Bulletin N° 235
25 May 2006
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Since our April Conference on The History of
Pacifist Movements in France and the USA
, a series of essays
and books have been called to our attention on the grand
of monopoly capital, and on neo-liberal tactics
employed to achieve this objective (i.e. global control by
capital), and on the new logistics
transnational corporations usurping powers traditionally held by the
state. From our readings, it would appear that a future of wars --large
and small-- might well be inevitable under the current capitalist
system of private profit motives.
Paraphrasing the Prussian military scientist, Carl von Clausewitz, who
wrote, that war is a real political instrument, a continuation of
political commerce, carrying out the same ends by other means
British science fiction writer, H.G. Wells, argued that war is a
real commercial instrument, a continuation of ordinary business, a
carrying out of commercial ends by military means
Shape of Things to Come
War, it appears, is the only enterprise
that can deliver
maximum private profits to investors through cycles of production-destruction/consumption-investment-production....
War has become the knife-and-fork at the capitalist banquet. This
promise of greater dividends is governed by a narrow linear logic which
is more appropriate to a closed system, like a watertight
modeled from mechanical engineering.
excludes variables in the larger environmental context from any
calculations. This thinking, when applied to open, goal-seeking
systems, such as society, or the human organism, represents an
epistemological error which generates pathological behaviors that Susan
George, among others, has suggested threatens the very existence of our
own species, along with many others. (
observed Professor Anthony Wilden toward the end of the
The Americans are not the most violent people in the world,
- with the United States trying to shore up a weakened
- technological empire by means of a newly belligerent
- escalation of arms races --divide and rule-- all over
the world (between
- the nations of Latin America, between Israel and the
Arab states in the
- Middle East, between India and Pakistan, besides the
- with Russia), along with encouragement for industry
and agriculture to
- step up the war on nature, we know as a fact what
- thinker in this century has been afraid of: That the
- state-capitalist empires are still fighting the First
World War, the war
- for the domination of the planet. (
The Rules are No Game,
Wilden continues, but they are the most powerful
violent people in the world.
The context has changed significantly since the Reagan era, and this
evolution is connected to new patterns of old pathologies :
the labor market today is entirely global --without borders and
without many other traditional constraints;
financial market now makes transactions, affecting the lives of
hundreds of millions of people, at the speed of light;
military technology continues to develop and advance toward a level of
proliferation which threatens the entire world;
- in the
consumer market we live our lives as virtual targets of every manor of
advertising strategy, including seduction, guilt, terror, harassment,
etc., etc. . . . Caught in a totally manipulative social environment
where the ends always justify the means
we are put "on the
defensive", "with our guard up", trying to satisfy our needs and
our manufactured desires within our budgets and employing the same
tactics that are used against us, to the detriment of our collective
militarism on a global level offers significant short-term investment
opportunities for high profits, including the very profitable consumer
market of mobilized troops around the world;
television continues to offer the world a one-dimensional Present
(Unlike the written media and even motion pictures, television presents
a collective experience to a large part of humanity of a present,
without a past and without a future. Who among us can remember, for
instance, what they saw on TV last Monday night, last Sunday afternoon,
or for that matter, just 15 minutes ago on Saturday morning cartoons?
The human mind has become a "black hole" into which an unimaginable
quantity of information disappears. Television is a medium that leaves
behind no written record, no visible artefacts, no historical trace, no
publicly available memory.)
These are conditions favoring war.
Citing George Orwell, Anthony Wilden posits a basic rule of media
Those who control the present control the
past. Those who control the past control the future. (
The paramount lesson that Wilden draws from his observations is a quintessentially
: We, the
peoples of the earth, did not start the Twentieth Century War, but we
will be its casualties if it is not brought to a stop. The plain fact
is that the world empires are not in the end at war with one another.
The men in charge of the state and private corporations that run those
empires and their client states are really at war with everyone else on
This week we received much mail providing descriptive material to
measure against our own templet of reality in the contemporary
political economy of American institutions and social movements.
, from Dhar Jamail, is a
close-up look at U.S. "collateral damage" in Iraq and its future
is an historical piece by
New York labor writer Michael Hirsch on life in America under the new
, from Council for the
National Interest Foundation, is an update on the anti-Palestinian
legislation pending in Congress.
offers an outstanding
analysis of the Israel Lobby and was
Edward S. Herman.
