Showdown at the Geneva Corral

The Israel lobby is pushing hard on Iran – will it matter?

by , November 15, 2013

Does Senator Mark Kirk know whom he is supposed to be representing?

One wonders. After an administration briefing to the Senate Banking Committee, held to persuade members to hold off on new Iran sanctions, Kirk had this to say:

"’It was fairly anti-Israeli. I was supposed to disbelieve everything the Israelis had just told me, and I think the Israelis probably have a pretty good intelligence service.’ He said the Israelis had told him that the ‘total changes proposed set back the program by 24 days.’ A Senate aide familiar with the meeting said that ‘every time anybody would say anything about ‘what would the Israelis say,’ they’d get cut off and Kerry would say, ‘You have to ignore what they’re telling you, stop listening to the Israelis on this. They had no details,’ the aide said. ‘They had no ability to verify anything, to describe anything, to answer basic questions.’"

Why is "what would the Israelis say" the first thing out of Sen. Kirk’s mouth? He is supposed to represent the state of Illinois in the US Senate – not the state of Israel. But you’d never know it from his public pronouncements on this issue. Yes, the Israelis do indeed "have a pretty good intelligence service," one devoted to relentlessly pursuing Israeli interests. Those interests are not always aligned with American policy objectives – indeed, these days the two are rather frequently in conflict. And it is telling that Sen. Kirk doesn’t recognize this, or, if he does, chooses to listen to the Israelis rather than what our own intelligence services have been telling us regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

The official National Intelligence Estimate states "with high confidence" Tehran gave up its weapons program way back in 2003. Yet Sen. Kirk chooses to take the Israeli side in an increasingly public and acrimonious dispute between the government of the United States and a foreign entity with a long history of crying wolf over the alleged imminence of Iranian nukes.

The "details" demanded by Kirk could naturally not be provided by the administration, since revealing the inside dope on sensitive matters in the midst of talks is a sure way to scuttle any hope of success. So this is just disingenuous posturing, along with the requisite boilerplate rhetoric that came pouring out those Senatorial lips as if someone had pressed a button somewhere, unleashing a prerecorded message:

"’Today is the day I witnessed the future of nuclear war in the Middle East,’ Kirk said, also comparing the administration to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who signed away the Sudetenland to Hitler’s Germany in 1938. ‘How do you define an Iranian moderate? An Iranian who is out of bullets and out of money.’"

I’m absolutely sure Kirk’s role as Bibi Netanyahu’s sock puppet on the Senate Banking Committee has nothing whatever to do with the $674,360 he has received from pro-Israel political action committees since 2009.

How do you define a Senator who sees himself as Israel’s representative on the Banking Committee? A Republican who is never out of Likudnik talking points – and never out of money.

Except it isn’t just Republicans. Key Democratic Senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, say they are on the fence on a new sanctions bill. The bill is being drafted by one of the Israel lobby’s favorites, Sen. Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, who has taken $90,550 from NorPac, a pro-Israel political action committee, since 2009.

The prospect of successful peace talks with Tehran has the usual suspects in a panic. The hysteria rising from the Israel Firsters like a bad smell in a crowded Brooklyn subway culminated today [Thursday] in a TV ad from the "Emergency Committee for Israel" – which I presume is running in the Washington, DC area. The ad shows President Obama saying Americans can keep their health insurance under Obamacare "if they want to, period," juxtaposed to his recent apology in the wake of massive policy cancellations. Okay, the viewer concludes, this is about healthcare, but no ….

Next we are treated to Obama’s infamous "red line" comments on Syria in contrast to later attempts to walk that one back. We finally get down to the nub of the matter in the third vignette – this is, after all, the Emergency Committee for Israel – which shows the President declaring during the last election that he "has Israel’s back," and shifts to him answering an unspecified question from reporter Jack Tapper to the effect that this doesn’t mean he’s writing them a blank check. The scene then shifts back to the last presidential campaign, with Obama declaring "As long as I’m President, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon." This is followed by a shot of a nuclear explosion – "I’m sorry," we hear Obama saying, "that they are in this situation based on assurances they got from me" – a cut-and-paste from his Obamacare apology.

About that nuclear explosion: although it’s meant to depict Iran detonating one over Israel, it can be read in a number of ways: it could be Israel lobbing one into Tehran – or Washington, D.C., for that matter. This isn’t as speculative as it might appear, given that the Emergency Committee for Israel is funded by a man who says he regrets serving in the US military rather than the Israeli armed forces. Adelson has said he supports nuking the Iranian desert as a good way to start "negotiating" with Tehran.

