Israel Unleashed

The Israelis just had to get in on the fun. But then the stories of torture – of hooded, humiliated inmates at Abu Ghraib and other facilities – did have a familiar air, as if the Israelis were tutoring their American sock-puppets in the finer points of squeezing those ragheads until they squealed. Torture – of the “mild” variety – has the official imprimatur of Israel’s high court, and it makes perfect sense that the Israelis would be called in as “experts” in the art (science?) of corralling and controlling crowds of irksome Arabs, but this testimony from General Janis Karpinski, former commander at Abu Ghraib, explicitly fingers the Israelis:

“I was visiting an interrogation facility one time – not under my control, but I was escorting a four-star. And he wanted to go back and observe an interrogation that was taking place. They asked me if I wanted to go and I said no. So I was standing there and, you know, the usual conversation, just kind of chit-chat, there (were) three individuals there and two of them had DCU pants on, one had a pair of blue jeans on, but they all had T-shirts on. They did not appear to be military people. And I said to one of the – one of them asked me, ‘So what’s new?’ Or, ‘What’s challenging about being a female general officer over here?’ And I said, ‘Oh! Too long a story, but it’s all fun.’ And I said to this guy who was sitting up on the counter, I said to him, ‘Are you local?’ Because he looked like he was Kuwaiti. I said, ‘Are you an interpreter?’ He said, ‘No, I’m an interrogator.’ And I said, ‘Oh, are you from here?’ And he said, ‘No, actually, I’m from Israel.’ And I was kind of shocked. And I think I laughed. And I said, ‘No, really?’ And he said, ‘No, really, I am.’ And – but it was – I didn’t pursue it, I just said, ‘Oh, I visited your country a couple of years ago and I was amazed that there’s so little difference between the appearance of Israelis and Americans,’ and – I really was just kind of making chit-chat at that point.

“But it didn’t strike me as unusual, I guess, until after the fact. And I remember making a comment to him, I said, ‘Wow, that’s kind of unusual.’ And he said, ‘No, not really.’ Like that. So – I do know for a fact that at least in that one case – now, I didn’t ask him for identity papers or anything. It was none of my business. But that’s what he said.”

Busy, busy, busy – that certainly describes the Israelis in the bloody aftermath of our Pyrrhic victory in Iraq. Oh, they deny it, of course, but that’s boilerplate. After all, Karpinski saw and spoke to one of their interrogators, who was sitting there right in front of her. The truth is they’re swarming all over Kurdistan, fomenting trouble, siccing the Bush administration on Iran and – most importantly – Syria. Good lord they’re even in New Zealand, of all places, stealing passports from bedridden paraplegics. Talk about bad public relations! But do they even care?

Not too much. Now that they’ve maneuvered the clueless Bush into Iraq, and forever changed the face of the Middle East, Ariel Sharon and his amen corner in this country are getting bolder, openly flying their own flag over what were previously touted as exclusively American initiatives. So their Kurdish allies are bellicose about the Israeli connection in speaking to Ha’aretz:

“‘The Kurdish public is not ready to take any more humiliation. As long as we thought we could persuade the Americans to support our positions, our leaders were supported by the public,’ he said. ‘The Kurdish public is disappointed and angry, it wants results. You in Israel talk of the greater Eretz Yisrael and here we talk of greater Kurdistan. Today our political war begins.'”

Our war – against whom?

In the guise of Israeli entrepreneurs, Mossad agents, according to Seymour Hersh, have infiltrated the Kurdish territories for the purpose of creating a buffer – Kurdistan – between Israel and the emerging Shi’ite-dominated Iraqi state, which is heavily influenced by the Iranians. The entire “handover” process, while not signaling American withdrawal, nevertheless indicates nervousness in Washington over being too closely identified with the unfolding disaster, and the Israelis see this as a bad sign. Is Uncle Sam going wobbly? That question has worried the neoconservative faction of the Right – which effectively functions as Israel’s fifth column in the U.S. – and rightly so, from their perspective. That’s what motivates all this activity in Kurdistan, and elsewhere. The idea is to spread the chaos, escalate the war, and make it impossible for George W. Bush to somehow pull us out the Iraqi quagmire.

