Backtalk, July 8, 2008

Stephen Zunes’ Backtalk

Stephen Zunes wrote:

“In reality, ‘the Iraq War, the threat of war with Iran, and the policy of non-engagement with Hamas and Hezbollah’ have actually hurt Israel.”

Now you’re arguing semantics. For that matter, almost everything Israel has done since 1948 has “hurt Israel.”

“In terms of U.S. taxpayer-funded military aid to Israel, almost all of it goes to U.S. arms manufacturers, and for every dollar of military aid earmarked for Israel, the Israelis have to spend two to three additional dollars on personnel, training, and spare parts.”

LOL! You make it sound like quite a burden! Let’s get real: unlike other recipients of U.S. aid, Israel gets to do whatever it wants to with the money. There is almost no accountability.

“Furthermore, the total annual amount of U.S. economic aid annually given to Israel by the United States is about what Israel owes U.S. banks in interest on loans for the earlier purchases of U.S. weapons.

“So, such policies aren’t exactly doing Israel a favor.”

That’s nonsense; of course it’s doing Israel a favor. If you insist otherwise, then please pay my car loan and credit card bills for me.

“Did AIPAC play a role in getting that non-binding resolution on Lebanon through? Probably.

“Does that mean that Israel controls U.S. policy in the Middle East? No.

“The Bush administration has its own twisted reasons to pursue such policies.”

LOL! You’re actually going to suggest, in light of all that’s happened over the last seven years, that the U.S. has some kind of “independent” foreign policy for the Mideast? In case you haven’t noticed, most U.S. presidents are nothing but puppets. Since taking office, Bush has been doing nothing but mindlessly following the PNAC agenda set forth by Israeli agents.

~ Nelson Navarro

Stephen Zunes replies:

1. This is not a case of semantics at all; U.S. policy has hurt Israel, and I don’t claim that “almost everything Israel has done since 1948 has ‘hurt Israel.'” The invasion of Iraq has strengthened radical Islamic elements, strengthened Iran, and hurt the credibility in the region of Israel’s main benefactor. Non-negotiations with Hamas and Hezbollah has strengthened hard-line elements in those groups and has postponed the possibility of peace. The threat of war with Iran has led to further Iranian militarization and has strengthened hard-liners in that country.

2. I’m fully aware that the economic aid to Israel has no strings attached and have written about that previously. I was referring to the military aid, which is clearly earmarked.

3. Congress and the Bush administration pass billions of dollars of tax breaks and bailouts to banks and other wealthy domestic financial interests every year. In this case, it happens to be via Israel. The analogy with your car loan or credit card bills is completely spurious.

4. To claim that Bush, etc., are simply puppets of wealthy Jews is bigoted, ahistorical lunacy. The U.S. supported Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor and continues to support Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara; why does it need “Israeli agents” to force it to support Israel’s occupation of Palestine? The U.S. in recent decades has invaded and occupied Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, and other countries. Why would it need “Israeli agents” to force it to invade Iraq? I could go on, but the fact is that while AIPAC and other right-wing Zionist groups and individuals have contributed to the limited debate on certain Middle East issues in this country and have had some influence in Congress, they are not the primary reason that the Bush administration has pursued such dangerous and reckless policies. It is about oil and U.S. imperialism. Furthermore, PNAC is not primarily a Jewish organization. And, if you actually read their literature, it should be pretty obvious that their goal is projecting American power and hegemony, with Israel playing a supporting role. It is not about Israel projecting Israeli power at the expense of the United States.

Zunes is full of sh*t. AIPAC gets 99 percent of the U.S. Congress to go to bat on any and every issue Israel wants. If they didn’t benefit by that war, then why did Israel and AIPAC work so hard to promote it? Also, the amount of stolen U.S. tax dollars to Israel since 1967 is at least $200 billion, maybe as much as a quarter of a trillion dollars, and we tax suckers also pick the tab for those U.S. banks too. Zunes is as usual whitewashing Israel, and he contradicts what Raimondo has been writing about for years. …

~ Al Blue

Stephen Zunes replies:

These statements are demonstrably false.

1. The percentage of members of Congress who typically support AIPAC-sponsored resolutions is large, but 99 percent is an exaggeration. Those which come to actual votes usually run between 85 percent and 94 percent, but many of the resolutions never even make it to the floor. There are a number of issues – from the AWACs sale to Saudi Arabia to the recent Harpee missile controversy – where AIPAC has actually failed.

