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Why Isn’t John Brennan in Prison?

Former CIA director John Brennan listens during a panel in Manhattan, N.Y., September 4, 2018. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

This is John Brennan tweeting about Israel and Palestinian statehood. Now, I’m not an uncritical observer of Israel. But this tweet is a breathtaking expression of an attitude that is quite common in European circles and among Arabists at the State Department. It breezily takes the view that the Holocaust is a crime of ethnonationalism against the Jews, and therefore the response of Jews of building their own ethnostate is perverse in some way. The speaker thinks: Why can’t you be better liberals? But the thinking Zionist wonders: Why do you want Jews to be defenseless?

It’s also historically illiterate, as Zionism predates the Holocaust by several decades, and was part of a flowering of European nationalisms — German, Polish, Hungarian, Irish — as some nation-states consolidated and some traditional Empires began to break apart. Sometimes this phenomenon was interrelated in perverse ways. Polish nationalists often encouraged Zionism — peacefully, and violently — in order to make the new Polish state more Polish.

Then again, a history lesson is almost beside the point. John Brennan is giving moral lectures about what good liberals should do. This is like Jeffrey Epstein giving a lecture on the virtues of chastity and poverty. Brennan’s CIA spied on the U.S. Senate. That alone should be enough of an embarrassment to lead him out of public life forever. For years, Brennan acted as the “conscience” of Obama’s drone-warfare policy. He literally made the call, from safety, to bomb people based on their profiles: their age, sex, religion, ethnicity, and a handful of other observable activities. He also spent the past four or so years fulminating like a psychopath on cable television and social media.

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