Earlier this week, The New York Times published an op-ed by Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff. Its gist is simple: Trump is likely to wage war soon on Iran in just the same way that George W. Bush waged war on Iraq, which means succumbing to the pressure of sinister individuals and organizations who are working perniciously to “create a false impression that war is the only way to address the threats posed by Iran.”

Which individuals and organizations would that be? Wilkerson’s original piece, since amended by the Times, left little need for guessing: Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer, Jewish billionaires, funneling money into groups like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in order to spread falsehoods, agitate for war, and subject America’s national security interests to their own. A later correction made clear that Adelson is no longer a donor to FDD, but Wilkerson’s point still stands: Those moneyed Jews, their loyalty always to Israel first, are war-mongering again.

How to understand such a vile piece? Over at the Algemeiner, Ira Stoll noted that Wilkerson is no stranger to conspiratorial thinking: In a May 2013 interview with Current TV, he suggested that the genocide in Syria “could’ve been an Israeli false-flag operation,” with Bashar al-Assad being a puppet of the Zionist government in Jerusalem. This mad rant was covered widely, including by the Times, when Wilkerson became a leading adviser to Bernie Sanders. The retired Colonel also frequently fulminates about Israel being an apartheid state, has claimed in a 2016 interview that it will eventually have to be “eliminated” by either the Arabs or the international community, and has called Republican senators who took a hawkish position on Iran “traitors” who were somehow under the Jewish state’s sway.

To be plain, the problem with Lawrence Wilkerson has nothing to do with his “controversial” views on Syria, or the particular wording of any of his repugnant public statements about Israel. It is that he is an unhinged conspiracy theorist, of the kind that one most often finds muttering to himself in public libraries about Masons, Illuminatti, and, of course, the Jews. There are literally hundreds of videos of Wilkerson following weird trains of logic and causality that make one wonder about his hold on reality. Here, for example, is Wilkerson fulminating on a fringe YouTube show called “Reality Asserts Itself,” hosted by a person named Paul Jay:

Who’s behind the White House, and who’s therefore behind U.S. foreign policy, more or less?  I think the answer today is the oligarchs. Which would be the same answer, incidentally, ironically, if you will, for Putin in Russia. The people who own the wealth, the people who therefore have the power and who more or less (and I’m not being too facetious here) buy the president and thus buy American foreign policy . . . and this group alarms probably more than any other in the world, particularly in my own country – that is interested in a constant state of war, or as near a constant state as possible. Because they sit behind all the belligerents and make money.

I’ll let you guess who he’s talking about.

Why the paper of record would give such a man a spot in its vaunted op-ed page is anybody’s guess, though it’s hard to believe that kooks of other stripes would’ve been welcomed so warmly. Can you imagine, for example, an anti-gay bigot writing heartily in support of “reparative therapy”? Neither can I.

Why, then, Wilkerson? Why accept a piece whose main thrust is so ludicrous as to make its author appear to be just a few twitches short of a trip to the loony bin? The answer is simple and scary: It’s because many on the well-groomed left, even if not subscribing to the classical definitions of anti-Semitism, inherently believe things about Israelis and Jews that are, at their very essence, absolutely and absurdly insane. This includes everything from the conviction that a small cabal of Jewish men are forever using their unending wealthy and their mystical sway over Congress to lead generations of innocent American soldiers into needless wars to the belief that Israel’s imperial appetites constantly lead it to meddle in the affairs of its neighbors in murderous and malicious ways.

Thankfully, most people on the left today are sensible enough to understand these ideas are patently lunatic and deeply hateful. Sadly, they can’t seem to shake them off. This is where “experts” like Wilkerson come in handy, flashing their credentials, however flimsy, to say what “everyone already believes.” This is how democracy dies, not in darkness but in the blinding glare of the spotlight publications that ought to know better give bigots like Lawrence Wilkerson.