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 Dahr Jamail: Iraq Dispatches, May 3, 2006



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 Breaking the Silence on the Israel Lobby by Jeff Blankfort

[Original Source: Anderson Valley Advertiser/ February 2002]

 Rockets, Napalm, Torpedoes & Lies: Israel's Attack on the Liberty, Revisited

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR [Original Source: CounterPunch/ November 26, 2002]

 War on Terrorism or Police State? by former Rep. Cynthia McKinney

[Original Source: Counterpunch/Date: July 25, 2002]




** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **

Today's Topic:

"Reason for Their Death Is Known"

By Dahr Jamail

t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 03 May 2006


Death in Iraq. It is relentless and incessant.

Know what it is like when scores of your fellow citizens are being killed every single day while the world proceeds unheedingly on? As a journalist I've had but a taste of that poison during my eight months in Iraq. Try it out: be an Iraqi for a day, into your fourth year of being occupied, humiliated, tortured and killed, doing all you can just to survive.

All communication with my Iraqi friends is punctuated by and smattered with their use of the words "praying," "God," and "Insha'allah" (God willing). Perhaps there is need to invoke something else altogether?

/And all the dead air is alive. With the smell of America's God. - Harold Pinter, "War With Iraq"/

On one of the days when multiple car bombs drained the blood and souls of scores in Baghdad, my closest friend wrote from there: "Dahr, This is a very sad letter I'm writing you as a friend. My tears are coming down due to the humiliation, suffering, frustration, thwarting defeat and discomfiture we the Iraqi are living in. Please let people know some of the news of what is happening to my country, my people and my religion."

Death lurks everywhere in Iraq today. Keeping up with the numbers of dead is impossible. A doctor working at one of the larger hospitals in Baghdad recently called it a "camp" because the courtyard of the hospital is constantly filled with members of the Shia Badr militia, who continue to carry out their death squad activities of killing Sunnis and rival Shia. "The Badr are all over the hospital, looking for people," said the doctor. "The injured brought here sometimes die before even reaching the ward, because the Badr are being obstacles for us. One of the men running our morgue was killed by the Badr. My friends are warning me to be careful, to keep my mouth shut."

The numbers are being hidden and the Badr, operating out of the Ministry of Interior, which is funded by the US, are making sure the numbers remain shrouded.

Yet on Tuesday of this week, a spokesman at that same hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity of course, announced that in the last 48 hours alone Yarmouk Hospital had received 65 bodies, most of them slaughtered by death squads in execution-style murders. That day they had received 40 bodies, and Monday, 25.

Iraqis are at far greater risk when they speak out about the true number of the dead than western journalists. Those who speak out jeopardize their lives, like Faik Bakir, the director of the Baghdad morgue. Bakir fled Iraq fearing for his life in early March, after reporting that over 7,000 people had been killed by death squads in recent months. In an article in the Guardian <,,1721366,00.html> on March 2nd, it was made clear by John Pace, a UN official who worked in Iraq until February, that "The vast majority of bodies showed signs of summary execution - many with their hands tied behind their back. Some showed evidence of torture, with arms and leg joints broken by electric

drills." He said that the killings had been ongoing long before the rampant bloodshed that followed the bombing of the Shia shrine in Samarra. The article added, "Mr. Pace, whose contract in Iraq ended last month, said many killings were carried out by Shia militias linked to the interior ministry run by Bayan Jabr, a leading figure in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri)."

This past Saturday I received information from the main morgue in Baghdad from a doctor there, name withheld for security reasons. "Yesterday we received 36 bodies from the police pickups. All of them are unknown, without IDs, and we don't have refrigerators to put them in since all of ours are completely full already. So we had to keep them on the ground. 12 of them were handcuffed, most of them received between 2 and 10 bullets, some many more than 10. We are not going to put them into biopsy. Reason for their death is known. Most of them are between 20 to 30 years This is the number that was brought directly to us in one day, plus there are the dead who are sent to the hospitals. They will be put in the hospitals' morgues. We don't receive bodies from hospitals nowadays, because we don't have a place to keep them. I can't tell the exact number of killed people now, but it depends on the situation. But what I can assure you of is that since the shrine explosion, deaths have almost doubled. Daily, we receive between 70 to 80 bodies you can see within these 40 minutes that I've talked with you, we received 9 bodies. Nearly every morning the count will be doubled twice this number, for the police find them at night. Most are either found in the streets or killed without sending them to hospitals. Four days ago we received 24 bodies in just 2 hours."

At this same morgue back in June 2004, I interviewed the aforementioned director, Dr. Faiq Bakir, who had to flee for his life. He said that their maximum holding capacity with the freezers was 90 bodies, and since January 2004 an average of well over 600 bodies each month had been brought there. The cause of death for at least half of these were gunshots or explosions. He also pointed out that those numbers did not include the heavy fighting areas of Fallujah and Najaf.

In addition, he told me, "We deal only with suspicious deaths, not deaths from natural causes. And so many bodies are buried that never go to a morgue anywhere."

According to Dr. Bakir, the rate of bodies brought to the Baghdad Morgue even back then was 3-4 times greater than it ever was during the regime of Saddam Hussein. "I am sure that not all of the bodies that should come here do," he continued before very diplomatically adding, "Because our legal system has some problems right now."

Before the invasion, there was a coordinated system between Baghdad and the other governorates, which allowed his morgue to track deaths throughout the country, but this too had been smashed along with the rest of the infrastructure of his country.

More recently, a doctor at another hospital shared information which puts this in clearer perspective.

This past Sunday, a doctor from al-Numan hospital in the al-Adhamiya district of Baghdad reported to my source in Baghdad: "Every major hospital has either one or two refrigerators, depending on the population of the area. As for Adhamiya we have one refrigerator that holds a maximum of 10 bodies. Meanwhile there are two refrigerators in the Shula hospital. We have not less than 18 major hospitals inside Baghdad, in addition to the main morgue, which has 6 refrigerators that contain 20 bodies each. In the emergencies we use refrigeration trucks to put bodies inside - this is very familiar to the main morgue. I went there a week ago. I have seen three refrigeration trucks inside the yard. They were filled with bodies. They keep the bodies in the main morgue for not more than 15 days, and if no one asks for them, they send the bodies to the cemetery administration to deal with them. This administration hands the bodies to some individuals who will bury them, mostly in Najaf or in the cemeteries around Baghdad."

Reuters recently ran a story <;_ylt=A9G_RwN46FBERUUByQlm.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA-->

titled, "In Baghdad, some killings get noticed, some don't." The story read, "When gunmen killed a sister of an Iraqi vice president on Thursday, it grabbed world headlines. A few streets away, however, another slaying, typical of hundreds in Baghdad in recent weeks, went all but unnoticed. Indeed it might never have been recorded had 73-year-old Khatab al-Ani not been shot outside the home of a journalist." The only part of this I would amend is "in recent weeks," because I know for a fact that random unreported killings have been the norm in the capital city of Iraq for over two years now.

Another Iraqi source of mine works for an Iraqi relief NGO in Fallujah. He told me that from the April and November 2004 US assaults on Fallujah there were a minimum of 4,500 dead or missing (most of them dead), and "killings in Fallujah and Ramadi are a daily reality for us." According to this source, "Doctors in Fallujah estimate that an average of 3.5 people are being killed in Fallujah every day during 2006, while doctors we know in Baghdad estimate that the number there is between 150 and 200 per day."

He went on to say, "The Lancet reported over 100,000 killed over a year ago. This was even before many of the crimes committed by US troops, the Iraqi so-called Army and the Government militias, who are all first class killers, came to light. This brings the number to over 200,000 at the least. On the other hand, those people (Bush and those claiming less than 100,000 dead) not reporting the correct number of civilian casualties - that is a major crime in itself. It looks like they don't give a damn how many Iraqi people get killed."

Even the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) humanitarian news agency reported <> on April 26 that "More than 90 women become widows each day due to continuing violence countrywide, according to government officials and non-governmental organizations devoted to women's issues."

Another extremely telling point in the IRIN report is that "Although few reliable statistics are available on the total number of widows in Iraq, the Ministry of Women's Affairs says that there are at least 300,000 in Baghdad alone, with another eight million throughout the country." The report said that at least 15 police officers' wives are widowed every day, and that local NGOs in Iraq said the situation had become much worse since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, which has brought horrific violence on a level not seen before.

"Saddam Hussein was responsible for killing thousands of men during his 25 years of brutal rule," said Ibtissam Kamal in the IRIN report. Kamal, a member of a local organization that works on the issue but prefers anonymity of the organization for security reasons, added, "But more people have died during the past three years, most of them men "

The vast majority of deaths in Iraq are not being counted. Anyone who has spent any time there knows this. It was and remains common knowledge amongst my colleagues who worked on the streets, rather than those "embedding" or conducting "hotel journalism."

Several of my colleagues who have reported from Iraq feel the number of Iraqis killed during the occupation far exceeds 100,000.

"If one counts excess mortality from collapsed healthcare, polluted water, poverty and the like - at least 100,000 Iraqis have died since the US invaded Iraq," Christian Parenti, author of the book /The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq/ wrote me this week. Parenti, who has reported for over 5 months from Iraq and is a regularly contributor to The Nation magazine, added, "How many people have been killed by US troops? How many in sectarian violence? It's impossible to say, but the point is this: Iraq has been destroyed by the US invasion and the process of its disintegration will go on for years. It is a horror no matter what the numbers are."

David Enders, an American freelance journalist who has spent 18 months reporting from Iraq and author of the book /Baghdad Bulletin/, told me yesterday, "I visited the Baghdad morgue, and they were receiving between 30-40 bodies every day. That didn't include car bombs and people who'd died for obvious reasons. That was more than a year ago, and that was just for Baghdad. I think it's probably safe to say that well over 100,000 Iraqis have died during the occupation."

Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk writes for the Independent in the UK and has reported from the region for over 30 years. He had this to say in a piece written on March 20th titled, "The Iraq War: Three Years On - The march of folly that has led to a bloodbath":

"The Iraqis? Well, they are lesser beings whose casualties cannot be revealed to us by the Iraqi ministry of health, on orders from the Americans and British; creatures whose suffering, far greater than our own, must be submerged in the democracy and freedom in which we are drowning them; whose casualties "more or less" [mocking the infamous quote from George W. Bush] are probably nearer to 150,000. After all, if 1,000 Iraqis could die by violence last July - in Baghdad alone; and if they are being killed at 60 or 70 a day, then we have a near genocidal bloodbath on our hands. Iraqis, however, are now our Untermenschen for whom, frankly, we do not greatly care."

By far and away the survey that comes closest to the true number of dead in Iraq to date was the one conducted for the Lancet. Yet even Les Roberts, the lead author of that report and one of the world's top epidemiologists with the Center for International Emergency Disaster and Refugee Studies at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said this February <> that there might be as many as 300,000 Iraqi civilian deaths generated by the US invasion and occupation. So as not to skew the results, it is important to note that the survey did not include areas where major combat had occurred such as Fallujah, Najaf, and Sadr City - home to roughly three million Iraqis.

Any news agency, government, or other organization reporting anything less are actively attempting to hide the level of slaughter and mayhem and thus aiding and abetting the ongoing war crimes in Iraq.

My aforementioned friend in Fallujah is both frustrated and angry that most news agencies choose not to report the number of dead in Iraq more accurately. "I know there are some organizations who claim that they have an accurate count, which is less than 40,000 dead Iraqis," he wrote me recently. He went on to reference Bush Junior, "And as if that number itself isn't shameful enough for the US and the whole world to see. Anyone claiming that /low/ number who calls himself a humanitarian is a shameful guy."

/we leave civilian dead

as litter in the streets

ignored by us their numbers

unmarked as are their names

- Labi Siffre/

Anyone who's been in a war zone knows what it feels like to lie in bed at night listening to the cracking of gunfire, or the sound of thudding bombs. Knowing that each report means death or maiming. It is true that the dead do not talk, but each shot fired or bomb detonated means someone is dead, and the killers know and must live with that knowledge forever - that they have killed a human being.

And we cannot escape that knowledge either.

Not hearing the sounds of death, but knowing that somewhere this instant in Iraq is a family that will have to suffer a loss in perpetuity.



  In re: the Impeachment of Dubya, Our Lord


Workshop for the Tenth International Conference of the ISSEI at the University of Malta 24-29 July 2006

Workshop title: "The Politics of Culture in Arendt and Benjamin"

Respectively, Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin are two of the most significant and controversial intellectual figures of the twentieth century whose bodies of work demonstrate extraordinary diversity, intellectual and ethical depth, and a high degree of potential for practical applications. In general, my own interests have to do with correlating political, aesthetic, and ethical dimensions in considering how we form and maintain our human communities, that is, with how we construct, employ, and challenge ethical positions that determine the narrative structures of our political and cultural worlds. This is closely related to the officially stated theme of "Narrative and Identity" for the overall conference. I consider Arendt and Benjamin to be kindred spirits in such work and in order to better understand their particular contributions in such a task, I invite submissions for participation in this Workshop. I hope that several participants would directly relate the writings of these two philosophers, but papers that take into account the writings of relevant others in addition to either one or both of these two philosophers would be welcome as well.

Please send questions and/or abstracts to: Jules Simon, Workshop Director

Department of Philosophy The University of Texas at El Paso El Paso, Texas 79968


 Neturei Karta International:

Orthodox Jews United Against Zionism

 Jews Against Zionism

The Blankfort Files

[Sunday, May 7, 2006]

Jeff Blankfort is a veteran journalist, photographer and radio host

who has covered the Middle East and the Israel-Palestine conflict for the past 35 years

In This Special Issue:

Springtime for AIPAC & Israel


1. The Uproar Over the Israel Lobby by Alexander Cockburn [ 5, 2006]

2. The Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt [ May 04, 2006]

3. *No, It's Not Anti-Semitic* by Richard Cohen [Washington Post/April 25, 2006]

4. Breaking the Last Taboo: the United States of Israel by Robert Fisk [ 27, 2006]

5. Let's Call The Israel Lobby "The Israel Lobby" by Molly Ivins [ 25, 2006]

6. Study Shows Undue Israeli Influence on American Foreign Policy by Paul Findley [ April 19, 2006]

7. Comments on the 'Israel Lobby' by Norman Finkelstein [ April 15, 2006]

8. Breaking the Silence by Juan Cole [ 18, 2006]

9. AIPAC's Complaint by Eric Alterman [ 15, 2006]

10. Iran Showdown Tests Power of Israel Lobby By Jim Lobe [ 12, 2006]

11. The Israel Lobby? by Noam Chomsky [ 28, 2006]

12. Noam Chomsky and the Pro-Israel Lobby by James Petras [March , 2006]

13. The Israel Lobby Redux by Ira Glunts [ 8, 2006]

14. Keeping It Quiet: The Israel Lobby's Crushing of Dissent by Charlie Reese [ April 2, 2006]

15. Yes, Blame the Lobby by Jeff Blankfort [ 11, 2006]



1. The Uproar Over the Israel Lobby


by Alexander Cockburn

May 5, 2006

For the past few weeks a sometimes comic debate has been simmering in the American press, focused on the question of whether there is an Israeli lobby and, if so, just how powerful it is.

I would have thought that to ask whether there's an Israeli lobby here is a bit like asking whether there's a Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor or a White House located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. The late Steve Smith, brother-in-law of Teddy Kennedy, and a powerful figure in the Democratic Party for several decades, liked to tell the story of how a group of four Jewish businessmen got together $2 million in cash and gave it to Harry Truman when he was in desperate need of money during his presidential campaign in 1948. Truman went on to become president and to express his gratitude to his Zionist backers.

Since those days, the Democratic Party has long been hospitable to, and supported by, rich Zionists. In 2002, for example, Haim Saban, the Israel-American who funds the Saban Center at the Brooking Institute and is a big contributor to AIPAC, gave $12.3 million to the Democratic Party. In 2001, the magazine Mother Jones listed on its website the 400 leading contributors to the 2000 national elections. Seven of the first 10 were Jewish, as were 12 of the top 20, and 125 of the top 250. Given this, all prudent candidates have gone to amazing lengths to satisfy their demands.

None of this history is particularly controversial, and there have been plenty of well-documented accounts of the activities of the Israel Lobby down the years, from Alfred Lilienthal's 1978 study, The Zionist Connection, to former U.S. Rep. Paul Findley's 1985 book, "They Dare To Speak Out" to "Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship," written by my brother and sister-in-law, Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, and published in 1991.

Three years ago, Jeffrey St. Clair and I published a collection of 18 essays called The Politics of Anti-Semitism, no less than four of which were incisive discussions of the Israel lobby. Kathy and Bill Christison, former CIA analysts, reviewed the matter of dual loyalty, with particular reference to the so-called neo-cons, alternately advising an Israeli prime minister and an American president.

Most vividly of all in our book, a congressional aide, writing pseudonymously under the name George Sutherland, contributed a savagely funny essay called "Our Vichy Congress." "As year chases year," Sutherland wrote, "the lobby's power to influence Congress on any issue of importance to Israel grows inexorably stronger . Israel's strategy of using its influence on the American political system to turn the U.S. national security apparatus into its own personal attack dog -- or Golem -- has alienated the United States from much of the Third World, has worsened U.S. ties to Europe amid rancorous insinuations of anti-Semitism, and makes the United States a hated bully."

So it can scarcely be said that there had been silence here about the Israel Lobby until two respectable professors, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, the former from the University of Chicago and the latter from Harvard, wrote their paper "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," published in longer form by the Kennedy School at Harvard (which has since disowned it) and, after it had been rejected by the Atlantic Monthly (which originally commissioned it), in shorter form by the London Review of Books.

In fact, the significance of this essay rests entirely on the provenance of the authors, from two of the premier academic institutions of the United States. Neither of them have any tincture of radicalism. After the paper was published in shortened form in the London Review of Books, there was a slightly stunned silence, broken by the screams of America's most manic Zionist, Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard, who did Mearsheimer and Walt the great favor of thrusting their paper into the headlines. Dershowitz managed this by his usual volleys of hysterical invective, investing the paper with the fearsome allure of that famous anti-Semitic tract, a forgery of the Czarist police, entitled "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." The Mearsheimer-Walt essay was Nazi-like, Dershowitz howled, a classic case of conspiracy-mongering, in which a small band of Zionists were accused of steering the Ship of Empire onto the rocks.

In fact, the paper by Mearsheimer and Walt is extremely dull. The long version runs to 81 pages, no less than 40 pages of which are footnotes. I settled down to read it with eager anticipation but soon found myself looking hopefully for the end. There's nothing in the paper that any moderately well-read student of the topic wouldn't have known long ago, but the paper has the merit of stating rather blandly some home truths that are somehow still regarded as too dangerous to state publicly in respectable circles in the United States.

After Dershowitz came other vulgar outbursts, such as from Eliot Cohen in the Washington Post. These attacks basically reiterated Dershowitz's essential theme: There is no such thing as the Israel lobby, and those asserting its existence are by definition anti-Semitic.

This method of assault at least has the advantage of being funny, (a) because there obviously is a Lobby -- as noted above and (b) because Mearsheimer and Walt aren't anti-Semites any more than 99.9 percent of others identifying the Lobby and criticizing its role. Partly as a reaction to Dershowitz and Cohen, the Washington Post and New York Times have now run a few pieces politely pointing out that the Israel Lobby has indeed exercised a chilling effect on the rational discussion of U.S. foreign policy. The tide is turning slightly.

Meanwhile, mostly on the left, there has been an altogether different debate, over the actual weight of the Lobby in the deliberations of those running the American Empire. This debate was rather amusingly summed up by the Israeli writer Yuri Avneri, a former Knesset member:

"I think that both sides are right (and hope to be right, myself, too). The findings of the two professors are right to the last detail. Every senator and congressman knows that criticizing the Israeli government is political suicide. . If the Israeli government wanted a law tomorrow annulling the Ten Commandments, 95 U.S. senators (at least) would sign the bill forthwith .

"The question, therefore, is not whether the two professors are right in their findings. The question is what conclusions can be drawn from them. Let's take the Iraq affair. Who is the dog? Who the tail? . The lesson of the Iraq affair is that the American-Israeli connection is strongest when it seems that American interests and Israeli interests are one (irrespective of whether that is really the case in the long run). The United States uses Israel to dominate the Middle East, Israel uses the United States to dominate Palestine."

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.


2. The Israel Lobby


By John Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt

May 4, 2006 [Cover date: May 11, 2006]

We wrote 'The Israel Lobby' in order to begin a discussion of a subject that had become difficult to address openly in the United States (LRB, 23 March <> ). We knew it was likely to generate a strong reaction, and we are not surprised that some of our critics have chosen to attack our characters or misrepresent our arguments. We have also been gratified by the many positive responses we have received, and by the thoughtful commentary that has begun to emerge in the media and the blogosphere. It is clear that many people ­ including Jews and Israelis ­ believe that it is time to have a candid discussion of the US relationship with Israel. It is in that spirit that we engage with the letters responding to our article. We confine ourselves here to the most salient points of dispute.

One of the most prominent charges against us is that we see the lobby as a well-organised Jewish conspiracy. Jeffrey Herf and Andrei Markovits, for example, begin by noting that 'accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-semitism' (Letters, 6 April <> ). It is a tradition we deplore and that we explicitly rejected in our article. Instead, we described the lobby as a loose coalition of individuals and organisations without a central headquarters. It includes gentiles as well as Jews, and many Jewish-Americans do not endorse its positions on some or all issues. Most important, the Israel lobby is not a secret, clandestine cabal; on the contrary, it is openly engaged in interest-group politics and there is nothing conspiratorial or illicit about its behaviour. Thus, we can easily believe that Daniel Pipes has never 'taken orders' from the lobby, because the Leninist caricature of the lobby depicted in his letter is one that we clearly dismissed. Readers will also note that Pipes does not deny that his organisation, Campus Watch, was created in order to monitor what academics say, write and teach, so as to discourage them from engaging in open discourse about the Middle East.

Several writers chide us for making mono-causal arguments, accusing us of saying that Israel alone is responsible for anti-Americanism in the Arab and Islamic world (as one letter puts it, anti-Americanism 'would exist if Israel was not there') or suggesting that the lobby bears sole responsibility for the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq. But that is not what we said. We emphasised that US support for Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories is a powerful source of anti-Americanism, the conclusion reached in several scholarly studies and US government commissions (including the 9/11 Commission). But we also pointed out that support for Israel is hardly the only reason America's standing in the Middle East is so low. Similarly, we clearly stated that Osama bin Laden had other grievances against the United States besides the Palestinian issue, but as the 9/11 Commission documents, this matter was a major concern for him. We also explicitly stated that the lobby, by itself, could not convince either the Clinton or the Bush administration to invade Iraq. Nevertheless, there is abundant evidence that the neo-conservatives and other groups within the lobby played a central role in making the case for war.

At least two of the letters complain that we 'catalogue Israel's moral flaws', while paying little attention to the shortcomings of other states. We focused on Israeli behaviour, not because we have any animus towards Israel, but because the United States gives it such high levels of material and diplomatic support. Our aim was to determine whether Israel merits this special treatment either because it is a unique strategic asset or because it behaves better than other countries do. We argued that neither argument is convincing: Israel's strategic value has declined since the end of the Cold War and Israel does not behave significantly better than most other states.

Herf and Markovits interpret us to be saying that Israel's 'continued survival' should be of little concern to the United States. We made no such argument. In fact, we emphasised that there is a powerful moral case for Israel's existence, and we firmly believe that the United States should take action to ensure its survival if it were in danger. Our criticism was directed at Israeli policy and America's special relationship with Israel, not Israel's existence.

Another recurring theme in the letters is that the lobby ultimately matters little because Israel's 'values command genuine support among the American public'. Thus, Herf and Markovits maintain that there is substantial support for Israel in military and diplomatic circles within the United States. We agree that there is strong public support for Israel in America, in part because it is seen as compatible with America's Judaeo-Christian culture. But we believe this popularity is substantially due to the lobby's success at portraying Israel in a favourable light and effectively limiting public awareness and discussion of Israel's less savoury actions. Diplomats and military officers are also affected by this distorted public discourse, but many of them can see through the rhetoric. They keep silent, however, because they fear that groups like AIPAC will damage their careers if they speak out. The fact is that if there were no AIPAC, Americans would have a more critical view of Israel and US policy in the Middle East would look different.

On a related point, Michael Szanto contrasts the US-Israeli relationship with the American military commitments to Western Europe, Japan and South Korea, to show that the United States has given substantial support to other states besides Israel (6 April). He does not mention, however, that these other relationships did not depend on strong domestic lobbies. The reason is simple: these countries did not need a lobby because close ties with each of them were in America's strategic interest. By contrast, as Israel has become a strategic burden for the US, its American backers have had to work even harder to preserve the 'special relationship'.

Other critics contend that we overstate the lobby's power because we overlook countervailing forces, such as 'paleo-conservatives, Arab and Islamic advocacy groups . . . and the diplomatic establishment'. Such countervailing forces do exist, but they are no match ­ either alone or in combination ­ for the lobby. There are Arab-American political groups, for example, but they are weak, divided, and wield far less influence than AIPAC and other organisations that present a strong, consistent message from the lobby.

Probably the most popular argument made about a countervailing force is Herf and Markovits's claim that the centrepiece of US Middle East policy is oil, not Israel. There is no question that access to that region's oil is a vital US strategic interest. Washington is also deeply committed to supporting Israel. Thus, the relevant question is, how does each of those interests affect US policy? We maintain that US policy in the Middle East is driven primarily by the commitment to Israel, not oil interests. If the oil companies or the oil-producing countries were driving policy, Washington would be tempted to favour the Palestinians instead of Israel. Moreover, the United States would almost certainly not have gone to war against Iraq in March 2003, and the Bush administration would not be threatening to use military force against Iran. Although many claim that the Iraq war was all about oil, there is hardly any evidence to support that supposition, and much evidence of the lobby's influence. Oil is clearly an important concern for US policymakers, but with the exception of episodes like the 1973 Opec oil embargo, the US commitment to Israel has yet to threaten access to oil. It does, however, contribute to America's terrorism problem, complicates its efforts to halt nuclear proliferation, and helped get the United States involved in wars like Iraq.

Regrettably, some of our critics have tried to smear us by linking us with overt racists, thereby suggesting that we are racists or anti-semites ourselves. Michael Taylor, for example, notes that our article has been 'hailed' by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke (6 April). Alan Dershowitz implies that some of our material was taken from neo-Nazi websites and other hate literature (20 April). We have no control over who likes or dislikes our article, but we regret that Duke used it to promote his racist agenda, which we utterly reject. Furthermore, nothing in our piece is drawn from racist sources of any kind, and Dershowitz offers no evidence to support this false claim. We provided a fully documented version of the paper so that readers could see for themselves that we used reputable sources.

Finally, a few critics claim that some of our facts, references or quotations are mistaken. For example, Dershowitz challenges our claim that Israel was 'explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship'. Israel was founded as a Jewish state (a fact Dershowitz does not challenge), and our reference to citizenship was obviously to Israel's Jewish citizens, whose identity is ordinarily based on ancestry. We stated that Israel has a sizeable number of non-Jewish citizens (primarily Arabs), and our main point was that many of them are relegated to a second-class status in a predominantly Jewish society.

We also referred to Golda Meir's famous statement that 'there is no such thing as a Palestinian,' and Jeremy Schreiber reads us as saying that Meir was denying the existence of those people rather than simply denying Palestinian nationhood (20 April). There is no disagreement here; we agree with Schreiber's interpretation and we quoted Meir in a discussion of Israel's prolonged effort 'to deny the Palestinians' national ambitions'.

Dershowitz challenges our claim that the Israelis did not offer the Palestinians a contiguous state at Camp David in July 2000. As support, he cites a statement by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and the memoirs of former US negotiator Dennis Ross. There are a number of competing accounts of what happened at Camp David, however, and many of them agree with our claim. Moreover, Barak himself acknowledges that 'the Palestinians were promised a continuous piece of sovereign territory except for a razor-thin Israeli wedge running from Jerusalem . . . to the Jordan River.' This wedge, which would bisect the West Bank, was essential to Israel's plan to retain control of the Jordan River Valley for another six to twenty years. Finally, and contrary to Dershowitz's claim, there was no 'second map' or map of a 'final proposal at Camp David'. Indeed, it is explicitly stated in a note beside the map published in Ross's memoirs that 'no map was presented during the final rounds at Camp David.' Given all this, it is not surprising that Barak's foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, who was a key participant at Camp David, later admitted: 'If I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David as well.'

Dershowitz also claims that we quote David Ben-Gurion 'out of context' and thus misrepresented his views on the need to use force to build a Jewish state in all of Palestine. Dershowitz is wrong. As a number of Israeli historians have shown, Ben-Gurion made numerous statements about the need to use force (or the threat of overwhelming force) to create a Jewish state in all of Palestine. In October 1937, for example, he wrote to his son Amos that the future Jewish state would have an 'outstanding army . . . so I am certain that we won't be constrained from settling in the rest of the country, either by mutual agreement and understanding with our Arab neighbours, or by some other way' (emphasis added). Furthermore, common sense says that there was no other way to achieve that goal, because the Palestinians were hardly likely to give up their homeland voluntarily. Ben-Gurion was a consummate strategist and he understood that it would be unwise for the Zionists to talk openly about the need for 'brutal compulsion'. We quote a memorandum Ben-Gurion wrote prior to the Extraordinary Zionist Conference at the Biltmore Hotel in New York in May 1942. He wrote that 'it is impossible to imagine general evacuation' of the Arab population of Palestine 'without compulsion, and brutal compulsion'. Dershowitz claims that Ben-Gurion's subsequent statement ­ 'we should in no way make it part of our programme' ­ shows that he opposed the transfer of the Arab population and the 'brutal compulsion' it would entail. But Ben-Gurion was not rejecting this policy: he was simply noting that the Zionists should not openly proclaim it. Indeed, he said that they should not 'discourage other people, British or American, who favour transfer from advocating this course, but we should in no way make it part of our programme'.

We close with a final comment about the controversy surrounding our article. Although we are not surprised by the hostility directed at us, we are still disappointed that more attention has not been paid to the substance of the piece. The fact remains that the United States is in deep trouble in the Middle East, and it will not be able to develop effective policies if it is impossible to have a civilised discussion about the role of Israel in American foreign policy.

John Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt

University of Chicago & Harvard University


3. No, It's Not Anti-Semitic


by Richard Cohen

The Washington Post

April 25, 2006


During the Jim Crow era, many American communists fiercely fought racism. This is a fact. It is also a fact that segregationists and others often smeared civil rights activists by calling them communists. This technique is sometimes called guilt by association and sometimes "McCarthyism." If you think it's dead, you have not been following the controversy over a long essay about the so-called "Israel Lobby."