In an effort at damage control, the Israel lobby is making a concerted effort to smear whomever states the obvious: a great deal of the “intelligence” used to lie us into war came directly from Tel Aviv and was “stovepiped” into the White House by neocon White House advisors, and that, in retrospect, this war has been to the strategic advantage of one and only one nation on earth: Israel. Writing in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, one James D. Besser attacks “conspiracy theories” of “the fruitcake left and loony right” that “converge around theories blaming Jewish neoconservatives for an Iraq War they despise.” He goes after that well-known left-wing extremist, Senator Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), who “erupted” recently by daring to name Israel as the chief factor motivating key war proponents, and then turns to … us:

“On the other side of the partisan divide, check out antiwar.com, a web site for – among others – disgruntled Republicans and libertarians like former GOP presidential contender Pat Buchanan. Here, too, a common theme is the neocon cabal that tricked the nation into a catastrophic conflict.”

The idea that Antiwar.com is on one or another side of the “partisan divide” is ridiculous, and as the author of “Go F*ck Yourself, Mr. President,” I deeply resent the implication that I’m just a “disgruntled Republican.” The rest of Mr. Besser’s essay is equally accurate.

He rails against the “far left,” which supposedly hates Israel because it is “colonialist,” and the “far right” – where anti-Semitism, he smugly assures his readers, “has never gone out of style.” He doesn’t cite any specific statements from the “far right” to back up his statement – and, naturally, there is no link to material that might explain, if not justify his stance, even though Besser’s piece was published online. Liars take refuge in vagueness, while they hurl libels at anyone who speaks truth to power: “Fruitcakes! Loonies!” That’s about the best Besser & Co. can do, but he also makes a series of even weaker arguments, including the howler that Bush came into office with a war agenda in plain sight:

“Everything we know about President Bush suggests that he came into office determined to complete the work his father left unfinished in 1991, when President George H.W. Bush ended the Gulf War without removing Saddam Hussein from power. Ditto Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.”

Both presidential candidates in 2000 pledged to get rid of Saddam, but projected this as a long-term project rather than the first item on their respective agendas. Furthermore, Bush campaigned on the platform of a “more humble” foreign policy. The neocons, at first, were a small if well-connected factor in the administration’s foreign policy deliberations: they were horrified, and, it seemed, relatively powerless, when, for example, the President came out for a Palestinian state. It was only after 9/11 that the neocons became the dominant tendency.

“Their motives were varied,” avers Besser, “ranging from family duty to protecting vital oil interests to a frantic concern about weapons of mass destruction in the aftermath of Sept. 11, but Israel was never near the top of the list.” Besser may be a mind-reader, but this writer certainly lacks that talent. However, you don’t have to be telepathic to understand that the various other motives Besser ascribes to the War Party have all turned out to be empty of any content.

The “vital oil interests” we are supposed to be protecting have been further endangered, rather than secured. As energy prices of skyrocket due to the regional destabilization caused by the war, Iraqi oil isn’t getting to Western consumers. This, of course, was an entirely predictable result of the invasion, and I find it difficult if not impossible to believe that U.S. government analysts failed to foresee it.

The fabled “weapons of mass destruction” didn’t turn up, either, and there is no reason to believe that anyone in the administration ever expected them to – after all, they were so busy fabricating and cherry-picking raw (and, often, ersatz) “intelligence,” that they surely didn’t have time or inclination to examine any real evidence.

If “Israel was never near the top of the list” when it comes to motives for this war, then how is it that Tel Aviv turns out to be the chief beneficiary in so many ways? As the Mossad infiltrates Kurdistan, demands recognition from the Iraqi “government,” and even sends its skilled torturers to help the American occupiers subjugate and degrade their Arab charges more effectively, the demonstrable evidence that Israel’s most loyal supporters led the way to war is not so easily brushed aside.

