The American Bear


AIPAC’s Doomsday Conference | William Blum

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) recent convention in Washington produced the usual Doomsday talk concerning Iran’s imminent possession of nuclear weapons and with calls to bomb that country before they nuked Israel and/or the United States. So once again I have to remind everyone that these people – Israeli and American officials – are not really worried about an Iranian attack. Here are some of their many prior statements:

In 2007, in a closed discussion, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that in her opinion “Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel.” She “also criticized the exaggerated use that [Israeli] Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is making of the issue of the Iranian bomb, claiming that he is attempting to rally the public around him by playing on its most basic fears.”

2009: “A senior Israeli official in Washington”, reported the Washington Post(March 5), asserted that “Iran would be unlikely to use its missiles in an attack [against Israel] because of the certainty of retaliation.”

In 2010 the Sunday Times of London (January 10) reported that Brigadier-General Uzi Eilam, war hero, pillar of the Israeli defense establishment, and former director-general of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, “believes it will probably take Iran seven years to make nuclear weapons.”

January 2012: US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a television audience:

“Are they [Iran] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No, but we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability.”

Later that month we could read in the New York Times (January 15) that “three leading Israeli security experts – the Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, a former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy, and a former military chief of staff, Dan Halutz – all recently declared that a nuclear Iran would not pose an existential threat to Israel.”

Then, a few days afterward, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in an interview with Israeli Army Radio (January 18), had this exchange:

Question: Is it Israel’s judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?

Barak: People ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now … in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible. Apparently that is not the case.

In an April 20, 2012 CNN interview Barak repeated this sentiment: “It’s true that probably [Iranian leader] Khamenei has not given orders to start building a [nuclear] weapon.”

And on several other occasions, Barak has stated: “Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel.”

Lastly, we have the US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, in a January 2012 report to Congress: “We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” … There are “certain things [the Iranians] have not done” that would be necessary to build a warhead.

So why, then, do Israeli and American leaders, at most other times, maintain the Doomsday rhetoric? Partly for AIPAC to continue getting large donations. For Israel to get massive amounts of US aid. For Israeli leaders to win elections. To protect Israel’s treasured status as the Middle East’s sole nuclear power.

Listen to Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at America’s most prominent neo-con think tank, American Enterprise Institute:

The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it, it’s Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don’t do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, “See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn’t getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately.” … And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem.

VIDEO: WINEP’s Director of Research: U.S. Needs A False Flag to Start A War With Iran | AlterPolitics

WINEP’s Director of Research Patrick Clawson:

I frankly find that crisis initiation is really tough. And it’s very hard for me to see how the United States President can get us into war with Iran. Which leads me to conclude that if in fact compromise is not coming that the traditional way that America gets into war is what would be best for U.S. interests.

Some people might think that Mr. Roosevelt wanted to get us into World War II, as David mentioned, you may recall we had to wait for Pearl Harbor. Some people think Mr. Wilson wanted to get us into World War I, you may recall we had to wait for the Lusitania episode. Some people might think that Mr. Johnson wanted to send troops to Vietnam, you may recall we had to wait for the Gulf of Tonkin episode. We didn’t go to war with Spain until the USS Maine exploded. And may I point out that Mr. Lincoln did not feel he could call out the Federal Army until Fort Sumter was attacked which is why he ordered the commander of Fort Sumter to do exactly that thing which the South Carolineans had said would cause an attack.

So if in fact the Iranians aren’t going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war. One can combine other means of pressure with sanctions. I mentioned that explosion on August 17th. We could step up the pressure.

I mean look people, Iranian submarines periodically go down, some day one of them might not come up, who would know why? We could do a variety of things if we wish to to increase the pressure. I’m not advocating that, but I’m just suggesting that this is not an either or proposition, you know it’s just sanctions have to succeed or it’s other things.

We are in the games of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier.