On April 5, for instance, The Post ran an op-ed, "Yes, It's Anti-Semitic," by Eliot A. Cohen, a professor at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a respected defense intellectual. Cohen does not much like a paper on the Israel lobby that was written by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University. He found it anti-Semitic. I did not.

But I did find Cohen's piece to be offensive. It starts by noting that the paper, titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," had been endorsed by David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan. It goes on to quote Duke, who, I am sure, has nodded his head in agreement over the years with an occasional piece of mine, as saying the paper is a "modern Declaration of American Independence." If you follow Cohen's reasoning, then you would have to conclude that David Duke and the Founding Fathers have something in common. I am not, as they say, willing to go there.

Unfortunately, Cohen's piece is not unique. The New York Sun reported on its front page of March 24 an allegation from Alan Dershowitz that some of the quotes from the Israel lobby paper "appear on hate sites." Maybe they do, but Mearsheimer and Walt took those quotes (about press coverage of Israel) from a book written by Max Frankel, a former editor of the New York Times. To associate Mearsheimer and Walt with hate groups is rank guilt by association and does not in any way rebut the argument made in their paper on the Israel lobby.

There is hardly a stronger, more odious, accusation than anti-Semitism. It comes freighted with more than a thousand years of tragic history, culminating in the Holocaust. The mere suggestion of it is enough for any sane person to hold his tongue. Yet this did not stop the respected German newspaper editor Josef Joffe from stating in the New Republic that the lobby paper "puts 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' to shame." He is referring to the most notorious anti-Semitic text of all time. My friend Joffe is in dire need of a cold compress.

My own reading of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper found it unremarkable, a bit sloppy and one-sided (nothing here about the Arab oil lobby), but nothing that even a casual newspaper reader does not know. Its basic point -- that Israel's American supporters have immense influence over U.S. foreign policy -- is inarguable. After all, President Bush has just recently given Israel NATO-like status without so much as a murmur from Congress. "I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel," Bush said. This was the second or third time he's made this pledge, crossing a line that previous administrations would not -- in effect, promulgating a treaty seemingly on the spot. No other country gets this sort of treatment.

Israel's special place in U.S. foreign policy is deserved, in my view, and not entirely the product of lobbying. Israel has earned it, and isn't there something bracing about a special relationship that is not based on oil or markets or strategic location but on shared values? (A bit now like Britain.) But I can understand how foreign policy "realists" such as Mearsheimer and Walt might question its utility and not only think that a bit too much power is located in a specific lobby but that it is rarely even discussed. This may be wrong, but it is not (necessarily) anti-Semitic. In fact, after reading the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, the respected Israeli newspaper Haaretz not only failed to discern anti-Semitism but commended the paper to its readers. "The professors' article does not deserve condemnation," Haaretz stated in an editorial.

An abridged version of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper was published by the London Review of Books and is available online at . Read it and decide for yourself whether it is anti-Semitic. Whatever the case, their argument is hardly rebutted by purple denunciations and smear tactics. Rather than being persuasive, Mearsheimer and Walt's more hysterical critics suggest by their extreme reactions that the duo is on to something. These tactics by Israel's friends sully Israel's good name more than Mearsheimer and Walt ever could.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company


4. Breaking the Last Taboo: The United States of Israel


By Robert Fisk


April 27, 2006

Stephen Walt towers over me as we walk in the Harvard sunshine past Eliot Street, a big man who needs to be big right now (he's one of two authors of an academic paper on the influence of America's Jewish lobby) but whose fame, or notoriety, depending on your point of view, is of no interest to him. "John and I have deliberately avoided the television shows because we don't think we can discuss these important issues in 10 minutes. It would become 'J' and 'S', the personalities who wrote about the lobby - and we want to open the way to serious discussion about this, to encourage a broader discussion of the forces shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East."

"John" is John Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. Walt is a 50-year-old tenured professor at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. The two men have caused one of the most extraordinary political storms over the Middle East in recent American history by stating what to many non-Americans is obvious: that the US has been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of Israel, that Israel is a liability in the "war on terror", that the biggest Israeli lobby group, Aipac (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), is in fact the agent of a foreign government and has a stranglehold on Congress - so much so that US policy towards Israel is not debated there - and that the lobby monitors and condemns academics who are critical of Israel.

"Anyone who criticises Israel's actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle East policy," the authors have written, "...stands a good chance of being labelled an anti-Semite. Indeed, anyone who merely claims that there is an Israeli lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism ... Anti-Semitism is something no-one wants to be accused of." This is strong stuff in a country where - to quote the late Edward Said - the "last taboo" (now that anyone can talk about blacks, gays and lesbians) is any serious discussion of America's relationship with Israel.

Walt is already the author of an elegantly written account of the resistance to US world political dominance, a work that includes more than 50 pages of references. Indeed, those who have read his Taming Political Power: The Global Response to US Primacy will note that the Israeli lobby gets a thumping in this earlier volume because Aipac "has repeatedly targeted members of Congress whom it deemed insufficiently friendly to Israel and helped drive them from office, often by channelling money to their opponents."

But how many people in America are putting their own heads above the parapet, now that Mearsheimer and Walt have launched a missile that would fall to the ground unexploded in any other country but which is detonating here at high speed? Not a lot. For a while, the mainstream US press and television - as pro-Israeli, biased and gutless as the two academics infer them to be - did not know whether to report on their conclusions (originally written for The Atlantic Monthly, whose editors apparently took fright, and subsequently reprinted in The London Review of Books in slightly truncated form) or to remain submissively silent. The New York Times, for example, only got round to covering the affair in depth well over two weeks after the report's publication, and then buried its article in the education section on page 19. The academic essay, according to the paper's headline, had created a "debate" about the lobby's influence.

They can say that again. Dore Gold, a former ambassador to the UN, who now heads an Israeli lobby group, kicked off by unwittingly proving that the Mearsheimer-Walt theory of "anti-Semitism" abuse is correct. "I believe," he said, "that anti-Semitism may be partly defined as asserting a Jewish conspiracy for doing the same thing non-Jews engage in." Congressman Eliot Engel of New York said that the study itself was "anti-Semitic" and deserved the American public's contempt.

Walt has no time for this argument. "We are not saying there is a conspiracy, or a cabal. The Israeli lobby has every right to carry on its work - all Americans like to lobby. What we are saying is that this lobby has a negative influence on US national interests and that this should be discussed. There are vexing problems out in the Middle East and we need to be able to discuss them openly. The Hamas government, for example - how do we deal with this? There may not be complete solutions, but we have to try and have all the information available."

Walt doesn't exactly admit to being shocked by some of the responses to his work - it's all part of his desire to keep "discourse" in the academic arena, I suspect, though it probably won't work. But no-one could be anything but angered by his Harvard colleague, Alan Dershowitz, who announced that the two scholars recycled accusations that "would be seized on by bigots to promote their anti-Semitic agendas". The two are preparing a reply to Dershowitz's 45-page attack, but could probably have done without praise from the white supremacist and ex-Ku Klux Klan head David Duke - adulation which allowed newspapers to lump the name of Duke with the names of Mearsheimer and Walt. "Of Israel, Harvard and David Duke," ran The Washington Post's reprehensible headline.

The Wall Street Journal, ever Israel's friend in the American press, took an even weirder line on the case. "As Ex-Lobbyists of Pro-Israel Group Face Court, Article Queries Sway on Mideast Policy" its headline proclaimed to astonished readers. Neither Mearsheimer nor Walt had mentioned the trial of two Aipac lobbyists - due to begin next month - who are charged under the Espionage Act with receiving and disseminating classified information provided by a former Pentagon Middle East analyst. The defence team for Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman has indicated that it may call Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to the stand.

Almost a third of the Journal's report is taken up with the Rosen-Weissman trial, adding that the indictment details how the two men "allegedly sought to promote a hawkish US policy toward Iran by trading favours with a number of senior US officials. Lawrence Franklin, the former Pentagon official, has pleaded guilty to misusing classified information. Mr Franklin was charged with orally passing on information about a draft National Security Council paper on Iran to the two lobbyists... as well as other classified information. Mr Franklin was sentenced in December to nearly 13 years in prison..."

The Wall Street Journal report goes on to say that lawyers and "many Jewish leaders" - who are not identified - "say the actions of the former Aipac employees were no different from how thousands of Washington lobbyists work. They say the indictment marks the first time in US history that American citizens... have been charged with receiving and disseminating state secrets in conversations." The paper goes on to say that "several members of Congress have expressed concern about the case since it broke in 2004, fearing that the Justice Department may be targeting pro-Israel lobbying groups, such as Aipac. These officials (sic) say they're eager to see the legal process run its course, but are concerned about the lack of transparency in the case."

As far as Dershowitz is concerned, it isn't hard for me to sympathise with the terrible pair. He it was who shouted abuse at me during an Irish radio interview when I said that we had to ask the question "Why?" after the 11 September 2001 international crimes against humanity. I was a "dangerous man", Dershowitz shouted over the air, adding that to be "anti-American" - my thought-crime for asking the "Why?" question - was the same as being anti-Semitic. I must, however, also acknowledge another interest. Twelve years ago, one of the Israeli lobby groups that Mearsheimer and Walt fingers prevented any second showing of a film series on Muslims in which I participated for Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel - by stating that my "claim" that Israel was building large Jewish settlements on Arab land was "an egregious falsehood". I was, according to another Israeli support group, "a Henry Higgins with fangs", who was "drooling venom into the living rooms of America."

Such nonsense continues to this day. In Australia to launch my new book on the Middle East, for instance, I repeatedly stated that Israel - contrary to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists - was not responsible for the crimes of 11 September 2001. Yet the Australian Jewish News claimed that I "stopped just millimetres short of suggesting that Israel was the cause of the 9/11 attacks. The audience reportedly (and predictably) showered him in accolades."

This was untrue. There was no applause and no accolades and I never stopped "millimetres" short of accusing Israel of these crimes against humanity. The story in the Australian Jewish News is a lie.

So I have to say that - from my own humble experience - Mearsheimer and Walt have a point. And for a man who says he has not been to Israel for 20 years - or Egypt, though he says he had a "great time" in both countries - Walt rightly doesn't claim any on-the-ground expertise. "I've never flown into Afghanistan on a rickety plane, or stood at a checkpoint and seen a bus coming and not known if there is a suicide bomber aboard," he says.

Noam Chomsky, America's foremost moral philosopher and linguistics academic - so critical of Israel that he does not even have a regular newspaper column - does travel widely in the region and acknowledges the ruthlessness of the Israeli lobby. But he suggests that American corporate business has more to do with US policy in the Middle East than Israel's supporters - proving, I suppose, that the Left in the United States has an infinite capacity for fratricide. Walt doesn't say he's on the left, but he and Mearsheimer objected to the invasion of Iraq, a once lonely stand that now appears to be as politically acceptable as they hope - rather forlornly - that discussion of the Israeli lobby will become.

Walt sits in a Malaysian restaurant with me, patiently (though I can hear the irritation in his voice) explaining that the conspiracy theories about him are nonsense. His stepping down as dean of the Kennedy School was a decision taken before the publication of his report, he says. No one is throwing him out. The much-publicised Harvard disclaimer of ownership to the essay - far from being a gesture of fear and criticism by the university as his would-be supporters have claimed - was mainly drafted by Walt himself, since Mearsheimer, a friend as well as colleague, was a Chicago scholar, not a Harvard don.

But something surely has to give.

Across the United States, there is growing evidence that the Israeli and neo-conservative lobbies are acquiring ever greater power. The cancellation by a New York theatre company of My Name is Rachel Corrie - a play based on the writings of the young American girl crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 - has deeply shocked liberal Jewish Americans, not least because it was Jewish American complaints that got the performance pulled.

"How can the West condemn the Islamic world for not accepting Mohamed cartoons," Philip Weiss asked in The Nation, "when a Western writer who speaks out on behalf of Palestinians is silenced? And why is it that Europe and Israel itself have a healthier debate over Palestinian human rights than we can have here?" Corrie died trying to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home. Enemies of the play falsely claim that she was trying to stop the Israelis from collapsing a tunnel used to smuggle weapons. Hateful e-mails were written about Corrie. Weiss quotes one that reads: "Rachel Corrie won't get 72 virgins but she got what she wanted."

Saree Makdisi - a close relative of the late Edward Said - has revealed how a right-wing website is offering cash for University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) students who report on the political leanings of their professors, especially their views on the Middle East. Those in need of dirty money at UCLA should be aware that class notes, handouts and illicit recordings of lectures will now receive a bounty of $100. "I earned my own inaccurate and defamatory 'profile'," Makdisi says, "...not for what I have said in my classes on English poets such as Wordsworth and Blake - my academic speciality, which the website avoids mentioning - but rather for what I have written in newspapers about Middle Eastern politics."

Mearsheimer and Walt include a study of such tactics in their report. "In September 2002," they write, "Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, two passionately pro-Israel neo-conservatives, established a website ( that posted dossiers on suspect academics and encouraged students to report behaviour that might be considered hostile to Israel... the website still invites students to report 'anti-Israel' activity."

Perhaps the most incendiary paragraph in the essay - albeit one whose contents have been confirmed in the Israeli press - discusses Israel's pressure on the United States to invade Iraq. "Israeli intelligence officials had given Washington a variety of alarming reports about Iraq's WMD programmes," the two academics write, quoting a retired Israeli general as saying: "Israeli intelligence was a full partner to the picture presented by American and British intelligence regarding Iraq's non-conventional capabilities."

Walt says he might take a year's sabbatical - though he doesn't want to get typecast as a "lobby" critic - because he needs a rest after his recent administrative post. There will be Israeli lobbyists, no doubt, who would he happy if he made that sabbatical a permanent one. I somehow doubt he will.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent.


5. Let's Call The Israel Lobby 'The Israel Lobby'


By Molly Ivins

Working For Change

April 25, 2006

04.25.06 - AUSTIN, Texas -- One of the consistent deformities in American policy debate has been challenged by a couple of professors, and the reaction proves their point so neatly it's almost funny.

A working paper by John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, called "The Israel Lobby" was printed in the London Review of Books earlier this month. And all hell broke loose in the more excitable reaches of journalism and academe.

For having the sheer effrontery to point out the painfully obvious -- that there is an Israel lobby in the United States -- Mearsheimer and Walt have been accused of being anti-Semitic, nutty and guilty of "kooky academic work." Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be easily upset, went totally ballistic over the mild, academic, not to suggest pretty boring article by Mearsheimer and Walt, calling them "liars" and "bigots."

Of course there is an Israeli lobby in America -- its leading working group is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It calls itself "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," and it attempts to influence U.S. legislation and policy.

Several national Jewish organizations lobby from time to time. Big deal -- why is anyone pretending this non-news requires falling on the floor and howling? Because of this weird deformity of debate.

In the United States, we do not have full-throated, full-throttle debate about Israel. In Israel, they have it as matter of course, but the truth is that the accusation of anti-Semitism is far too often raised in this country against anyone who criticizes the government of Israel.

Being pro-Israel is no defense, as I long ago learned to my cost. Now I've gotten used to it. Jews who criticize Israel are charmingly labeled "self-hating Jews." As I have often pointed out, that must mean there are a lot of self-hating Israelis, because those folks raise hell over their own government's policies all the time.

I don't know that I've ever felt intimidated by the knee-jerk "you're anti-Semitic" charge leveled at anyone who criticizes Israel, but I do know I have certainly heard it often enough to become tired of it.

And I wonder if that doesn't produce the same result: giving up on the discussion.

It's the sheer disproportion, the vehemence of the attacks on anyone perceived as criticizing Israel that makes them so odious. Mearsheimer and Walt are both widely respected political scientists -- comparing their writing to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is just silly.

Several critics have pointed out some flaws in the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, including a too-broad use of the term "Israel lobby" -- those of us who are pro-Israel differ widely -- and having perhaps overemphasized the clout of the Israel lobby by ignoring the energy lobby.

It seems to me the root of the difficulty has been Israel's inability first to admit the Palestinians have been treated unfairly and, second, to figure out what to do about it. Now here goes a big fat generalization, but I think many Jews are so accustomed (by reality) to thinking of themselves as victims, it is especially difficult for them to admit they have victimized others.

But the Mearsheimer-Walt paper is not about the basic conflict, but its effect on American foreign policy, and it appears to me their arguments are unexceptional. Israel is the No. 1 recipient of American foreign aid, and it seems an easy case can be made that the United States has subjugated its own interests to those of Israel in the past.

Whether you agree or not, it is a discussion well worth having and one that should not be shut down before it can start by unfair accusations of "anti-Semitism." In a very equal sense, none of this is academic. The Israel lobby was overwhelmingly in favor of starting the war with Iraq and is now among the leading hawks on Iran.

To the extent that our interests do differ from those of Israel, the matter needs to be discussed calmly and fairly. This is not about conspiracies or plots or fantasies or anti-Semitism -- it's about rational discussion of American interests. And, in my case, being pro-Israel. I'm looking forward to hearing from all you nutjobs again.

(c) 2006 Creators Syndicate


6. Study Shows Undue Israeli Influence On U.S. Policy


By Paul Findley

April 19, 2006

Words spoken years ago by George W. Ball, a distinguished diplomat, author and champion of human rights, have vivid, new currency: "When Israel's interests are being considered, members of Congress act like trained poodles. They jump dutifully through hoops held by Israel's lobby."

In the same interview, Ball said, "The lobby's most powerful instrument of intimidation is the reckless charge of anti-Semitism." Sadly, his words ring true today, verified by my own experiences and those of many of my colleagues in the U.S. legislature.

Ball could have added that, except for exuberant praise of Israel, the poodles remain mute at all times lest they lapse into free speech and say something that will spoil their chances for re-election.

The fear of being charged with anti-Semitism outranks all other worries that bedevil politicians, and the lobby has marketed it so efficiently that a wall of silence shields the American people from awareness of the lobby's activities and U.S. complicity in Israel's longstanding abuse of international law and Arab human rights, violations that the rest of the world follows with dismay and anger.

Fear of the anti-Semitism stain is intensified these days, because the lobby has succeeded in redefining anti-Semitism to include any criticism of Israeli behavior, an inferred threat that prompts all major media to ignore or sanitize reports of Israeli violations. I know. I have experienced that fear myself and have observed closely as others, in Congress and out, have remained silent.

My authority for making these statements comes from being a close student of the lobby for over 30 years, the first 22 as a member of Congress. The lobby leaders chose me as their No. 1 target because I met unashamedly with PLO leader Yasser Arafat and later demanded the suspension of U.S. aid to Israel for its unlawful use of U.S.-donated military supplies.

In 1982, when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main center of Israeli lobbying in Washington, claimed credit for keeping me from election to a 12th term in the House of Representatives, I became the lobby's prize trophy. Two years later, Sen. Charles Percy, who was also guilty of failing to toe AIPAC line, joined me on the trophy shelf. Our fate has, no doubt, discouraged others from speaking out about Israel's misbehavior.

Israel's U.S. lobby is peerless among the hundreds of lobbies in our nation's capital for one main reason: It alone is armed with the ultimate persuader, an ample supply of indictments for anti-Semitism.

The supply promotes automatic cooperation when legislation on behalf of Israel moves forward. It is the modern-day Sword of Damocles, a fearsome instrument that hangs over almost every head in our government. Until recently, it seemed to cow all of the nation's prestigious scholars, except for a few hardy ones like professor Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Juan Cole of the University of Michigan.

Last month, in a rare burst of academic candor, two other distinguished professors, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard's Kennedy School, broke the silence with the publication of their 81-page, heavily footnoted study titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy."

In the study, they conclude that the flagrant, longstanding, unconditional pro-Israel bias in U.S. Middle East policy has enabled Israel to tilt U.S. policy in ways that benefit Israel to the disadvantage of U.S. national interests, luring America even into costly wars and a rising tide of ill fame worldwide. They pin much of the blame on the influence of Israel's U.S. lobby. One of their most significant conclusions: "The U.S. has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel."

Mearsheimer and Walt quickly discovered why most of their academic colleagues behave much like the political poodles on Capitol Hill. Their study instantly became controversial, the subject of a vigorous, often vitriolic, discussion of Israel's role in U.S. foreign policy, the first since the Jewish state came into being in 1948.

First published in the respected London Review of Books because no U.S. periodical was brave enough to give it a public audience, the study provoked such strong trans-Atlantic shock waves, thanks mainly to the Internet, that the wielders of the modern Sword of Damocles have gone public with a barrage of full-throated epithets, charging Mearsheimer and Walt with "ignorant propaganda, academic garbage, anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist drivel."

The Harvard Crimson quoted Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz as labeling the authors "liars" and "bigots."

Two other academics, in a letter to the London Review of Books, wrote ominously: "Accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-Semitism." They overlooked the fact that the lobby also includes powerful Christians.

In a New York Daily News piece, less strident critic Harvard professor David Gergen rebuked the authors by declaring that "over the course of four tours in the White House I never once saw a decision in the Oval Office to tilt U.S. foreign policy in favor of Israel at the expense of America's interest." An experienced politician himself, Gergen must know that such tilts would never be recorded for anyone to see, even in the privacy of the Oval Office.

In the column, Gergen mistakenly credited President Reagan with stopping Israel's 1982 bloody assault on Lebanon. To the contrary, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was defiant, conveying his refusal in these words: "Nobody, nobody is going to bring Israel to her knees. You must have forgotten that the Jews kneel but to God."

No matter what lies ahead, Mearsheimer and Walt have already well served the public. Their initiative has broken through a dangerous wall of silence. Thanks to publicity arising from their study, many thousands of U.S. citizens are aware for the first time that a domestic lobby on behalf of Israel exerts a significant role in forming U.S. Middle East policy, even on decisions of war. They are also now aware that religious communities - minority elements of both Christianity and Judaism - are the main pillars of the lobby.

This knowledge may bestir enough public curiosity to prompt a civilized and edifying public debate. It is difficult to conceive of a topic more urgently worthy of open, unfettered public examination.

Paul Findley was a member of Illinois' congressional delegation from 1961-83. He is the author of the bestseller, "They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby." He and Mrs. Findley reside in Jacksonville. His e-mail address is

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7. Comments on the Israel Lobby


by Norman Finkelstein

April 15, 2006

Several correspondents have queried my statement in The Irish Times. Their concerns seem genuine, which means a serious reply is warranted. The quote in question reads: "There is credible evidence for the claim that the Iraq war was a Jewish war." I happen to believe that the evidence is superficial but nonetheless there is evidence for it. So, if as the situation gets worse in Iraq, if Jews are scapegoated, it is in part a disaster of their own making. (I would have preferred if the reporter had put Jewish war in quotation marks; otherwise it's accurate.) The context of this statement was the controversy swirling around the Walt-Mearsheimer paper on the Israel Lobby. I observed that the paper's broad resonance, as well as the excited response from Israel's apologists, was due not only to the academic pedigree of its authors but also the Iraq debacle.

To their credit W-M highlight that American Jews were less supportive of going to war than Americans generally. However it's impossible to escape the impression that Jews, whether in Israel or those taking their marching orders from Jerusalem, played an instrumental role in triggering the war. W-M quote statements by Israeli leaders across the political spectrum (Barak, Peres, Sharon, Netanyahu) exhorting the U.S. to attack; recall that "as President Bush attempted to sell the war in Iraq, America's most important Jewish organizations rallied as one to his defense" (quoting the Jewish Forward); and list the many prominent Jewish neo-conservatives inside the Bush administration (Douglas Feith, Scooter Libby, Paul Wolfowitz) and outside it (Bernard Lewis, Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol) who "played especially critical roles in persuading the President and Vice-President to favor war," ostensibly because they were "deeply committed to Israel." Indeed W-M might have noted that the incitement of mainstream Jewish organizations for attacking Iraq was especially conspicuous in light of the strong opposition voiced by the Vatican, World Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, and so on. As I told The Irish Times, I neither believe that the main impetus behind the war was the Israel Lobby nor do I believe that the first loyalty of Jewish neo-conservatives is to Israel. It nonetheless remains true that a self-declared Jewish state pushed hard for the war; that powerful Jewish organizations faithfully doing Israel's bidding pushed hard for the war; and that prominent Jewish neo-conservatives who parade their love of Israel pushed hard for the war. Is it really a shock if Americans might now wonder whether Iraq wasn't a "Jewish war," and don't those who created this disastrous impression bear some culpability for it?


8. Breaking the silence

The overwrought response to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's brave paper only confirms its thesis.


by Juan Cole

April 18, 2006

John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government have put their hands into a hornet's nest with their paper in the London Review of Books, <> titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." As political scientists who routinely analyze U.S. foreign policy, they have gained a reputation for lucid and principled argument, but outside the halls of academia are not exactly household names. In daring to simply describe the well-known operations of the Israel lobby, however, they have made themselves targets of a massive smear campaign. Ironically, this reaction is just what their paper predicted.

Fair and gentlemanly to a fault, and widely respected in their discipline, the two professors are impossible to imagine as fire-breathing racial bigots, devious purveyors of blatant falsehoods or wild-eyed conspiracy theorists prone to ignore obvious evidence, but these are the sort of epithets being hurled at them by their critics.

In "The Israel Lobby," Mearsheimer and Walt argue that U.S. policy toward the Middle East has been dangerously skewed by a powerful pro-Israel lobby, which inhibits free discussion of the issues and has made the pro-Israeli position a political sacred cow. Congress, they point out, virtually never criticizes Israel: It is an untouchable subject. And this taboo has had enormous consequences, which are themselves off limits for discussion. Because America's blank-check support for Israel arouses enormous Arab and Muslim rage, Israel is a strategic liability, not an asset.

Nor, Mearsheimer and Walt argue, is there any moral reason for America to act against its own interests by supporting Israel come what may. Citing distinguished Israeli historians and journalists, they demythologize Israel's history, demonstrating that the root of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the historical fact that "the creation of Israel entailed a moral crime against the Palestinian people" -- a crime that Israel's founders explicitly acknowledged, and that has never been rectified. They discuss Israel's illegal, almost 40-year-old occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, and its flawed democracy, which explicitly discriminates against Arabs.

They do not raise these points to smear Israel or single it out for special criticism -- as political realists, they are well aware that no state is perfect -- but simply to argue that it is not entitled to special treatment. America's self-interest dictates that the Jewish state should be approached like any other nation, which it manifestly is not.

Mearsheimer and Walt are at pains to point out that there is nothing sinister or conspiratorial about the Israel lobby: Lobbying is a legitimate political practice and Israel is entitled to be defended by interest groups as much as any other nation. What they do argue is that the Israel lobby has extraordinary power, and that some of the policies it espouses are inimical to America's national interests. Above all, they seek to end the taboo, enforced by knee-jerk accusations of anti-Semitism, that has prevented a full and open discussion of these issues.

The paper is not without its flaws. The authors' use of the term "Israel lobby" is at times too broad, simultaneously trying to encompass classic pressure politics and much fuzzier belief systems and taboos. Their tendency to use the term in this slightly elastic, one-size-fits-all way explains the caveats of even some outspoken critics of the Israel lobby, like the Nation's Eric Alterman. <> Their insistence that America's Middle East policies are centered on Israel ignores the importance of oil. Nor do they explore the history of the "special relationship" between Israel and the U.S. and the way that Israel has become a myth in the American mind, to the point where it is perceived by many as being actually part of America. The belief in the "special relationship," which is a powerful force, is not entirely the product of the Israel lobby. And on pressure politics, they could have been more specific in detailing examples of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's clout in Congress and the executive branch. (Journalist Michael Massing has documented this clout in pieces in the New York Review of Books and the Nation, <> among other places.) But these weaknesses are comparatively minor, and certainly do not justify the vitriol that has been directed against them.

That a powerful pro-Israel lobby exists and plays a significant role in determining America's Middle East policies may be controversial here, but everywhere else in the world, it is taken as virtually axiomatic. As Geoffrey Wheatcroft noted in a piece on the controversy <> over the paper in the Boston Globe, "On the eastern side of the Atlantic, it has long been recognized that there is an intimate connection between the United States and Israel, in which AIPAC clearly plays a major role. The degree to which this has affected American policy, up to and including the war in Iraq, has been discussed calmly by sane British commentators -- though also, to be sure, played up maliciously by bigots. In America, by contrast, there has been an unmistakable tendency to shy away from this subject." Wheatcroft quotes Michael Kinsley, who noted in Slate in 2002 <> that "the connection between the invasion of Iraq and Israeli interests had become 'the proverbial elephant in the room. Everybody sees it, no one mentions it.'"

Predictably, most of paper's harshest critics have avoided engaging its key arguments. Instead, they have raised straw men, attempted to shift the debate to the question of whether it is even acceptable to raise the subject, and either hinted or outright alleged that Mearsheimer and Walt are bigots. These tactics allow critics to sidestep all the crucial questions raised by the paper, while at the same time signaling to others tempted to comment that if they stick their heads up, they will be cut off.

The logical fallacy of guilt by association <> characterizes many of the more strident responses. For example, the staunchly pro-Israel paper the New York Sun gleefully pounced on white supremacist David Duke's endorsement of "The Israel Lobby." But in 1989, Duke ran as a Republican for a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives. Would it be fair to tar the Republican Party with Duke? It isn't important with whom Duke agrees -- he is a crank. It is important who agrees with him. No one in his or her right mind would accuse Walt and Mearsheimer of doing so.

Other critics have accused the authors of anti-Semitism, which is to say, of racial bigotry. Eliot A. Cohen of the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University published an emotional attack on the authors in the Washington Post, saying "yes, it's anti-Semitic." Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz also accused Mearsheimer and Walt of bigotry. The Harvard Crimson reported <> that "Dershowitz, who is one of Israel's most prominent defenders, vehemently disputed the article's assertions, repeatedly calling it 'one-sided' and its authors 'liars' and 'bigots.'" Dershowitz went so far as to allege that the paper paralleled texts at neo-Nazi sites. No one who actually knows either Mearsheimer or Walt, as this author does, could possibly find Dershowitz's charges plausible. Again, such arguments are red herrings, implying guilt by association. Because he cannot refute the substance of the paper, Dershowitz must compare his academic colleagues to neo-Nazis. (And he has the gall to actually deny that critics of Israel tend to be smeared as anti-Semites.)

The charge of anti-Semitism (where what is really meant is any criticism of Israeli policy and/or the Israel lobby) is unacceptable and antidemocratic. I have suffered from it a fair amount because I have written critically about Israel, in particular its creeping colonization of the West Bank -- a U.S.-backed policy that is largely responsible, along with George W. Bush's Iraq war, for America's record-low popularity in the Arab and Muslim world.

Dershowitz penned a quick response, <> which he elbowed onto the Web page of the Kennedy School at Harvard. No other working paper has been treated this way, with instant rebuttals being posted to it. Both Dershowitz's attempt to impugn the characters of the authors and the fact that he was given privileges not granted others only confirm some of the main allegations of the original paper. (In contrast, Harvard has not rushed to put up a response from, say, a pro-Palestinian academic.)