The smear tactic isn’t going to work, not this time. Not when prominent former government officials and military leaders, such as General Anthony Zinni, are saying what we at Antiwar.com have been saying since long before the invasion of Iraq:

“I think it’s the worst kept secret in Washington. That everybody – everybody I talk to in Washington has known and fully knows what their agenda was and what they were trying to do.

“And one article, because I mentioned the neo-conservatives who describe themselves as neo-conservatives, I was called anti-Semitic. I mean, you know, unbelievable that that’s the kind of personal attacks that are run when you criticize a strategy and those who propose it. I certainly didn’t criticize who they were. I certainly don’t know what their ethnic religious backgrounds are. And I’m not interested.

“I know what strategy they promoted. And openly. And for a number of years. And what they have convinced the president and the secretary to do. And I don’t believe there is any serious political leader, military leader, diplomat in Washington that doesn’t know where it came from.”

A new book by intelligence expert James Bamford draws the same conclusions about the origins of the Iraq war, and this analysis of how we came to be embroiled in the Iraqi disaster – trenchantly summarized in an excellent piece by Jeffrey Blankfort in Left Curve – is fast becoming the conventional wisdom. Is Bamford a “fruitcake” of the “far left”? General Zinni may be a registered Republican, but is he really nothing short of a neo-Nazi, as neocon smear artist Joel Mowbray would have it?

At this point, I would direct Besser’s attention to a recent editorial in The Forward, a Jewish newspaper based in New York, which has a lot of years on the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, and also, it seems, a greater store of wisdom:

“As recently as a week ago, reasonable people still could dismiss as antisemitic conspiracy mongering the claim that Israel’s security was the real motive behind the invasion of Iraq. No longer. The allegation has now moved from the fringes into the mainstream. Its advocates can no longer simply be shushed or dismissed as bigots. Those who disagree must now argue the case on the merits.”

As I said at the time:

“Arguing for or against anything strictly on the merits is going to be a whole new experience for the neocons. Smearing their enemies and lying is, for them, a matter of course – it isn’t just a matter of tactics, it’s part of who and what they are.”

I wouldn’t identify Besser as a neocon, or the Jewish Journal as a neoconservative publication: a neocon would never point the finger at Bush, as Besser does. He writes that marshalling pro-Israel arguments on behalf of the war was just an “excuse” – just “politics” – a ruse to lure Democrats into supporting the invasion. But Besser should ask himself why, after all, this argument had such resonance with the Democrats – and why John Kerry is hurrying to prove himself more abjectly loyal to the American Likudniks than even this neocon-dominated administration.

Oh, but Besser doesn’t want to go there, I imagine. He might turn into a “far left fruitcake,” or, worse yet, a “far right loony.” Far better to let certain realities go unacknowledged, and unanalyzed, than to have to give up name-calling and smearing as a substitute for arguing a case on its merits.

Ralph Nader has it exactly right:

“What has been happening over the years is a predictable routine of foreign visitation from the head of the Israeli government. The Israeli puppeteer travels to Washington. The Israeli puppeteer meets with the puppet in the White House, and then moves down Pennsylvania Avenue, and meets with the puppets in Congress. And then takes back billions of taxpayer dollars. It is time for the Washington puppet show to be replaced by the Washington peace show.”

All the usual suspects are clamoring for Nader’s head these days, including some of his fellow “Greens,” but Ralphie has the enemy in his sights and more power to him. The time is past when a powerful lobbying group can claim special exemptions and considerations because any criticism of their activities is automatically ascribed to “bias” and “bigotry.” American soldiers are dying every day in Iraq, while Israel annexes Kurdistan and their torturers get their jollies in American-run prisons.

What in the name of all that’s holy is going on here? That’s a question the American people are beginning to ask, and Antiwar.com is going to continue to provide them with some answers. If Besser, and others, don’t like it, that’s just tough: facts, as the late President Reagan once put it, are stubborn things, and can’t be erased or banished from polite discussion on account of political correctness – or, at least, not for very long. The truth is coming out: better late than never.

Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].