Isn’t it funny how politicians have to wait until just before going into retirement to say what they really think about Israel and its influence over Washington policymakers?
Congressman Lee Hamilton (D-Indiana), formerly the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, waited until after announcing his departure from Congress to attend a symposium on the Middle East where he noted that his congressional colleagues are “not even-handed” when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “for political reasons.” Rep. Hamilton went on to say:
“Israeli leaders understand our system very, very well [and] because they understand our system they can exploit it.”
“I am going to offer amendments as we go through the bill to strike all of the aid to Israel that was included here without any request from Israel, without any request from the administration, without any requests from anybody. But someone within this beltway decided since we were going to have a supplemental bill, they were going to get some pork in it for Israel.”
Please note that Callahan did this only after announcing his retirement plans. Now Senator Ernest Hollings, whose legendary disdain for political correctness has gotten him in trouble before, has joined the ranks of the belatedly honest, and said what a few others such as Michael Kinsley, Pat Buchanan, and myself have said all along. In an op-ed piece first published in the Charleston Post and Courier, the senator, having just announced his retirement, took up the question of why are we in Iraq, and came up with this answer:
“Now everyone knows what was not the cause. Even President Bush acknowledges that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Listing the 45 countries where al-Qaida was operating on September 11 (70 cells in the U.S.), the State Department did not list Iraq. Richard Clarke, in Against All Enemies, tells how the United States had not received any threat of terrorism for 10 years from Saddam at the time of our invasion. Of course there were no weapons of mass destruction. Israel’s intelligence, Mossad, knows what’s going on in Iraq. They are the best. They have to know. Israel’s survival depends on knowing. Israel long since would have taken us to the weapons of mass destruction if there were any or if they had been removed. With Iraq no threat, why invade a sovereign country? The answer: President Bush’s policy to secure Israel.”
Hollings goes on to identify “a domino school of thought that the way to guarantee Israel’s security is to spread democracy in the area,” naming deputy Defense Secretary and chickenhawk-in-chief Paul Wolfowitz, neoconservative hardliner and Francophile Richard Perle, and former psychiatrist and deranged warmonger Charles Krauthammer. He furthermore goes on to savage George W. Bush, whose sole thought since taking office, according to Hollings, has been reelection, with a radical tilt toward Israel by U.S. policymakers a key part of the game plan:
“Spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jewish vote from the Democrats. You don’t come to town and announce your Israel policy is to invade Iraq. But George W. Bush, as stated by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and others, started laying the groundwork to invade Iraq days after inauguration. And, without any Iraq connection to 9/11, within weeks he had the Pentagon outlining a plan to invade Iraq. He was determined.”
Hollings has been roundly denounced and his remarks attributed to “anti-Semitism” by Israel’s amen corner in the U.S. But there is nothing secret about the open effort by the Republican party to capture the Jewish vote. The whole idea of politics, after all, is mobilizing various interest groups around a particular candidate and building a majority coalition. Pandering to ethnic blocs is a grand American political tradition: it comes with being a nation of immigrants, which is something we’re all supposed to glory in. Every ethnic group of any numerical significance is pandered to, in some way, and politicians are always making ethnic-based appeals. The Republican party’s outreach to the Hispanic community is pursued to the point where our President often bursts into long stretches of Spanish (perhaps because it makes him sound less inarticulate, at least to those who have no idea what he’s saying). Why shouldn’t he reach out to Jewish voters, too?
By calling attention to the obvious, Senator Hollings stands condemned as an “anti-Semite.”
I’ll tell you what else is obvious: the benefits accrued to Israel on account of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The annexation of significant portions of the West Bank, and now the attack on Gaza, have both received what amounts to the imprimatur of an American President. While Israeli “advisors” teach their American pupils the basics of running an occupation, the next target on Ariel Sharon’s wish list, Syria, is hit with sanctions, and accusations that Damascus is aiding the Iraqi insurgency.