After clearly implying that Mearsheimer and Walt are driven by anti-Semitic motives, he attempts to impugn their scholarship. Dershowitz identifies a few minor errors, but he cannot obscure the actual history of Palestinian displacement and dispossession at the hands of Israelis.

For example, Dershowitz makes much of the fact that the authors quote Israeli founding father David Ben-Gurion misleadingly, creating the impression that in the late 1930s he was advocating the violent expulsion of the Palestinians. In fact, as Dershowitz points out, in the quote Ben-Gurion was not calling for expulsion, but expressing a bizarre conviction that the small Zionist state he then envisaged would persuade the Palestinians to relinquish their claim on an independent state in the rest of Palestine. What Dershowitz does not mention is that Ben-Gurion's "plan" was so fantastic as to bring into question his sincerity in stating it as he did. Israeli historian Benny Morris noted, Ben-Gurion "always refrained from issuing clear or written expulsion orders; he preferred that his generals 'understand' what he wanted done. He wished to avoid going down in history as the 'great expeller.'" And in fact, when push came to shove in 1947 and 1948, Ben-Gurion did explicitly order expulsions, <> as at Lydda and Ramla, and was implicated in others by virtue of being in command at the time. Ben-Gurion also kept the 700,000 expelled Palestinian refugees from ever returning or being given reparations: Their villages were razed, their houses bulldozed or taken over, their orchards seized.

Dershowitz insists that, contra Mearsheimer and Walt's assertions, the mainstream American media offers full and critical coverage of Israel. This is a laughable contention to anyone who has compared American press coverage of Israel with that offered by the rest of the world. Even some American officials have noted the extremely limited nature of U.S. coverage of Israel. In an April 9 Op-Ed <> in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette titled "Of Course There Is an Israel Lobby," ambassador Edward Peck wrote, "Knowing the fiercely negative reactions to accurate, detailed reporting of controversies surrounding Israel, the media fail to cover Israel's violations of every principle for which the United States -- and Israel -- loudly proclaim they stand. There is only rare, skimpy coverage of the ongoing Israeli mass punishments, house demolitions, illegal settlements, assassinations, settler brutality, curfews and beatings. On the other hand, the blind Palestinian rage generated by decades of receiving humiliating, savage suppression in their homeland is reported in lurid, bloody detail."

Above all, Dershowitz sets up the straw man that the authors claim that a central "cabal" of "Jews" tightly controls the U.S. press and the U.S. government and prevents them from criticizing Israel. Like other critics, including noted warmonger Max Boot, Dershowitz charges that Mearsheimer and Walt are conspiracy theorists who subscribe to what Dershowitz calls "a paranoid worldview" shared by the likes of David Duke and Pat Buchanan.

This charge -- with its obvious implications that Mearsheimer and Walt are anti-Semites in the Henry Ford/Protocols of the Elders of Zion tradition -- is refuted by every word they have written. In fact, Mearsheimer and Walt are at pains to make clear that there is no "cabal," and that the pro-Israel lobby is a lobby like any other (although more powerful and sacrosanct than most.)

Here's their definition: "We use 'the Lobby' as shorthand for the loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. This is not meant to suggest that 'the Lobby' is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues. Not all Jewish Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them. In a 2004 survey, for example, roughly 36 per cent of American Jews said they were either 'not very' or 'not at all' emotionally attached to Israel.

"Jewish Americans also differ on specific Israeli policies. Many of the key organizations in the Lobby, such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, are run by hardliners who generally support the Likud Party's expansionist policies, including its hostility to the Oslo peace process. The bulk of US Jewry, meanwhile, is more inclined to make concessions to the Palestinians, and a few groups -- such as Jewish Voice for Peace -- strongly advocate such steps. Despite these differences, moderates and hardliners both favor giving steadfast support to Israel."

It should be noted that it was Mearsheimer and Walt's publisher who capitalized the word "Lobby." But in any case, they make numerous distinctions. They are not talking about Jews as a whole or about a unified phenomenon. They acknowledge that Christian Zionists are a key element of the lobby. They depict no conspiracy. Insofar as they talk about the lobby's "manipulation," its "influence" and its "stranglehold" over American policy -- words that Dershowitz cites as indicating their conspiratorial and unsavory bent -- well, that is what powerful lobbies do. They manipulate, influence and, in best-case scenarios, achieve a stranglehold over policy.

The storm over the authors' characterization of the lobby has shifted attention from the most unassailable part of their paper: Their contention that America's unqualified support for Israel has enraged the Arab and Muslim world, served as an important source of anti-American terrorism and hurt America's ability to pursue the war on terror.

Anyone who has spent any time in the Arab or Muslim world knows that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and America's support for Israel's unjust treatment of the Palestinians, are the main sources of anger at America and have been for decades. In a recent Zogby poll, <,%20Foreign%20Policy%20and%20the%20Media.htm> one question that was asked of Arab publics was whether their dislike of the United States was because of its values or its policies. Here are the percentages that said it was because of U.S. policies in the region: Jordan, 76; Morocco, 79; Lebanon, 80; Saudi Arabia, 86; United Arab Emirates, 75; Egypt, 90. Another question was why people thought the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq. Here are the percentages for those who believed it was to "protect Israel": Jordan, 64; Morocco, 82; Lebanon, 82; Saudi Arabia, 44; Egypt, 92. That is, not only are Americans disliked for their invasion of an Arab country, but the Arab public generally attributes the assault to a desire to protect Israel. All those instances when the Americans vetoed U.N. Security Council censures of Israel for its predations against Palestinians or neighbors, all those tens of billions of dollars in aid the U.S. gave Israel, all the times it winked at atrocities such as the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and indiscriminate shelling of Beirut have added up over time.

Arabs and Muslims like Americans and democracy just fine in principle. What they don't like is U.S. foreign policy. Their main grievance before 2003 was of U.S. complicity in the dispossession of the Palestinians. Now they have another major objection, the U.S. occupation of Iraq -- and they clearly see the two as related. I am not arguing that the Arab public is correct, only that critics are blind if they cannot see that it is knee-jerk U.S. support for the worst Israeli policies that has soured Arabs and Muslims on the United States. To avoid accepting this conclusion, we would have to believe that they have consistently lied to pollsters for decades, and we would have to take it upon ourselves to represent the Arabs and Muslims, since they cannot represent themselves.

None of this is hard to understand. The United States is not generally hated by, say, Thais, or Paraguayans, or Cameroonians. This is because we have not done anything to them. We have, however, abetted an epochal wrong against the Palestinian people, with whom Arabs and Muslims feel a similar kinship to that felt by mid-19th century Americans with the Texans trapped at the Alamo. For obvious reasons, an open discussion of the causes and consequences of their anger against us is vital for our national security.

The outraged and dismissive reaction to Mearsheimer and Walt's paper illustrates their thesis. The United States faces severe challenges in the Middle East, including issues having to do with Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, al-Qaida and what to do about the Israeli-Palestinian situation now that Hamas <> has won the Palestinian elections. A debate about the best policies to achieve American interests is being made difficult or impossible by the tactics of intimidation deployed on both sides of the Atlantic. With a possible war against Iran being floated by the Bush administration, the stakes are far too high not to have the full and open discussion we never had before Iraq. When Ben Franklin exited the Constitutional Convention, he was asked what kind of government the United States would have. "A republic, if you can keep it," he is said to have replied. If we cannot even discuss the shape of U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East without a lynch mob forming, we won't be able to keep it.

-- By Juan Cole

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9. AIPAC's Complaint


by Eric Alterman

The Nation

April 15, 2006 [May 1 issue]

Eric Alterman's take on the Mearsheimer-Walt article on The Israel Lobby (below) seems to be the way that liberals and some on the left have chosen to respond to its damning evidence of the the lobby's pernicious influence on US Middle East policy. They begin by praising the authors for raising the issue and then attempt to discredit key elements of M-W's thesis by creating straw men and arguments that don't stand up to scrutiny. What is important is that the discussion about the role of the Israel Lobby is now a subject of a long-overdue public debate, and more important, exposure, and can no longer be bottled up.

In this case, Alterman accuses the authors of treating the American Jewish community as monolithic. Not so. They are referring to the organized Jewish community which indeed, in its support for the war on Iraq was virtually monolithic. The fact that a handful of the scores of Jewish organizations were aggressively so, while others were relatively passive, does not change that fact. Again, in calling for a US confrontation with Iran, while not specifying the nature of that confrontation, one has found in recent months the same unanimity on most of the web sites of the more than 50 organizations that make up the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations. Those Jews who are passionately against the war with Iraq, against attacking Iran, and who with equal passion call for justice for the Palestinians can not be found in that grouping and indeed represent a minority among the majority of American Jews who are not represented by the Conference of Presidents.

Secondly, while Alterman acknowledges the "power of oil to determine the course of US foreign policy, like most things, is not what it once was," he fails to acknowledge that, despite their recent windfall profits, the oil companies did not support the war in Iraq for the simple reason that flow of oil from the Gulf requires the stability that no longer can be guaranteed and is threatened even further by the prospect of a US attack on Iran. Somehow, the critics of Mearsheimer and Walt overlook the fact that George Bush Senior, his Secretary of State James Baker, both with closer ties to the oil industry than anyone in the current administration, as wells as former General Brent Scrowcroft, Bush Sr.'s National Security Advisor, publicly opposed the war from the outset.

AIPAC did lose a battle with the Reagan administration over the sale of AWACs observation planes to the Saudis, but only after Reagan's own heavy arm twisting. In the final agreement, however, it would be US pilots flying those planes and not Saudis. With regard to the Saudi purchases of US fighter aircraft, two things need to be understood. First, the purchases of those aircraft, for which the Saudis pay top dollar, are what has kept US aircraft plants functioning, and second, the Saudis don't have nearly enough pilots to fly those planes as was evident in the first US Gulf War. Moreover, since the US guarantees that Israel will maintain superiority over the combined military forces of the Arab armies, sales to Saudi Arabia are usually followed by additional "sales" to Israel of US aircraft which comes at the expense of US taxpayers, not those of Israel. Why do the Saudis buy so many planes? The most logical conclusion is that this is part of the deal in which the US allows the Saudi government to sell its oil under US protection. In other words, "protection money.". What most people do not know is that the Saudis picked up the tab for most of the first Gulf War after which they told Bush Sr. that they could not afford an order of fighters from McDonnell Douglas. Without that order, the McDonnell Douglas plant in St. Louis would be forced to close. Under the circumstances, Bush told the Saudis that they couldn't back out of the deal but that he would arrange a workable payment schedule. When this was announced there was a wild celebration at the McDonnell Douglas plant in St. Louis.

Thirdly, Alterman's comparison of AIPAC with the National Rifle Association and the pharmaceutical industry lobbies is also out of place since one is lobbying in behalf of a foreign country while the other two are domestic lobbies. While the NRA is one of the few lobbies that, like AIPAC, maintains a potent grassroots operation spread across the country, the issues pushed by both of them, unconditional support of Israel vs. the right of Americans to bear arms, cannot be compared in scale. When, in recent years, the Israel lobby has gone head to head with the pharmaceutical lobby over Israel's right to export generic versions of the pharmaceutical industry's products to the US, the Israel lobby triumphed, even as it did 20 years ago when the agricultural lobby was unsuccessful in blocking a free trade agreement with Israel under the Reagan administration.

Finally, in his last paragraph, Alterman seems to contradict himself. While writing that "the weaknesses [of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper] will hinder the authors' attempt to pierce the wall of ignorance and intimidation erected around such policy debates by the very institutions upon which it seeks to shed light," he acknowledges that AIPAC is pushing for a war on Iran and that it apparently going to get its wish. "God help us," he writes. "It seems to be working--again." Since there is no other lobby advocating for an attack on Iran, one would think that this would ultimately vindicate Mearsheimer and Walt's thesis. Should it come to pass, the entire world will end up paying a heavy price for having allowed the problem of the Israel Lobby to have been buried for so long.---J. Blankfort

The University of Chicago's John Mearsheimer is among America's most admired political scientists. Stephen Walt is the academic dean and a chaired professor at Harvard's Kennedy School. Neither man has ever made any remotely racist or anti-Semitic utterance in the public sphere. And yet because they recently published an essay in The London Review of Books and (with full scholarly apparatus) on the Kennedy School website that critically and--this is key--unsentimentally examines the role of the "Israel lobby" in the making of US foreign policy, these two scholars have been subjected to a relentless barrage of vituperative insults in which the accusation "anti-Semite" is merely the beginning. Just a few of the most colorful: "Crackpot" (Martin Peretz); "Could have been written by Pat Buchanan, by David Duke, Noam Chomsky, and some of the less intelligent members of Hamas" (Alan Dershowitz); "As scholarly as...Welch and McCarthy--and just as nutty" (Max Boot); "puts The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to shame" (Josef Joffe); "resembles nothing so much as Wilhelm Marr's 1879 pamphlet The Victory of Judaism Over Germandom" (Ruth Wisse); "dishonest so-called intellectuals...entitled to their stupidity" (New York Representative Eliot Engel).

One is tempted to point out that the authors themselves predicted the likelihood of such a reception, and by provoking it they have proved their point. They note--relying on research by yours truly--that pro-Israel voices dominate punditocracy discourse and add that the lobby almost always plays the "anti-Semite" card to stifle debate about Israel's behavior in general and its own actions in particular. Machers at official Jewish organizations--accurately characterized in the paper as far more belligerent than the Jewish community generally--have suggested in circulated e-mails that Israel supporters might want to threaten the Kennedy School's funding. The school's administration has distanced itself from the controversy by removing its imprimatur from the paper and posting Dershowitz's attack on it at the same web address. If any young scholars--without the protective armor that Walt and Mearsheimer's reputations afford, to say nothing of tenured professorships--are considering research into a similar topic, well, they won't need a weatherman to know which way this (idiot) wind blows.

One is also tempted to infer that what scares the character assassins into such self-revealing fits of ferocity is the fear that the authors have revealed the unhappy truths they'd rather suppress. We have an ex-New York Times executive editor admitting that he favored Israel in the paper's coverage, and it's not even Abe Rosenthal. They quote the longtime editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal saying, "Shamir, Sharon, Bibi--whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me." They quote former AIPAC officials bragging about Jewish power and influence in Congress and the executive branch and supplement this with a variety of US officials complaining of the power of this network to get what it wants, regardless of the merits of a given argument. The authors also focus a laser beam on the lobby's take-no-prisoners attitude toward any politician who departs from the lobby's line--up to and including Howard Dean's innocuous pronouncement that the United States should play an "even-handed role" in the Middle East. Finally, they demonstrate that while it contains the word "American" in its name, AIPAC does Israel's bidding, pure and simple.

Still, nothing--particularly when it comes to Jews--is that simple. For authors whose work I have long admired--I've known Walt a long time, though casually, and not long ago I was the commentator on a paper Mearsheimer offered at the Council on Foreign Relations--their paper has surprising weaknesses. Perhaps because they are relatively new to the topic, the authors treat the "pro-Israel" American Jewish community as virtually monolithic. Yet while much of its power and influence rest with AIPAC and the neocons--who together with many others did do everything they could to drag America into this catastrophic war--it also contains many passionate opponents of just these tendencies. These are Jews who identify as both Jewish and pro-Israel but do so on the basis of a fundamentally different vision from the one that animates the likes of Peretz, Podhoretz, Perle and AIPAC's armies of the right.

Second, the authors offer up the lobby as virtually the only determinant of US Middle East policy, as if the oil states, oil companies and the vast wealth they represent count for bubkes. That's just silly. The power of oil to determine the course of US foreign policy, like most things, is not what it once was. But neither is it chopped liver. And while things have probably progressed to the point where the AIPAC team can best the Saudis and their minions most of the time, it's still a fight and sometimes requires retreat and compromise. Why the authors treat this factor so dismissively is a mystery. (It may, however, have something to do with the authors' acceptance of a narrative of Middle East history in which Israel plays no useful strategic role for the United States--another mystery to this reader and Realist sympathizer.)

Third, while it's fair to call AIPAC obnoxious and even anti-democratic, the same can often be said about, say, the NRA, Big Pharma and other powerful lobbies. The authors note this but often seem to forget it. This has the effect of making the Jews who read the paper feel unfairly singled out, and inspires much emotionally driven mishigas in reaction.

Do these problems justify the inference that the authors are anti-Semitic? Of course not. Raising the issue purely on the basis of intellectual disagreement is shameful--and actually helpful to genuine anti-Semites, as it diminishes the accusation's potency. While much of the paper is compelling, its weaknesses will hinder the authors' attempt to pierce the wall of ignorance and intimidation erected around such policy debates by the very institutions upon which it seeks to shed light. This is a damn shame, as AIPAC and its minions are pushing for an attack, possibly nuclear, on Iran, and, God help us, it seems to be working--again.


10. Iran Showdown Tests Power of Israel Lobby


By Jim Lobe

April 12, 2006

One month after the publication by two of the most influential international relations scholars in the United States of a highly controversial essay on the so-called "Israel Lobby," their thesis that the lobby exercises "unmatched power" in Washington is being tested by rapidly rising tensions with Iran.

Far more visibly than any other domestic constituency, the Israel Lobby, defined by Profs. John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, as "the loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to shape U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction," has pushed the government ­ both Congress and the George W. Bush administration ­ toward confrontation with Tehran.

Leading the charge has been a familiar group of neoconservatives, such as former Defense Policy Board (DPB) chairman Richard Perle and former Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey, who championed the war in Iraq but who have increasingly focused their energies over the past year on building support for "regime change" and, if necessary, military action against Iran if it does not abandon its nuclear program.

(On Tuesday, Iran announced that it had successfully enriched uranium, which can be used for both nuclear weapons and nuclear power reactors, in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution ordering an end to all enrichment activities by April 28).

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the premier Israel lobby group whose annual convention last year featured a giant, multimedia exhibit on how Iran is "pursuing nuclear weapons and how it can be stopped," has also been pushing hard on Capitol Hill for legislation to promote regime change. Despite White House objections, the group has sought tough sanctions against foreign companies with investments in Iran.

"This bill has been pushed almost entirely by AIPAC," noted Trita Parsi, a Middle East expert at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) here. "I don't see any other major groups behind this legislation that have had any impact on it."

Similarly, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), whose leadership is considered slightly less hawkish than AIPAC, has taken out full-page ads in influential U.S. newspapers since last week entitled "A Nuclear Iran Threatens All" depicting radiating circles on an Iran-centered map to show where its missiles could strike.

"Suppose Iran one day gives nuclear devices to terrorists," the ad reads. "Could anyone anywhere feel safe?"

In their 81-page essay, entitled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" and condensed in a shorter essay published last month in the London Review of Books, Mearsheimer and Walt, pillars of the "realist" school of international relations, argue that Washington's Middle East policy is too closely tied to Israel to serve its own national interests in the region, particularly in the so-called "war on terror."

They believe that the power of the Israel Lobby ­ derived, among other things, from its ability to marshal financial support for Democratic as well as Republican politicians, its grassroots organizational prowess, and its ability to stigmatize critics as "anti-Semitic" (a tactic already deployed against the authors) ­ is largely responsible.

"No lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially the same," the authors argued, noting that the lobby, while predominantly Jewish, also includes prominent Christian evangelicals and non-Jewish neoconservatives, such as Woolsey and former Education Secretary William Bennett.

In the administration's decision to invade Iraq, pressure from Israel and the lobby played a "critical" ­ although not exclusive ­ role, according to the paper, which cited prewar public prodding by Israeli leaders and by leaders of many major Jewish organizations as evidence, although it notes that most U.S. Jews were skeptical and have since turned strongly against the war.

Neoconservatives closely associated with the right-wing views of Israel's Likud party - both in and outside the administration ­ played a particularly important role in gaining support for "regime change" in Iraq stretching back to the mid-1990s, according to the paper.

But even during the run-up to the Iraq war, Israeli leaders, notably then-Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, depicted Iran as the greater threat, a theme that was picked up by the Lobby, led by the neoconservatives, immediately after Baghdad's fall.

"The liberation of Iraq was the first great battle for the future of the Middle East. But the next great battle ­ not, we hope a military one ­ will be for Iran," wrote the Weekly Standard's neoconservative editor, William Kristol, in early May 2003.

Shortly thereafter, neoconservatives and other hawks led by Vice President Dick Cheney succeeded in cutting off ongoing U.S.-Iranian talks on Afghanistan and Iran and killing an offer by Tehran to engage in a broader negotiation on all outstanding differences.

What makes the growing confrontation with Iran so remarkable is that the Israel Lobby appears to be the only major organized force here that is actively pushing it toward crisis.

Mainstream analysts, including arms control hawks who favor strong pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, have spoken out against military action as far too risky and almost certainly counterproductive. Even analysts at the right-wing Heritage Foundation have voiced doubts. "It just doesn't make any sense from a geopolitical standpoint," said Heritage's James Carifano, noting Iran's capacity to retaliate against the U.S. in Iraq.

The Iranian exile community, which has generally favored more pressure on Tehran, similarly appears divided about the consequences of a military attack, with some leaders fearing that it would strengthen the regime, Walt told IPS. He added that "it's hard for me to believe that [U.S.] oil companies would be in favor of a military option [because they] don't like violence or events that create political risk or uncertainty."

While insisting that military action against Iran's nuclear program should only be a last resort, the Israel Lobby, on the other hand, appears united in the conviction that an attack will indeed be necessary if diplomatic efforts, economic pressure, and covert action fail.

"[Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] sees the West as wimps and thinks we will eventually cave in," Patrick Clawson, deputy director of research of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank established by AIPAC, told New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. "We have to be ready to deal with Iran if the crisis escalates."

Hersh summarized Clawson's bottom line as "Iran had no choice other than to accede to America's demands or face a military attack."

That was much the same message delivered by Perle himself and rapturously received by the attendees at AIPAC's 2006 convention here last month. The convention, at which the keynoter, none other than the administration's ultimate hawk, Vice President Cheney, vowed "meaningful consequences" if Iran did not freeze its nuclear program, drew several hundred Democratic and Republican lawmakers in what could only be described as a show of raw political power.

"I don't think there's another group in the country that has two successive conferences in which the centerpiece was beating the drums for war in Iran," noted one senior official with another major pro-Israel organization, who asked not to be identified. "They are the main force behind this."

(Inter Press Service)


11. The Israel Lobby?


"there are far more powerful interests that have a stake in what happens in the Persian Gulf region than does AIPAC [or the Lobby generally], such as the oil companies, the arms industry and other special interests whose lobbying influence and campaign contributions far surpass that of the much-vaunted Zionist lobby and its allied donors to congressional races."

This claim can not be substantiated simply because it isn't true. In 2002, for example, Haim Saban, the Israel-American who funds the Saban Center at the Brooking Institute and is a big contributor to AIPAC, gave $12.3 million to the Democratic Party, almost as much as the $14 plus million the arms manufacturing PACs gave to both parties. In 2001, Mother Jones listed on its web site, the 400 leading contributors to the 2000 national elections. Seven of the first 10 were Jewish, as were 12 of the top 20 and 125 of the top 250. I didn't go any further. Were all these Jews supporters of Israel? To some degree it is quite likely, but, as a number of observers over the years have said, in the eyes of Congress, there is only one key issue for American Jews and that is Israel. Now, if "ME Scholar Stephen Zunes," who Chomsky quotes, or Chomsky himself, has evidence that contradicts this, let them present it. I have sent copies of this email to both of them.

The rest of his comments on the Mearsheimer-Walt essay are the standard boilerplate that Chomsky has repeated in a half a dozen or more books over the years as one can tell from the age of his references. The passage of time doesn't make them any more valid. If people wish to find out more about Chomsky's position on this issue from a critical standpoint they can read an article I wrote a year ago entitled, Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict by clicking on

Chomsky has not commented, at least publicly, on that article even though he received many requests to do so while acknowledging that this was the reason he elected to respond to the Mearsheimer-Walt essay.---Jeff B

By Noam Chomsky

March 28, 2006

I've received many requests to comment on the article by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (henceforth M-W), published in the London Review of Books, which has been circulating extensively on the internet and has elicited a storm of controversy. A few thoughts on the matter follow.

It was, as noted, published in the London Review of Books, which is far more open to discussion on these issues than US journals -- a matter of relevance (to which I'll return) to the alleged influence of what M-W call "the Lobby." An article in the Jewish journal Forward quotes M as saying that the article was commissioned by a US journal, but rejected, and that "the pro-Israel lobby is so powerful that he and co-author Stephen Walt would never have been able to place their report in a American-based scientific publication." But despite the fact that it appeared in England, the M-W article aroused the anticipated hysterical reaction from the usual supporters of state violence here, from the Wall St Journal to Alan Dershowitz, sometimes in ways that would instantly expose the authors to ridicule if they were not lining up (as usual) with power.

M-W deserve credit for taking a position that is sure to elicit tantrums and fanatical lies and denunciations, but it's worth noting that there is nothing unusual about that. Take any topic that has risen to the level of Holy Writ among "the herd of independent minds" (to borrow Harold Rosenberg's famous description of intellectuals): for example, anything having to do with the Balkan wars, which played a huge role in the extraordinary campaigns of self-adulation that disfigured intellectual discourse towards the end of the millennium, going well beyond even historical precedents, which are ugly enough. Naturally, it is of extraordinary importance to the herd to protect that self-image, much of it based on deceit and fabrication. Therefore, any attempt even to bring up plain (undisputed, surely relevant) facts is either ignored (M-W can't be ignored), or sets off most impressive tantrums, slanders, fabrications and deceit, and the other standard reactions. Very easy to demonstrate, and by no means limited to these cases. Those without experience in critical analysis of conventional doctrine can be very seriously misled by the particular case of the Middle East(ME).

But recognizing that M-W took a courageous stand, which merits praise, we still have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion. I've reviewed elsewhere what the record (historical and documentary) seems to me to show about the main sources of US ME policy, in books and articles for the past 40 years, and can't try to repeat here. M-W make as good a case as one can, I suppose, for the power of the Lobby, but I don't think it provides any reason to modify what has always seemed to me a more plausible interpretation. Notice incidentally that what is at stake is a rather subtle matter: weighing the impact of several factors which (all agree) interact in determining state policy: in particular, (A) strategic-economic interests of concentrations of domestic power in the tight state-corporate linkage, and (B) the Lobby.

The M-W thesis is that (B) overwhelmingly predominates. To evaluate the thesis, we have to distinguish between two quite different matters, which they tend to conflate: (1) the alleged failures of US ME policy; (2) the role of The Lobby in bringing about these consequences. Insofar as the stands of the Lobby conform to (A), the two factors are very difficult to disentagle. And there is plenty of conformity.

Let's look at (1), and ask the obvious question: for whom has policy been a failure for the past 60 years? The energy corporations? Hardly. They have made "profits beyond the dreams of avarice" (quoting John Blair, who directed the most important government inquiries into the industry, in the '70s), and still do, and the ME is their leading cash cow. Has it been a failure for US grand strategy based on control of what the State Department described 60 years ago as the "stupendous source of strategic power" of ME oil and the immense wealth from this unparalleled "material prize"? Hardly. The US has substantially maintained control -- and the significant reverses, such as the overthrow of the Shah, were not the result of the initiatives of the Lobby. And as noted, the energy corporations prospered. Furthermore, those extraordinary successes had to overcome plenty of barriers: primarily, as elsewhere in the world, what internal documents call "radical nationalism," meaning independent nationalism. As elsewhere in the world, it's been convenient to phrase these concerns in terms of "defense against the USSR," but the pretext usually collapses quickly on inquiry, in the ME as elsewhere. And in fact the claim was conceded to be false, officially, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when Bush's National Security Strategy (1990) called for maintaining the forces aimed at the ME, where the serious "threats to our interests... could not be laid at the Kremlin's door" -- now lost as a pretext for pursuing about the same policies as before. And the same was true pretty much throughout the world.

That at once raises another question about the M-W thesis. What were "the Lobbies" that led to pursuing very similar policies throughout the world? Consider the year 1958, a very critical year in world affairs. In 1958, the Eisenhower administration identified the three leading challenges to the US as the ME, North Africa, and Indonesia -- all oil producers, all Islamic. North Africa was taken care of by Algerian (formal) independence. Indonesia and the were taken care of by Suharto's murderous slaughter (1965) and Israel's destruction of Arab secular nationalism (Nasser, 1967). In the ME, that established the close US-Israeli alliance and confirmed the judgment of US intelligence in 1958 that a "logical corollary" of opposition to "radical nationalism" (meaning, secular independent nationalism) is "support for Israel" as the one reliable US base in the region (along with Turkey, which entered into close relations with Israel in the same year). Suharto's coup aroused virtual euphoria, and he remained "our kind of guy" (as the Clinton administration called him) until he could no longer keep control in 1998, through a hideous record that compares well with Saddam Hussein -- who was also "our kind of guy" until he disobeyed orders in 1990. What was the Indonesia Lobby? The Saddam Lobby? And the question generalizes around the world. Unless these questions are faced, the issue (1) cannot be seriously addressed.

When we do investigate (1), we find that US policies in the ME are quite similar to those pursued elsewhere in the world, and have been a remarkable success, in the face of many difficulties: 60 years is a long time for planning success. It's true that Bush II has weakened the US position, not only in the ME, but that's an entirely separate matter.

That leads to (2). As noted, the US-Israeli alliance was firmed up precisely when Israel performed a huge service to the US-Saudis-Energy corporations by smashing secular Arab nationalism, which threatened to divert resources to domestic needs. That's also when the Lobby takes off (apart from the Christian evangelical component, by far the most numerous and arguably the most influential part, but that's mostly the 90s). And it's also when the intellectual-political class began their love affair with Israel, previously of little interest to them. They are a very influential part of the Lobby because of their role in media, scholarship, etc. From that point on it's hard to distinguish "national interest" (in the usual perverse sense of the phrase) from the effects of the Lobby. I've run through the record of Israeli services to the US, to the present, elsewhere, and won't review it again here.

M-W focus on AIPAC and the evangelicals, but they recognize that the Lobby includes most of the political-intellectual class -- at which point the thesis loses much of its content. They also have a highly selective use of evidence (and much of the evidence is assertion). Take, as one example, arms sales to China, which they bring up as undercutting US interests. But they fail to mention that when the US objected, Israel was compelled to back down: under Clinton in 2000, and again in 2005, in this case with the Washington neocon regime going out of its way to humiliate Israel. Without a peep from The Lobby, in either case, though it was a serious blow to Israel. There's a lot more like that. Take the worst crime in Israel's history, its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 with the goal of destroying the secular nationalist PLO and ending its embarrassing calls for political settlement, and imposing a client Maronite regime. The Reagan administration strongly supported the invasion through its worst atrocities, but a few months later (August), when the atrocities were becoming so severe that even NYT Beirut correspondent Thomas Friedman was complaining about them, and they were beginning to harm the US "national interest," Reagan ordered Israel to call off the invasion, then entered to complete the removal of the PLO from Lebanon, an outcome very welcome to both Israel and the US (and consistent with general US opposition to independent nationalism). The outcome was not entirely what the US-Israel wanted, but the relevant observation here is that the Reaganites supported the aggression and atrocities when that stand was conducive to the "national interest," and terminated them when it no longer was (then entering to finish the main job). That's pretty normal.