Check out the video at the link. There’s some background on WINEP as well. (h/t randomactsofchaos)

AIPAC Works for the 1 Percent | Chris Hedges

"Chris Hedges gave this talk Saturday night in Washington, D.C., at the Occupy AIPAC protest, organized by CODEPINK Women for Peace and other peace, faith and solidarity groups.”

The battle for justice in the Middle East is our battle. It is part of the vast, global battle against the 1 percent. It is about living rather than dying. It is about communicating rather than killing. It is about love rather than hate. It is part of the great battle against the corporate forces of death that reign over us—the fossil fuel industry, the weapons manufacturers, the security and surveillance state, the speculators on Wall Street, the oligarchic elites who assault our poor, our working men and women, our children, one in four of whom depend on food stamps to eat, the elites who are destroying our ecosystem with its trees, its air and its water and throwing into doubt our survival as a species.

What is being done in Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison, is a pale reflection of what is slowly happening to the rest of us. It is a window into the rise of the global security state, our new governing system that the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism.” It is a reflection of a world where the powerful are not bound by law, either on Wall Street or in the shattered remains of the countries we invade and occupy, including Iraq with its hundreds of thousands of dead. And one of the greatest purveyors of this demented ideology of violence for the sake of violence, this flagrant disregard for the rule of domestic and international law, is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

I spent seven years in the Middle East. I was the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I lived for two of those seven years in Jerusalem. AIPAC does not speak for Jews or for Israel. It is a mouthpiece for right-wing ideologues, some of whom hold power in Israel and some of whom hold power in Washington, who believe that because they have the capacity to war wage they have a right to wage war, whose loyalty, in the end, is not to the citizens of Israel or Palestine or the United States but the corporate elites, the defense contractors, those who make war a business, those who have turned ordinary Palestinians, Israelis and Americans, along with hundreds of millions of the world’s poor, into commodities to exploit, repress and control. [++]

Obama goes to AIPAC: a scorecard [part II] | Phyllis Bennis

[…] [What’s] the score? No additional threats of war against Iran, that’s good.  And yes it’s AIPAC. No one expected a serious condemnation of Israeli occupation and apartheid. No one expected a robust defense of human rights and equality in Israel and Palestine.No one expected the president to be even even-handed.  But really – abandoning even the pretense of concern for Palestinian rights, or even a sotto-voice admission that ending Israel’s occupation just might help bring some level of stability, if not peace, in the region?

President Obama really missed his chance here, to take advantage of the degree to which the public discourse has changed so dramatically on this issue in these last few years. Criticizing Israel hasn’t meant political suicide for quite a while now. One of the Washington Post’s top political analysts, Walter Pincus, wrote that the U.S. “needs to reevaluate its assistance to Israel” and the sky didn’t fall. Salon has reported that  “The media consensus on Israel is collapsing” noting that “across the political spectrum, once-taboo criticism is now common.”

Members of Congress remain frightened of the lobby’s campaign financing clout – but AIPAC doesn’t hold the loyalty of nearly the percentage of Jewish voters it once did.  Maybe Obama is afraid of the money clout too – AIPAC, like the Israeli prime minister, pretty clearly favors Republicans these days (every Republican candidate except the anti-intervention Ron Paul was featured on the AIPAC dais).  So maybe the answer is that the Obama administration and his campaign strategists are just too nervous to acknowledge that discourse shift that has been so evident since he’s been in office. It’s just more change than the president is ready for.

It’s good that President Obama reminded AIPAC that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon – but how much more powerful it would have been if he had reminded them that Israel, the only actual nuclear weapons state in the Middle East, does have an arsenal of several hundred nuclear warheads, which remain out of reach of UN or any other inspectors. How much more important would this speech have been, bringing it to the level of global game-changer, if he had used the occasion to add U.S. support to the urgent global call for creating, now, a nuclear weapons-free zone throughout the Middle East – with no exceptions? Phyllis Bennis

Obama's AIPAC trifecta | Gary Kamiya

[…] It was in his press conference after addressing AIPAC that Obama demonstrated his mastery of political judo. By attacking those who were “beating the drums of war,” he simultaneously painted his GOP rivals as irresponsible lightweights and fired a warning shot across Netanyahu’s bow.

