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One week…and still no nuclear apocalypse

Ok, I've given Bernard Lewis more than a week…and Iran still hasn't launched an apocalyptic nuclear attack on Israel as predicted by the White House's favorite Middle East historian: What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of ...

Ok, I've given Bernard Lewis more than a week…and Iran still hasn't launched an apocalyptic nuclear attack on Israel as predicted by the White House's favorite Middle East historian:

What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq… This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world.

If you hadn't heard, Bernard Lewis – an eminent Princeton academic who is an extremely influential voice in the White House – actually predicted that Iran might try to wipe out Israel on August 22, 2006.  Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised to see this kind of blind speculation gracing the op-ed pages of the WSJ. And one week after August 22, the prediction seems even more ridiculous. 

But this got me thinking: Do the neocons have grand conspiratorial designs on the Middle East, or are they just getting really bad advice? Lewis was one of the first experts that the White House consulted after 9/11 and was a key figure in promoting the Iraq invasion. Cheney even spoke at his 90th birthday:

I had the pleasure of first meeting Bernard more than 15 years ago, during my time as Secretary of Defense. It was not long after the dictator of Iraq had invaded Kuwait, and we brought in a large number of outside experts to speak about the history and the way forward in the Middle East. As you might imagine, I got a wide range of advice — some of it very good and some of it terrible. No one offered sounder analysis or better insight than Bernard Lewis…

Since then we have met often, particularly during the last four-and-a-half years, and Bernard has always had some very good meetings with President Bush.

If a well-known orientalist hawk like Lewis –  who believed that fraudster Ahmad Chalabi could save Iraq, who told the White House that "I believe that one of the things you've got to do to Arabs is hit them between the eyes with a big stick", and who now believes Ahmadinejad is on the verge of nuking Israel – is shaping the current U.S. administration's vision of the Middle East, then perhaps "there is good reason to believe that this government is actually a conspiracy within a conspiracy," as George Kennan once said about self-deluding Soviet policymakers.

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