Another problem that M-W do not address is the role of the energy corporations. They are hardly marginal in US political life -- transparently in the Bush administration, but in fact always. How can they be so impotent in the face of the Lobby? As ME scholar Stephen Zunes has rightly pointed out, "there are far more powerful interests that have a stake in what happens in the Persian Gulf region than does AIPAC [or the Lobby generally], such as the oil companies, the arms industry and other special interests whose lobbying influence and campaign contributions far surpass that of the much-vaunted Zionist lobby and its allied donors to congressional races."

Do the energy corporations fail to understand their interests, or are they part of the Lobby too? By now, what's the distinction between (1) and (2), apart from the margins?

Also to be explained, again, is why US ME policy is so similar to its policies elsewhere -- to which, incidentally, Israel has made important contributions, e.g., in helping the executive branch to evade congressional barriers to carrying out massive terror in Central America, to evade embargoes against South Africa and Rhodesia, and much else. All of which again makes it even more difficult to separate (2) from (1) -- the latter, pretty much uniform, in essentials, throughout the world.

I won't run through the other arguments, but I don't feel that they have much force, on examination.

The thesis M-W propose does however have plenty of appeal. The reason, I think, is that it leaves the US government untouched on its high pinnacle of nobility, "Wilsonian idealism," etc., merely in the grip of an all-powerful force that it cannot escape. It's rather like attributing the crimes of the past 60 years to "exaggerated Cold War illusions," etc. Convenient, but not too convincing. In either case.


12. Noam Chomsky & the Pro-Israel Lobby


James Petras

March 2006

"Reflexes that ordinarily spring automatically to the defense of open debate and free enquiry shut down ­ at least among much of America's political elite ­ once the subject turns to Israel, and above all the pro-Israel lobby's role in shaping US foreign policyMoral blackmail ­ the fear that any criticism of Israeli policy and US support for it will lead to charges of anti-Semitism ­ is a powerful disincentive to publish dissenting views. It is also leading to the silencing of policy debate on American university campuses, partly as the result of targeted campaigns against the dissentersNothing, moreover, is more damaging to US interests than the inability to have a proper debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflictBullying Americans into consensus on Israeli policy is bad for Israel and makes it impossible for America to articulate its own national interests." Financial Times, Editorial, Saturday, April 01, 2006.


Noam Chomsky has been called the US leading intellectual by pundits and even some sectors of the mass media. He has a large audience throughout the world especially in academic circles, in large part because of his vocal criticism of US foreign policy and many of the injustices resulting from those policies. Chomsky has nonetheless been reviled by all of the major Jewish and pro-Israel organizations and media for his criticism of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians even as he has defended the existence of the Zionist state of Israel. Despite his respected reputation for documenting, dissecting and exposing the hypocrisy of the US and European regimes and acutely analyzing the intellectual deceptions of imperial apologists, these analytical virtues are totally absent when it comes to discussing the formulation of US foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly the role of his own ethnic group, the Jewish Pro-Israel lobby and their Zionist supporters in the government. This political blindness is not unknown or uncommon. History is replete of intellectual critics of all imperialisms except their own, the abuses of power by others, but not of one's own kin and kind. Chomsky's long history denying the power and role of the pro-Israel lobby in decisively shaping US Middle East policy culminated in his recent conjoining with the US Zionist propaganda machine attacking a study critical of the Israeli lobby. I am referring to the essay published by the London Review of Books entitled "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy" by Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Professor Stephan Walt, the purged Academic Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. (A complete version of the study was published by the Kennedy School of Government in March 2006.)

Chomsky's speeches and writing on the Lobby emphasizes several dubious propositions.

1) The pro-Israel Lobby is just like any other lobby; it has no special influence or place in US politics.

2) The power of the groups backing the Israel lobby are no more powerful than other influential pressure groups

3) The Lobby's agenda succeeds because it coincides with the interests of the dominant powers and interests of the US State.

4) The Lobby's weakness is demonstrated by the fact that Israel is 'merely a tool' of US empire building to be used when needed and otherwise marginalized.

5) The major forces shaping US Middle East policy are "big oil" and the "military-industrial complex", neither of which is connected to the pro-Israel lobby.

6) The interests of the US generally coincide with the interests of Israel

7) The Iraq War, the threats to Syria and Iran are primarily a product of "oil interests" and the "military-industrial complex" and not the role of the pro-Israel lobby or its collaborators in the Pentagon and other government agencies.

While in general Chomsky has deliberately refrained from specifically discussing the pro-Israel lobby in his speeches, interviews and publications analyzing US policy toward the Middle East, but when he does, he follows the above-mentioned repertory.

The problem of war and peace in the Middle East and the role of the Israel lobby is too serious to be marginalized as an after-thought. Even more important, the increasing censoring of free speech and erosion of our civil liberties, academic freedom by an aggressive lobby, with powerful legislative and White House backers, is a threat to our already limited democracy.

It is incumbent therefore to examine the fourteen erroneous theses of the highly respected Professor Chomsky in order to move ahead and confront the Lobby's threats to peace abroad and civil liberties at home.

Fourteen Theses

1) Chomsky claims that the Lobby is just another lobby in Washington. Yet he fails to observe that the lobby has secured the biggest Congressional majorities in favor of allocating three times the annual foreign aid designated to all of Africa, Asia and Latin America to Israel (over 100 billion dollars over the past 40 years). The Lobby has 150 full time functionaries working for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), accompanied by an army of lobbyists from all the major Jewish organizations (Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, etc.) and the nation-wide, regional and local Jewish federations which hew closely to the line of the "majors" and are active in policy and local opinion on Israel and promote and finance legislative candidates on the basis of their adherence to the Lobby's party line. No other lobby combines the wealth, grass roots networks, media access, legislative muscle and single-minded purpose of the pro-Israel lobby.

2) Chomsky fails to analyze the near unanimous congressional majorities which yearly support all the pro-Israel military, economic, immigration privileges and aid promoted by the Lobby. He fails to examine the list of over 100 successful legislative initiatives publicized yearly by AIPAC even in years of budgetary crisis, disintegrating domestic health services and war induced military losses.

3) Chomsky's cliché-ridden attribution of war aims to "Big Oil" is totally unsubstantiated. In fact the US-Middle East wars prejudice the oil interests in several strategic senses. The wars generate generalized hostility to oil companies with long-term relations with Arab countries. The wars result in undermining new contracts opening in Arab countries for US oil investments. US oil companies have been much friendlier to peacefully resolving conflicts than Israel and especially its Lobbyists as any reading of the specialized oil industry journals and spokespeople emphasize. Chomsky chooses to totally ignore the pro-war activities and propaganda of the leading Jewish pro-Israel organizations and the absence of pro-war proposals in Big Oil's media, and their beleaguered attempt to continue linkages with Arab regimes opposed to Israel's belligerent hegemonic ambitions. Contrary to Chomsky, by going to war in the Middle East, the US sacrifices the vital interests of the oil companies in favor of Israel's quest for Middle East hegemony at the call and behest of the pro-Israel lobby. In the lobbying contest there is absolutely no contest between the pro-Israel power bloc and the oil companies when it comes to favoring Israeli interests over oil interests, whether the issue is war or oil contracts. Chomsky never examines the comparative strength of the two lobbies regarding US policy toward the Middle East. In general this usually busy researcher devoted to uncovering obscure documentation is particularly lax when it come to uncovering readily available documents, which shred his assertions about Big Oil and the Israel Lobby.

4) Chomsky refuses to analyze the diplomatic disadvantages that accrue to the US in vetoing Security Council resolutions condemning Israel's systematic violations of human rights. Neither the military-industrial complex nor Big Oil has a stranglehold on US voting behavior in the UN. The pro-Israel lobbies are the only major lobby pressuring for the vetoes against the US' closest allies, world public opinion and at the cost of whatever role the US could play as a 'mediator' between the Arabic-Islamic world and Israel.

5) Chomsky fails to discuss the role of the Lobby in electing Congress-people, their funding of pro-Israel candidates and the over fifty-million dollars they spend on the Parties, candidates and propaganda campaigns. The result is a 90% congressional vote on high priority items pushed by the Lobby and affiliated local and regional pro-Israel federations.

6) Nor does he undertake to analyze the cases of candidates defeated by the Lobby, the abject apologies extracted from Congress-people who have dared to question the policies and tactics of the Lobby, and the intimidation effect of its 'exemplary punishments' on the rest of Congress. The "snowball" effect of punishment and payoffs is one reason for the unprecedented majorities in favor of all of AIPAC's initiatives. Chomsky's feeble attempts to equate the AIPAC's pro-Israel initiatives with broader US policy interests is patently absurd to anyone who studies the alignment of policy groups associated with designing, pressuring, backing and co-sponsoring the AIPAC's measures: The reach of the Jewish lobby far exceeds its electoral constituency ­ as the one million dollar slush fund to defeat incumbent Georgia Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinny, demonstrates. That she was subsequently re-elected on the basis of low keying her criticism of Israel reveals the Lobby's impact even on consequential Democrats.

7) Chomsky ignores the unmatchable power of elite convocation which the Lobby has. The AIPAC annual meeting draws all the major leaders in Congress, key members of the Cabinet, over half of all members of Congress who pledge unconditional support for Israel and even identify Israel's interests as US interests. No other lobby can secure this degree of attendance of the political elite, this degree of abject servility, for so many years, among both major parties. What is particularly important is the "Jewish electorate" is less than 5% of the total electorate, while practicing Jews number less than 2% of the population of which not all are 'Israel Firsters'. None of the major lobbies like the NRA, AARP, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Chamber of Commerce can convoke such a vast array of political leaders, let alone secure their unconditional support for favorable pro-Israel legislation and Executive orders. No less an authority as the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, boasted of the power of the pro-Israel lobby over US Middle East policy. Chomsky merely asserts that the Pro-Israel lobby is just like any other lobby, without any serious effort to compare their relative influence, power of convocation and bi-partisan support, or effectiveness in securing high priority legislation.

8) In his analysis of the run-up to the US-Iraq War, Chomsky's otherwise meticulous review of foreign policy documents, analysis of political linkages between policymakers and power centers is totally abandoned in favor of impressionistic commentaries completely devoid of any empirical basis. The principal governmental architects of the war, the intellectual promoters of the war, their publicly enunciated published strategies for the war were all deeply attached to the Israel lobby and worked for the Israeli state. Wolfowitz, number 2 in the Pentagon, Douglas Feith, number 3 in the Pentagon, Richard Perle, head of the Defense Board, Elliot Abrams in charge of Middle East affairs for the National Security Council, and dozens of other key operatives in the government and ideologues in the mass media were life-long fanatical activists in favor of Israel, some of whom had lost security clearances in previous administrations for handing over documents to the Israeli government. Chomsky ignores the key strategy documents written by Perle, Feith and other ZionCons in 1996 demanding bellicose action against Iraq, Iran and Syria, which they subsequently implemented when they took power with Bush's election. Chomsky totally ignores the disinformation office set up in the Pentagon by ultra Zionist Douglas Feith ­ the so-called 'Office of Special Plans' ­ run by fellow ZionCon Abram Shumsky - to channel bogus "data" to the White House ­ bypassing and discrediting CIA and military intelligence which contradicted their disinformation. Non-Zionist specialist in the Pentagon's Middle East office, Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, described in great detail the easy and constant flow of Mossad and Israeli military officers in and out of Feith's office while critical US experts were virtually barred. None of these key policymakers promoting the war had any direct connection to the military-industrial complex or Big Oil, but all were deeply and actively tied to the State of Israel and backed by the Lobby. Astonishingly Chomsky, famous for his criticism of intellectuals enamored with imperial power and uncritical academics, pursues a similar path when it concerns pro-Israel intellectuals in power and their Zionist academic colleagues. The problem is not only the "lobby" pressuring from outside, but their counterparts within the State.

9) Chomsky frequently derides the half-hearted criticism by liberals of US foreign policy, yet he nowhere raises a single peep about the absolute silence of Jewish progressives about the major role of the Lobby in promoting the invasion of Iraq. At no point does he engage in debate or criticism of the scores of Israel First academic supporters of war with Iraq, Iran or Syria. Instead his criticism of the war revolves around the role of Party leaders, the Bush Administration etc without any attempt to understand the organized basis and ideological mentors of the militarists.

10) Chomsky fails to analyze the impact of the concerted and uninterrupted campaign organized by all major US pro-Israel lobbies and personalities to silence criticism of Israel and the Lobby's support for the war. Chomsky's refusal to criticize the Lobby's abuse of anti-Semitism to destroy our civil liberties, hound academics out of the universities and other positions for criticizing Israel and the Lobby is most evident in the recent smear campaign of Professors Walt and Mearsheimer. While the Lobby successfully pressured Harvard to disclaim Professor Walt and eventually force his resignation from the Deanship at the Kennedy School at Harvard, Chomsky joined the Lobby in condemning their extensive critical scholarship and meticulous analysis. At no point does Chomsky deal with the central facts of their analysis about the Lobby's contemporary power over US Middle East policy. The irony is Chomsky himself an occasional victim of academic Zionist hatchet jobs; this time he is on the givers' end.

11) Chomsky fails to assess the power of the Lobby in comparison with other institutional forces. For example top US Generals have frequently complained that Israeli armed forces receive new high tech military hardware before it has become operational in the US. Thanks to the Lobby, their complaints are rarely heeded. US defense industries (some of whom have joint production contracts with Israeli military industries) have bitterly complained of Israel's unfair competition, violation of trade agreements and the illegal sale of high tech weaponry to China. Under threat of losing all their lucrative ties with the Pentagon, Israel cancelled sales to China, while the Lobby looked on During the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq, many active and retired military officials and CIA analysts opposed the War, questioned the assumptions and projections of the pro-Israel ideologues in the Pentagon like Wolfwitz, Feith, Perle and in the National Security Council, the State Department and the Vice President's office (Irving 'ZionCon' Libby). They were over-ruled, their advice dismissed by the ZionCons and belittled by their ideological backers writing in the major print media. The position of the ZionCons in the government successfully overcame their institutional critics in large part because their opinion and policies toward the war were uncritically accepted by the mass media and particularly by the New York Times whose primary war propagandist, Judith Miller, has close links with the Lobby. These are well known historical linkages and debates which a close reader of the mass media like Chomsky was aware of , but deliberately chose to omit and deny, substituting more 'selective' criticism of the Iraq war based on the exclusion of vital facts.

12) In what passes for Chomsky's "refutation" of the power of the Lobby is a superficial historical review of US-Israel relations citing the occasional conflict of interests in which, even more occasionally, the pro-Israel lobby failed to get its way. Chomsky's historical arguments resemble a lawyer's brief more than a comprehensive review of the power of the Lobby. For example, while in 1956 the US objected to the joint French-British-Israeli attack on Egypt, over the next 50 years the US financed and supplied the Israeli war machine to the tune of $70 billion dollars, thanks largely to the pressure of the Lobby. In 1967, the Israeli air force bombed the US intelligence gathering ship, the USS Liberty, in international waters and strafed to US Naval personnel killing or wounding over 200 sailors and officers. The Johnson Administration, in a historically unprecedented move, refused to retaliate and silenced the survivors of the unprovoked attack with threats of 'court-martial'. No subsequent administration has ever raised the issue, let alone conducted an official Congressional investigation, even as they escalated aid to Israel and prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend Israel when it seem to be losing the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The US defense of Israel led to the very costly Arab oil boycott, which brought on a massive increase in the price of oil and the animosity of former Arab allies threatening global monetary stability. In other words, in this as in many other cases, the pro-Israel lobby was more influential than the US armed forces in shaping US response to an Israeli act of aggression against American service men operating in international waters. In recent years, the power of the Lobby has seriously inhibited the FBI's prosecution of the scores of Israeli spies who entered the US in 2001. The most that was done was their quiet deportation. The recent arrest of two AIPAC officials for handing confidential government documents over to Israeli embassy officials has led the pro-Israel lobby to mobilize a massive media campaign in their defense, converting an act of espionage against the US into an 'exercise of free speech'. Editorials and op-ed articles in favor of dismissal of the charges have appeared in most of the leading newspapers in what must be the most unprecedented campaign in favor of agents of a foreign government in US history. The power of the propaganda reach of the Lobby far exceeds any countervailing power, even though the case against the AIPAC officials is very strong, including the testimony of the key Pentagon official convicted of handing them the documents.

13) Chomsky, a highly reputable critic of the bias of the mass media, attributes corporate ties to their anti-workers news reports. However when it comes to the overwhelming pro-Israel bias he has never analyzed the influence of the Israel lobby, the link between the pro-Israel media elite and the pro-Israel bias. Merely a blind spot or a case of ideologically driven intellectual amnesia?

14) Chomsky cites Israel's importance for US imperial strategy in weakening Arab nationalism, its role in providing military aid and military advisers to totalitarian terrorist regimes (Guatemala, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, and so on) when the US Congress imposes restrictions to direct US involvement. There is little doubt that Israel serves US imperial purposes, especially in situations where bloody politics are involved. But Israel did so because it benefited from doing so ­ it increased military revenues, gained backers favoring Israel's colonial policies, provided markets for Israeli arms dealers etc. However, a more comprehensive analysis of US interests demonstrates that the costs of supporting Israel far exceed the occasional benefit, whether we consider advantages to US imperial goals or even more so from the vantage point of a democratic foreign policy. With regard to the costly and destructive wars against Iraq, following Israel's lead and its lobbies, the pro-Israel policy has severely undermined US military capacity to defend the empire, has led to a loss of prestige and discredited US claims to be a champion of freedom and democracy. From the viewpoint of democratic foreign policy it has strengthened the militarist wing of the government and undermined democratic freedoms at home. Israel benefits, of course, because the war destroyed a major secular adversary and allowed it to tighten its stranglehold on the Occupied Territories.

The unconditional commitment to the Israeli colonial state has eroded US relations with the richest and most populous states in the Arab and Islamic world. In market terms the difference is between hundreds of billions of dollars in sales versus defending a receiver of massive US aid handouts. The economic losses far outweigh any small-scale questionable military benefits. The Arab states are net buyers of US military hardware. The Israeli arms industry is a stiff competitor.

US oil and gas companies are net losers in terms of investments, profits and markets because of the US ties to Israel which, because of its small market, has little to offer in each of the above categories.

Finally Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the Lobby's effective campaign to secure US vetoes against international resolutions puts the US on the side of widespread, legalized torture, legalized extrajudicial executions and illegal massive population displacement. The end result is the weakening of international law and increased volatility in an area of great strategic importance. Chomsky takes no account of the geo-strategic and energy costs, the losses in our domestic freedoms resulting directly from the Middle East wars for Israel, and even less of the rise of a virulent form of Zionist Neo-McCarthyism spreading throughout our academic, artistic and other public and private institutions. If anything demonstrates the Zionists' growing power and authoritarian reach, the brutal and successful campaign against Professors Mearsheimer and Walt confirm it, in spades.


In normal times one would give little attention to academic polemics unless they have important political consequences. In this case, however, Noam Chomsky is an icon for the US anti-war movements and what stands for intellectual dissent. That he has chosen to absolve the pro-Israel lobby and its affiliated groups and media auxiliaries is an important political event, especially when questions of war and peace hang in the balance, when the majority of Americans oppose the war. Giving a 'free ride' to the principle authors, architects and lobbyists in favor of the war is a positive obstacle to achieving clarity about who we are fighting and why. To ignore the pro-Israel lobby is to allow it a free hand in pushing for the invasion of Iran and Syria. Worse, to distract from their responsibility by pointing to bogus enemies is to weaken our understanding not only of the war, but also of the enemies of freedom in this country. Most of all, it allows a foreign government a privileged position in dictating our Middle East policy, while proposing police state methods and legislation to inhibit debate and dissent. Let me conclude by saying that the peace and justice movements, at home and abroad, are bigger than any individual or intellectual ­ no matter what their past credentials.

Yesterday the major Zionist organizations told us who we may or may not criticize in the Middle East, today they tell us who we may criticize in the United States, tomorrow they will tell us to bend our heads and submit to their lies and deceptions in order to engage in new wars of conquest at the service of a morally repugnant colonial regime.


13. The Israel Lobby Redux

Colin Powell Disagrees With David Gergen's Claim That There Is No Israel "Lobby"


by Ira Glunts

8th April 2006

Two Israeli prominent journalists wrote that Colin Powell understood and feared the power of the lobby.

In an op-ed column critical of his Harvard colleagues, ludicrously titled "There Is No Israel 'Lobby'" the well-known political consultant David Gergen proclaimed, "Over the course of four tours in the White House, I never once saw a decision in the Oval Office to tilt U.S. foreign policy in favor of Israel at the expense of America's interest." [1 <> ] America's massive financial support of Israel's territorial expansion in the West Bank is very much contrary to its own interests, his two colleagues would respond. Gergen's blanket denial is one of the most preposterous statements in the ongoing media reporting that impugn the motivations of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, two academics who recently published the "Israel Lobby." Their essay described what the writers understand to be the many deleterious effects of pro-Israel activists upon the formulation of American foreign policy. [2 <> ] In his critique of the essay, Gergen displays a level of chutzpah which would astound even the most blindly loyal devotee of the Israeli cause, when he excoriates Walt and Mearsheimer for "impugn[ing] the unstinting service to America's national security by public figures like Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk ...."

The truth is that Ross and Indyk are two government officials that best illustrate the presence of pro-Israel advocates in the US government. Ross, who was the lead negotiator at the Camp David Peace talks, was publicly criticized for his lack of objectivity by his own deputy Aaron Miller. Miller in a Washington Post op-ed called "Israel's Lawyer" wrote that during the negotiations Ross and his team, instead of facilitating compromise, which would have been in America's best interest, chose to act as an advocate for the Israelis. [3 <> ] Dennis Ross is currently the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a pro-Israel think-tank which is funded by the American Israel Policy Action Committee (AIPAC). Martin Indyk, who founded WINEP and served as its first executive director, was later both US Ambassador to Israel and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. He is a long time uncritical supporter of Israeli government policy.

In their recent best-selling book, Boomerang: The Failure of Leadership In the Second Intifada, presently only available in Hebrew, Raviv Drucker and Ofer Shelah, two respected Israeli journalists, described a meeting between the then Secretary of State Colin Powell, who the lobby considered to be the "weak link" in the chain of more Israel- friendly Bush Administration officials, and Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith, who is a prominent member of what in Israel is called the Jewish lobby. The following selection indicates in a dramatic way that Gergen's view of the influence of the Israel lobby may not be shared by all ex-government officials.

In his [Powell's] own State Department there was a keen awareness of the strength of the Jewish lobbyists. Secretaries of State did not usually meet with lobbyists, but both Jewish officials and Jews that did not officially represent specific groups from Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League to Ronald Lauder, could meet with Powell on short notice.... At the State Department, Foxman had an aura of omnipotence. He was held responsible for the appointment of Indyk as Undersecretary of State under Clinton, and was thought to have played a role in the appointments of Secretaries of State Christopher and Albright. Powell related to Foxman almost as if he were someone to whom he must capitulate. Once Foxman told one of his deputies that Powell was the weak link. When the Secretary of State heard this he began to worry. He knew that in Washington a confrontation with the Jewish lobby would make his life difficult. Once he arranged a meeting with Foxman, but the busy Foxman postponed the meeting three times. When they eventually met, the head of the Anti-Defamation League apologized to the Secretary of State [for the postponements]. "You call, we come," replied Powell, paraphrasing a well known advertisement for a freight company. That statement had much more meaning than just a humorous polite reply. [4 <> ]

Unfortunately, the American press has thus far been largely complicit in the unwarranted attacks on two professors who have written a generally well-argued essay on the disadvantages of the current American/Israeli relationship. Most press accounts of the article feature the negative criticism, but tend to ignore or downplay positive comment. In the present political climate it is not a surprise that there is not a groundswell of support for the two embattled scholars. Abe Foxman called the essay "a classic conspiratorial anti-Semitic analysis invoking the canards of Jewish power and Jewish control." [5 <> ] I, as a Jew, agree with the Jewish editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, who published the article. She feels, as paraphrased in The Observer, "that the most angry denunciations of anti-Semitism - while designed to serve the purpose of censorship by those attempting to forestall criticism of Israel - may actually encourage anti-Semitism in the long run." [6 <> ]

The American media does no favor to the many American Jews and Israelis who are critical of Israel's self-defeating expansionism and its suppression of the Palestinian right of self-determination. The Israel lobby in the United States does not represent the opinions of many American Jews. The pressure it exerts on government officials to blindly and unconditionally support present Israeli policies, in the end will help neither the United States nor Israel itself.

Ira Glunts <> first visited the Middle East in 1972, where he taught English and physical education in a small rural community in Israel. He was a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces in 1992. Mr. Glunts lives in Madison, New York where he operates a used and rare book business.


14. Keeping It Quiet:

The Israel Lobby's Crushing of Dissent


by Charley Reese

April 2, 2006

The first weapon of choice for the Israeli lobby when someone with prestige publishes a soundly researched paper or book critical of Israel or its powerful lobby is silence. If it's a book, it rarely gets reviewed; its author doesn't get interviewed. If it's a paper, there are no news stories in the big corporate press, no interviews with the authors, no television appearances.

For the average American who depends on the press to tell him what's going on, it's as if the criticism never existed. The second weapon is, of course, to launch vicious personal attacks.

Both methods are being used against an astounding paper titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy <$File/rwp_06_011_walt.pdf> ." It was written by two renowned academics, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

So far as I've been able to determine with the help of Google, while the paper and talk about it are all over the Internet, they are missing from the big corporate press as of this writing. It was published in the London Review of Books, and you can read it or download an edited version at <> . There was one news story about it in the Christian Science Monitor and an attack on it by David Gergen in U.S. News & World Report. Gergen is editor at large of the magazine, which is owned by an ardent Zionist, Mortimer Zuckerman. Gergen is a professional spinmeister who has always served the people who have the butter for his bread.

The essence of the paper, which is thoroughly footnoted, is that Israel's lobby has so skewed American foreign policy in the Middle East that the U.S. places the security of Israel ahead of security for the United States.

"This situation has no equal in American history," the authors state.

The Anti-Defamation League was quoted in a Jewish publication as saying that if the paper gained the attention of the mainstream media, then a "more vigorous attack" would be launched. So far, it has not, though in the Christian Science Monitor story one of the attack dogs of the Israel lobby branded these two esteemed academics from prestigious universities as "incompetents."

This paper isn't the first to criticize the Israeli lobby. There have been lots of papers and books written by distinguished individuals, none of which you've probably ever heard of. They Dare to Speak Out, by former Rep. Paul Findley, and The Passionate Attachment, by George W. Ball, one of America's most distinguished diplomats, are two that come to mind. It was the late Sen. William J. Fulbright who first called Congress "Israeli-occupied territory."

What the authors of the current paper hope to do is start a sensible public debate about the Israeli lobby and America's policy in the Middle East. Of course, avoiding an honest debate is one of the primary objectives of the lobby. That's why it uses silence and, if that doesn't work, vicious personal attacks. It has certainly buffaloed Congress and most of America's news media.

Another author given the silent treatment as well as vicious personal attacks is Norman Finkelstein, a professor at DePaul University. He's written three outstanding books you've probably not heard of: The Holocaust Industry, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, and his latest, which got not a line of review, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Finkelstein, by the way, is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors.

This is a most serious issue and deserves an honest public debate. Whether you agree with any of the above authors and academics, you should read what they have to say and not be deterred by cheap ad hominem attacks.

You've heard the same message from me, of course, but I'm only a country boy turned journalist with no fancy degrees. If you're impressed with credentials, Finkelstein, Findley, Walt, Mearsheimer and Ball have them up to their armpits.



15. Yes, Blame the Lobby:

A Response to Prof. Joseph Massad


by Jeff Blankfort

April 11, 2006

The appearance last month of a critical article on the "Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy" in the London Review of Books by Professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Steven Walt, Academic Dean of the Kennedy Center at Harvard University, two nationally known academic figures with impeccable credentials, propelled into the mainstream an issue that had long been confined to the margins, not only by the efforts of the lobby, itself, but by those on the Left who prefer to view US foreign policy as being determined by corporate elites who are largely unaffected by the agenda of what Noam Chomsky, the foremost proponent of this theory, has described as another "ethnic lobby."

That the authors squarely placed the blame for US policy in the Middle East and for the war in Iraq on the influence of the Israel Lobby elicited the predictable reactions from both camps. The attack dogs of the lobby, led by Alan Dershowitz and CAMERA, smeared the article -- an abbreviated version of a longer Harvard monograph -- as an updated version of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," based on sources from "Neo-Nazi" web sites and, of course, "anti-Semitic."

From the left, Prof. Chomsky was not long in providing a subtle dismissal of the paper on ZNet and on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! After a perfunctory sentence praising the two professors for having raised the issue, he writes, "we still have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion." His comments, predictably, were picked up and quoted approvingly in the Jewish and mainstream press. What was surprising to this writer, however, was that the very first attack from the Left came from someone who had himself been victimized by the lobby, Prof. Joseph Massad, of Columbia University.

Three years ago, Massad was the target of The David Project, a relatively new entrant to the lobby's ranks, which conducted a witch hunt against him based on statements he allegedly made to Jewish students and for allegedly creating an uncomfortable atmosphere in his classroom for Jewish students, none of which could be substantiated.

Massad's article, "Blaming the Lobby," first appeared in the March 23-29 issue of Al-Ahram, the English-language Egyptian weekly, and was subsequently posted on CounterPunch. What was disturbing was not only Massad's rush to the lobby's defense, but that he failed to respond to the points raised by Mearsheimer and Walt and provided, instead, what could best be described as a legal brief for the Chomsky position. For those unfamiliar with the subject and details of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, it was, no doubt, very convincing.

It was for this reason that, rather than write a general response, I decided to examine and refute his article, point by point.

Joseph Massad: "In the last 25 years, many Palestinians and other Arabs, in the United States and in the Arab world, have been so awed by the power of the US pro-Israel lobby that any study, book, or journalistic article that exposes the inner workings, the substantial influence, and the financial and political power of this lobby have been greeted with ecstatic sighs of relief that Americans finally can see the "truth" and the "error" of their ways.