Even more significant was his statement, “It’s also not just an issue of consequences for Israel if action is taken prematurely. There are consequences to the United States as well.” By drawing a subtle but clear distinction between Israel and the United States, Obama threw down the gauntlet to Netanyahu and to his American supporters: If Israel attacks Iran, the United States is not going to fall on its sword for you. It isn’t going to be 1973, when we came riding to your rescue, or your 2008 slaughter in Gaza, which we ignored. It’s going to be Suez in 1956. And you aren’t going to like it.

Obama felt emboldened to confront Israel and its American supporters for three reasons. First and foremost, he knew Americans do not want another ruinous Mideast war. Second, he correctly assessed that most American Jews would vote for him and continue to give him money even if he refused to be Netanyahu’s hand puppet. And third, by turning the war into a partisan issue, Netanyahu and the Israel lobby left Obama no choice but to punch back. And once he did, he fundamentally shifted the terms of the debate. [++]

Obama goes to AIPAC: a scorecard | Phyllis Bennis

Over the last week, President Obama has clarified his position on when and if the U.S. would attack Iran:

The president was clear that the Iran war gap between Washington and Tel Aviv remains. On the critical question of whether the U.S. would join, defend, participate in, or even lead an Israeli military strike, Obama made it clear at AIPAC that he really doesn’t want to go to war against Iran. It shouldn’t be a surprise, given what $5.00/gallon gasoline would do to his November re-election prospects.

Obama’s talk was rhetorically tough–“The entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon”–but he rejected Israel’s demand, reasserting the U.S. position that only the actual acquisition of a nuclear weapon by Iran might trigger a U.S. military response. For Tel Aviv (along with AIPAC and several U.S. senators), that red line is Iran reaching nuclear weapons capability, which really means the scientific know-how (remember Israeli officials’ chortling over those assassinated scientists?) and enrichment facilities.

Israel’s political leadership, especially Prime Minister Netanyahu, claim Iran has already reached capability, and their demand is for a U.S. commitment to back an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear power infrastructure.  In fact, Israel wants a military strike really soon, on the grounds that Iran is building some of its enrichment facilities in a mountainside. Tel Aviv is outraged that Iran is thus creating a “zone of immunity,” as if Iran were somehow obligated to build its legal enrichment facilities within easy air-strike access.

But Obama clearly rejected that demand. He described every possible future use of U.S. military force as “preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” not preventing weapons capability. His rejection of containment was similarly in favor of “a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” The words “capability” or “capacity” did not appear in the speech.

In fact, any U.S. military strike against Iran, whether or not Iran moved towards weaponization, would still be in violation of the UN Charter, requiring powerful opposition even now.  But the U.S. version still differs significantly from Israel’s demand.  In that context, Obama’s justification for using force “when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests” – he didn’t say “the U.S. and its allies” – was significant, as was his reminding the AIPAC audience that “there is too much loose talk of war.”

So despite his rhetorical escalation in political pandering, Obama at AIPAC did not show any willingness to acquiesce to Israel’s demand for a military assault on Iran.

Read the whole thing

[Ben-Dror] Yemini, a plain-spoken conservative regarded as the voice of the workaday Israeli, heard in Obama’s warnings to Iran’s ayatollahs the bass rumble of Israel’s right-wing political establishment. ‘He didn’t say he would vote for the Likud. But aside from that, one should pay attention, he sounded almost like the Likud leader,’ Yemini said. Israelis Like What They Heard in Obama’s AIPAC Speech | Global Spin

The boys who cry “Holocaust” | Salon

From Gary Kamiya:

When hawks begin beating the drums for war in the Middle East, Israel is usually a big reason why. That was true in the run-up to the war in Iraq, and it is doubly true with the current  hysteria over Iran. Despite disingenuous claims to the contrary, the only reason the U.S. is even talking about war with Iran is Israel. As the invaluable M.J. Rosenberg, who knows the working of the Israel lobby as only a former card-carrying member can, notes, “It is impossible to find a single politician or journalist advocating war with Iran who is not a neocon or an AIPAC cutout. (They’re often both.)”