, sent to us by Richard
Du Boff, is an historic description of "how torture became mainstream,"
by Alfred McCoy.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble-3
from Dhar Jamail :
Date: Tue, 22 May 2006
Subject: Easily Dispensable: Iraq's Children
Easily Dispensable: Iraq's
By Dahr Jamail
Cherishing children is the mark
of a civilized society.
- Joan Ganz Cooney
If, as I would like to believe, the above quote suggests all children
and not merely those born in Western democracies, I am no longer
certain that we live in a civilized society.
That women and children suffer the most during times of war is not a
new phenomenon. It is a reality as old as war itself. What Rumsfeld,
Rice and other war criminals of the Cheney administration prefer to
call "collateral damage" translates in English as the inexcusable
murder of and other irreparable harm done to women, children and the
elderly during any military offensive.
US foreign policy in the Middle East manifests itself most starkly in
its impact on the children of Iraq. It is they who continue to pay with
their lives and futures for the brutal follies of our administration.
Starvation under sanctions, and death and suffering during war and
occupation are their lot. Since the beginning of the occupation, Iraqi
children have been affected worst by the violence generated by the
occupying forces and the freedom fighters.
While I had witnessed several instances of this from the time of my
first trip to Iraq in November 2003, I was shaken by a close encounter
with it, a year later, in November 2004.
In a major Baghdad hospital, 12-year-old Fatima Harouz lay in her bed
dazed, amidst a crowded hospital room. She limply waved her bruised arm
at the flies that buzzed over the bed. Her shins, shattered by bullets
when American soldiers fired through the front door of her house, were
both covered in casts. Small plastic drainage bags filled with red
fluid sat upon her abdomen, where she had taken shrapnel from another
She was from Latifiya, a city just south of Baghdad. Three days before
I saw her, soldiers had attacked her home. Her mother, standing with us
in the hospital, said, "They attacked our home and there weren't even
any resistance fighters in our area." Her brother had been shot and
killed, his wife wounded, and their home ransacked by soldiers. "Before
they left, they killed all of our chickens," added Fatima's mother, her
eyes a mixture of fear, shock and rage. A doctor who was with us as
mother narrated the story looked at me and sternly asked, "This is the
freedom … in their Disney Land are there kids just like this?"
The doctors' anger was mild if we consider the magnitude of suffering
that has been inflicted upon the children of Iraq as a direct result of
first the US-backed sanctions and then the failed US occupation.
In a report released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on
May 2nd of this year, one out of three Iraqi children is malnourished
The report states <
> that 25% of Iraqi children between the ages of six months and five
years old suffer from either acute or chronic malnutrition. In
addition, the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) press
release on the matter added, "A 2004 Living Conditions Survey indicated
a decrease in mortality rates among children under five years old since
1999. However, the results of a September 2005 Food Security and
Vulnerability Analysis - commissioned by Iraq's Central Organization
for Statistics and Information Technology, the World Food Program and
UNICEF - showed
worsening conditions since the April 2003 US-led invasion of the
Also this month, on May 15th , a news story <
the same UN-backed government survey highlighted that "people are
struggling to cope three years after US-forces overthrew Saddam
Hussein." The report added that "Children are ... major victims of food
described the situation as "alarming." The story continued, "A total of
four million Iraqis, roughly 15 percent of the population, were in dire
need of humanitarian aid including food, up from 11 percent in a 2003
report, the survey of more than 20,000 Iraqi households found.… Decades
of conflict and economic sanctions have had serious effects on Iraqis.
Their consequences have been rising unemployment, illiteracy and, for
some families, the loss of wage earners."
/*But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel
beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes.*/ / -
Iraq's ministries of Health and Planning carried out the survey with
support from the UN World Food Program and UNICEF. A spokesman for
UNICEF's Iraq Support Center in Amman, Jordan, David Singh, told
Reuters that the number of acutely malnourished children in Iraq had
more than doubled, from 4% during the last year of Saddam's rule to at
least 9% in 2005. He also said, "Until there is a period of relative
stability in Iraq we are going to continue to face these kinds of
special representative for Iraq, Roger Wright, commenting on the dire
effects of the situation, said, "This can irreversibly hamper the young
child's optimal mental/cognitive development, not just their physical
This past March, an article titled "Garbage Dump Second Home for Iraqi
addressed the appalling situation in the northern, Kurdish-controlled
Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah where young children assist their families
in searching the city garbage dumps. It said that children as young as
seven often accompany their parents to the dumps before school, in
order to look for reusable items such as shoes, clothing and electrical
equipment which is then resold in order to augment the family income.