Jeff Blankfort: There have, in fact, been very few books or articles in either the mainstream or alternative media that have attempted to expose the inner workings of the Israel lobby and when they have appeared they have largely been ignored by the US Left. When they have been mentioned, it has been largely to refute them. Moreover, the issue is never on the agenda in pro-Palestinian conferences or mentioned at any of the anti-war rallies that call for an end to Israeli occupation.

JM: The underlying argument has been simple and has been told time and again by Washington's regime allies in the Arab world, pro-US liberal and Arab intellectuals, conservative and liberal US intellectuals and former politicians, and even leftist Arab and American activists who support Palestinian rights, namely, that absent the pro- Israel lobby, America would at worst no longer contribute to the oppression of Arabs and Palestinians and at best it would be the Arabs' and the Palestinians' best ally and friend.

JB: Here Massad disingenuously conflates Washington's corrupt allies in the Arab world with those of who have made serious, factual criticisms of the role that the Israel Lobby has played in influencing America's Middle East policies. None of the latter have advanced the notion that without the lobby, America might, at best, be the "the Arabs' and the Palestinians' best ally and friend." While this might be the position held by a few former members of the Foreign Service, it has never been advanced by the lobby's Left critics. They have no illusions about the evils of US imperialism that have and will continue to exist, irrespective of the lobby, although the lobby has been useful in pushing the US political agenda elsewhere.

JM: What makes this argument persuasive and effective to Arabs? Indeed, why are its claims constantly brandished by Washington's Arab friends to Arab and American audiences as a persuasive argument? I contend that the attraction of this argument is that it exonerates the United States' government from all the responsibility and guilt that it deserves for its policies in the Arab world and gives false hope to many Arabs and Palestinians who wish America would be on their side instead of on the side of their enemies.

JB: Again, Massad creates a straw man by falling back on Washington's Arab friends to set the basis for discrediting Mearsheimer and Walt. There are those, including this writer, who are both long time opponents of US imperial policies, in general, and serious critics of the Israel Lobby and who in no manner exonerate the US from the responsibility for its actions. The latter seem non-existent in Massad's viewpoint.

JM: Let me start with the premise of the argument, namely its effect of shifting the blame for US policies from the United States onto Israel and its US lobby. According to this logic, it is not the United States that should be held directly responsible for all its imperial policies in the Arab world and the Middle East at large since World War II, rather it is Israel and its lobby who have pushed it to launch policies that are detrimental to its own national interest and are only beneficial to Israel.

JB: The authors are not absolving the US of its own responsibilities but trying to explain how US Middle East policies came to be formed. They are not saying that without the interference of Israel and the Israel Lobby that the US would not pursue its imperial interest in the Arab world, but that it would do so without generating the problems that US support for Israel has engendered and which have been so costly in lives and money.

JM: Establishing and supporting Arab and other Middle East dictatorships, arming and training their militaries, setting up their secret police apparatuses and training them in effective torture methods and counter-insurgency to be used against their own citizens should be blamed, according to the logic of these studies, on Israel and its US lobby.

JB: Again, Massad is creating a straw man. The authors are not blaming the entirety of US policies on either Israel or its lobby, but dealing with specific issues in which US support for Israel has had negative effects on the region and US relations in the region.

JM: Blocking all international and UN support for Palestinian rights, arming and financing Israel in its war against a civilian population, protecting Israel from the wrath of the international community should also be blamed not on the United States, the studies insist, but on Israel and its lobby.

JB: The authors are essentially correct. Every US president since Richard Nixon, with the Rogers Plan in 1969, has made an effort to get Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967, not out of any love for the Palestinians, but because Israel's continuing occupation of those lands, from the Sinai to the Golan Heights, was creating unnecessary problems in a region where maintaining stability of the regions' oil resources was and remains a necessity. Every one of those plans was undermined by the lobby.

In 1975, Gerald Ford, upset because Israel was refusing to disengage from areas it had taken in the Sinai during the 1973 war, halted aid to Israel and publicly let it be known that he was going to make a major speech that would call for a downsizing of US-Israel relations and demanding that Israel to return to its 1967 borders. Within three weeks, AIPAC presented Ford with a letter signed by 76 senators, from liberal Democrats to extreme right wing Republicans, warning him not to take any steps that would jeopardize Israel's security. Ford did not make the speech.

His successor, Jimmy Carter, was repeatedly in conflict with both Israel and the lobby. Neither wanted the Camp David treaty but Carter doggedly pushed it through, although it required a multi-billion dollar bribe to get Begin's signature. In 1978, before the treaty went into effect, Begin invaded Lebanon, hoping, some speculated, that Egypt would react and the treaty would be nullified since Israel did not want to give up the Sinai. Carter further angered Israel and the lobby by demanding that Begin withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon three months later.

When he told Begin, publicly, to halt settlement building, the Israeli prime minister responded by announcing the start of 10 new settlements while the lobby criticized Carter for bringing up the subject. When UN Ambassador Andrew Young violated an Israeli demand and a lobby-enforced rule that prohibited US officials from meeting with the PLO, (much like the lobby imposed rule about US officials meeting with Hamas officials today), he was forced to resign. When Carter, like Ford, was considering giving a televised speech in 1979 in which he planned to outline the divergence of interests between the US and Israel and denounce Israeli intransigence on the Palestinian issue, he was warned by the lobby, as one Jewish leader put it, that he would be the first president to "risk opening the gates of anti-Semitism in America." Carter decided not to give the speech.

Massad raises the issue of UN votes. There was an exception to all those US vetoes and it came during the Carter administration. In March 1980, Young's successor, Donald McHenry, also an African-American, voted to censure Israel for its settlement policy, including Jerusalem. The lobby was outraged and Carter was forced to apologize. The last straw for the lobby was when Carter called for an international conference in Geneva to settle the Israel-Palestine question that would include the Soviet Union. It didn't matter that he was forced to apologize for that, too. In 1980, he received 48% of the Jewish vote, the poorest showing of any Democrat since they began counting such things.

When Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982, both houses of Congress roared their approval, it being, after all, an election year. When the reports of the siege of Beirut were becoming too much to ignore, Reagan asked Sharon to call a halt. Sharon's response was to bomb the city at 2:42 and 3:38 the next afternoon, those hours, coincidentally, being the numbers of the two UN resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories. When Reagan, like Carter, also publicly called on Begin to halt settlement building, the Israeli prime minister announced the building of new settlements and sent the president a "Dear Ronnie," letter letting him know who was making those decisions.

In Reagan's second term, he, too, tried to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict with what came to be known as the Shultz Plan, named after his Secretary of State, George Shultz. It called for an international conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who had replaced Begin, was having none of it. One cartoon of the day depicted Shamir sitting in a chair, cutting up pieces of paper while Reagan and Shultz looked on. "How cute," said Reagan, "he's cutting up paper dolls." "Those aren't paper dolls," responded Shultz. "That's our peace plan." Another showed Reagan and Shamir sitting in armchairs across from one another with Shamir holding a smoking gun in his hand while a dove falls from the sky. Reagan says, "You didn't have to do that." Shamir's intransigence finally provoked 30 senators, including some of Israel's biggest supporters, into sending him a letter asking him to be more cooperative. They were hardly prepared for the firestorm from the lobby that followed that sent each of them stumbling to apologize. The Shultz Plan was effectively dead.

When George H. W. Bush succeeded Reagan, he made it clear that he wanted a halt to the settlements and for Israel to get out of the OT, as well. He arranged for the Madrid Peace Conference over the objections of the obstinate Shamir, making concessions as to the composition of the Palestinian delegation to appease both Israel and the lobby. Was this conference, like the one called for by Carter, like the one planned by Reagan just a charade? Before the conference took place, Shamir asked the US for $10 billion in loan guarantees. Bush made compliance with that request contingent on Israel agreeing to halt all settlement building, its agreement not to settle any Russian immigrants in the West Bank, and to wait 120 days, to see if the first two requests had been complied with. An enraged Shamir decided to go over his head to the lobby-controlled Congress.

After receiving a letter signed by 242 members of Congress urging the swift passage of the loan guarantees, Bush realized that the Lobby had enough votes to override his threatened veto of the request. This led him to take the unprecedented step of calling a national press conference on the day when an estimated thousand Jewish lobbyists were on Capitol Hill pushing for a swift passage of Israel's request. In the press conference, Bush denounced the arrogance of the lobby and told the American people how much aid each Israeli man, woman and child was getting from the US Treasury. The polls the next day showed that 85% of the American public was with him and a month and a half later only 44% of the public supported giving any aid to Israel at all while over 70% supported giving aid to the former Soviet Union.

AIPAC, in the face of Bush's attack, pulled back, but then launched a steady attack against him which began to be reflected in the US media where even old friends like the NY Times columnist William Safire would eventually desert him for Bill Clinton. Under tremendous pressure and with the election approaching, Bush finally consented to the loan guarantees, but it was too late. The Lobby blamed him for Shamir having been defeated by Rabin and his goose was cooked.

JM: Additionally, and in line with this logic, controlling Arab economies and finances, dominating key investments in the Middle East, and imposing structural adjustment policies by the IMF and the World Bank which impoverish the Arab peoples should also be blamed on Israel, and not the United States.

JB: It would be curious to know what Arab economies the US actually controls. Massad doesn't say. He is again being disingenuous, however, refusing to refute what Mearsheimer and Walt actually wrote, but accusing them of making allegations that have little or nothing to do with the Israel-Palestine issue or the Iraq war. It is no secret, however, that pro-Israel Jewish neocons have been heavily involved in creating the structural adjustment policies of the World Bank and the IMF. Indeed, Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Gulf War, is now the head of the World Bank.

JM: Finally, starving and then invading Iraq, threatening to invade Syria, raiding and then sanctioning Libya and Iran, besieging the Palestinians and their leaders must also be blamed on the Israeli lobby and not the US government.

JB: One must ask, where has Prof. Massad been? While it was not well known, but no secret, that the Lobby played a key role in getting the votes for the first Gulf War, the reporting of which resulted in the firing of the Washington Jewish Week's Larry Cohler at the behest of AIPAC inductee Steve Rosen, the orchestration of the current war by a handful of Jewish Likud-connected neocons with the support of the Israel Lobby was widely reported in the mainstream press. If there was a question as to who was the chief architect, it was a choice between Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Scooter Libby.

Massad must certainly be familiar with the "Clean Break" paper that Perle, Feith, and Meyrav Wurmser, wrote for Netanyahu in 1996, calling for the overthrow of Iraq, Syria and Iran, which Mearsheimer and Walt mention. Is he not also familiar with the "Project for a New American Century," another document drawn up by pro-Israel Jewish neocons? Not familiar with the Office of Special Plans, set up by Feith and run by another Jewish neocon, Abe Shulsky, which was directed to provide the phony intelligence that would justify the invasion when the CIA staff was not prepared to do it. Is he not familiar with the admission by Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9-11 commission, who admitted that the war in Iraq was for "the security of Israel": but that would have been a "hard sell" to the American people? And, as for implementing and maintaining the sanctions, the advocacy of the lobby was equally evident.

JM: Indeed, over the years, many pro-US Arab dictators let it leak officially and unofficially that their US diplomat friends have told them time and again how much they and "America" support the Arab world and the Palestinians were it not for the influence of the pro-Israel lobby (sometimes identified by the American diplomats in more explicit "ethnic" terms).

JB: Those diplomats probably telling the truth as they saw it as statements many have made, after leaving the Foreign Service, attest. As far as using ethnic terms, in Israel they refer to it as "the Jewish Lobby." Is that what he means? Does that imply if a non-Jew uses the term it is "anti-Semitic?"

JM: While many of the studies of the pro-Israel lobby are sound and full of awe-inspiring well-documented details about the formidable power commanded by groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its allies, the problem with most of them is what remains unarticulated. For example, when and in what context has the United States government ever supported national liberation in the Third World? The record of the United States is one of being the implacable enemy of all Third World national liberation groups, including European ones, from Greece to Latin America to Africa and Asia, except in the celebrated cases of the Afghan fundamentalists' war against the USSR and supporting apartheid South Africa's main terrorist allies in Angola and Mozambique (UNITA and RENAMO) against their respective anti-colonial national governments. Why then would the US support national liberation in the Arab world absent the pro-Israel lobby is something these studies never explain.

JB: Yet another straw man. It is not a question of supporting a national liberation struggle but determining overall policy for the region, in general. It should have been clear that a Palestinian mini-state run by Yasser Arafat or any of his cronies would have been no threat to the US at all, in fact, it would have been useful since its reactionary policies would have had a crushing effect not only on the Palestinians themselves, but on those peoples in the Middle East and around the world that have supported the Palestinian struggle for so many years. Moreover, it would have been economically dependent on both Israel and the surrounding reactionary Arab states.

It was clear that the US intended to use the mini-state for its own reasons when it built a four-story PA security office in Ramallah, that Sharon had destroyed during the Al-Aksa Intifada, and brought PA security forces to CIA headquarters in Langely, Virginia for training -- many of whom were also assassinated by Israeli forces in the early days of that Intifada. Sharon clearly didn't want a sibling rival that might prove useful to the US.

JM: The United States has had a consistent policy since World War II of fighting all regimes across the Third World that insist on controlling their national resources, whether it be land, oil, or other valuable minerals. This extends from Iran in 1953 to Guatemala in 1954 to the rest of Latin America all the way to present-day Venezuela.

JB: The US has made a modus vivendi with the major sources of oil globally without requiring an armed takeover until the present war. The Palestinians, having none such resources would, at best, regain their water aquifers that are presently controlled by Israel but in which the US has no direct interest, so this argument of Massad's is irrelevant. Moreover, the Palestinian situation is unique among liberation struggles in that its "leadership" under Arafat and until Hamas's victory, rather than fighting the US, has eagerly sought its embrace.

JM: Africa has fared much worse in the last four decades, as have many countries in Asia. Why would the United States support nationalist regimes in the Arab world who would nationalize natural resources and stop their pillage by American capital absent the pro-Israel lobby also remains a mystery unexplained by these studies. Finally, the United States government has opposed and overthrown or tried to overthrow any regime that seeks real and tangible independence in the Third World and is especially galled by those regimes that pursue such policies through democratic elections.

The overthrow of regimes from Arbenz to Goulart to Mossadegh and Allende and the ongoing attempts to overthrow Chavez are prominent examples, as is the overthrow of nationalist regimes like Sukarno's and Nkrumah's. The terror unleashed on populations who challenged the US-installed friendly regimes from El Salvador and Nicaragua to Zaire to Chile and Indonesia resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands, if not millions by repressive police and militaries trained for these important tasks by the US. This is aside from direct US invasions of South East Asian and Central American countries that killed untold millions for decades.

Why would the US and its repressive agencies stop invading Arab countries, or stop supporting the repressive police forces of dictatorial Arab regimes and why would the US stop setting up shadow governments inside its embassies in Arab capitals to run these countries' affairs (in some cases the US shadow government runs the Arab country in question down to the smallest detail with the Arab government in question reduced to executing orders) if the pro-Israel lobby did not exist is never broached by these studies let alone explained.

JB: Massad presents a long history of US depredations of the Third World countries that has no relevance to this issue. Mearsheimer and Walt do not state or imply that, absent the Israel Lobby, the US would support nationalist regimes in the region. In 1958, Pres. Eisenhower sent the Marines to Lebanon to prevent what was thought to be a radical nationalist move against the status quo, but the US has only invaded Arab countries twice, Kuwait in 1991, to oust the Iraqis and in 2003. As pointed out earlier, the first required the assistance of the Israel lobby capped by the phony incubator story that was orchestrated by Rep. Tom Lantos, an author or co-sponsor of numerous Iraqi and Syria sanction bills and anti-Palestinian legislation. (According to the Jerusalem Post, Lantos represents Israel in countries where it has no diplomatic recognition.)

Israel and the lobby had anticipated that the Senior Bush would remove Saddam as called for in the Clean Break and when he didn't they started criticizing him and planning for a future administration that would do the job and the record on that is very clear. AIPAC took credit for writing the anti-Syrian legislation that led to the withdrawal from Lebanon of the relatively small number of Syrian forces that were in the country and more recently the Lobby has been the only sector of US society actively calling for what is unmistakably an armed confrontation with Iran.

JM: The arguments put forth by these studies would have been more convincing if the Israel lobby was forcing the United States government to pursue policies in the Middle East that are inconsistent with its global policies elsewhere. This, however, is far from what happens. While US policies in the Middle East may often be an exaggerated form of its repressive and anti- democratic policies elsewhere in the world, they are not inconsistent with them. One could easily make the case that the strength of the pro-Israel lobby is what accounts for this exaggeration, but even this contention is not entirely persuasive.

JB: From the end of the Vietnam War to the beginning of the first Gulf War, the profits of the weapons industry continued to soar, proving that an actual shooting war was not necessary for the arms manufacturers to make windfall profits or the capitalist system to survive. Given that both US political parties are committed to what is euphemistically called "national defense," there is no debate in Congress over the size of the military budget. Consequently, except for the Middle East, what the US has sought politically has been stability, the kind of stability that provides a ready source of raw materials and an outlet for US products. Those products include, of course, US weaponry, some of which may be used to quiet domestic rebellions, and some, like fighter jets, for national pride and kickbacks on both sides. It is only in the Middle East where a stable environment is required to maintain the oil that fuels much of the world's economy, including our own, where there is continued instability, and that is what both Mearsheimer and Walt correctly contend is the fault of Israel and the Israel Lobby.

JM: One could argue (and I have argued elsewhere) that it is in fact the very centrality of Israel to US strategy in the Middle East that accounts, in part, for the strength of the pro-Israel lobby and not the other way around. Indeed, many of the recent studies highlight the role of pro-Likud members of the Bush administration (or even of the Clinton administration) as evidence of the lobby's awesome power, when, it could be easily argued that it is these American politicians who had pushed Likud and Labour into more intransigence in the 1990s and are pushing them towards more conquest now that they are at the helm of the US government. This is not to say, however, that the leaders of the pro-Israel lobby do not regularly brag about their crucial influence on US policy in Congress and in the White House. That they have done regularly since the late 1970s. But the lobby is powerful in the United States because its major claims are about advancing US interests and its support for Israel is contextualized in its support for the overall US strategy in the Middle East.

JB: Here, Massad seems to be placing the blame for Israel's intransigence on the Lobby while denying its effect on US policy, a curious turn of thinking. Massad refers to what he has written elsewhere about the "centrality" of Israel to US Middle East strategy but it is sorely missed in this article when such an explanation is required to refute Mearsheimer and Walt. It would be more useful than reciting the well known history of US imperialism elsewhere that has little bearing on this dispute. He owes it to Mearsheimer and Walt as well as the reader to describe what he believes to be "overall US strategy in the Middle East" and how Israel serves it, to the extent that justifies the billions of aid and political cover in the international arena.

JM: The pro-Israel lobby plays the same role that the China lobby played in the 1950s and the Cuba lobby still plays to this day. The fact that it is more powerful than any other foreign lobby on Capitol Hill testifies to the importance of Israel in US strategy and not to some fantastical power that the lobby commands independent of and extraneous to the US "national interest." The pro-Israel lobby could not sell its message and would not have any influence if Israel was a communist or anti-imperialist country or if Israel opposed US policy elsewhere in the world.

JB: Comparing the Israel Lobby to the old China Lobby is like comparing the NY Yankees, when they are winning, to a semi-pro team. The China lobby did not have several dozen Chinese members of Congress, hundreds of organizations and thousands of religious institutions and billions of dollars in political contributions behind it. It did not own or control any section of the US media or was there, outside of the handful of the nations' Chinatowns and the John Birch Society, an army of grassroots activists. The Cuba lobby which is, in fact, more properly called the anti-Cuba lobby, not coincidentally, has a strong working relationship with AIPAC for their mutual benefit, but it doesn't begin to compare with the Israel Lobby's power although it has seen to it that Florida will stay in the Republican column. Of course, if Israel was a communist or anti-imperialist country, the Jews in the US would no doubt be like the anti-Castro Cubans, calling on the US to liberate it.

JM: Some would argue that even though Israel attempts to overlap its interests with those of the US, that its lobby is misleading American policy- makers and shifting their position from one of objective assessment of what is truly in America's best interest and that of Israel's. The argument runs as follows: US support for Israel causes groups who oppose Israel to hate the US and target it for attacks. It also costs the US friendly media coverage in the Arab world, affects its investment potential in Arab countries, and loses its important allies in the region, or at least weakens these allies. But none of this is true. The United States has been able to be Israel's biggest backer and financier, its staunchest defender and weapon-supplier while maintaining strategic alliances with most if not all Arab dictatorships, including the Palestinian Authority under both Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Moreover, US companies and American investments have the largest presence across the Arab world, most prominently but not exclusively in the oil sector.

JB: US support for Israel does not target it for attacks? That would be news to the families of the marines, soldiers and sailors killed in the bombing of the marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, as well as American diplomats who have been targeted in the region over the years. Had Israel not invaded Lebanon, these American servicemen killed in their barracks might still be alive, as well the members of the CIA who were wiped out in an earlier bombing of the US embassy in Beirut. Furthermore, without getting into the serious questions that remain unanswered about the 9-11 attack, it has been accepted by those who believe the official narrative that US support for Israel was one of the reasons behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. If the authors and others, including this writer have argued are correct, a significant portion of the responsibility for the dead and wounded on both sides in Iraq can be laid at the feet of Israel and the Israel Lobby, but the latter, in particular.

It is difficult to measure the effect on investment potential and sales of American products in Middle Eastern markets, but to say that it isn't "true" that it would increase if the US was not supporting Israel is hardly realistic.

JM: Also, even without the pathetic and ineffective efforts at US propaganda in the guise of the television station Al-Hurra, or Radio Sawa and the now-defunct Hi magazine, not to mention US-paid journalists and newspapers in Iraq and elsewhere, a whole army of Arabic newspapers and state-television stations, not to mention myriad satellite television stations celebrate the US and its culture, broadcast American programs, and attempt to sell the US point of view as effectively as possible encumbered only by the limitations that actual US policies in the region place on common sense. Even the offending Al-Jazeera has bent over backwards to accommodate the US point of view but is constantly undercut by actual US policies in the region. Al-Jazeera, under tremendous pressure and threats of bombing from the United States, has for example stopped referring to the US occupation forces in Iraq as "occupation forces" and now refers to them as "coalition forces." Moreover, since when has the US sought to win a popularity contest among the peoples of the world? Arabs no more hate or love the United States than do Latin Americans, Africans, Asians, or even and especially Europeans.

JB: The US, as a country, is not loved or well liked anywhere except, perhaps, Israel. Much depends, of course, on an individual's political consciousness, but most of the peoples of the world have had a love-hate relationship with the US, despising its policies but colonized by its materialism. The war on Iraq and the US voters' re-election of Bush have put more weight in the "hate" column, and in Latin America, Bush has proved to be the most unpopular US president since they started taking polls. It is not unlikely that as the war continues and the US continues to make threats against Iran, again pressured by the Lobby, the degree of antagonism towards the US and US products is certain to increase.

JM: Finally we come to the financial argument, namely that the US gives an inordinate amount of money to Israel -- too exorbitant a cost that is out of proportion to what the US gets in return. In fact, the United States spends much more on its military bases in the Arab world, not to mention on those in Europe or Asia, than it does on Israel. Israel has indeed been very effective in rendering services to its US master for a good price, whether in channeling illegal arms to central American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s, helping pariah regimes like Taiwan and apartheid South Africa in the same period, supporting pro-US, including Fascist, groups inside the Arab world to undermine nationalist Arab regimes, from Lebanon to Iraq to Sudan, coming to the aid of conservative pro-US Arab regimes when threatened as it did in Jordan in 1970, and attacking Arab nationalist regimes outright as it did in 1967 with Egypt and Syria and in 1981 with Iraq when it destroyed that country's nuclear reactor. While the US had been able to overthrow Sukarno and Nkrumah in bloody coups, Nasser remained entrenched until Israel effectively neutralized him in the 1967 War. It is thanks to this major service that the United States increased its support to Israel exponentially.

JB: Here, Massad seems to be channeling Noam Chomsky. Israel has never seen the US as its master. Not a single Israeli soldier has shed a drop of blood for US interests and as Ariel Sharon said on Israeli army radio several years ago, the US knows that no Israeli soldier ever will. At the time of Israel's attack on Egypt in 1967, France was the major arms supplier and the certain sectors of the US government were engaged with members of Egypt's military. To describe the defeat of Nasser as a service done by Israel for the benefit of the US, which the term, "service," clearly implies, may be convenient for Chomsky and Massad but it is a both an oversimplification as well as a distortion of history. In fact, it wasn't until the 1973 war, when Israel, under attack by Egypt and Syria, threatened to use its nuclear weapons unless the US came through with a massive conventional arms airlift, that US support for Israel really took off. So did the oil prices as an Arab oil boycott was implemented in response. Was the very real threat of a nuclear war, which would have brought in the Soviet Union, in the US interest? Was the Arab oil embargo?

Israel's arms sales in Latin America and South Africa were done to benefit Israel's arms industry and that they were useful to the US was a secondary factor. What the Lobby was able to do was keep members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including the notable Ron Dellums, from publicly condemning Israel's arms sales to South Africa in violation of international sanctions, and to silence those members of Congress who were quick to condemn US actions in Central America but afraid to do so when Israel was the malefactor. That fear is no less prevalent in Congress today where any member can get up to criticize George Bush but none dare say a negative word about the Israeli prime minister, irrespective of who holds that office.

Israel's role in the Jordanian-Palestinian conflict in 1970 is always raised by those who argue for Israel's usefulness. We are told that Israel was acting at the behest of the US when it threatened to intervene if Syrian tanks moved south to defend the Palestinians under attack by Jordan's King Hussein and that this prevented the possible overthrow of the US-friendly Hashemite regime. This fits neatly fits into the client state scenario, except it is missing a key element. What was crucial in that situation was the refusal of Hafez Al-Assad, then head of the Syrian air force, and not a supporter of the PLO, to back up the Syrian tank force that had entered Northern Jordan. Shortly thereafter, Al-Assad staged a coup against the pro-Palestinian president Atassi and proceeded to throw hundreds of Palestinians and pro-Palestinian Syrians in prison and break up the radical Syrian-supported militia group, Al-Saika This bit of history has apparently now been written out of history.

JM: Moreover, Israel neutralized the PLO in 1982, no small service to many Arab regimes and their US patron who could not fully control the organization until then.

JB: It was appreciated in the beginning by many Lebanese, particularly in the south who found some elements of the PLO heavy-handed and were tired of having a liberation war fought on their soil, until they began to experience Israeli occupation for themselves and began to resist. The Israeli attack violated an 11-month cease-fire that had been negotiated by Ambassador Philip Habib and to which the PLO had strictly adhered. The Senior Bush, then vice-president, opposed the Israeli invasion and wanted Israel to be censured and was overruled by Reagan and Alexander Haig. A year before Bush Sr. was angered by Israel's attack on Iraq's Osirak reactor and wanted Israel censured at that time, but was again overruled.

JM: None of the American military bases on which many more billions are spent can claim such a stellar record.

JB: A stellar record? What Massad has done here is only distinguishable from an AIPAC press release justifying increasing US aid by its criticism of US imperialism but hardly by its tone. He has avoided dealing with most of the specifics that Mearsheimer and Walt raise by simply repeating what Chomsky has written in a dozen or so books and hundreds of speeches and articles with little evidence to back it up.

JM: Critics argue that when the US had to intervene in the Gulf, it could not rely on Israel to do the job because of the sensitivity of including it in such a coalition which would embarrass Arab allies, hence the need for direct US intervention and the uselessness of Israel as a strategic ally. While this may be true, the US also could not rely on any of its military bases to launch the invasions on their own and had to ship in its army. American bases in the Gulf did provide important and needed support but so did Israel.

JB: Israel did provide training to US troops on the techniques used to occupy and repress a hostile Arab population, only too pleased to have the US join it as the only foreign occupier of Arab soil which I believe was one of the reasons the Israeli government (as well as the lobby) wanted the US to invade Iraq. With the US taking the same kind of harsh measures to repress the Iraqis, it would be less likely to complain about Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and this has proved to be the case. Israel has been called by Chomsky America's "cop on the beat" in the Middle East, but when military intervention has been thought necessary it has always been American soldiers that have done the fighting. In fact, US soldiers were sent to Israel during the first Gulf War to operate the Patriot missile batteries to defend the Israelis.

JM: AIPAC is indeed powerful insofar as it pushes for policies that accord with US interests and that are resonant with the reigning US imperial ideology. The power of the pro-Israel lobby, whether in Congress or on campuses among university administrators, or policy-makers is not based solely on their organizational skills or ideological uniformity. In no small measure, anti- Semitic attitudes in Congress (and among university administrators) play a role in believing the lobby's (and its enemies') exaggerated claims about its actual power, resulting in their towing the line. But even if this were true, one could argue, it would not matter whether the lobby has real or imagined power. For as long as Congress and policy-makers (and university administrators) believe it does, it will remain effective and powerful. I of course concede this point.

JB: So it is "anti-Semitic" to believe the lobby's claims about its power? What an extraordinary statement. What would he call those who say the lobby is lying? It is quite clear that the professor is treading on very shaky grounds here. He has obviously not studied his history and what has befallen those politicians who have challenged the lobby and were subsequently targeted and defeated beginning with Sen. J William Fulbright who in the early 60s sought to restrict the lobby's growing power. There are several books written by both supporters of the lobby and its critics that clearly demonstrate its influence as well as the tales of former members of Congress who were its victims. What is distressing, as this statement indicates, is that Massad has obviously not read the available literature on the subject and yet he believes he is qualified to criticize Mearsheimer and Walt's paper without having done so.

JM: What then would have been different in US policy in the Middle East absent Israel and its powerful lobby? The answer in short is: the details and intensity but not the direction, content, or impact of such policies.

JB: Absent Israel and hence the lobby one can't begin to speculate. To raise the question is just a distraction.

JM: Is the pro-Israel lobby extremely powerful in the United States? As someone who has been facing the full brunt of their power for the last three years through their formidable influence on my own university and their attempts to get me fired, I answer with a resounding yes. Are they primarily responsible for policies towards the Palestinians and the Arab world? Absolutely not.

JB: The full brunt of their power? A great deal, admittedly, but hardly the full brunt, which he would realize if he had made an effort to familiarize himself with the lobby's history. But again, Prof. Massad offers no reason why the US could not support a truncated Palestinian state and why the US supports Israel's maintaining the occupied territories despite the efforts of every president from Nixon to Clinton to get Israel to give them up.

JM: The United States is opposed in the Arab world as elsewhere because it has pursued and continues to pursue policies that are inimical to the interests of most people in these countries and are only beneficial to its own interests and to the minority regimes in the region that serve those interests, including Israel. Absent these policies, and not the pro-Israel lobby which supports them, the United States should expect a change in its standing among Arabs. Short of that, the United States will have to continue its policies in the region that have wreaked, and continue to wreak, havoc on the majority of Arabs and not expect that the Arab people will like it in return.