2. AIPAC did not work that hard to promote the Iraq war. A look at their newsletters and interviews with congressional staff members during the run-up to the congressional vote authorizing the war reveals that it was not a particularly high priority for them.

3. Raimondo and I respectfully disagree on the question of how significant AIPAC is relative to other factors, but it doesn’t mean that I am “whitewashing Israel”; indeed, I am one of the more prominent critics of U.S. support for the Israeli government. You can check out my Web site and see for yourself.

4. U.S. aid to Israel since 1967 is actually closer to $120 billion, not $200 billion.

5. Given that Congress annually approves this aid through a legal legislative process, it cannot technically be considered “stolen,” even though I believe it has indeed been a reprehensible misallocation of public funds. It is important to put things in perspective, however: The U.S. has spent as much every year for Bush’s war in Iraq as the U.S. has spent on Israel over the past 30 years. And the overall military budget of the United States is more than 200 times what the U.S. spends on Israel. While the U.S. should certainly stop sending such vast amounts of unconditional aid to Israel (as well as any other country which so systematically violates international legal principles and human rights), if fiscal responsibility is your concern, there are much greater wastes of taxpayer money out there to complain about.

Finally, if you want to disagree with someone, I would advise providing empirical data to make your case rather than simply throwing out profanities, insults, and inaccurate claims.

We, the Salt of the Earth, Take Precedence

Ordinarily, I like Paul Craig Roberts’ writings and agree with much that he says. Not so with his “Salt of the Earth” book reviews article.

He is right to condemn British, U.S., and Israeli imperialism and their extralegal behavior in going about it. He is wrong to put the onus of WWII war crimes on the Allies. Churchill was no angel, but Hitler was a monster. Just like Bush, he used any provocation to send his armies waging aggressive war. His Gestapo slaughtered millions of civilians during the Holocaust. He annexed Danzig and bullied Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland into ceding territory to Germany in violation of international treaties. It is true that these treaties were imposed on Germany after WWI … but Hitler went beyond regaining lost territory. He sought to Nazify the world. There may be only token dissent tolerated in the U.S. within the boundaries of “combating terrorism,” but no dissent at all was tolerated under Hitler.

The conservative authors he reviews have always been apologists for Hitler.

I think that Roberts’ anger has swept him away on this one.

~ Bill Goldman, Annapolis, Md.

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

Bill Goldman repeats in the face of heavily documented books, on which I report, all the fantasy history that the victors proclaimed. Real historians do not support the fantasy history.

Goldman has no idea whatsoever what he is talking about. John Pilger must be rolling with laughter to hear himself called a “conservative author.” As Buchanan says, Americans are too brainwashed to deal with facts.

You make so many good points here about Anglo-American exceptionalism and callousness toward the lives of other people, but then sabotage the whole thing by suggesting that you believe that Winston Churchill started WWII and that Hitler “didn’t want war.” Historians generally agree that one of the prime causes of WWII was the Treaty of Versailles and the terrible aftermath that followed. But Hitler clearly wanted war. He negotiated peace with several rival powers, then attacked anyway. He claimed he only wanted to reunify Germany, then sent his armies into Poland (not only Danzig), France, and Russia. Hitler was a military adventurer in the image of Napoleon, and a madman. Suggesting that he did not want war undermines your credibility to a large extent. It is like saying that night is day.

~ Stephen Davis

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

My article reports on three heavily documented books. The book to which Stephen Davis takes exception was written by Pat Buchanan. Buchanan’s book itself is a report on the memoirs of the participants in the world wars and presents the conclusions of approximately 100 historians. What is the reader talking about? I am a messenger.

As Buchanan says, Americans are too brainwashed to hear the message.

Return of the Reds

Hi Nebojsa,

With respect to the Return of the Reds it is also noteworthy and underreported that leader of Serbian Socialists Dacic sought advice from the president of the Socialist International Papandreou on whether to form the coalition with Tadic.

~ Mickey

Nebojsa Malic replies:

I knew I forgot to mention something! Thank you for pointing this out.

How the South Won the Civil War

What a complete misunderstanding of the Civil War. The Civil War was launched by the North to save the Union. The Union was preserved. The North won. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that. The South sought to secede from the Union and start a new nation in order to preserve slavery. The South surrendered. The South lost its nation, and slavery was abolished. The North won. The South was occupied by Northern troops for 10 years. The North won. It really doesn’t get any clearer than that. Black equality was a mere afterthought by a small group of legislators, and it was relatively easily abandoned.

~ Scott Roberts

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