the past few decades or so? Certainly antipathy towards Arabs and Muslims wasn't born on 9/11 (although it undeniably strengthened it markedly).


Lieberman: nut case or cynical opportunist? Hmmm. Could he be both?

Mr. Smith, I'm surprised that you're surprised about the wingnnut rhetoric about "Islamofascism." I first remember hearing that Osama and company had global ambitions not long after 9/11, and IIRC, it was from the (pseudo) intellectual (hind) quarters of the conservatrons that this notion issued. It was a wet dream come true for partisans of the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis.

I suppose Lieberman's mouthing it means it's enshired as bi-partisan wisdom and beyond debate. No surprise there either.

J. Alva Scruggs:
Lieberman: nut case or cynical opportunist? Hmmm. Could he be both?

They're by no means mutually exclusive. Part of the point of saying batshit crazy things, and for all appearances meaning them, is to destroy the moral sense of people who are stuck with you. It grinds down the sane, encourages the wannabes, who become followers, and attracts bullies who are looking for an external source of validation. I learned that back in Authoritarianism 101.

A (relatively) sane person looking at Holy Joe only sees a dithering, sanctimonious fool, who is a useful idiot for the royalist wingnuts and whose base consists of demented investment bankers. But he's a pretty sharp player.


You're wasting a lot of words on Leiberman. How do you address the real issue, which is disentangling US policy from Israel's?
See the book Afflicted Powers for an argument that Israel's usefulness for the US is over.

How do you address the real issue, which is disentangling US policy from Israel's?
Good question. I'm inclined to think that it would be useful, among other things, to point out relentlessly the extent to which people like Joe and Hillary are agents of a foreign power.
J. Alva Scruggs:

Israel has sway to the extent it remains useful. Think of a lesser crime family's utility to one of New York's big five, back in their day. To waste a few more words on Joe, I'd bet he'd one of the first to advocate cutting off support for the Israeli elite. You can bet they know where they stand too. Their need for nukes is only partly for local defense. "Nice cushy arrangement over the flow from those oil fields you've got there. Be a shame if somebody nuked them."

Don't worry Bob, I've got plenty of words for all the issues. As far as US / Israeli policy goes, you don't have to look long and hard to find connections between this lastest incarnation of the CPD and AIPAC. Fer instance, from the omniscent Wikipedia entry:

"At the 20 July launching of the 2004 CPD, Lieberman and Senator Jon Kyl were identified as the honorary co-chairs.[3] Other notable members listed on the CPD website include Laurie Mylroie, Norman Podhoretz, Frank Gaffney and other associates of the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, American-Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Boeing Company."

The usual suspects? Sure! But given their penchant for exhuming antiquated '50s era organizations, how long will it be before neocon necromancy causes HUAC to rise litch-like from its ancient polluted tomb?


I dont quite get your comment about Joe being the first to "cut off aid". Can anyone mention any Democrat or Republican presidential possibility who would stand up to Israel and say "give the Palestinians a viable state or we're outa here!"


An excellent new article at CounterPunch has some interesting things to say on the subject of the lobby's impact on the American left--

Harry Clark, CounterPunch, June 3/4, 2006

"The chauvinism of US organized Jewry is a distinctive feature of US society and history, comparable in importance to classic US singularities like slavery, and the absence of a socialist left, and their crippling legacies. Jewish influence in the Democratic Party, and its impact on foreign policy, notably on the inability of Democrats to mount a critique of the Iraq war and Middle East policy, is comparable to the influence of the Dixiecrats, the segregationist Southern Democrats, on civil rights, labor law and other issues."


Thanks, PTJ. That is a good article. It still leaves unanswered the question why is this influence so unshakeable? Let's just say, for simplicity, that corporate CEOs and Wall Street run the country. Surely, not all of them are Israel supporters, in fact many of their forebears certainly were WASPS with anti-semitic views. Shouldnt some members of this imagined ruling class have seen by now that our support of Israel is extremely destabilizing? How do they justify it in those walnut-panelled boardrooms?

J. Alva Scruggs:

Bob, if Israel's utility is ever diminished enough, I could easily imagine a competition between candidates to see who could be more forthright about demands for easing up on the Palestinians. While Israel remains useful, I don't see any chance of that. It'll continue to be useful as long as keeping the Middle East angrily contentious serves the foreign policy posture of the political class, and the needs of the people who make their careers and money from the doctrine.

If there's one thing the political class is adept at doing, it's finding the convictions that make them useful.

J. Alva Scruggs:

The destabilizing influence is one reason why Israel is useful. Keeping things in turmoil reduces the need to tightly control. When people can't get it together, they're not any kind of serious threat.


Well, I'll buy the destabilizing theory, within limits. It makes better sense in Africa, to me, than the ME. As many have said, we're close to a tipping point in Iraq, of drawing other countries in. If someone starts sinking ships in that narrow straight that all the tankers go through,
the whole world economy could collapse. That's a big risk, especially for the money managers.

How do they justify it in those walnut-panelled boardrooms?
Much as I love the image of the walnut panelling -- splashed, someday, with gallons of CEO blood -- I have a feeling that it gives our rulers a little too much credit for organization. The ruling class, I think, is probably a rather fluid, poorly organized entity -- more of an abstraction than an institution. A useful abstraction, like the Center of Gravity or the Characteristic Impedance, of course. But the messy reality is that the ruling class contains many factions and groupuscules, it has no politburo, and where there's no countervailing pressure, a compact and highly motivated group of fanatics really can wag the dog -- up to a point. I think we may be getting to that point.

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