JB: Every two years, one hears or reads, regarding some issue that deals with Israel, that "the president" or "Congress" "is not likely to act [against Israel] due to domestic political considerations in an election year." What Mearsheimer and Walt recognize and that Massad fails to acknowledge, is the extent that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a domestic US issue. That the Palestine solidarity movement, of which Prof. Massad is a part, has ignored that fact is a primary reason that to this point in time it has been an utter failure. This should be a source of embarrassment and reflection, but it so far there is no sign of it.

There was another Columbia professor who had a more profound understanding of the situation who is sorely missed and, perhaps, never more so than at this moment. I refer to the late Edward Said. In his contribution to The New Intifada, entitled, appropriately, "America's Last Taboo," he did not mince words:

What explains this [present] state of affairs? The answer lies in the power of Zionist organizations in American politics, whose role throughout the "peace process" has never been sufficiently addressed -- a neglect that is absolutely astonishing, given the policy of the PLO has been in essence to throw our fate as a people into the lap of the United States, without any strategic awareness of how American policy is dominated by a small minority whose views about the Middle East are in some ways more extreme than those of Likud itself. (Emphasis added)

And on the subject of AIPAC, Said wrote:

[T]he American Israel Public Affairs Committee ­ AIPAC -- has for years been the most powerful single lobby in Washington. Drawing on a well-organized, well-connected, highly visible and wealthy Jewish population, AIPAC inspires an awed fear and respect across the political spectrum. Who is going to stand up to this Moloch in behalf of the Palestinians, when they can offer nothing, and AIPAC can destroy a professional career at the drop of a checkbook? In the past, one or two members of Congress did resist AIPAC openly, but the many political action committees controlled by AIPAC made sure they were never re-elected... If such is the material of the legislature, what can be expected of the executive?

Although it is trying, the Israel Lobby does not yet control our academics. On the critical issue of the lobby's power, it is time they stop acting like it does.

Jeffrey Blankfort is former editor of the Middle East Labor Bulletin, long-time photographer, and has written extensively on the Israel-Palestine conflict. He can be reached at:

Interview with Kevin Pina

On my Wednesday radio program, Takes on the World, on KZYX radio, on the day after the Haitian presidential elections, I interviewed documentary film maker and journalist Kevin Pina in Port Au Prince. For his insightful report on the first elections since the US orchestrated coup of Pres. Jean Bertrand Aristede.--Jeff B

Go to------->


Jeff Blankfort Interview with Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

On Wednesday, August 17th, I interviewed Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, author of The War on Freedom, which was one of the best books that has been written about the events of 9/11, about his new book, The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism, just published by the Olive Branch Press. It provides the most detailed arguments that I have seen that link Al Q'aida and other international "terrorist" networks to elements of the US, UK, and Pakistani intelligence agencies, among others. You can listen to the interview by going toand in the lower right hand corner click on Play.---Jeff Blankfort


Blankfort vs. Plitnick: The debate on the Israel lobby that never happened


Interview with Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern

Posted 07/08/05

Yesterday on my Takes on the World program, on KZYX in Mendocino Co., California, I interviewed former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, who had a number of interesting things to say about the Downing St. memos, the pre-war bombing of Iraq by the US and the UK, the motivations of "O-I-L" behind the war, of a possible way to end it, and of courage and the lack of same in Washington. You can listen to or download the 34:53 minute program by clicking on : ---Jeff Blankfort



On the role of the Israel Lobby in shaping American politics:

A Debate between Jeff Blankfort & Prof. Stephen Zunes

"It is not the occupation of the 1967 territories which is the point of the debate that the Israeli academy smothers and marginalizes. Instead, the big issue is the Zionist occupation of Palestine, the pre-1967 occupation which displaced the indigenous population in the process of establishing a state based on a dominant religion and ethnicity. All those "lefties" who now call for the academic boycott to be lifted (surprise, surprise ...) and call themselves supporters of the Palestinian cause are themselves captives of the Zionist holy cow whose tenets they wish not, and are unable as yet, to question." This is a debate that is also smothered in the US by many who claim to be supporters of the Palestinian cause. The text of the debate may now be read as well as listened to by going to: and click on View Script.--Jeff.Blankfort


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How Bush's Grandfather Helped Hitler's Rise to Power

by Ben Aris in Berlin & Duncan Campbell in Washington

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004,12271,1312540,00.html


September 25, 2004 -- George Bush's grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany.

The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism.

Life of Prescott Bush

-- 1895 Born, son of Samuel and Flora Bush. Raised in Columbus, Ohio

-- 1917 Graduated as a BA from Yale

-- 1917-19 Artillery captain in US army. Served in first world war

-- 1921 Married Dorothy Walker, daughter of wealthy industrialist, George Herbert Walker. They have five children, including GHW Bush, later to become US president (1988-1992)

-- 1924 Joins Harriman Brothers in New York through introduction from father-in-law

-- 1930 Partner in Brown Brothers Harriman

-- 1942 Assets of companies of which he is director seized under Trading with the Enemy Act

-- 1950 Now living in Greenwich, Connecticut, he runs unsuccessfully for Republican party to represent Connecticut in US Senate. Describes himself as "moderate progressive"

-- 1952 Runs again in mid-term election and wins. "He looked more like a senator than any senator I've ever met," William Hildenbrand, former secretary to Senate said, according to Kitty Kelley's new Bush family biography, The Family. Takes stand against McCarthyism

-- 1956 Re-elected to senate

-- 1963 Retires from politics on health grounds

-- 1972 Dies

His business dealings, which continued until his company's assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act, has led more than 60 years later to a civil action for damages being brought in Germany against the Bush family by two former slave laborers at Auschwitz and to a hum of pre-election controversy.

The evidence has also prompted one former US Nazi war crimes prosecutor to argue that the late senator's action should have been grounds for prosecution for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

The debate over Prescott Bush's behavior has been bubbling under the surface for some time. There has been a steady internet chatter about the "Bush/Nazi" connection, much of it inaccurate and unfair. But the new documents, many of which were only declassified last year, show that even after America had entered the war and when there was already significant information about the Nazis' plans and policies, he worked for and profited from companies closely involved with the very German businesses that financed Hitler's rise to power. It has also been suggested that the money he made from these dealings helped to establish the Bush family fortune and set up its political dynasty.

Remarkably, little of Bush's dealings with Germany has received public scrutiny, partly because of the secret status of the documentation involving him. But now the multi-billion-dollar legal action for damages by two Holocaust survivors against the Bush family, and the imminent publication of three books on the subject, are threatening to make Prescott Bush's business history an uncomfortable issue for his grandson, George W, as he seeks re-election.

While there is no suggestion that Prescott Bush was sympathetic to the Nazi cause, the documents reveal that the firm he worked for, Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), acted as a US base for the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen, who helped finance Hitler in the 1930s before falling out with him at the end of the decade. The Guardian has seen evidence that shows Bush was the director of the New York-based Union Banking Corporation (UBC) that represented Thyssen's US interests, and that he continued to work for the bank after America entered the war.


Bush was also on the board of at least one of the companies that formed part of a multinational network of 'front companies' to allow Thyssen to move assets around the world.

Thyssen owned the largest steel and coal company in Germany, and grew rich from Hitler's efforts to re-arm between the two world wars. One of the pillars in Thyssen's international corporate web, Union Banking Corporation (UBC), worked exclusively for, and was owned by, a Thyssen-controlled bank in the Netherlands. More Tantalizing are Bush's links to the Consolidated Silesian Steel Company (CSSC), based in mineral-rich Silesia on the German-Polish border. During the war, the company made use of Nazi slave labor from the concentration camps, including Auschwitz. The ownership of CSSC changed hands several times in the 1930s, but documents from the US National Archive declassified last year link Bush to CSSC, although it is not clear if he and UBC were still involved in the company when Thyssen's American assets were seized in 1942.

Three sets of archives spell out Prescott Bush's involvement. All three are readily available, thanks to the efficient US archive system and a helpful and dedicated staff at both the Library of Congress in Washington and the National Archives at the University of Maryland.

The first set of files, the Harriman papers in the Library of Congress, show that Prescott Bush was a director and shareholder of a number of companies involved with Thyssen.

The second set of papers, which are in the National Archives, are contained in vesting order number 248 which records the seizure of the company assets. What these files show is that on October 20 1942, the alien property custodian seized the assets of the UBC, of which Prescott Bush was a director. Having gone through the books of the bank, further seizures were made against two affiliates, the Holland-American Trading Corporation and the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation. By November, the Silesian-American Company, another of Prescott Bush's ventures, had also been seized.

The third set of documents, also at the National Archives, are contained in the files on IG Farben, who was prosecuted for war crimes.

A report issued by the Office of Alien Property Custodian in 1942 stated of the companies that "since 1939, these (steel and mining) properties have been in possession of, and have been operated by, the German government and have undoubtedly been of considerable assistance to that country's war effort".

Prescott Bush, a 6ft 4in charmer with a rich singing voice, was the founder of the Bush political dynasty and was once considered a potential presidential candidate himself. Like his son, George, and grandson, George W, he went to Yale where he was, again like his descendants, a member of the secretive and influential Skull and Bones student society. He was an artillery captain in the first world war, and married Dorothy Walker, the daughter of George Herbert Walker, in 1921.

In 1924, his father-in-law, a well-known St Louis investment banker, helped set him up in business in New York with Averell Harriman, the wealthy son of railroad magnate E H Harriman in New York, who had gone into banking.

One of the first jobs Walker gave Bush was to manage UBC. Bush was a founding member of the bank and the incorporation documents, which list him as one of seven directors, show he owned one share in UBC worth $125.

[That was 'par value', a bookkeeping figure which meant nothing. This single share was eventually liquidated for $750,000. By that time, Bush owned two -- his and his father-in-law's, for a total of $1,500,000, which was a lot of money in the early 1950's. Quite a profit, eh? Plus he undoubtedly drew a generous salary for years. -- John Wilmerding]

The bank was set up by Harriman and Bush's father-in-law to provide a US bank for the Thyssens, Germany's most powerful industrial family.

August Thyssen, the founder of the dynasty, had been a major contributor to Germany's first world war effort and in the 1920s, he and his sons Fritz and Heinrich established a network of overseas banks and companies so their assets and money could be whisked offshore if threatened again.

By the time Fritz Thyssen inherited the business empire in 1926, Germany's economic recovery was faltering. After hearing Adolf Hitler speak, Thyssen became mesmerized by the young firebrand. He joined the Nazi party in December 1931, and admits backing Hitler in his autobiography, 'I Paid Hitler', when the National Socialists were still a radical fringe party. He stepped in several times to bail out the struggling party: in 1928 Thyssen had bought the Barlow Palace on Briennerstrasse, in Munich, which Hitler converted into the Brown House, the headquarters of the Nazi party. The money came from another Thyssen overseas institution, the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvarrt in Rotterdam.

[The mansion had been appropriated from the German-Jewish Faber family, who are famous to this day for making art supplies, including the billions of yellow pencils that have borne their name. -- JW]

By the late 1930s, Brown Brothers Harriman, which claimed to be the world's largest private investment bank, and UBC had bought and shipped millions of dollars of gold, fuel, steel, coal and US treasury bonds to Germany, both feeding and financing Hitler's build-up to war.

Between 1931 and 1933 UBC bought more than $8m worth of gold, of which $3m was shipped abroad. According to documents seen by the Guardian, after UBC was set up it transferred $2m to BBH accounts and between 1924 and 1940 the assets of UBC hovered around $3m, dropping to $1m only on a few occasions.

In 1941, Thyssen fled Germany after falling out with Hitler, but he was captured in France and detained for the remainder of the war.

There was nothing illegal in doing business with the Thyssens throughout the 1930s, and many of America's best-known business names invested heavily in the German economic recovery. However, everything changed after Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Even then, it could be argued that BBH was within its rights continuing business relations with the Thyssens until the end of 1941, as the US was still technically neutral until the attack on Pearl Harbor. The trouble started on July 30, 1942, when the New York Herald-Tribune ran an article entitled "Hitler's Angel Has $3m in US Bank". UBC's huge gold purchases had raised suspicions that the bank was in fact a "secret nest egg" hidden in New York for Thyssen and other Nazi bigwigs. The Alien Property Commission (APC) launched an investigation.

There is no dispute over the fact that the US government seized a string of assets controlled by BBH -- including UBC and SAC -- in the autumn of 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy act. What is in dispute is if Harriman, Walker and Bush did more than own these companies on paper.

Erwin May, a treasury attaché and officer for the department of investigation in the APC, was assigned to look into UBC's business. The first fact to emerge was that Roland Harriman, Prescott Bush and the other directors didn't actually own their shares in UBC, but merely held them on behalf of Bank voor Handel. Strangely, no one seemed to know who owned the Rotterdam-based bank, including UBC's president.

May wrote in his report of August 16 1941: "Union Banking Corporation, incorporated August 4 1924, is wholly owned by the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart N.V. of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. My investigation has produced no evidence as to the ownership of the Dutch bank. Mr Cornelis [sic] Lievense, president of UBC, claims no knowledge as to the ownership of the Bank voor Handel, but believes it possible that Baron Heinrich Thyssen, brother of Fritz Thyssen, may own a substantial interest."

May cleared the bank of holding a golden nest egg for the Nazi leaders, but went on to describe a network of companies spreading out from UBC across Europe, America and Canada, and how money from voor Handel traveled to these companies through UBC.

By September, May had traced the origins of the non-American board members and found that Dutchman HJ Kouwenhoven -- who met with Harriman in 1924 to set up UBC -- had several other jobs: in addition to being the managing director of voor Handel, he was also the director of the August Thyssen bank in Berlin and a director of Fritz Thyssen's Union Steel Works, the holding company that controlled Thyssen's steel and coal mine empire in Germany.

Within a few weeks, Homer Jones, the chief of the APC investigation and research division, sent a memo to the executive committee of APC recommending the US government vest UBC and its assets. Jones named the directors of the bank in the memo, including Prescott Bush's name, and wrote: "Said stock is held by the above named individuals, however, solely as nominees for the Bank voor Handel, Rotterdam, Holland, which is owned by one or more of the Thyssen family, nationals of Germany and Hungary. The 4,000 shares hereinbefore set out are therefore beneficially owned and help for the interests of enemy nationals, and are vestible by the APC," according to the memo from the National Archives seen by the Guardian.


Jones recommended that the assets be liquidated for the benefit of the government, but instead, UBC was maintained intact and eventually returned to the American shareholders after the war. Some claim that Bush sold his share in UBC after the war for $1.5m -- a huge amount of money at the time -- but there is no documentary evidence to support this claim. No further action was ever taken, nor was the investigation continued, despite the fact UBC was caught red-handed operating a American shell company for the Thyssen family eight months after America had entered the war, and that this was the bank that had partly financed Hitler's rise to power.

The most tantalizing part of the story remains shrouded in mystery: the connection, if any, between Prescott Bush, Thyssen, Consolidated Silesian Steel Company (CSSC) and Auschwitz.

Thyssen's partner in United Steel Works, which had coal mines and steel plants across the region, was Friedrich Flick, another steel magnate who also owned part of IG Farben, the powerful German chemical company.

Flick's plants in Poland made heavy use of slave labor from the concentration camps in Poland. According to a New York Times article published in March 18, 1934, Flick owned two-thirds of CSSC while "American interests" held the rest.

The US National Archive documents show that BBH's involvement with CSSC was more than simply holding the shares in the mid-1930s. Bush's friend and fellow "bonesman" Knight Woolley, another partner at BBH, wrote to Averell Harriman in January, 1933, warning of problems with CSSC after the Poles started their drive to nationalize the plant. "The Consolidated Silesian Steel Company situation has become increasingly complicated, and I have accordingly brought in Sullivan and Cromwell, in order to be sure that our interests are protected," wrote Knight. "After studying the situation, Foster Dulles is insisting that their man in Berlin get into the picture and obtain the information which the directors here should have. You will recall that Foster is a director, and he is particularly anxious to be certain that there is no liability attaching to the American directors."

But the ownership of the CSSC -- between 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland and 1942 when the US government vested UBC and SAC -- is not clear.

"SAC held coal mines and definitely owned CSSC between 1934 and 1935, but when SAC was vested there was no trace of CSSC. All concrete evidence of its ownership disappears after 1935, and there are only a few traces in 1938 and 1939," says Eva Schweitzer, the journalist and author whose book, 'America and the Holocaust', is published next month.

Silesia was quickly made part of the German Reich after the invasion, but while Polish factories were seized by the Nazis, those belonging to the still neutral Americans (and some other nationals) were treated more carefully, as Hitler was still hoping to persuade the US to at least sit out the war as a neutral country. Schweitzer says American interests were dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The Nazis bought some out, but not others.

The two Holocaust survivors suing the US government and the Bush family for a total of $40 billion in compensation claim that both benefited materially from Auschwitz slave labor during the second world war.

Kurt Julius Goldstein, 87, and Peter Gingold, 85, began a class action in America in 2001, but the case was thrown out by Judge Rosemary Collier on the grounds that the government cannot be held liable under the principle of "state sovereignty".

Jan Lissmann, one of the lawyers for the survivors, said: "President Bush withdrew President Bill Clinton's signature from the treaty [that founded the court], not only to protect Americans, but also to protect himself and his family."

Lissmann argues that genocide-related cases are covered by international law, which does hold governments accountable for their actions. He claims the ruling was invalid as no hearing took place.

In their claims, Mr Goldstein and Mr Gingold, honorary chairman of the League of Anti-fascists, suggest the Americans were aware of what was happening at Auschwitz and should have bombed the camp.

The lawyers also filed a motion in The Hague asking for an opinion on whether state sovereignty is a valid reason for refusing to hear their case. A ruling is expected within a month.

The petition to The Hague states: "From April 1944 on, the American Air Force could have destroyed the camp with air raids, as well as the railway bridges and railway lines from Hungary to Auschwitz. The murder of about 400,000 Hungarian Holocaust victims could have been prevented."

The case is built around a January 22, 1944 executive order signed by President Franklin Roosevelt calling on the government to take all measures to rescue the European Jews. The lawyers claim the order was ignored because of pressure brought by a group of big American companies, including BBH, where Prescott Bush was a director.

Lissmann said: "If we have a positive ruling from the court, it will cause [president] Bush huge problems and make him personally liable to pay compensation."

The US government and the Bush family deny all the claims against them.

In addition to Eva Schweitzer's book, two other books are about to be published that raise the subject of Prescott Bush's business history. The author of the second book, to be published next year, John Loftus, is a former US attorney who prosecuted Nazi war criminals in the 70s. Now living in St Petersburg, Florida and earning his living as a security commentator for Fox News and ABC radio, Loftus is working on a novel which uses some of the material he has uncovered on Bush. Loftus stressed that what Prescott Bush was involved in was just what many other American and British businessmen were doing at the time.

"You can't blame Bush for what his grandfather did any more than you can blame Jack Kennedy for what his father did -- bought Nazi stocks -- but what is important is the cover-up, how it could have gone on so successfully for half a century, and does that have implications for us today?" he said.

"This was the mechanism by which Hitler was funded to come to power, this was the mechanism by which the Third Reich's defense industry was re-armed, this was the mechanism by which Nazi profits were repatriated back to the American owners, this was the mechanism by which investigations into the financial laundering of the Third Reich were blunted," said Loftus, who is vice-chairman of the Holocaust Museum in St Petersburg.

"The Union Banking Corporation was a holding company for the Nazis, for Fritz Thyssen," said Loftus. "At various times, the Bush family has tried to spin it, saying they were owned by a Dutch bank, and it wasn't until the Nazis took over Holland that they realized that now the Nazis controlled the apparent company, and that is why the Bush supporters claim when the war was over they got their money back. Both the American treasury investigations and the intelligence investigations in Europe completely bely that, it's absolute horseshit. They always knew who the ultimate beneficiaries were."

"There is no one left alive who could be prosecuted, but they did get away with it," said Loftus. "As a former federal prosecutor, I would make a case for Prescott Bush, his father-in-law (George Walker) and Averell Harriman [to be prosecuted] for giving aid and comfort to the enemy. They remained on the boards of these companies knowing that they were of financial benefit to the nation of Germany."

Loftus said Prescott Bush must have been aware of what was happening in Germany at the time. "My take on him was that he was a not terribly successful in-law who did what Herbert Walker told him to. Walker and Harriman were the two evil geniuses -- they didn't care about the Nazis any more than they cared about their investments with the Bolsheviks."

What is also at issue is how much money Bush made from his involvement. His supporters suggest that he had one token share. Loftus disputes this, citing sources in "the banking and intelligence communities", and suggesting that the Bush family, through George Herbert Walker and Prescott, got $1.5m out of the involvement. There is, however, no paper trail to this sum.

The third person going into print on the subject is John Buchanan, 54, a Miami-based magazine journalist who started examining the files while working on a screenplay. Last year, Buchanan published his findings in the venerable but small-circulation New Hampshire Gazette under the headline "Documents in National Archives Prove George Bush's Grandfather Traded With the Nazis -- Even After Pearl Harbor". He expands on this in his book to be published next month: 'Fixing America: Breaking the Stranglehold of Corporate Rule, Big Media and the Religious Right'.

In the article, Buchanan, who has worked mainly in the trade and music press with a spell as a muckraking reporter in Miami, claimed that "the essential facts have appeared on the internet and in relatively obscure books, but were dismissed by the media and Bush family as undocumented diatribes".

Buchanan suffers from hypermania, a form of manic depression, and when he found himself rebuffed in his initial efforts to interest the media, he responded with a series of threats against the journalists and media outlets that had spurned him. The threats, contained in e-mails, suggested that he would expose the journalists as "traitors to the truth".

Unsurprisingly, he soon had difficulty getting his calls returned. Most seriously, he faced aggravated stalking charges in Miami, in connection with a man with whom he had fallen out over the best way to publicize his findings. The charges were dropped last month.


Buchanan said he regretted his behavior had damaged his credibility, but his main aim was to secure publicity for the story. Both Loftus and Schweitzer say Buchanan has come up with previously undisclosed documentation.

The Bush family have largely responded with no comment to any reference to Prescott Bush. Brown Brothers Harriman also declined to comment.

The Bush family recently approved a flattering biography of Prescott Bush entitled 'Duty, Honor, Country' by Mickey Herskowitz. The publishers, Rutledge Hill Press, promised the book would "deal honestly with Prescott Bush's alleged business relationships with Nazi industrialists and other accusations".

In fact, the allegations are dealt with in less than two pages. The book refers to the Herald-Tribune story by saying that "a person of less established ethics would have panicked ... Bush and his partners at Brown Brothers Harriman informed the government regulators that the account, opened in the late 1930s, was 'an unpaid courtesy for a client' ... Prescott Bush acted quickly and openly on behalf of the firm, served well by a reputation that had never been compromised. He made available all records and all documents. Viewed six decades later in the era of serial corporate scandals and shattered careers, he received what can be viewed as the ultimate clean bill."

The Prescott Bush story has been condemned by both conservatives and some liberals as having nothing to do with the current president. It has also been suggested that Prescott Bush had little to do with Averell Harriman, and that the two men opposed each other politically.

However, documents from the Harriman papers include a flattering wartime profile of Harriman in the New York Journal American, and next to it in the files is a letter to the financial editor of that paper from Prescott Bush congratulating the paper for running the profile. He added that Harriman's "performance and his whole attitude has been a source of inspiration and pride to his partners and his friends".

The Anti-Defamation League in the US is supportive of Prescott Bush and the Bush family. In a statement last year they said that "rumors about the alleged Nazi 'ties' of the late Prescott Bush ... have circulated widely through the internet in recent years. These charges are untenable and politically motivated ... Prescott Bush was neither a Nazi nor a Nazi sympathizer."

However, one of the country's oldest Jewish publications, the Jewish Advocate, has aired the controversy in detail.

More than 60 years after Prescott Bush came briefly under scrutiny at the time of a faraway war, his grandson is facing a different kind of scrutiny but one underpinned by the same perception that, for some people, war can be a profitable business.

The Hidden History of CIA Torture: America's Road to Abu Ghraib

By Alfred W. McCoy

From ancient Rome's red-hot irons and lacerating hooks to medieval Europe's thumbscrews, rack, and wheel, for over 2,000 years anyone interrogated in a court of law could expect to suffer unspeakable tortures. For the last 200 years, humanist intellectuals from Voltaire to members of Amnesty International have led a sustained campaign against the horrors of state-sponsored cruelty, culminating in the United Nation's 1985 Convention Against Torture, ratified by the Clinton administration in 1994.

Then came 9/11. When the Twin Towers collapsed killing thousands, influential "pro-pain pundits" promptly repudiated those Enlightenment ideals and began publicly discussing whether torture might be an appropriate, even necessary weapon in George Bush's war on terror. The most persuasive among them, Harvard academic Alan M. Dershowitz, advocated giving courts the right to issue "torture warrants," ensuring that needed information could be prized from unwilling Arab subjects with steel needles.

Despite torture's appeal as a "lesser evil," a necessary expedient in dangerous times, those who favor it ignore its recent, problematic history in America. They also seem ignorant of a perverse pathology that allows the practice of torture, once begun, to spread uncontrollably in crisis situations, destroying the legitimacy of the perpetrator nation. As past perpetrators could have told today's pundits, torture plumbs the recesses of human consciousness, unleashing an unfathomable capacity for cruelty as well as seductive illusions of potency. Even as pundits and professors fantasized about "limited, surgical torture," the Bush administration, following the President's orders to "kick some ass," was testing and disproving their theories by secretly sanctioning brutal interrogation that spread quickly from use against a few "high target value" Al Qaeda suspects to scores of ordinary Afghans and then hundreds of innocent Iraqis.

As we learned from France's battle for Algiers in the 1950s, Argentina's dirty war in the 1970s, and Britain's Northern Ireland conflict in the 1970s, a nation that harbors torture in defiance of its democratic principles pays a terrible price. Its officials must spin an ever more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust that are the sine qua non of any modern society. Most surprisingly, our own pro-pain pundits seemed, in those heady early days of the war on terror, unaware of a fifty-year history of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), nor were they aware that their enthusiastic proposals gave cover to those in the Bush Administration intent on reactivating a ruthless apparatus.

Torture's Perverse Pathology

In April 2004, the American public was stunned by televised photographs from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison showing hooded Iraqis stripped naked, posed in contorted positions, and visibly suffering humiliating abuse while U.S. soldiers stood by smiling. As the scandal grabbed headlines around the globe, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld quickly assured Congress that the abuses were "perpetrated by a small number of U.S. military," whom New York Times columnist William Safire soon branded "creeps."

These photos, however, are snapshots not of simple brutality or even evidence of a breakdown in "military discipline." What they record are CIA torture techniques that have metastasized like an undetected cancer inside the U.S. intelligence community over the past half century. A survey of this history shows that the CIA was, in fact, the lead agency at Abu Ghraib, enlisting Army intelligence to support its mission. These photographs from Iraq also illustrate standard interrogation procedures inside the gulag of secret CIA prisons that have operated globally, on executive authority, since the start of the President's war on terror.

Looked at historically, the Abu Ghraib scandal is the product of a deeply contradictory U.S. policy toward torture since the start of the Cold War. At the UN and other international forums, Washington has long officially opposed torture and advocated a universal standard for human rights. Simultaneously, the CIA has propagated ingenious new torture techniques in contravention of these same international conventions, a number of which the U.S has ratified. In battling communism, the United States adopted some of its most objectionable practices -- subversion abroad, repression at home, and most significantly torture itself.

From 1950 to 1962, the CIA conducted massive, secret research into coercion and the malleability of human consciousness which, by the late fifties, was costing a billion dollars a year. Many Americans have heard about the most outlandish and least successful aspect of this research -- the testing of LSD on unsuspecting subjects. While these CIA drug experiments led nowhere and the testing of electric shock as a technique led only to lawsuits, research into sensory deprivation proved fruitful indeed. In fact, this research produced a new psychological rather than physical method of torture, perhaps best described as "no-touch" torture.

The Agency's discovery was a counterintuitive breakthrough, the first real revolution in this cruel science since the seventeenth century -- and thanks to recent revelations from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, we are now all too familiar with these methods, even if many Americans still have no idea of their history. Upon careful examination, those photographs of nude bodies expose the CIA's most basic torture techniques -- stress positions, sensory deprivation, and sexual humiliation.

For over 2,000 years, from ancient Athens through the Inquisition, interrogators found that the infliction of physical pain often produced heightened resistance or unreliable information -- the strong defied pain while the weak blurted out whatever was necessary to stop it. By contrast, the CIA's psychological torture paradigm used two new methods, sensory disorientation and "self-inflicted pain," both of which were aimed at causing victims to feel responsible for their own suffering and so to capitulate more readily to their torturers. A week after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, General Geoffrey Miller, U.S. prison commander in Iraq (and formerly in Guantanamo), offered an unwitting summary of this two-phase torture. "We will no longer, in any circumstances, hood any of the detainees," the general said. "We will no longer use stress positions in any of our interrogations. And we will no longer use sleep deprivation in any of our interrogations."

Under field conditions since the start of the Afghan War, Agency and allied interrogators have often added to their no-touch repertoire physical methods reminiscent of the Inquisition's trademark tortures -- strappado, question de l'eau, "crippling stork," and "masks of mockery." At the CIA's center near Kabul in 2002, for instance, American interrogators forced prisoners "to stand with their hands chained to the ceiling and their feet shackled," an effect similar to the strappado. Instead of the Inquisition's iron-framed "crippling stork" to contort the victim's body, CIA interrogators made their victims assume similar "stress positions" without any external mechanism, aiming again for the psychological effect of self-induced pain

Although seemingly less brutal than physical methods, the CIA's "no touch" torture actually leaves deep, searing psychological scars on both victims and -- something seldom noted -- their interrogators. Victims often need long treatment to recover from a trauma many experts consider more crippling than physical pain. Perpetrators can suffer a dangerous expansion of ego, leading to escalating acts of cruelty and lasting emotional disorders. When applied in actual operations, the CIA's psychological procedures have frequently led to unimaginable cruelties, physical and sexual, by individual perpetrators whose improvisations are often horrific and only occasionally effective.

Just as interrogators are often seduced by a dark, empowering sense of dominance over victims, so their superiors, even at the highest level, can succumb to fantasies of torture as an all-powerful weapon. Our contemporary view of torture as aberrant and its perpetrators as abhorrent ignores both its pervasiveness as a Western practice for two millennia and its perverse appeal. Once torture begins, its perpetrators, plunging into uncharted recesses of consciousness, are often swept away by dark reveries, by frenzies of power and potency, mastery and control -- particularly in times of crisis. "When feelings of insecurity develop within those holding power," reads one CIA analysis of the Soviet state applicable to post-9/11 America, "they become increasingly suspicious and put great pressures on the secret police to obtain arrests and confessions. At such times police officials are inclined to condone anything which produces a speedy 'confession' and brutality may become widespread."