This disturbing news is not really news in Baghdad. Back in December
2004 I saw children living with their families <
> in the main dump of the capital city.
Poverty in Iraq has plummeted acutely during the invasion and
occupation. Those who were already surviving on the margins due to
years of deprivation have sunk further, and the children of such
families have recourse to no nutrition, no health care, no education,
no present and no future. Those from less unfortunate backgrounds are
now suffering because the family wage earner has been killed, detained,
or lost employment. Or the source of the family's income, a shop,
factory or farm have been destroyed, or simply because it is impossible
to feed a family under the existing economic conditions of high costs
and low to nil income in Iraq.
As execrable as the current situation is for Iraqi children, most of
the world media, appallingly, does not see it as a story to be covered.
Even back in November 2004, surveys conducted by the UN, aid agencies
and the interim Iraqi government showed that acute malnutrition among
young children had nearly doubled since the US-led invasion took place
in the spring of 2004.
A Washington Post story <
>, "Children Pay Cost of Iraq's Chaos," read, "After the rate of
malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4
percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according
to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with
Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N.
Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi
children suffering from "wasting," a condition characterized by chronic
diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein."
Not only is the US occupation starving Iraq's children, but occupation
forces regularly detain them as well. It is common knowledge in Iraq
that there have been child prisoners in the most odious prisons, such
as Abu Ghraib, since early on in the occupation. While most, if not
all, corporate media outlets in the US have been loath to visit the
subject, the Sunday Herald in Scotland reported <
> back in August 2004 that
"coalition forces are holding more than 100 children in jails such as
Abu Ghraib. Witnesses claim that the detainees - some as young as 10 -
are also being subjected to rape and torture."
The story read, "It was early last October that Kasim Mehaddi Hilas
says he witnessed the rape of a boy prisoner aged about 15 in the
notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. 'The kid was hurting very bad and
they covered all the doors with sheets,' he said in a statement given
to investigators probing prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib. 'Then, when I
heard the screaming I climbed the door … and I saw [the soldier's name
is deleted] who was wearing a military uniform." Hilas, who was himself
threatened with being sexually assaulted in Abu Ghraib, then described
in horrific detail how the soldier raped 'the little kid.'"
The newspaper's investigation at that time concluded that there were as
many as 107 children being held by occupation forces, although their
names were not known, nor their location or the length of their
In June 2004 an internal UNICEF report, which was not made public,
noted widespread arrest and detention of Iraqi children by US and UK
forces. A section of the report titled "Children in Conflict with the
Law or with Coalition Forces," stated, "In July and August 2003,
several meetings were conducted with CPA (Coalition Provisional
Authority) … and Ministry of Justice to address issues related to
juvenile justice and the situation of children detained by the
coalition forces … UNICEF is
working through a variety of channels to try and learn more about
conditions for children who are imprisoned or detained, and to ensure
that their rights are respected."
Another section of the report added, "Information on the number, age,
gender and conditions of incarceration is limited. In Basra and Karbala
children arrested for alleged activities targeting the occupying forces
are reported to be routinely transferred to an internee facility in Um
Qasr. The categorization of these children as 'internees' is worrying
since it implies indefinite holding without contact with family,
expectation of trial or due process." The report went on to add, "A
detention centre for children was established in Baghdad, where
according to ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) a
significant number of children were detained. UNICEF was informed that
the coalition forces were planning to transfer all children in adult
facilities to this 'specialized' child detention centre. In July 2003,
UNICEF requested a visit to the centre but access was denied. Poor
security in the area of the detention centre has prevented visits by
independent observers like the ICRC since last December ."
A section of the report which I found very pertinent, as I'd already
witnessed this occurring in Iraq, stated, "The perceived unjust
detention of Iraqi males, including youths, for suspected activities
against the occupying forces has become one of the leading causes for
the mounting frustration among Iraqi youth and the potential for
radicalization of this population group."
On December 17, 2003, at the al-Shahid Adnan Kherala secondary school
in Baghdad, I witnessed US forces detain 16 children who had held a
mock, non-violent, pro-Saddam Hussein the previous day. While forces
from the First Armored Division sealed the school with two large tanks,
helicopters, several Bradley fighting vehicles and at least 10 Humvees,
soldiers loaded the children into a covered truck and drove them to
their base. Meanwhile, the rest of the students remained locked inside
the school until the US military began to exit the area.
