Douglas Macgregor’s anti-Semitic comments disqualify him from serving at the Pentagon

The staff of acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller recently grew, as retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor was appointed as his senior adviser. Such an announcement would typically be ho-hum staffing news but not in this case. 

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Macgregor has made fairly extensive comments about “the Israel lobby,” which he claims has bought off high-level American officials, including former national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Like Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, Macgregor criticized the “enormous influence” Israel supporters have on Congress and attacked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Macgregor, who was once in line to be ambassador to Germany, lost out after outlets such as the Hill reported on his saying that “Germany’s efforts to grapple with its role in the Holocaust was a ‘sick mentality,’” among other jaw-dropping comments.

All of these remarks raise two big questions. First, given the extensive scrutiny Omar’s comments attracted in early 2019, why haven’t Macgregor’s been given similar attention? And second, if Macgregor was too toxic to be an ambassador as recently as the summer, why does Miller want him as a senior adviser?

Let’s consider the first question first. There are those who believe Omar was unfairly criticized, but context helps explain why many people reacted strongly, in addition to her comments’ content. Omar’s three early anti-Semitic scandals kicked off in January 2019, two-plus months after 11 Jews were gunned down at Sabbath services in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The whole nation mourned with the Jewish community after the Tree of Life massacre. So, metaphorical alarms sounded when a new congresswoman expressed the sort of sentiments that endanger Jews.

Omar’s scandals also proved a real institutional test. Other than New York Reps. Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel, who countered Omar publicly (on Twitter), the House completely failed. It couldn’t collectively criticize Omar’s anti-Semitism without simultaneously criticizing a laundry list of other hatreds. Omar not only survived her scandals without apologizing by the end, but she also kept her seat on the prestigious Foreign Affairs Committee.

Public officials’ unwillingness to take deterrent action increased the likelihood that overt anti-Semitism would recur in government. It’s happening outside government too, by the way, and the FBI’s recently-released 2019 hate crime statistics bear that out: Jews were targeted in 63% of religiously-oriented hate crimes last year, a 14% jump over 2018, even though Jews represent less than 2% of the population. This would certainly be a good time for Republican officials to pipe up about Macgregor. However, they remain notably quiet.

Others are speaking out, though. A spokesman for the Republican Jewish Coalition told me in an email, “[Macgregor’s] comments are troubling, unacceptable and factually inaccurate.” The president and chairman of the Zionist Organization of America released a statement calling Macgregor’s comments “appalling” and said that the ZOA “strongly urges new Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller to immediately retract his appointment of Col. (ret.) Douglas Macgregor as one of Acting Sec’y Miller’s senior advisors.”

In addition, the CEO of the American Jewish Committee tweeted that Macgregor’s comments are “vile” and that he is “unfit.” Christians United for Israel tweeted, “Macgregor’s comments regarding Israel are repugnant. Antisemitism has no place in the US government.” In an email to supporters, CUFI Action Fund wrote, “Macgregor is unfit for the job.” Americans Against Antisemitism founder Dov Hikind told me, “He shouldn’t be in the position he’s in, plain and simple.” 

So, why is the acting secretary of defense willing to overlook this from a senior appointee? What’s so special about this colonel?

Macgregor’s comments are not subtle. Hikind observed, “His record is clear; it’s not like he’s been taken out of context or misunderstood.” Macgregor is a seasoned, retired military officer with an established worldview, and as Hikind noted, “He’s got a Jew problem.”

Anti-Semitism is a prejudice, but it’s also a noxious mix of conspiracy theories, including that: Jews control the world, Jews “hypnotize” others to do their bidding, and Jews are warmongers. National Review’s Kevin Williamson has written, “Conspiracy theories provide the postliterate culture with two things people desperately want: stories and communities.” Unfortunately, they offer neither truth nor insight.

Foreign policy and national security operate best when government officials understand the world as it is, not as they believe it to be. That requires studying and acknowledging facts rather than allowing one’s vision to be clouded by conspiracy theories. 

Hikind recommends holding all public officials to a single standard on anti-Semitism, which is both fair and logical. As such, Omar shouldn’t be on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Macgregor shouldn’t be advising the acting secretary of defense. Anti-Semitism harms Jews, to be sure, but it also disfigures the judgment of those it infects.

This article appeared in the Washington Examiner.

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