Enraptured by this illusory power, modern states that sanction torture usually allow it to spread uncontrollably. By 1967, just four years after compiling a torture manual for use against a few top Soviet targets, the CIA was operating forty interrogation centers in South Vietnam as part of its Phoenix Program that killed over 20,000 Viet Cong suspects. In the centers themselves, countless thousands were tortured for information that led to these assassinations. Similarly, just a few months after CIA interrogators first tortured top Al Qaeda suspects at Kabul in 2002, its agents were involved in the brutal interrogation of hundreds of Iraqi prisoners. As its most troubling legacy, the CIA's psychological method, with its legitimating scientific patina and its avoidance of obvious physical brutality, has provided a pretext for the preservation of torture as an acceptable practice within the U.S. intelligence community.

Once adopted, torture offers such a powerful illusion of efficient information extraction that its perpetrators, high and low, remain wedded to its use. They regularly refuse to recognize its limited utility and high political cost. At least twice during the Cold War, the CIA's torture training contributed to the destabilization of two key American allies, Iran's Shah and the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos. Yet even after their spectacular falls, the Agency remained blind to the way its torture training was destroying the allies it was designed to defend.

CIA Torture Research

The CIA's torture experimentation of the 1950s and early 1960s was codified in 1963 in a succinct, secret instructional booklet on torture -- the "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation" manual, which would become the basis for a new method of torture disseminated globally over the next three decades. These techniques were first spread through the U.S. Agency for International Development's Public Safety program to train police forces in Asia and Latin America as the front line of defense against communists and other revolutionaries. After an angry Congress abolished the Public Safety program in 1975, the CIA worked through U.S. Army Mobile Training Teams to instruct military interrogators, mainly in Central America.

At the Cold War's end, Washington resumed its advocacy of universal principles, denouncing regimes for torture, participating in the World Conference on Human Rights at Vienna in 1993 and, a year later, ratifying the UN Convention Against Torture. On the surface, the United States had resolved the tension between its anti-torture principles and its torture practices. Yet even when Congress finally ratified this UN convention it did so with intricately-constructed reservations that cleverly exempted the CIA's psychological torture method. While other covert agencies synonymous with Cold War repression such as Romania's Securitate, East Germany's Stasi, and the Soviet Union's KGB have disappeared, the CIA survives -- its archives sealed, its officers decorated, and its Cold War crimes forgotten. By failing to repudiate the Agency's propagation of torture, while adopting a UN convention that condemned its practice, the United States left this contradiction buried like a political land mine ready to detonate with such phenomenal force in the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Memory and Forgetting

Today the American public has only a vague understanding of these CIA excesses and the scale of its massive mind-control project. Yet almost every adult American carries fragmentary memories of this past -- of LSD experiments, the CIA's Phoenix program in Vietnam, the murder of a kidnapped American police adviser in Montevideo who was teaching CIA techniques to the Uruguayan police, and of course the Abu Ghraib photographs. But few are able to fit these fragments together and so grasp the larger picture. There is, in sum, an ignorance, a studied avoidance of a deeply troubling topic, akin to that which shrouds this subject in post-authoritarian societies.

With the controversy over Abu Ghraib, incidents that once seemed but fragments should now be coming together to form a mosaic of a clandestine agency manipulating its government and deceiving its citizens to probe the cruel underside of human consciousness, and then propagating its discoveries throughout the Third World.

Strong democracies have difficulty dealing with torture. In the months following the release of the Abu Ghraib photos, the United States moved quickly through the same stages (as defined by author John Conroy) that the United Kingdom experienced after revelations of British army torture in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s -- first, minimizing the torture with euphemisms such as "interrogation in depth"; next, justifying it on grounds that it was necessary or effective; and finally, attempting to bury the issue by blaming "a few bad apples."

Indeed, since last April, the Bush administration and much of the media have studiously avoided the word "torture" and instead blamed our own bad apples, those seven Military Police. In July, the Army's Inspector General Paul T. Mikolashek delivered his report blaming 94 incidents of "abuse" on "an individual failure to uphold Army Values." Although the New York Times called his conclusions "comical," the general's views seem to resonate with an emerging conservative consensus. "Interrogation is not a Sunday-school class," said Republican Senator Trent Lott. "You don't get information that will save American lives by withholding pancakes." In June, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 35% of Americans felt torture was acceptable in some circumstances.

In August, Major General George R. Fay released his report on the role of Military Intelligence at Abu Ghraib. Its stunning revelations about the reasons for this torture were, however, obscured in opaque military prose. After interviewing 170 personnel and reviewing 9,000 documents, the general intimated that this abuse was the product of an interrogation policy shaped, in both design and application, by the CIA.

Significantly, General Fay blamed not the "seven bad apples," but the Abu Ghraib interrogation procedures themselves. Of the 44 verifiable incidents of abuse, one-third occurred during actual interrogation. Moreover, these "routine" interrogation procedures "contributed to an escalating 'de-humanization' of the detainees and set the stage for additional and severe abuses to occur."

After finding standard Army interrogation doctrine sound, General Fay was forced to confront a single, central, uncomfortable question: what was the source of the aberrant, "non-doctrinal" practices that led to torture during interrogation at Abu Ghraib? Scattered throughout his report are the dots, politely unconnected, that lead from the White House to the Iraqi prison cell block: President Bush gave his defense secretary broad powers over prisoners in November 2001; Secretary Rumsfeld authorized harsh "Counter-Resistance Techniques" for Afghanistan and Guantanamo in December 2002; hardened Military Intelligence units brought these methods to Iraq in July 2003; and General Ricardo Sanchez in Baghdad authorized these extreme measures for Abu Ghraib in September 2003.

In its short answer to this uncomfortable question, General Fay's report, when read closely, traced the source of these harsh "non-doctrinal methods" at Abu Ghraib to the CIA. He charged that a flouting of military procedures by CIA interrogators "eroded the necessity in the minds of soldiers and civilians for them to follow Army rules." Specifically, the Army "allowed CIA to house 'Ghost Detainees' who were unidentified and unaccounted for in Abu Ghraib," thus encouraging violations of "reporting requirements under the Geneva Conventions." Moreover, the interrogation of CIA detainees "occurred under different practices and procedures which were absent any DoD visibility, control, or oversight and created a perception that OGA [CIA] techniques and practices were suitable and authorized for DoD operations." With their exemption from military regulations, CIA interrogators moved about Abu Ghraib with a corrupting "mystique" and extreme methods that "fascinated" some Army interrogators. In sum, General Fay seems to say that the CIA has compromised the integrity and effectiveness of the U.S. military.

Had he gone further, General Fay might have mentioned that the 519th Military Intelligence, the Army unit that set interrogation guidelines for Abu Ghraib, had just come from Kabul where it worked closely with the CIA, learning torture techniques that left at least one Afghani prisoner dead. Had he gone further still, the general could have added that the sensory deprivation techniques, stress positions, and cultural shock of dogs and nudity that we saw in those photos from Abu Ghraib were plucked from the pages of past CIA torture manuals.

American Prestige

This is not, of course, the first American debate over torture in recent memory. From 1970 to 1988, the Congress tried unsuccessfully, in four major investigations, to expose elements of this CIA torture paradigm. But on each occasion the public showed little concern, and the practice, never fully acknowledged, persisted inside the intelligence community.

Now, in these photographs from Abu Ghraib, ordinary Americans have seen the reality and the results of interrogation techniques the CIA has propagated and practiced for nearly half a century. The American public can join the international community in repudiating a practice that, more than any other, represents a denial of democracy; or in its desperate search for security, the United States can continue its clandestine torture of terror suspects in the hope of gaining good intelligence without negative publicity.

In the likely event that Washington adopts the latter strategy, it will be a decision posited on two false assumptions: that torturers can be controlled and that news of their work can be contained. Once torture begins, its use seems to spread uncontrollably in a downward spiral of fear and empowerment. With the proliferation of digital imaging we can anticipate, in five or ten years, yet more chilling images and devastating blows to America's international standing. Next time, however, the American public's moral concern and Washington's apologies will ring even more hollowly, producing even greater damage to U.S. prestige.

Alfred W. McCoy is professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of The Politics of Heroin, CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, an examination of the CIA's alliances with drug lords, and Closer Than Brothers, a study of the impact of the CIA's psychological torture method upon the Philippine military. He will publish a fuller version of this essay in The New England Journal of Public Policy (Volume 19, No. 2, 2004).

Copyright C2004 Alfred W. McCoy

Alliances and the American election

By Gabriel Kolko

August 25, 2004

Alliances have been a major cause of wars throughout modern history, removing inhibitions that might otherwise have caused Germany, France, and countless nations to reflect much more cautiously before embarking on death and destruction. The dissolution of all alliances is a crucial precondition of a world without wars.

The United States' strength, to an important extent, has rested on its ability to convince other nations that it was to their vital interests to see America prevail in its global role. With the loss of that ability there will be a fundamental change in the international system whose implications and consequences may ultimately be as far-reaching as the dissolution of the Soviet bloc.

The scope of America's world mission is now far more dangerous and ambitious than when Communism existed, but it was fear of the USSR that alone gave NATO its raison d'etre and provided Washington with the justification for its global pretensions. Enemies have disappeared and new ones - many once former allies and congenial states - have taken their places. The United States, to a degree to which it is itself uncertain, needs alliances. But even friendly nations are less likely than ever to be bound into uncritical "coalitions of the willing."

Nothing in President Bush's September 19, 2002 extraordinarily vague doctrine of fighting "preemptive" wars, unilaterally if necessary, was a fundamentally new departure. Regardless of whether the Republicans or Democrats were in office, since the 1890s the U.S. has intervened in countless ways in the Western Hemisphere -- from sending Marines to supporting friendly tyrants -- to determine the political destinies of innumerable southern nations. The Democratic Administration that established the United Nations explicitly regarded the hemisphere as the U.S.' sphere-of-influence, and they created the IMF and World Bank to police the world economy.

It was the Democratic Party that created most of the pillars of postwar American foreign policy, from the Truman Doctrine in 1947 and NATO through the institutionalization of the arms race and the illusion that weapons and firepower are a solution to many of the world's political problems. The Democrats share, in the name of a truly "bipartisan" consensus, equal responsibility for both the character and dilemmas of America's foreign strategy at the present moment. President Jimmy Carter initiated the Afghanistan adventure in July 1979, hoping to bog down the Soviets there as the Americans had been in Vietnam. And it was Carter who first encouraged Saddam Hussein to confront Iranian fundamentalism, a policy President Reagan continued.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1993 to 1997, argues that the Clinton Administration intensified the "hegemonic legacy" in the world economy, and Bush is just continuing it. The 1990s was "A decade of unparalleled American influence over the global economy" that Democratic financiers and fiscal conservatives in key posts defined, "in which one economic crisis seemed to follow another." The U.S. created trade barriers and gave large subsidies to its own agribusiness but countries in financial straits were advised and often compelled to cut spending and "adopt policies that were markedly different from those that we ourselves had adopted." (1) The scale of domestic and global peculation by the Clinton and Bush administrations can be debated but they were enormous in both cases.

In foreign and military affairs, both the Clinton and Bush administrations have suffered from the same procurement fetish, believing that expensive weapons are superior to realistic political strategies. The same illusions produced the Vietnam War - and disaster. Elegant strategies promising technological routes to victory have been with us since the late 1940s, but they are essentially public relations exercises intended to encourage more orders for arms manufacturers and justifications for bigger budgets for the rival military services. During the Clinton years the Pentagon continued to concoct grandiose strategies and it demanded - and got - new weapons to implement them. There are many ways to measure defense expenditures over time but - minor annual fluctuations notwithstanding - the consensus between the two parties on the Pentagon's budgets has persisted since 1945. In January 2000 Clinton added $115 billion to the Pentagon's 5-year plan, far more than the Republicans were calling for. When Clinton left office the Pentagon had over a half trillion dollars in the major weapons procurement pipeline, not counting the ballistic missile defense systems -- which is a pure boondoggle that cost over $71 billion by 1999. The dilemma, as both CIA and senior Clinton officials correctly warned, was that terrorists were more likely to strike the American homeland than some nation against whom the military could retaliate. This fundamental disparity between hardware and reality has always existed and September 11, 2001 showed how vulnerable and weak the US has become. (2)

The war in Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999 brought the future of NATO and the alliance, and especially Washington's deepening anxiety regarding Germany's possible independent role in Europe, to a head. Well before Bush took office, the Clinton Administration resolved never to allow its allies to inhibit or define its strategy again. Bush's policies, notwithstanding the brutal way in which they have been expressed or implemented, follows logically from this crucial decision. NATO's failure in Afghanistan, and its members' refusal to contribute the soldiers and equipment essential to end warlordism and allow fair elections to be held (it sent five times as many troops to Kosovo in 1999), is the logic of America's bipartisan disdain for the alliance.

But the world today is increasingly dangerous for the U. S. and Communism's demise has called into fundamental question the core premises of the post-1945 alliance system. More nations have nuclear weapons and means of delivering them, destructive small arms (thanks to burgeoning American arms exports which grew from 32 percent of the world trade in 1987 to 43 percent in 1997) are much more abundant, there are more local and civil wars than ever, especially in regions like Eastern Europe which had not experienced any for nearly a half-century, and there is terrorism -- the poor and weak man's ultimate weapon -- on a scale that has never existed. The political, economic, and cultural causes of instability and conflict are growing, and expensive weapons are irrelevant -- save for the balance sheets of those who make them.

The problem is that at the beginning of the 21st century only the U.S. has the will to maintain a global foreign policy and to believe that every part of the world is potentially important to it. It maintains it has both the right and the obligation to be as active as it thinks necessary everywhere and it possesses a spectrum of strategies all premised on an activist role for itself. Ultimately, it is ready to regulate each and every continent's fate. It believes it had the military resources to do so, that its economy can afford interventionism and that the American public will support whatever is necessary to set the affairs of some country or region on the political path it deems essential. This grandoise ambition is bipartisan and the two parties share a consensus on it, details notwithstanding.

So long as the future is to a large degree -- to paraphrase Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- "unknowable," it is not to the national interest of its traditional allies to perpetuate the relationships created from 1945 to 1990. The Bush Administration, through ineptness and a vague ideology of American power that acknowledges no limits on its global ambitions, and a preference for unilateralist initiatives and adventurism which discounts consultations with its friends much less the United Nations, has seriously eroded the alliance system upon which U. S. foreign policy from 1947 onwards was based. With the proliferation of all sorts of destructive weaponry and growing political instability, the world is becoming increasingly dangerous--and so is membership in alliances.

If Bush is reelected then the international order may be very different in 2008 than it is today, much less in 1999, but there is no reason to believe that objective assessments of the costs and consequences of its actions will significantly alter America's foreign policy priorities over the next four years. If the Democrats win they will attempt in the name of "progressive internationalism" to reconstruct the alliance system as it existed before the Yugoslav war of 1999, when the Clinton Administration turned against the veto powers built into the NATO system. There is important bipartisan support for resurrecting the Atlanticism that Bush is in the process of smashing, and it was best reflected in the Council on Foreign Relations' vague and banal March 2004 report on the "transatlantic alliance," which Henry Kissinger helped direct and which both influential Republicans and Wall Street leaders endorsed. Traditional elites are desperate to see NATO and the Atlantic system restored to their old glory. Their vision, premised on the expansionist assumptions that have guided American foreign policy since 1945, was best articulated the same month in a new book by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was Carter's National Security adviser. Brzezinski is far more subtle, rejecting the Bush Administration's counterproductive rhetoric that so alienates former and potential future allies. But he regards American power as central to peace in every part of world and his global vision no less ambitious than the Bush Administration's. He is for the U.S. maintaining "a comprehensive technological edge over all potential rivals." It is a call to "transform America's prevailing power into a co-optive hegemony -- one in which leadership is exercised more through shared conviction with enduring allies than by assertive domination." And because it is much more saleable to past and potential allies, this traditional Democratic vision is far more dangerous than that of the inept, eccentric melange now guiding American foreign policy. (3)

But Vice-president Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the neoconservatives and eclectic hawks in Bush's administration are oblivious to the consequences of their recommendations or the way they shock America's overseas friends. Many of the President's key advisers possess aggressive, essentially academic geopolitical visions that assume erroneously - overwhelming, decisive American military and economic power. But personalized interpretations of the Bible's allegedly missionary appeals inspire yet others, including Bush himself, and most utilize an amorphous nationalist and Messianic rhetoric that makes it impossible to predict exactly how Bush will mediate between very diverse, often quirky influences. But although he has so far favored the advocates of the United States unilaterally employing its might virtually wantonly throughout the world, no one close to the President acknowledges the limits of its power - limits that are political and, as Korea and Vietnam proved, military also.

America's traditional allies, of which Australia is one of the closest, have to decide if they are willing to give a carte blanche to what is - and will remain regardless of who wins next November's election - an increasingly dangerous adventurism. We know a great deal of how American foreign and military policies are formulated, and they are less and less predictable and increasingly likely to alienate an ever-larger part of the world. Cynicism, unrealizable ambition, deliberate but also self-inflicted illusions are crucial to the byzantine way crucial decisions for war or peace are reached. (4) But to proclaim that the alliance with the U. S. is sacrosanct is to encourage an increasingly irresponsible American foreign policy. That, too, is an issue the Australian people must consider.

Kerry voted for many of Bush's key foreign and domestic measures and he is, at best, a very indifferent candidate. His statements and interviews over the past months dealing with foreign affairs have mostly been both vague and incoherent, though he is explicitly and ardently pro-Israel and explicitly for regime-change in Venezuela. His policies on the Middle East are identical to Bush's and this alone will prevent the alliance with Europe from being reconstructed. On Iraq, even as violence there escalated and Kerry finally had a crucial issue with which to win the election, his position has remained indistinguishable from the President's. "Until" an Iraqi armed force can replace it, Kerry wrote in the April 13 Washington Post, the American military has to stay in Iraq - "preferably helped by NATO." "No matter who is elected president in November, we will persevere in that mission" to build a stable, pluralistic Iraq - which, I must add, has never existed and is unlikely to emerge in the foreseeable future. "It is a matter of national honor and trust." He has promised to leave American troops in Iraq for his entire first term if necessary, but he is vague about their subsequent departure. Not even the scandal over the treatment of Iraqi prisoners evoked Kerry's criticism despite the fact it has profoundly alienated a politically decisive segment of the American public.

His statements on domestic policy in favor of fiscal restraint and lower deficits, much less tax breaks for large corporations, utterly lack voter appeal. Kerry is packaging himself as an economic conservative who is also strong on defense spending - a Clinton clone - because that is precisely how he feels. His advisers are the same investment bankers who helped Clinton get the nomination in 1992 and then raised the funds to help him get elected and then defined his economic policy. The most important of them is Robert Rubin, who became Treasury secretary, and he and his cronies are running the Kerry campaign and will also dictate his economic agenda should he win. These are same men whom Stiglitz attacks as advocates of the rich and powerful.

Kerry is, to his core, an ambitious patrician educated in elite schools and anything but a populist. He is neither articulate nor impressive as a candidate or as someone who is able to formulate an alternative to Bush's foreign and defense policies, which themselves still have far more in common with Clinton's than they have differences. To be critical of Bush is scarcely justification for wishful thinking about Kerry, though every presidential election produces such illusions. Although the foreign and military policy goals of the Democrats and Republicans since 1947 have been essentially consensual, both in terms of objectives and varied means - from covert to overt warfare - of attaining them, there have been significant differences in the way they were expressed. This was far less the case with Republican presidents and presidential candidates for most of the twentieth century, and men like Taft, Hoover, Eisenhower, or Nixon were very sedate by comparison to Reagan or the present rulers in Washington. But style can be important and inadvertently the Bush Administration's falsehoods, rudeness, and preemptory demands have begun to destroy an alliance system that for the world's peace should have been abolished long ago.

In this context, it is far more likely that the nations allied with the U.S. in the past will be compelled to stress their own interests and go their own ways. The Democrats are far less likely to continue that exceedingly desirable process, a process ultimately much more conducive to peace in the world. They will perpetuate the same adventurism and opportunism that began generations ago and that Bush has merely built upon, the same dependence on military means to solve political crises, the same interference with every corner of the globe as if America has a Divinely ordained mission to muck around with all the world's problems. The Democrats' greater finesse in justifying these policies is therefore more dangerous because they will be made to seem more credible and keep alive alliances that only reinforce the U.S.' refusal to acknowledge the limits of its power. In the longer run, Kerry's pursuit of these aggressive goals will lead eventually to a renewal of the dissolution of alliances, but in the short-run he will attempt to rebuild them and European leaders will find it considerably more difficult to refuse his demands than if Bush stays in power - and that is to be deplored.

The Stakes for the World

Critics of American foreign policy will not rule Washington after this election regardless of who wins. As dangerous as he is, Bush's reelection is much more likely to produce the continued destruction of the alliance system that is so crucial to American power in the long-run. Facts in no way imply moral judgments if we merely identify them. One does not have to believe that the worse the better but we have to consider candidly the foreign policy consequences of a renewal of Bush's mandate, not the least because it is likely.

Bush's policies have managed to alienate, to varying degrees, innumerable nations, and even its firmest allies -- such as Britain, Australia, and Canada - are being required to ask if giving Washington a blank check is to their national interest or if it undermines the tenure of parties in power. Foreign affairs, as the terrorism in Madrid dramatically showed in March, are too important to uncritically endorse American policies. Politicians who support them have been highly vulnerable to criticism from the opposition and dissidents within their own ranks. But not only the parties in power can pay dearly for it, as in Spain, where the people were always overwhelmingly opposed to entering the war and the ruling party snatched defeat from the jaws of victory; more important are the innumerable victims among the people. The nations that have supported the Iraq war enthusiastically, particularly Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Australia, have made their populations especially vulnerable to terrorism. They now have the expensive responsibility of protecting them - if they can.

The Washington-based Pew Research Center report on public opinion released on March 16, 2004 showed that a rapidly increasing, large majority of the French, Germans, and even the British want an independent European foreign policy, reaching 75 percent in France in March 2004 compared to 60 percent two years earlier. The U.S. "favorability rating" plunged to 38 percent in France and Germany. Even in Britain it fell from 75 to 58 percent and the proportion of the population supporting the decision to go to war in Iraq dropped from 61 percent in May 2003 to 43 percent in March 2004. Blair's domestic credibility, after the Labour Party placed third in the June 10 local and European elections, is at its nadir. (5)

Right after the political debacle in Spain the president of Poland, where a growing majority of the people has always been opposed to sending troops to Iraq or keeping them there, complained that Washington had "misled" him on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and hinted that Poland might withdraw its 2,400 troops from Iraq earlier than previously scheduled. In Italy, by last May 71 percent of the people favored withdrawing the 2,700 Italian troops in Iraq no later than June 30, and leaders of the main opposition have already declared they will withdraw them if they win the spring 2006 elections a promise they and other antiwar parties in Britain and Spain used in the mid-June European Parliament elections to increase significantly their power. The issue now is whether nations like Poland, Italy, or The Netherlands can afford to isolate themselves from the major European powers and their own public opinion to remain a part of the increasingly quixotic and unilateralist American-led "coalition of the willing. The political liabilities of remaining close to Washington are obvious, the advantages non-existent.

What has happened in Spain is a harbinger of the future, further isolating the American government in its adventures. Four more nations of the 30-some members of the "coalition of the willing" have already withdrawn their troops, and the Ukraine - with its 1,600 soldiers - will soon follow suit. The Bush Administration sought to unite nations behind the Iraq War with a gargantuan lie - that Hussein had WMD - and failed spectacularly. Meanwhile, terrorism is stronger than ever and its arguments have far more credibility in the Muslim world. The Iraq War energized Al Qaeda and extremism and has tied down America, dividing its alliances as never before. Conflict in Iraq may escalate, as it has since March, creating a protracted armed conflict with Shiites and Sunnis that could last many months, even years. Will the nations that have sent troops to Iraq keep them there indefinitely, as Washington is increasingly likely to ask them to do? Can political leaders in the "coalition of the willing" afford conceding to insatiable American demands?

Elsewhere, Washington opposes the major European nations on Iran, in part because the neoconservatives and realists within its own ranks are deeply divided, and the same is true of its relations with Japan, South Korea, and China on how to deal with North Korea. America's effort to assert its moral and ideological superiority, crucial elements in its postwar hegemony, is failing - badly.

The way the war in Iraq was justified compelled France and Germany to become far more independent on foreign policy, far earlier, than they had intended or were prepared to do. NATO's future role is now questioned in a way that was inconceivable two years ago. Europe's future defense arrangements are today unresolved but there will be some sort of European military force independent of NATO and American control. Germany and France strongly oppose the Bush doctrine of preemption. Tony Blair, however much he intends acting as a proxy for the U.S. on military questions, must return Britain to the European project, and his willingness since late 2003 to emphasize his nation's role in Europe reflects political necessities. To do otherwise is to alienate his increasingly powerful neighbors and risk losing elections.

Even more dangerous, the Bush Administration has managed to turn what was in the mid-1990s a blossoming cordial friendship with the former Soviet Union into an increasingly tense relationship. Despite a 1997 non-binding American pledge not to station substantial numbers of combat troops in the territories of new members, NATO last March incorporated seven East European nations and is now on Russia's very borders and Washington is in the process of establishing an undetermined but significant number of bases in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Russia has stated repeatedly that the U.S. encircling it requires that it remain a military superpower and modernizing its delivery systems so that it will be more than a match for the increasingly expensive and ambitious missile defense system and space weapons the Pentagon is now building. It has 5,286 nuclear warheads and 2,922 intercontinental missiles. There is a dangerous and costly renewal of the arms race now occurring.

In February of this year Russia threatened to pull out of the crucial Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, which has yet to enter into force, because it regards America's ambitions in the former Soviet bloc as provocation. "I would like to remind the representatives of [NATO]," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told a security conference in Munich last February, "that with its expansion they are beginning to operate in the zone of vitally important interests of our country." And by increasingly acting unilaterally without United Nations authority, where Russia's seat on the Security Council gives it a veto power that - in Ivanov's words - is one of the "major factors for ensuring global stability," the U.S. has made international relations "very dangerous." (6) The question Washington's allies will ask themselves is whether their traditional alliances have far more risks than benefits - and if they are now necessary.

In the case of China, Bush's key advisers publicly assigned the highest priority to confronting its burgeoning military and geopolitical power the moment they came to office. But China's military budget is growing rapidly -- 12 percent this coming year -- and the European Union wants to lift its 15-year old arms embargo and get a share of the enticingly large market. The Bush Administration, of course, is strongly resisting any relaxation of the export ban. Establishing bases on China's western borders is the logic of its ambitions.

The United States is not so much engaged in "power projection" against an amorphously defined terrorism by installing bases in small or weak Eastern European and Central Asian nations as once more confronting Russia and China in an open-ended context which may have profoundly serious and protracted consequences neither America's allies nor its own people have any interest or inclination to support. Even some Pentagon analysts have warned against this strategy because any American attempt to save failed states in the Caucasus or Central Asia, implicit in its new obligations, will risk exhausting what are ultimately its finite military resources. (7) The political crisis now wracking Uzbekistan makes this fear very real.

There is no way to predict what emergencies will arise or what these commitments entail, either for the U. S. or its allies, not the least because - as Iraq proved last year and Vietnam long before it - America's intelligence on the capabilities and intentions of possible enemies against which it is ready to preempt is so completely faulty. Without accurate information a state can believe and do anything, and this is the predicament the Bush Administration's allies are in. It is simply not to Australia's national interest, much less to the political interests of those now in power or the security of its people, to pursue foreign policies based on a blind, uncritical acceptance of fictions or flamboyant adventurism premised on false premises and information. It is far too open-ended both in terms of potential time and political costs involved. If Bush is reelected, America's allies and friends will have to confront such stark choices, a painful process that will redefine and probably shatter existing alliances. Many nations, including the larger, powerful ones, will embark on independent, realistic foreign policies, and the dramatic events in Spain have reinforced this likelihood.

But the United States will be more prudent, and the world will be far safer, only if it is constrained by a lack of allies and isolated. And while that is happening, Australia's explicit rejection of its dangerous foreign policy premises would be immeasurably beneficial to both nations - and all humanity.


1. Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Roaring Nineties: A New History of the World's Most Prosperous Decade, New York, 2003, passim.

2. Gabriel Kolko, Another Century of War?, New York, 2004, passim.

3. Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership, New York, 2004, passim.

4. Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone: The Neo-conservatives and the Global Order (New York, 2004), is an extremely well-informed and frightening account of how the Bush Administration conducts its foreign policy.

5. Pew Research Center, "A Year After the Iraq War," March 16, 2004.

6. Wade Boese, "Russia, NATO at Loggerheads Over Military Bases," Arms Control Today, March 2004; Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2004.

7. Dr. Stephen J. Blank, "Toward a New U.S. Strategy in Asia," U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, February 24, 2004.

Gabriel Kolko is the Professor Emeritus at Toronto University, one of the world's most distinguished war historians and author of 'Another Century of War?' (The New Press, New York 2002)

Copyright © 2004. The Sydney Morning Herald.


Breaking the Silence on the Israel Lobby

by Jeffrey Blankfort

On a Saturday in mid-February a little less than a year ago, I had two experiences, one very positive and encouraging --the other negative and disturbing. The first was at the Marin Community Center in Mill Valley, across the Bay from San Francisco, where more than 200 ( 210 signed in) people, and not what we refer to as "the choir" or "the usual suspects," turned up to hear Palestinian legal scholar Raja Shehadeh, Palestinian professor Jess Ghannam, Stanford-based Israeli scholar Yael Ben-Zvi and myself speak on the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The event was sponsored by a relatively new organization, "If Americans Only Knew." initiated by Alison Weir, a Marin county resident who had been stimulated into action in behalf of the Palestinians after a visit to Israeli-occupied Gaza the year before.

All of the presentations were well received but the enthusiastic reception for mine, in particular, was significant because my subject was the pro-Israel lobby and its negative influence on the American body politic.

I placed much of the blame for the escalation of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the actions of the organized American Jewish community and by individual Jews working independently who over the years have successfully stifled, intimidated, and marginalized critics of Israeli policies.

I expected an uproar from the audience because, from my experience, Marin had always been another "occupied territory," but even among the many Jews there, none challenged by premise or my evidence.

What they heard and saw was factual and visual evidence of the power of Israel's supporters over Congress and politicians at every political level and. equally damning, their effectiveness in preventing the various anti-war and anti-intervention coalitions over the years from taking any position that might touch on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even one as mild as, "US Out of the Middle East.