I don’t think Bill Kristol and Emergency Committee moneyman Adelson really care that 75 percent of the American people favor negotiations with Iran – about the same number who opposed the US bombing Syria. The audience for their sinister ad is the policymaking elite in DC – because to any normal American it is a bit dicey, if not downright malodorous, to be putting the interests of a foreign country so squarely at the center of one’s concerns. Israel, Israel, Israel, Israel – the Emergency Committee for Israel wants to know "What about Israel?!" Sen. Kirk believes the Israelis rather than our own intelligence agencies, and Sen. Menendez, heeding the Israel lobby’s call, is going up against a Democratic administration.

Israel lobby? What Israel lobby? That’s a question no one needs to ask ever again.

A powerful force in the past, there is every reason to believe the lobby’s influence has peaked – and is starting to sharply decline. With the American public having assimilated the foreign policy lessons of the past decade, when the neoconservatives who run the Emergency Committee pretty much had their way, the dreaded "isolationist" wave decried by all "responsible" politicians, pundits, and policy wonks is on the rise. And we can thank the gods for that.

Members of Congress used to jumping when AIPAC says jump are now less acrobatically inclined: after the Emergency Committee crowd was humiliated over the Hagel nomination, their aura of invincibility quickly dissipated. Members of Congress aren’t likely to forget the storm of popular outrage that jammed their phone lines at the news of an impending strike on Syria. AIPAC made a high profile effort to push Congress into endorsing the President’s attack plan, but instead members heeded their angry constituents – many thousands of them – who defied the bromide that Americans don’t care about foreign policy and made their anti-interventionist views known.

We here at Antiwar.com have been making the case for a non-interventionist foreign policy since 1995. For a great deal of that time we were swimming against the tide, upholding a view that hardly anyone in the two major parties endorsed to any significant degree: indeed, during the darkest days of the post-9/11 era, when a militant nationalist hysteria was quick to silence any nascent voices of reason, our position was considered marginal, at best – and close to treason, at worst. That’s why the Federal Bureau of Investigation was so interested in this site and the people who run it, interested enough to launch a "preliminary investigation" which may still be ongoing for all we know.

Today, although we have no reason to believe the FBI is any less interested in our existence, we live in quite a different universe: the tables have been turned on the War Party. It is they who face overwhelming public skepticism of their various schemes to "liberate" this or that "rogue regime" and drag us into Israel’s wars.

The problem is that the Israel lobby has tremendous resources, financial and political, which they have deployed this time with lightning speed: that Emergency Committee ad was up and running in record time. They have billions in their war chest, and politicians have good reason to fear once the Israel lobby has one of them in its sights: it isn’t just the money, it’s the level of vituperation aimed at those on their enemies list. And they have a state actor to back them up, with all the resources – overt and covert – that such backing implies.

We, on the other hand, have – you. Yes, little old you. You’re all that stands between Antiwar.com and oblivion, and you might as well know it. We’ve always turned to our readers and supporters for the resources we need to continue our work. We’re depending on you to give us the means to tell the American people that the Iranians’ uranium enrichment program has come to a virtual halt under newly-elected reformist President Hassan Rouhani – a fact the Emergency Committee would rather not receive widespread attention.

Adelson, the casino king whose fortune was built on the tears of poor deluded saps who thought they could beat the house in Vegas, is trying to buy himself a war for Israel’s sake: he’s determined to fight to the last American in his battle to destroy Iran. He thinks he has enough cash to put down on the mortgaged lives of American soldiers, and maybe he does. But isn’t it time the American people foreclosed on this joker? Isn’t it high time they took back their foreign policy – and their country?

The Bad Guys are well-funded and super-organized: their propaganda apparatus is a copiously-oiled machine that churns out bullshit with relentless regularity, all of it aimed at turning American youth into cannon fodder for Netanyahu’s holy war against Iran. On the other hand, there’s us….

Given our resources, and a very un-level playing field, it’s amazing what Antiwar.com has managed to accomplish.

  • We put the word "neocon" on many pairs of lips, until today it’s passed into the language as a synonym for evil. That alone will give us at least a footnote in the history of agitprop.
  • When the whole world was saying Saddam had those infamously absent "weapons of mass destruction," we debunked that lie endlessly in the run-up to the disastrous invasion of Iraq.
  • Antiwar.com was the first Internet news site to identify I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby as the high Bush administration official who "outed" CIA agent Valerie Plame.
  • We accurately predicted the catastrophe to be visited on Libya if the Obama administration’s regime change operation played out.
  • Antiwar.com played a leading role in the fight to nix the administration’s plans to attack Syria – not only by debunking the war propaganda spewed by interventionists, but also by mobilizing our readers in a successful telephone and letter-writing campaign aimed at Congress.

Not too bad for a relatively small no-frills operation like ours. But remember: we can’t continue without your financial support. The showdown at the Geneva corral is going to be the true test of our capabilities – and of the new peace movement at large. That’s why our current fundraising campaign is so vitally important.

This is the moment, our moment to make heard the voices for peace – your voice, amplified enough to be heard in the centers of power. Please help us continue our work: make your tax-deductible donation today.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

Read more by Justin Raimondo