Ever since the International Atomic Energy Agency released its overhyped, old-news report on Iran’s nuclear program, Israel’s amen corner in the U.S. has been loudly calling for war.

If American politics did not contain an enormous blind spot, no one would pay any attention to what these discredited ideologues have to say. The Iraq war they championed turned out to be one of the biggest foreign-policy disasters in U.S. history. Their ignorant and Islamophobic view of the Middle East is as breathtaking as their bland willingness to commit America to yet another ruinous war against a Muslim country, this time one four times larger than Iraq and with more than twice as many people. They have a demonstrated track record of complete failure.

Yet these incompetent militarists are still taken seriously. And the reason is simple: They purport to be supporters of Israel. In American politics, you can get away with even the most cracked war-mongering as long as you claim to be “pro-Israel.” And the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card for anything having to do with Israel is the Holocaust.

Read more →

Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America

This report shines a light on the Islamophobia network of so-called experts, academics, institutions, grassroots organizations, media outlets, and donors who manufacture, produce, distribute, and mainstream an irrational fear of Islam and Muslims. Let us learn the proper lesson from the past, and rise above fear-mongering to public awareness, acceptance, and respect for our fellow Americans. In doing so, let us prevent hatred from infecting and endangering our country again.

In the pages that follow, we profile the small number of funders, organizations, and individuals who have contributed to the discourse on Islamophobia in this country. We begin with the money trail in Chapter 1—our analysis of the funding streams that support anti-Muslim activities. Chapter 2 identifies the intellectual nexus of the Islamophobia network. Chapter 3 highlights the key grassroots players and organizations that help spread the messages of hate. Chapter 4 aggregates the key media amplifiers of Islamophobia. And Chapter 5 brings attention to the elected officials who frequently support the causes of anti- Muslim organizing.

Before we begin, a word about the term “Islamophobia.” We don’t use this term lightly. We define it as an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from America’s social, political, and civic life.

It is our view that in order to safeguard our national security and uphold America’s core values, we must return to a fact-based civil discourse regarding the challenges we face as a nation and world. This discourse must be frank and honest, but also consistent with American values of religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and respect for pluralism. A first step toward the goal of honest, civil discourse is to expose—and marginalize—the influence of the individuals and groups who make up the Islamophobia network in America by actively working to divide Americans against one another through misinformation.

The report is here (pdf)

Militarist Monitor: New Iran Sanctions: Following the “Yellowcake” Road to War

Iran’s still-unproven nuclear weapons program is apparently one of the few issues the entire U.S. Senate can agree on. “The time has come to impose crippling sanctions on Iran’s financial system,”wrote Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) in a letter this week that was cosigned by 90 additional senators.

The letter urges President Obama to call for sanctions on Iran’s central bank which, if adopted by the international community, would effectively cut Iran off from the global economy and jeopardize its ability to collect oil revenues. Accordingly, some officials have referred to such sanctions as the “nuclear option,” tantamount to an “act of war” in the eyes of the Iranians. Senator Kirk has apparently promised to introduce legislation that would force the administration’s hand if it neglects to take action within the year—a threat that carries a certain amount of weight given the initiative’s overwhelming support in the Senate. [read more]

U.S. Senate passes resolution threatening to suspend aid to Palestinians - Haaretz

A continuation of the previous post:

Aaron David Miller, former negotiator and current public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, told Haaretz that “this resolution neither hurts nor helps the current muddle that we call the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It certainly isn’t going to discourage the Palestinians from going ahead in September at the UN; and unity with Hamas - always a long shot - may well collapse on its own.”

“Congress has very little capacity to influence the views of Palestinians, only Israelis and the Americans can do that. And neither has yet developed a strategy to preempt the UN initiative, though efforts are underway to do so,” Miller added.