Hollings is absolutely on the mark about the real reasons for this war, even if his speculation about a GOP effort to go after the Jewish vote misses the real point. What Bush is after isn’t primarily the Jewish voter, but holding onto and expanding the much larger “born again” Christian fundamentalist bloc, a significant proportion of which is fanatically devoted to Israel even over and above American interests for wacky theological reasons. When Hollings called Prime Minister Sharon “the Bull Connor of Israel,” it wasn’t the Jewish vote Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) was after when he demanded that Hollings apologize. South Carolina is Pat Robertson country, where the dispensationalist Christian heresy has deep roots and even deeper political implications when it comes to this administration’s foreign policy.
“Certainly, discussing and questioning policy is the right and duty of all responsible leaders. But when the debate veers into anti-Jewish stereotyping, it is tantamount to scapegoating and an appeal to ethnic hatred,” says Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
But why shouldn’t America’s satellites avidly seek to manipulate and even control the Imperial Hegemon? After all, we hold their fate in our hands. That’s what being an Empire is all about. Without American military and economic support, Israel could not and would not exist: one false move on the part of Washington, and the Jewish state would flounder and fall on the rocks of demographic reality and rising Arab nationalism.
Special interest groups of all ethnic and religious persuasions do their best to decisively influence U.S. foreign policy: why should Jews (and their “born again” Christian allies) be any different?
“This is reminiscent,” raves Foxman, “of age-old, anti-Semitic canards about a Jewish conspiracy to control and manipulate government.” If one so much as looks cross-eyed at Ariel Sharon, Abe Foxman is reminded of Kristallnacht, but the point is that, if I were Foxman I wouldn’t pull this “age-old canard” business too often. Instead of fighting anti-Semitism, Foxman’s weird insistence on re-imagining half-forgotten anti-Jewish caricatures can only encourage it. But, then again, if anti-Semitism went out of business, so would Foxman’s organization. It’s funny how that works .
Jonah Goldberg, who is obviously engaged in some kind of contest with Foxman to see who can do the best Al Sharpton imitation, notes the names Wolfowitz, Perle, and Krauthammer, and whines:
“Funny how the only names are Jewish. What? Jeanne Kirkpatrick doesn’t count? Jack Kemp? Bill Bennett? I wonder why.”
Perhaps because Kirkpatrick is a figure from another era, and only played a supporting role in the propaganda campaign that lied us into war. Jack Kemp was never a major figure, and his views on Iraq seem decidedly ambivalent, at best. As for Blackjack Bill, his reputation would certainly not have encouraged Americans to take his advice and gamble on committing our troops to a risky occupation, and so, understandably, he didn’t take center stage in the prewar debate.
Wolfowitz, on the other hand, is not only a high government official but also the intellectual author of this administration’s policy of preemptive global hegemony. As Richard Clarke and Bob Woodward reveal, the Deputy Secretary of Defense was the earliest and most persistent advocate of war with Iraq: Wolfowitz wanted to take Baghdad before bothering with Kabul.
As for the legendary Richard Perle, the neocon “Prince of Darkness,” his style and the numerous scandals in which he’s been embroiled, all of them very high profile and exceptionally smarmy ensures his prominence. A spotlight seems to follow him about, like a shadow.
Is it really necessary to point out the reasons for Krauthammer’s prominence? Surely his was one of the loudest and most militant voices raised in support of this war, and certainly his position on the op-ed page of the Washington Post automatically lends his words a certain weight. In concert with Bill Safire and David Brooks over at the New York Times, Krauthammer constitutes a crucially important link in the neocon Iron Triangle of the American punditocracy.
If all these names are Jewish, then so what? Just as many Jews, if not more, figure prominently in the antiwar camp. Goldberg, being a clever chap, realizes this, and so falls back on trying to switch the blame from the War Party to the Bushies:
“Fritz Hollings is defending himself saying that he can provide quotes from Jews in America and Israel to support his position. I’m sure he can to some extent. But so what? His charge isn’t that Jews support democracy in the Middle East to secure Israel’s security (and because they support democracy). His charge is that Bush went to war to placate those Jews. The quotes he needs to prove his point aren’t from Jews in Tel Aviv, they’re from White House officials in Washington.”