After I spoke and after the applause, a number of people, Jews and non-Jews, and several students came up to me wanting more information .

Then I went over to Berkeley to the second day of a three-day conference organized by Students for Justice in Palestine where the issue of the Israel Lobby was nowhere on the agenda.

I arrived during Phyllis Bennis's presentation. Bennis, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington-based liberal think tank, is one of the left's more well known talking heads on the Israel-Palestine conflict and can frequently be heard on KPFA and other Pacifica stations.

Over the years, like most of the other "experts, from the "left," with the notable exceptions of Columnist Alexander Cockburn and Prof. Ed Herman, she has never recognized, let alone been willing to discuss, the power of the Israel Lobby over US policy in the Middle East, despite overwhelming and indisputable evidence of its existence and of its influence.

What happened when I arrived in the auditorium was astonishing. Seeing me in the back of the auditorium where I was sitting with a friend, totally out of the blue and raising her voice, she interrupted her talk to blurt out, "Congress is not Israeli Occupied Territory!"

I assumed she was referring to an article that I had written 10 years earlier that was published in the 1992 edition of the City Lights Review, entitled, "Occupied Territory: Congress, the Israel Lobby and Jewish Responsibility." In the article I had criticized the left supporters of the Palestinian movement for their failure to deal with the issue of the Israel lobby.

My response to Bennis was immediate "Yes, it is!, " I said aloud. "No it isn't!" she shot back, sharply, rather displeased, and went on to describe an effort that some members of the Congressional Black Caucus were making regarding the illegal use of US arms by the Israelis against Palestinian civilians.

In the question period, it became obvious that she didn't want me to get the floor. While answering a question as to what actions people should take to help the Palestinian cause, she seemed to be filibustering as if she was hoping the question period would draw to a close.

What would she have activists do? Believe it or not: write letters to the editor once a week. The system's safety valve. As far as contacting members of Congress or protesting their support for Israel, the Washington-based Bennis said nary a word.

Finally, despite what was an obvious effort on her part to get the moderator--who had promised me the next question, to give it to someone else--I finally got the floor. I proceeded to describe four situations in which the Israel lobby clearly demonstrated its power over Congress and explained how "the lobby" had run those black congress members who criticized Israel out of office and were trying to do the same with the main critic at that time, Atlanta's Cynthia McKinney.

This was, of course, several months before she and Alabama's Earl Hilliard went down to defeat thanks largely to funds sent by Jews from outside of Georgia and a smear campaign within her district engineered by the Israel lobby.

Then I took the anti-war movement to task. Like every other political sector of US society, I said that pro-Israel Jews within its ranks and others who are fearful that raising the issue of the pro-Israel lobby would provoke "anti-Semitism, have not only kept the lid on that issue, but have kept the Palestinian cause isolated from the movement's overall agenda..

Whatever the reason, I emphasized, there are no excuses for the silence of the movement on the issue of the lobby, nor for it's genuflecting to "Jewish sensibilities" regarding the overall struggle.

Neither Bennis nor her co-panelist, a Jewish professor, said a word when I finished. After the program, I went down to say hello to her, and jokingly mentioned that she still had not yet understood the role of the Israel Lobby.

She was neither friendly or amused. "The issue is dead and has been dead." End of conversation.

What is disturbing is that her position regarding the Israel lobby is that long held by Noam Chomsky, as well as by professors Joel Beinin of Stanford and Stephen Zunes of USF. Bennis's position is puzzling since she is based in Washington, where for the politically aware "the lobby's" power is a given.

To their credit, all of them (and Chomsky in particular) have, through their writing and speaking, exposed American audiences to the history of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, but their refusal to acknowledge the critical domestic aspects of the struggle are indefensible and can no longer be left unchallenged.

(In 1989, Zunes wrote an excellent piece on the power of the pro-Israel lobby for The Progressive, but he soon changed his position, perhaps when he realized that "blaming the Jews" is the fastest way to get marginalized in US academia. The facts and the quotes in his article, however, did not change.

In his recent book, Tinderbox, he writes that Arabs have mistakenly blamed Israel for its problems and that Israel is actually a victim of US policies. He would have us believe that Israel is forced to play the same role for the United States that Jews played under feudalism when they were the middlepersons between the lords and the serfs.

This analysis would have us believe that Israel and its Jewish supporters today are somehow in the precarious position that European Jews found themselves in several hundred years ago This is absurd. The first situation represented Jewish weakness. Today, Jews have more than at any time in their history.

Zunes ignores the fact that Jewish supporters of Israel are far and away the leading contributors to the Democratic Party and dominate every sector of the media: movies, TV., radio, and the press.

Since 1978, the amount of money contributed by pro-Israel PACs alone is over $34 million, as compared to Enron whose $6 million over 10 years given to many of the same politicians is held up as an example of an abuse of the system.

That $34 million does not account for soft money and contributions from wealthy Jews such as the $1.1 million given by real estate mogul Nat Landow to Al Gore nor the $1.5 given to Joe Biden some years back by Walter Shorenstein, the biggest commercial property owner in San Francisco, the sometime head of the state Democratic Party Central Committee and a member of the AIPAC Board of Directors.

On the Mother Jones magazine website <> one finds the leading individual contributors to both political parties in the 1999-2000 cycle. Eight of the top ten are Jews who contributed, with one exception, exclusively to the Democratic Party. That one exception was Chiquita Banana's Carl Lindner who contributed to the Republicans as well.

One of those top ten was Haim Saban, currently a regent of the University of California, appointed to that post by Gov. Gray Davis, in February, 2001. Saban, an Egyptian-born Israeli Jew, contributed $1,250,500 in that cycle to the Democrats which put him in fifth place. This year, his contribution to the Democrats of $7 million established a party record.

Saban, who made his fortune by creating Fox TV's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, has also built the Haim Saban Center in Washington which this summer hosted a meeting of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), Israel's officially registered lobby with Jewish college students from around the country. Their focus: How to counteract pro-Palestinian activity on college campuses and combat the divestment campaigns that target Israel such as that initiated by the Students for Justice in Palestine.

In every other political and social struggle in this country we learn who is funding the other side and the identity of their lobbies in Washington, e.g., the oil lobby, armaments lobby, the tobacco lobby, the gun lobby, the insurance and banking lobbies, the hospital and medical lobbies, the airline and transportation, etc.

Why is the Israel Lobby a taboo subject among the left and the anti-war movements?

Why was it not on the agenda of the conference in Berkeley that weekend? There were three days of meetings so its organizers had plenty of time.

Why was there no discussion on the failure of the peace and anti-war movements to integrate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the over-all anti-war movement?

These questions need to be asked and we need to get answers. Those who shine us off with the same kind of comment that Phyllis Bennis gave to me that day have to be challenged to explain themselves and be willing to debate the question of the lobby's role in determining not only policy in Washington but the agenda of the peace movement.

As for Bennis, I was later told by an activist against sanctions in Iraq, that earlier in the day she had spoken in support of military sanctions against Iraq to prevent it from building "weapons of mass destruction."

(This is an updated version of an article that originially appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser in February, 2002.)

Rockets, Napalm, Torpedoes & Lies

Israel's Attack on the Liberty, Revisited


[Source: CounterPunch/ November 26, 2002]

In early June of 1967, at the onset of the Six Day War, the Pentagon sent the USS Liberty from Spain into international waters off the coast of Gaza to monitor the progress of Israel's attack on the Arab states. The Liberty was a lightly armed surveillance ship.

Only hours after the Liberty arrived it was spotted by the Israeli military. The IDF sent out reconnaissance planes to identify the ship. They made eight trips over a period of three hours. The Liberty was flying a large US flag and was easily recognizable as an American vessel.

A few hours later more planes came. These were Israeli Mirage III fighters, armed with rockets and machine guns. As off-duty officers sunbathed on the deck, the fighters opened fire on the defenseless ship with rockets and machine guns.

A few minutes later a second wave of planes streaked overhead, French-built Mystere jets, which not only pelted the ship with gunfire but also with napalm bomblets, coating the deck with the flaming jelly. By now, the Liberty was on fire and dozens were wounded and killed, excluding several of the ship's top officers.

The Liberty's radio team tried to issue a distress call, but discovered the frequencies had been jammed by the Israeli planes with what one communications specialist called "a buzzsaw sound." Finally, an open channel was found and the Liberty got out a message it was under attack to the USS America, the Sixth Fleet's large aircraft carrier.

Two F-14 phantoms left the carrier to come to the Liberty's aid. Apparently, the jets were armed only with nuclear weapons. When word reached the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara became irate and ordered the jets to return. "Tell the Sixth Fleet to get those aircraft back immediately," he barked. McNamara's injunction was reiterated in saltier terms by Admiral David L. McDonald, the chief of Naval Operations: "You get those fucking airplanes back on deck, and you get them back down." The planes turned around. And the attack on the Liberty continued.

After the Israeli fighter jets had emptied their arsenal of rockets, three Israeli attack boats approached the Liberty. Two torpedoes were launched at the crippled ship, one tore a 40-foot wide hole in the hull, flooding the lower compartments, and killing more than a dozen American sailors.

As the Liberty listed in the choppy seas, its deck aflame, crew members dropped life rafts into the water and prepared to scuttle the ship. Given the number of wounded, this was going to be a dangerous operation. But it soon proved impossible, as the Israeli attack boats strafed the rafts with machine gun fire. No body was going to get out alive that way.

After more than two hours of unremitting assault, the Israelis finally halted their attack. One of the torpedo boats approached the Liberty. An officer asked in English over a bullhorn: "Do you need any help?"

The wounded commander of the Liberty, Lt. William McGonagle, instructed the quartermaster to respond emphatically: "Fuck you."

The Israeli boat turned and left.

A Soviet destroyer responded before the US Navy, even though a US submarine, on a covert mission, was apparently in the area and had monitored the attack. The Soviet ship reached the Liberty six hours before the USS Davis. The captain of the Soviet ship offered his aid, but the Liberty's conning officer refused.

Finally, 16 hours after the attack two US destroyers reached the Liberty. By that time, 34 US sailors were dead and 174 injured, many seriously. As the wounded were being evacuated, an officer with the Office of Naval Intelligence instructed the men not to talk about their ordeal with the press.

The following morning Israel launched a surprise invasion of Syria, breaching the new cease-fire agreement and seizing control of the Golan Heights.

Within three weeks, the Navy put out a 700-page report, exonerating the Israelis, claiming the attack had been accidental and that the Israelis had pulled back as soon as they realized their mistake. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara suggested the whole affair should be forgotten. "These errors do occur," McNamara concluded.


In Assault on the Liberty, a harrowing first-hand account by James Ennes Jr., McNamara's version of events is proven to be as big a sham as his concurrent lies about Vietnam. Ennes's book created a media storm when it was first published by Random House in 1980, including (predictably) charges that Ennes was a liar and an anti-Semite. Still, the book sold more than 40,000 copies, but was eventually allowed to go out of print. Now Ennes has published an updated version, which incorporates much new evidence that the Israeli attack was deliberate and that the US government went to extraordinary lengths to disguise the truth.

It's a story of Israel aggression, Pentagon incompetence, official lies, and a cover-up that persists to this day. The book gains much of its power from the immediacy of Ennes's first-hand account of the attack and the lies that followed.

Now, 35 years later, Ennes warns that the bloodbath on board the Liberty and its aftermath should serve as a tragic cautionary tale about the continuing ties between the US government and the government of Israel.

The Attack on the Liberty is the kind of book that makes your blood seethe. Ennes skillfully documents the life of the average sailor on one of the more peculiar vessels in the US Navy, with an attention for detail that reminds one of Dana or O'Brien. After all, the year was 1967 and most of the men on the Liberty were certainly glad to be on a non-combat ship in the middle of the Mediterranean, rather than in the Gulf of Tonkin or Mekong Delta.

But this isn't Two Years Before the Mast. In fact, Ennes's tour on the Liberty last only a few short weeks. He had scarcely settled into a routine before his new ship was shattered before his eyes.

Ennes joined the Liberty in May of 1967, as an Electronics Material Officer. Serving on a "spook ship", as the Liberty was known to Navy wives, was supposed to be a sure path to career enhancement. The Liberty's normal routine was to ply the African coast, tuning in its eavesdropping equipment on the electronic traffic in the region.

The Liberty had barely reached Africa when it received a flash message from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to sail from the Ivory Coast to the Mediterranean, where it was to re-deploy off the coast of the Sinai to monitor the Israeli attack on Egypt and the allied Arab nations.

As the war intensified, the Liberty sent a request to the fleet headquarters requesting an escort. It was denied by Admiral William Martin. The Liberty moved alone to a position in international waters about 13 miles from the shore at El Arish, then under furious siege by the IDF.

On June 6, the Joint Chiefs sent Admiral McCain, father of the senator from Arizona, an urgent message instructing him to move the Liberty out of the war zone to a position at least 100 miles off the Gaza Coast. McCain never forwarded the message to the ship.

A little after seven in the morning on June 8, Ennes entered the bridge of the Liberty to take the morning watch. Ennes was told that an hour earlier a "flying boxcar" (later identified as a twin-engine Nord 2501 Noratlas) had flown over the ship at a low level.

Ennes says he noticed that the ship's American flag had become stained with soot and ordered a new flag run up the mast. The morning was clear and calm, with a light breeze.

At 9 am, Ennes spotted another reconnaissance plane, which circled the Liberty. An hour later two Israeli fighter jets buzzed the ship. Over the next four hours, Israeli planes flew over the Liberty five more times.

When the first fighter jet struck, a little before two in the afternoon, Ennes was scanning the skies from the starboard side of the bridge, binoculars in his hands. A rocket hit the ship just below where Ennes was standing, the fragments shredded the men closest to him.

After the explosion, Ennes noticed that he was the only man left standing. But he also had been hit by more than 20 shards of shrapnel and the force of the blast had shattered his left leg. As he crawled into the pilothouse, a second fighter jet streaked above them and unleashed its payload on the hobbled Liberty.

At that point, Ennes says the crew of the Liberty had no idea who was attacking them or why. For a few moments, they suspected it might be the Soviets, after an officer mistakenly identified the fighters as MIG-15s. They knew that the Egyptian air force already had been decimated by the Israelis. The idea that the Israelis might be attacking them didn't occur to them until one of the crew spotted a Star of David on the wing of one of the French-built Mystere jets.

Ennes was finally taken below deck to a makeshift dressing station, with other wounded men. It was hardly a safe harbor. As Ennes worried that his fractured leg might slice through his femoral artery leaving him to bleed to death, the Liberty was pummeled by rockets, machine-gun fire and an Italian-made torpedo packed with 1,000-pounds of explosive.

After the attack ended, Ennes was approached by his friend Pat O'Malley, a junior officer, who had just sent a list of killed and wounded to the Bureau of Naval Personnel. He got an immediate message back. "They said, 'Wounded in what action? Killed in what action?'," O'Malley told Ennes. "They said it wasn't an 'action,' it was an accident. I'd like for them to come out here and see the difference between an action and an accident. Stupid bastards."

The cover-up had begun.


The Pentagon lied to the public about the attack on the Liberty from the very beginning. In a decision personally approved by the loathsome McNamara, the Pentagon denied to the press that the Liberty was an intelligence ship, referring to it instead as a Technical Research ship, as if it were little more than a military version of Jacques Cousteau's Calypso.

The military press corps on the USS America, where most of the wounded sailors had been taken, were placed under extreme restrictions. All of the stories filed from the carrier were first routed through the Pentagon for security clearance, objectionable material was removed with barely a bleat of protest from the reporters or their publications.

Predictably, Israel's first response was to blame the victim, a tactic that has served them so well in the Palestinian situation. First, the IDF alleged that it had asked the State Department and the Pentagon to identify any US ships in the area and was told that there were none. Then the Israeli government charged that the Liberty failed to fly its flag and didn't respond to calls for it to identify itself. The Israelis contended that they assumed the Liberty was an Egyptian supply ship called El Quseir, which, even though it was a rusting transport ship then docked in Alexandria, the IDF said it suspected of shelling Israeli troops from the sea. Under these circumstances, the Israeli's said they were justified in opening fire on the Liberty. The Israelis said that they halted the attack almost immediately, when they realized their mistake.

"The Liberty contributed decisively toward its identification as an enemy ship," the IDF report concluded. This was a blatant falsehood, since the Israelis had identified the Liberty at least six hours prior to the attack on the ship.

Even though the Pentagon knew better, it gave credence to the Israeli account by saying that perhaps the Liberty's flag had lain limp on the flagpole in a windless sea. The Pentagon also suggested that the attack might have lasted less than 20 minutes.

After the initial battery of misinformation, the Pentagon imposed a news blackout on the Liberty disaster until after the completion of a Court of Inquiry investigation.

The inquiry was headed by Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd. Kidd didn't have a free hand. He'd been instructed by Vice-Admiral McCain to limit the damage to the Pentagon and to protect the reputation of Israel.

The Kidd interviewed the crew on June 14 and 15. The questioning was extremely circumscribed. According to Ennes, the investigators "asked nothing that might be embarrassing to Israeland testimony that tended to embarrass Israel was covered with a 'Top Secret' label, if it was accepted at all."

Ennes notes that even testimony by the Liberty's communications officers about the jamming of the ship's radios was classified as "Top Secret." The reason? It proved that Israel knew it was attacking an American ship. "Here was strong evidence that the attack was planned in advance and that our ship's identity was known to the attackers (for it its practically impossible to jam the radio of a stranger), but this information was hushed up and no conclusions were drawn from it," Ennes writes.

Similarly, the Court of Inquiry deep-sixed testimony and affidavits regarding the flag-Ennes had ordered a crisp new one deployed early on the morning of the attack. The investigators buried intercepts of conversations between IDF pilots identifying the ship as flying an American flag.

It also refused to accept evidence about the IDF's use of napalm during the attacks and choose not to hear testimony regarding the duration of the attacks and the fact that the US Navy failed to send planes to defend the ship.

"No one came to help us," said Dr. Richard F. Kiepfer, the Liberty's physician. "We were promised help, but no help came. The Russians arrived before our own ships did. We asked for an escort before we ever came to the war zone and we were turned down."

None of this made its way into the 700-page Court of Inquiry report, which was completed within a couple of weeks and sent to Admiral McCain in London for review.

McCain approved the report over the objections of Captain Merlin Staring, the Navy legal officer assigned to the inquiry, who found the report to be flawed, incomplete and contrary to the evidence.

Staring sent a letter to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy disavowing himself from the report. The JAG seemed to take Staring's objections to heart. It prepared a summary for the Chief of Naval Operations that almost completely ignored the Kidd/McCain report. Instead, it concluded:

This succinct and largely accurate report was stamped Top Secret by Navy brass and stayed locked up for many years. But it was seen by many in the Pentagon and some in the Oval Office. But here was enough grumbling about the way the Liberty incident had been handled that LBJ summoned that old Washington fixer Clark Clifford to do damage control. It didn't take Clifford long to come up with the official line: the Israelis simply had made a tragic mistake.

It turns out that the Admiral Kidd and Captain Ward Boston, the two investigating officers who prepared the original report for Admiral McCain, both believed that the Israeli attack was intentional and sustained. In other words, the IDF knew that they were striking an American spy ship and they wanted to sink it and kill as many sailors as possible. Why then did the Navy investigators produce a sham report that concluded it was an accident?

Twenty-five years later we've finally found out. In June of 2002, Captain Boston told the Navy Times: "Officers follow orders."

It gets worse. There's plenty of evidence that US intelligence agencies learned on June 7 that Israel intended to attack the Liberty on the following day and that the strike had been personally ordered by Moshe Dayan.

As the attacks were going on, conversations between Israeli pilots were overheard by US Air Force officers in an EC121 surveillance plane overhead. The spy plane was spotted by Israeli jets, which were given orders to shoot it down. The American plane narrowly avoided the IDF missiles.

Initial reports on the incident prepared by the CIA, Office of Naval Intelligence and the National Security Agency all reached similar conclusions.

A particularly damning report compiled by a CIA informant suggests that Israeli Defense minister Moshe Dayan personally ordered the attack and wanted it to proceed until the Liberty was sunk and all on board killed. A heavily redacted version of the report was released in 1977. It reads in part:

"[The source] said that Dayan personally ordered the attack on the ship and that one of his generals adamantly opposed the action and said, 'This is pure murder.' One of the admirals who was present also disapproved of the action, and it was he who ordered it stopped and not Dayan."

This amazing document generated little attention from the press and Dayan was never publicly questioned about his role in the attack.

The analyses by the intelligence agencies are collected in a 1967 investigation by the Defense Subcommittee on Appropriations. Two and half decades later that report remains classified. Why? A former committee staffer said: "So as not to embarrass Israel."

More proof has recently come to light from the Israeli side. A few years after Attack on the Liberty was originally published, Ennes got a call from Evan Toni, an Israeli pilot. Toni told Ennes that he had just read his book and wanted to tell him his story. Toni said that he was the pilot in the first Israeli Mirage fighter to reach the Liberty. He immediately recognized the ship to be a US Navy vessel. He radioed Israeli air command with this information and asked for instructions. Toni said he was ordered to "attack." He refused and flew back to the air base at Ashdod. When he arrived he was summarily arrested for disobeying orders.


How tightly does the Israeli lobby control the Hill? For the first time in history, an attack on an America ship was not subjected to a public investigation by Congress. In 1980, Adlai Stevenson and Barry Goldwater planned to open a senate hearing into the Liberty affair. Then Jimmy Carter intervened by brokering a deal with Menachem Begin, where Israel agreed to pony up $6 million to pay for damages to the ship. A State Department press release announced the payment said, "The book is now closed on the USS Liberty."

It certainly was the last chapter for Adlai Stevenson. He ran for governor of Illinois the following year, where his less than perfect record on Israel, and his unsettling questions about the Liberty affair, became an issue in the campaign. Big money flowed into the coffers of his Republican opponent, Big Jim Thompson, and Stevenson went down to a narrow defeat.

But the book wasn't closed for the sailors either, of course. After a Newsweek story exposed the gist of what really happened on that day in the Mediterranean, an enraged Admiral McCain placed all the sailors under a gag order. When one sailor told an officer that he was having problems living with the cover-up, he was told: "Forget about it, that's an order."

The Navy went to bizarre lengths to keep the crew of the Liberty from telling what they knew. When gag orders didn't work, they threatened sanctions. Ennes tells of the confinement and interrogation of two Liberty sailors that sounds like something right out of the CIA's MK-Ultra program.

"In an incredible abuse of authority, military officers held two young Liberty sailors against their will in a locked and heavily guarded psychiatric ward of the base hospital," Ennes writes. "For days these men were drugged and questioned about their recollections of the attack by a 'therapist' who admitted to being untrained in either psychiatry or psychology. At one point, they avoided electroshock only by bolting from the room and demanding to see the commanding officer."

Since coming home, the veterans who have tried to tell of their ordeal have been harassed relentlessly. They've been branded as drunks, bigots, liars and frauds. Often, it turns out, these slurs have been leaked by the Pentagon. And, oh yeah, they've also been painted as anti-Semites.

In a recent column, Charley Reese describes just how mean-spirited and petty this campaign became. "When a small town in Wisconsin decided to name its library in honor of the USS Liberty crewmen, a campaign claiming it was anti-Semitic was launched," writes Reese. "And when the town went ahead, the U.S. government ordered no Navy personnel to attend, and sent no messages. This little library was the first, and at the time the only, memorial to the men who died on the Liberty."


So why then did the Israelis attack the Liberty?

A few days before the Six Days War, Israel's Foreign Minister Abba Eban visited Washington to inform LBJ about the forthcoming invasion. Johnson cautioned Eban that the US could not support such an attack.

It's possible, then, that the IDF assumed that the Liberty was spying on the Israeli war plans. Possible, but not likely. Despite the official denials, as Andrew and Leslie Cockburn demonstrate in Dangerous Liaison, at the time of the Six Days War the US and Israel had developed a warm covert relationship. So closely were the two sides working that US intelligence aid certainly helped secure Israel's devastating and swift victory. In fact, it's possible that the Liberty had been sent to the region to spy for the IDF.

A somewhat more likely scenario holds that Moshe Dayan wanted to keep the lid on Israel's plan to breach the new cease-fire and invade into Syria to seize the Golan.

It has also been suggested that Dayan ordered the attack on the Liberty with the intent of pinning the blame on the Egyptians and thus swinging public and political opinion in the United States solidly behind the Israelis. Of course, for this plan to work, the Liberty had to be destroyed and its crew killed.

There's another factor. The Liberty was positioned just off the coast from the town of El Arish. In fact, Ennes and others had used town's mosque tower to fix the location of the ship along the otherwise featureless desert shoreline. The IDF had seized El Arish and had used the airport there as a prisoner of war camp. On the very day the Liberty was attacked, the IDF was in the process of executing as many as 1,000 Palestinian and Egyptian POWs, a war crime that they surely wanted to conceal from prying eyes. According to Gabriel Bron, now an Israeli reporter, who witnessed part of the massacre as a soldier: "The Egyptian prisoners of war were ordered to dig pits and then army police shot them to death."

The bigger question is why the US government would participate so enthusiastically in the cover-up of a war crime against its own sailors. Well, the Pentagon has never been slow to hide its own incompetence. And there's plenty of that in the Liberty affair: bungled communications, refusal to provide an escort, situating the defenseless Liberty too close to a raging battle, the inability to intervene in the attack and the inexcusably long time it took to reach the battered ship and its wounded.

That's but par for the course. But something else was going on that would only come to light later. Through most of the 1960s, the US congress had imposed a ban on the sale of arms to both Israel and Jordan. But at the time of the Liberty attack, the Pentagon (and its allies in the White House and on the Hill) was seeking to have this proscription overturned. The top brass certainly knew that any evidence of a deliberate attack on a US Navy ship by the IDF would scuttle their plans. So they hushed it up.

In January 1968, the arms embargo on Israel was lifted and the sale of American weapons began to flow. By 1971, Israel was buying $600 million of American-made weapons a year. Two years later the purchases topped $3 billion. Almost overnight, Israel had become the largest buyer of US-made arms and aircraft.

Perversely, then, the IDF's strike on the Liberty served to weld the US and Israel together, in a kind of political and military embrace. Now, every time the IDF attacks defenseless villages in Gaza and the West Bank with F-16s and Apache helicopters, the Palestinians quite rightly see the bloody assaults as a joint operation, with the Pentagon as a hidden partner.

Thus, does the legacy of Liberty live on, one raid after another.


War on Terrorism or Police State?

by Rep. Cynthia McKinney

Source: Counterpunch/Date: July 25, 2002

The attacks of September 11th, 2001 caused significant changes throughout our society. For our military services, this included increased force protection, greater security, and of course the deployment to and prosecution of the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Sadly, one of the first acts of our President was to waive the high deployment overtime pay of our servicemen and women who are serving on the front lines of our new War. The Navy estimates that the first year costs of this pay would equal about 40 cruise missiles. The total cost of this overtime pay may only equal about 300 cruise missiles, yet this Administration said it would cost too much to pay our young men and women what the Congress and the previous Administration had promised them.

In another ironic twist, the War on Terrorism has the potential to bring the US military into American life as never before. A Northern Command has been created to manage the military's activity within the continental United States. Operation Noble Eagle saw combat aircraft patrolling the air above major metropolitan areas, and our airports are only now being relieved of National Guard security forces. Moreover, there is a growing concern that the military will be used domestically, within our borders, with intelligence and law enforcement mandates as some now call for a review of the Posse Comitatus Act prohibitions on military activity within our country.

In the 1960s, the lines between illegal intelligence, law enforcement and military practices became blurred as Americans wanting to make America a better place for all were targeted and attacked for political beliefs and political behavior. Under the cloak of the Cold War, military intelligence was used for domestic purposes to conduct surveillance on civil rights, social equity, antiwar, and other activists. In the case of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Operation Lantern Spike involved military intelligence covertly operating a surveillance operation of the civil rights leader up to the time of his assassination. In a period of two months, recently declassified documents on Operation Lantern Spike indicate that 240 military personnel were assigned in the two months of March and April to conduct surveillance on Dr. King. The documents further reveal that 16,900 man-hours were spent on this assignment. Dr. King had done nothing more than call for black suffrage, an end to black poverty, and an end to the Vietnam War. Dr. King was the lantern of justice for America: spreading light on issues the Administration should have been addressing. On April 4, 1968, Dr. King's valuable point of light was snuffed out. The documents I have submitted for the record outline the illegal activities of the FBI and its CoIntelPro program. A 1967 memo from J. Edgar Hoover to 22 FBI field offices outlined the COINTELPRO program well: "The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, or otherwise neutralize" black activist leaders and organizations.

As a result of the Church Committee hearings, we later learned that the FBI and other government authorities were conducting black bag operations that included illegally breaking and entering private homes to collect information on individuals. FBI activities included "bad jacketing," or falsely accusing individuals of collaboration with the authorities. It included the use of paid informants to set up on false charges targeted individuals. And it resulted in the murder of some individuals. Geronimo Pratt Ji Jaga spent 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. And in COINTELPRO documents subsequently released, we learn that Fred Hampton was murdered in his bed while his pregnant wife slept next to him after a paid informant slipped drugs in his drink.

Needless to say, such operations were well outside the bounds of what normal citizens would believe to be the role of the military, and the Senate investigations conducted by Senator Frank Church found that to be true. Though the United States was fighting the spread of communism in the face of the Cold War, the domestic use of intelligence and military assets against its own civilians was unfortunately reminiscent of the police state built up by the Communists we were fighting.

We must be certain that the War on Terrorism does not threaten our liberties again. Amendments to H.R. 4547, the Costs of War Against Terrorism Act, that would increase the role of drug interdiction task forces to include counter intelligence, and that would increase the military intelligence's ability to conduct electronic and financial investigations, can be the first steps towards a return to the abuses of constitutional rights during the Cold War. Further, this bill includes nearly $2 billion in additional funds for intelligence accounts. When taken into account with the extra-judicial incarceration of thousands of immigration violators, the transfer of prisoners from law enforcement custody to military custody, and the consideration of a 'volunteer' terrorism tip program, America must stand up and protect itself from the threat not only of terrorism, but of a police state of its own.

There does exist a need to increase personnel pay accounts, replenish operations and maintenance accounts and replace lost equipment. The military has an appropriate role in protecting the United States from foreign threats, and should remain dedicated to preparing for those threats. Domestic uses of the military have long been prohibited for good reason, and the same should continue to apply to all military functions, especially any and all military intelligence and surveillance. Congress and the Administration must be increasingly vigilant towards the protection of and adherence to our constitutional rights and privileges. For, if we win the war on terrorism, but create a police state in the process, what have we won?

Cynthia McKinney represents Georgia's Fourth Congressional District. This is article is a reprint of her remarks before the House Armed Services Committee on H.R. 4547, The Costs of War Against Terrorism Act.

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