Read it and weep:
“Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush’s authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over Iraq. Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran. Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel had argued for the change in strategy.”
This settles at least three matters once and for all: To begin with, the president has been given the green light to attack Iran. Withdrawing this provision from the spending bill is an act not just of complicity, but of open collaboration with the Bush administration’s war plans. When the bombs begin to fall, and the Democrats rise up in a yowl of righteous indignation, the president will be quite justified in doing this.
Secondly, the Democrats are either being dishonest or they lack fundamental knowledge of geography, because Pelosi is attacking the president for his Iraq “surge” even as she gives him the go-ahead for a super-surge right across the border in Iran.
The Republicans, no matter what their particular views on the war, seem to understand that this is a regional struggle and requires a comprehensive, overarching solution. They just don’t agree on what that solution ought to be. Someone along the lines of, say, Rudy Giuliani, wants to extend the war to include the entire region, while Chuck Hagel, on the other hand, envisions a regional diplomatic and political architecture to serve as the framework for a comprehensive Middle East peace initiative.
“It is simply not consistent for anyone to demand aggressive action against the menace posed by the Iranian regime while at the same time acquiescing in a retreat from Iraq that would leave our worst enemies dramatically emboldened and Israel’s best friend, the United States, dangerously weakened.”
What an easy target the “antiwar” Democrats make!
Third, one has to wonder how those who claim that recognizing the Israel Lobby‘s decisive impact on U.S. foreign policy is a hate crime are going to explain away this one. Those above-mentioned “conservative Democrats” are natural warmongers (although it wasn’t always so), but exactly who, one wonders, are these other “lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel”? I’ll bet Pelosi is one of them and Tom Lantos is another; no doubt the entire Democratic leadership belongs in that group.
No one is any longer pretending that Israel isn’t the 51st state. To hear Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) tell it,
“There is widespread fear in Israel about Iran, which is believed to be seeking nuclear weapons and has expressed unremitting hostility about the Jewish state. ‘It would take away perhaps the most important negotiating tool that the U.S. has when it comes to Iran,’ she said of the now-abandoned provision.”
Berkley is prepared to send the sons and daughters of her Nevada constituents into battle because, you see, there is “fear in Israel.” What about fear in Nevada of the looming prospect of another war in the Middle East, this time involving a country with three times the population of Iraq and quite a bit more territory? I’ll bet if you grab someone off the streets of Las Vegas and ask them if we ought to gamble on giving Bush the power to launch another war, only the very drunk would say, “Yeah, sure, dude, why the hell not!” On the other hand, if you went up to someone in say, Tel Aviv, you’d get a very different answer. In this context, it is fair to ask: whom, exactly, does Rep. Berkley represent?
The Israel Lobby would like to frame the debate in terms of the alleged “existential” threat to Israel, in spite of the CIA’s official assessment that Iran is 10 years away from building viable nuclear weapons. Since Israel could be wiped off the map by a few well-placed nuclear strikes, according to this half-baked scenario, to oppose going to war is evidence of anti-Semitism at least, according to the definition of the “new anti-Semitism,” which goes way beyond the fevered fictions of the Protocols and includes Jewish advocates of a single biracial state in Palestine, such as Tony Judt. When it comes to Iran, therefore, to be antiwar is to be an anti-Semite.
This brings to mind the comment of Andrew Sullivan at his most unhinged you remember, back when he was subjecting poetry to the pro-war litmus test when he charged that participants at some antiwar rally were handing out copies of the Protocols. Sullivan darkly speculated that the infiltration of this ancient prejudice was “perhaps inevitable.” But of course it is if you define anti-Semitism in the “new” way the neocons are trying desperately to legitimize. It’s nonsense of the worst sort: is it “anti-Semitic” to note that the U.S. and Israel are, like, separate countries, or is this, too, evidence that you’re a Hitlerite of the heart? To add to the intellectual dishonesty generated by this debate, we aren’t allowed to point out the racist claptrap uttered by Rep. Gary Ackerman, a Democrat representing the north shore of Long Island, who said:
“I didn’t think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you’re trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize it in a civilized way.”
Yeah, those wild-eyed Muslims can’t be trusted with gunpowder, let alone nuclear power, so nothing is “off the table.” That’s why it’s okay for Israel to have nukes, which pose an “existential” threat to Iran: the Israelis, after all, are normal and “civilized,” just like us. No need to ask whom or what Ackerman represents: that ought to be clear enough.