If the idea is to prove Washington’s willingness to go along with Ariel Sharon in spite of American interests, how about quotes from the President of the United States and U.S. government officials in response to Israel’s outright annexation of parts of the West Bank, and the IDF’s current rampage through Gaza? Having endorsed the Israeli Lebensraum (marketed to world opinion as a “withdrawal,” albeit a partial one), our President couldn’t bring himself to condemn an Israeli attack on a peaceful Palestinian demonstration that killed 10 children and wounded 50, aside from urging “restraint.” Bush has consistently referred to Israel’s “right of self-defense” to excuse each and every bloody incursion into Palestinian territory, no matter how brutal and no matter how much it ratcheted up tensions between the American army of occupation and its sullen Iraqi charges.
As Israel rampages through the Holy Land with unholy determination to dominate and drive out any who stand in her way, and the promise of a pipeline from Iraq’s oil fields in Mosul to Haifa comes closer to reality, the key question, cui bono? who benefits? demands an answer. Last year, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, now Finance Minister, told a group of British investors:
“It won’t be long when you will see Iraqi oil flowing to Haifa. It is just a matter of time until the pipeline is reconstituted and Iraqi oil will flow to the Mediterranean.”
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, now a partner in Cannistraro Associates, writes in the current issue of The American Conservative that “There are rumors that the deservedly moribund pipeline project to send Iraqi oil to Haifa may again be on the table.”
But the oil is just the gravy on the meatloaf, or perhaps the dessert that comes after the main course, which is Israel’s improved geopolitical position as a result of the Iraq war. Syria is outflanked, and now under U.S. sanctions, while the rest of the Arab world is psychologically demoralized, politically destabilized, and militarily defeated. Bush and Sharon or, from the Arab viewpoint, Sharon and Bush are masters of all they survey. Arab democrats, secular nationalists, and moderates in the region are more isolated, and even more powerless, than ever: only Osama bin Laden’s followers are overjoyed to see that their leader’s warning of an invasion of “Crusaders and Zionists” has proved prescient.
What irks American patriots, not a few conservatives among them, is that Sharon and the Israelis have shown no restraint: they are utterly heedless of the effect of their policies on the ground in Iraq. We undertook a vast project of social and political engineering in Iraq largely on Israel’s behalf, only to see that they don’t feel the least bit obligated to spare us the consequences of their actions. Surely such ingratitude contributes to rising resentment against the catalytic role of Israel’s supporters both in and out of government in dragging us into Iraq.
Senator Hollings is right: this war was, and still is, all about protecting Israel’s security and plans for expansion at our expense. Not surprisingly, the catcalls are coming from the same people who say any reference to “neoconservatives” up until recently a word that had entered the American political lexicon (sometime in the 1970s) without a hint of ethnic overtones is really a “code word” for Jews. What they hope to accomplish is to close down all debate on a question the War Party would just as soon not see raised. But that question why are we in Iraq? is one that urgently requires explaining. Jonah Goldberg may persist in applying rules of political correctness that he would never otherwise invoke, but I would urge critics of Israel to take some solace in the words of John Derbyshire, Goldberg’s colleague at National Review, who invokes what he calls:
“Derbyshire’s First Law”: Anything anything whatsoever that a Gentile says about Jews or Israel will be taken as rabidly antisemitic by somebody, somewhere.”
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Speaking of neocons trying to shut down all debate: I see that Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and formerly of the Office of Special Plans, is attributing rising resentment against the neocons for pushing us into this war to a grand conspiracy involving The Nation, Lyndon LaRouche, Louis Farrakhan, and me. He writes:
“Louis Farrakhan subsequently adopted the theme. ‘All of the agenda of the neo-conservatives was to bring President Bush in line with Israel and use the power of the American military to destroy the real and perceived enemies of Israel,’ said Farrakhan on May 3, 2004. Pat Buchanan and Justin Raimondo have pursued the theme in the pages of The American Conservative.”
So, let’s see if I get this straight: Karen is a LaRouchie, I’m a follower of Farrakhan (hey, that’s a sun-tan!), and so is Pat Buchanan. What’s next? I can hardly wait for the revelation that Ernest Hollings is really a former prison guard at Treblinka, or, more likely, Martin Bormann himself.
What drugs were they doing in the Office of Special Plans, anyway? Put down the crack pipe, Rubin, and check yourself into a rehab program.