Shortly thereafter the doors were unlocked, releasing the frightened
students who flocked out the doors. The youngest were 12 years old, and
none of the students were older than 18. They ran out, many in tears,
while others were enraged as they kicked and shook the front gate. My
interpreter and I were surrounded by frenzied students who yelled,
"This is the democracy? This is the freedom? You see what the Americans
are doing to us here?"
Another student cried out to us, "They took several of my friends! Why
are they taking them to prison? For throwing rocks?" A few blocks away
we spoke with a smaller group of students who had run from the school
(in panic). One student who was crying yelled to me, "Why are they
doing this to us? We are only kids!"
The tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles that were guarding the
perimeter of the school began to rumble down the street beside us, on
their passage out. Several young boys with tears streaming down their
faces picked up stones and hurled them at the tanks as they drove by.
Imagine my horror when I saw the US soldiers on top of the Bradleys
begin firing their M-16's above our heads as we ducked inside a taxi. A
soldier on another Bradley, behind the first, passed and fired randomly
heads as well. Kids and pedestrians ran for cover into the shops and
I remember a little boy, not more than 13 years old, holding a stone
and standing at the edge of the street glaring at the Bradleys as they
rumbled past. Another soldier riding atop another passing Bradley
pulled out his pistol and aimed it at the boy's head and kept him in
his sights until the vehicle rolled out of sight.
One of the students hiding behind our taxi screamed to me, "Who are the
terrorists here now? You have seen this yourself! We are school kids!"
The very next month, in January 2004, I was in an area on the outskirts
of Baghdad that had been pulverized by "Operation Iron Grip." I spoke
with a man at his small farm house. His three year old boy, Halaf Ziad
Halaf, walked up to me and with a worried look <
> on his face said, "I have seen the Americans here with their
want to attack us."
His uncle, who had joined us for tea, leaned over to me and said, "The
Americans are creating the terrorists here by hurting people and
causing their relatives to fight against them. Even this little boy
will grow up hating the Americans because of their policy here."
The slaughter, starvation, detention, torture and sexual assault of
Iraq's children at the hands of US soldiers or by proxy via US foreign
policy, is not a recent phenomenon. It is true that the present US
administration has been brazen and blatant in its crimes in Iraq, but
those willing to bear witness must not forget that Bill Clinton and his
minions played an equally, if not even more devastating role in the
assault on the children of Iraq.
On May 12, 1996, Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was
asked by Lesley Stahl on "60 Minutes" about the effects of US
sanctionsagainst Iraq, "We have heard that a half million children have
died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you
know, is the price worth it?"
In a response which has now become notorious, Albright replied, "I
think this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is
/*We are guilty of many errors and many faults but our worst crime is
abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the
things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his
bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are
being developed. To him we cannot answer "Tomorrow." His name is
"Today."*/ /- Gabriela Mistral/
To all Americans who, despite voluminous evidence to the contrary,
continue to believe that they are supporting a war for democracy in
Iraq, I would like to say, the way Iraq is headed it will have little
use for democracy and freedom. We must find ways to stop the immoral,
soulless, repugnant occupation if we want the children of Iraq to see
any future at all.
from Michael Hirsch :
22 May 2006
The democratic left's socialist context went
missing. If anyone spots it, please call or instant message. We can
even put the appeal on milk cartons.
Naming the Beast or Whistling Past the
by Michael Hirsch
It was not always thus. Forget about the glory days of pre-war
socialism, or the red decade of the thirties or even the sober,
literary '50s. In April 1965, Paul Potter, then the president of SDS,
said the mission of the new radical movement confronting American power
was to "name that system. We must name it, "he said, "describe it,
analyze it, understand it and change it. For it is only when that
system is changed and brought under control that there can be any hope
for stopping the forces that create a war in Vietnam today or a murder
in the South tomorrow or all the incalculable, innumerable (and) more
subtle atrocities that are worked on people all over -- all the time."
Forty one years after Potter made that speech, given on a perfect
spring day in Washington when everything seemed possible, as he
addressed 25,000 young antiwar protestors (an unheard of number who
effectively launched the antiwar movement nationwide), Potter's mandate
is still the goal of democratic socialists: naming, describing,
analyzing, understanding, organizing, and changing.
SDS said the enemy was corporate liberalism. Looking back, corporate
liberalism in its Great Society garb, in its efforts to ensure social
peace and even wage a war on poverty, seems enlightened and even kind,
at least compared to the contemporary fang and claw ethos.
Today, the enemy's name is neo-liberalism. That is the political
ideology that capitalism dresses in and articulates its policies now.