In a study of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” published by Harvard University last year and summarized in a piece in the London Review of Books, professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt averred that the Lobby’s power was “critical” in pushing the U.S. to invade Iraq, albeit not the sole factor. That same power is now being exerted to the utmost in order to get the Americans to take out Tehran, and, once again, it is critical and intense, as the two professors note:
“The administration has responded to the Lobby’s pressure by working overtime to shut down Iran’s nuclear program. But Washington has had little success, and Iran seems determined to create a nuclear arsenal. As a result, the Lobby has intensified its pressure. Op-eds and other articles now warn of imminent dangers from a nuclear Iran, caution against any appeasement of a ‘terrorist’ regime, and hint darkly of preventive action should diplomacy fail. The Lobby is pushing Congress to approve the Iran Freedom Support Act, which would expand existing sanctions. Israeli officials also warn they may take preemptive action should Iran continue down the nuclear road, threats partly intended to keep Washington’s attention on the issue.”
The Iran Freedom Support Act which is nothing less than an open attempt to pull off “regime change” in Iran passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. The rush of op-eds has now turned into a tsunami. And AIPAC is using its well-known and widely feared clout with politicians to ramp up the pressure for war. According to one on-the-scene report, AIPAC’s recent conference, which drew politicians from both sides of the aisle, featured
“Former CIA director James Woolsey expound[ing] upon the existential threats posed to the Jewish state by various Islamist entities. Six humongous jumbotrons behind him shuffle through images of a maniacal-looking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and an impotent-looking Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Israel advocacy is a high-stakes business, they beam at me.”
Six-thousand AIPAC supporters cheering as major politicians of both parties ratchet up the rhetoric against Iran: what more evidence do we need that the Israel lobby is the command-and-control center of the War Party?
Mearsheimer and Walt saw this effort to gin up another war in the Middle East coming, and they make a good argument against it:
“One might argue that Israel and the Lobby have not had much influence on policy towards Iran, because the U.S. has its own reasons for keeping Iran from going nuclear. There is some truth in this, but Iran’s nuclear ambitions do not pose a direct threat to the U.S. If Washington could live with a nuclear Soviet Union, a nuclear China, or even a nuclear North Korea, it can live with a nuclear Iran. And that is why the Lobby must keep up constant pressure on politicians to confront Tehran. Iran and the U.S. would hardly be allies if the Lobby did not exist, but U.S. policy would be more temperate and preventive war would not be a serious option.”
Let anyone who doubts the unparalleled power of the Lobby watch as Congress once again abdicates its responsibility and trusts this administration to do the right thing. Rep. Ackerman now says he regrets his vote in favor of the Iraq war resolution:
“If I had known the administration lied, if I had known that the presentations were rigged. I certainly wouldn’t have trusted [the administration]. The evidence was rigged, and the case wasn’t proven at all.”
So why is he giving the Bush administration the benefit of a doubt the second time around? How does he know the evidence isn’t rigged, this time, too? Is he a fool, or a liar? Well, we know he recently referred to Omar Khayyam as “the great Iraqi poet,” despite the fact that the medieval Persian was born in present-day Iran centuries before the creation of Iraq. Ackerman knows as much about Iran as he did about Iraq at the time of his pro-war vote, i.e., zero, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t disqualify him as a decision-maker.
Ackerman attended what the above-cited news report described as “a closed-door meeting last week of conservative and moderate Democrats” where it was decided that they had better not be “tying the hands of the administration.” After all, as Matt Yglesias quipped, “Since history has, after all, shown that when granted broad military authority Bush usually uses it wisely as a subtle negotiating tool and with brilliant results. Or something.”
Is the Democratic leadership in Congress made up of fools, or liars? I would say both, but that’s hardly unusual when it comes to politicians, regardless of party affiliation. The question is: will their ostensibly “antiwar” base allow them to get away with it? Where are the fabled “netroots” on this? Apparently nowhere to be seen.
Speaking of being seen: this is a perfect opportunity to point out that there’s going to be a demonstration outside of Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco office, on the steps of San Francisco’s Federal Building, at noon on Monday, March 19, the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. The address is 450 Golden Gate, between Polk and Larkin. Go here for more information.
Show up and let the speaker of the House, who poses as an opponent of Bush’s crazed foreign policy, know that her complicity in the president’s rush to war with Iran is inexcusable, and needs to be reversed. I don’t often endorse demonstrations, but this one is vitally important: time is of the essence. As U.S. warships two aircraft carriers take up positions in the Persian Gulf, menacing Iran, amid a stream of hostile rhetoric and accusations aimed at Tehran by this White House, it’s time to step out and stand up against Pelosi’s shameful betrayal.