The New York Times, Mar. 8, 2003 (Opinion: Bill Keller)
Two weeks ago, a group of senior intelligence officials in the Defense Department sat for an hour listening to a briefing by a writer who claims — I am not making this up — that messages encoded in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament provide clues to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. One of the officials told me that they had agreed to meet the writer, Michael Drosnin, author of a Nostradamus-style best seller, without understanding that he was promoting Biblical prophecy. Still, rather than shoo him away, they listened politely as he consumed several man-hours of valuable intelligence-crunching time. Apparently he has given similar briefings to top officials of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.
Maybe we’re all a little too desperate these days for a simple formula to explain how our safe world came unhinged. That, as much as anything, may explain one of the more enduring conspiracy theories of the moment, the notion that we are about to send a quarter of a million American soldiers to war for the sake of Israel.
This idea has received only fleeting attention in the mainstream discussion of our looming invasion of Iraq, and it would not deserve more except for three things: (1) The idea that this war is about Israel is persistent and more widely held than you may think. (2) It has interesting ripples in our domestic politics. (3) It has, like many dubious theories, sprouted from a seed of truth. Israel is part of the story. And why shouldn’t it be?
The conspiracy theory appears in several variations, ranging from malignant to merely cynical, but it goes something like this: A cadre of pro-Zionist zealots within the Bush administration and among its media chorus (the “amen corner,” as the isolationist Pat Buchanan crudely called them last time we threatened Iraq) has long schemed to make the Middle East safer for Israel by uprooting the hostile regime of Saddam Hussein. They have finally succeeded, the theory goes, in pushing their agenda up to the desk of a gullible president.