It was in the 1970s that Margaret Thatcher opined that there was no
such thing as "society," only grubbing individuals engaged in cementing
short-term contracts and where the market, not the family or the
community or the class, was the instrument of individual choice.
It's a world, says anthropologist David Harvey, in which "deregulation,
privatization and withdrawal of the state from many areas of social
provision is common." And not just in the United States and Britain,
but even in France. And Italy. And Germany. And the Scandinavian
countries and New Zealand, once the models of welfare-state largesse.
That's the ideology that says: replace defined benefit pensions with
defined contributions. It says charter schools and vouchers are
preferable to public schools. It says rent regulation stymies
housing starts. It says government should not be responsible for health
care delivery. It says job security and labor rights constrain
competition in a global market, and that labor market "flexibility" is
It's the logic behind this year's Economic Report of the President,
which stupidly brags that the administration will "restrain government
spending to reduce the budget deficit," but only for non-military
spending. And it will jumpstart an economic boom -- at
least it will try-- by outsourcing jobs, driving wages down, hunting
unions to extinction and despoiling the environment.
Neo-liberalism is the rough beast lurking behind every social problem.
It's the demon haunting the three talks you will hear following mine,
on health care, on education and on housing. And we could add it's also
responsible for US military policy and growing income inequality.
Under neo-liberalism, women are freed to work even as retirement
Under neo-liberalism, the state no longer manages discontent with ample
jobs and placated labor leaders and social welfare provisions and a
guns and butter economy. Now the state exacerbates that
discontent. It's all guns, and the butter's gone bad.
Under neo-liberalism it's the capitalists who are the revolutionaries,
fulfilling Marx's observation that everything sacred is profaned.
Well, where are the good guys?
In Latin America, global capitalism is taking a beating from insurgent
movements and progressive governments. In Europe, French students and
unions beat back an effort to end job security and create a substandard
youth wage. French and Danish voters rejected the European Union
constitution, and British railroad workers battled their own Labour
Party government over pension rights. And yes, the US occupation of
Iraq is unraveling.
But here at home, the forces confronting neo-liberalism are fragmented,
and mostly defensive. Battles for health care, housing and education,
for example, have their own advocates, their own strategies, and make
their own trips to the well. Any advocate of education knows children
cannot learn without adequate housing and good health care, and each of
the issues overlaps the others like circles on a Venn diagram. Yet
their armies march alone.
Unionists and environmentalists rarely agree. The trade unions,
representing less than 12 percent of the US workforce, still don't
support a thoroughly democratic foreign policy, though the vote last
July at the AFL-CIO convention calling for rapid withdrawal from Iraq
was historic and welcome.
The US peace movement's opposition to the Iraq war condemns its
illegality and its immorality, but rarely that the war machine is being
the logical outcome of imperial interests.
The point is: of those confronting capital, too few see their
particular issues as manifestations of larger, systemic problems. The
social movements resemble competing mendicants. The resistance is
Balkanized, and so is its thinking.
That's why it's so great that David Harvey refers in his new book, "A
Brief History of Neo-Liberalism, to the free market creed as "the
reconstitution of class power." As Harvey says, " if it looks like
class struggle and acts like class war, then we have to name it
unashamedly for what it is. " We either resign ourselves "to the
historical and geographical trajectory defined by overwhelming and ever
increasing upper class power, or respond to it in class terms."
Responding in class terms? Our social movements wonder if class
is even a viable category for explaining contemporary politics. That's
a puzzlement our rulers and our betters do not share.
The Democratic Party, as the opposition party, should be addressing
this reality. It isn't. With the exception of a few brave souls like
Russ Feingold, its leaders are keeping their heads down, waiting for
the Bush regime to implode.
Punchy liberal bloggers obsess over 2008 presidential election
prospects as if electoral tactics were the Great Oz; they're not
looking behind the curtain. When Hillary Clinton dodges and weaves on
life and death questions, too many Bush-hating liberals justify it,
saying she's all we've got. Even New York's Working Families Party is
poised to endorse her.
Intellectually, resistance is flabby, too. The hot books Bush critics
are touting: Francis Fukuyama's retreat from neoconservatism and Kevin
Phillips' demolition of the Religious right -- and they are worth
reading -- don't look at capitalism as a system. Nor should these
basically conservative writers be expected to carry our water for us,
even if it is thrilling to find conservatives who aren't self-serving
Another bugbear of mine: the lionizing of the late New Frontier
warhorse JK Galbraith in The Nation, in In These Times
and even in Counterpunch and the DSAmember listserve.
Galbraith was a decent man who titillated Cambridge's sherry-drinking
set by calling himself a socialist. But the closest he ever came to
working class self activity was watching his plumber snake a drain.
Who is coming up with an alternative economic strategy that can roll
back the class power David Harvey so brilliantly describes. We need our
own thinkers, our own critics, our own activists.
Meanwhile working people are not standing still, waiting for orders.
Work stoppages are up nationwide. The TWU fought for respect in New
York and a living wage. Northwest Airlines mechanics and cleaners went
out, as did Boeing aircraft workers and California hospital workers.
Delphi, the GM parts supplier, wants to declare bankruptcy as a way to
escape its union contract; its workers are fighting back. Custodians at
the University of Miami forced their employer to accept card check, no
thanks to Donna Shalala, the university president and Bill Clinton's
"Some of the biggest labor success stories of 2005 were made by
predominantly immigrant farm workers, writes Chris Kutalik in Labor
Notes. "The Coalition of Immokalee Workers' successful Taco Bell
boycott and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee's 5,000-worker
organizing victory in North Carolina broke new ground for immigrant
labor organizing," he reports.
Ditto for the 2 million who marched for immigrant rights last month.
And US Labor Against the War shows promise of creating and nurturing a
core of unionists who can and do connect shopfloor problems to
This is all great stuff.
It's not enough.
Because if we socialists don't emphasize class and commonalities, and
don't make these run like red threads through all our work, and don't
help the movements we support see commonalities and find common work,
we run the risk of losing, again. The neo-liberals understand class and
power and a unified message. Why not the left? Yes, we have to make the
road by walking, but without a class perspective we're just
making traffic circles.
Just for example: Look at the charged debate over Israeli influence on
US policy, legitimate disgust with the Iraq adventure is taking the
form of blaming Israel for the continued occupation. Now Israel -- or
more properly its ruling circles--has a lot to answer for; from its
tribalism and its colonizing and Bantustaning the West Bank to its
austerity assault on its own public sector workers. But the Iraq War
isn't Israel's doing. The argument that a shadowy Jewish lobby controls
US policy whitewashes the US, just as Noam Chomsky
Fingering Israel sidesteps taking on the real forces behind the war. Do
anyone really believe the US would ever back an ally if it meant going
against its basic corporate and strategic interests? Not only is the
charge that Israel plays US puppeteer intellectual rubbish, it
squanders opportunities to change US and Israeli policies
In his final book, Whose Millennium? Theirs or Ours? the
French Marxist and Nation contributor Daniel Singer wrote "We
are not here to tinker with the world, we are here to change it."
Even if we only wanted to tinker, and incremental tinkering is all one
can do in dark times, the other side won't let us.
Michael Hirsch is a New York City- based labor
writer. These remarks were first given at New York DSA's annual
convention May 13.
from Council for the National Interest Foundation
Date: Tue, 23 May 2006
Subject: TAKE ACTION: Thank Reps. Opposed to Anti-Palestinian
With 295 co-sponsors, it comes as no surprise that the
House of Representatives today passed H.R. 4681, the Palestinian
Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. The vote count was 361 yeas, 37 nays, 9
presents (abstentions), and 25 not voting (
Roll Call Vote No. 181).
TAKE ACTION: Thank
Reps. Opposed to Anti-Palestinian
TAKE ACTION: Send a message of thanks to all 46 Representatives who
voted "Nay" or "Present" by clicking
Although the bill passed, tremendous grassroots opposition from groups
such as CNI and the U.S.
Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation prevented the bill's
supporters from rushing it through for a quick vote with no debate.
Your efforts succeeded in delaying the bill for almost four months,
helped to get it watered down at the committee level, and forced AIPAC
to expend enormous amounts of political capital to pass it. In
addition, three Jewish American organizations (one of them, Americans
for Peace Now, is a member of AIPAC's executive committee) actively
opposed the bill.
For almost three hours last night the House debated U.S. policy towards
Israel, something it rarely does. This afforded many Members of
Congress an opportunity to speak out in forceful terms against the
Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act (
Congressional Record, H2990-H3012). Extracts of the debate are
included below. Only one Republican spoke against the bill, Rep. Ray
LaHood (R-IL), who was also one of two Arab American congressmen to
vote against it; the other was Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV).
Even though the House has passed the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, it
is still a long way from becoming law. The Senate has yet to take up
its less draconian version of the bill (
S. 2370) and even if the Senate passes this bill, it will need to
be reconciled by both houses in committee and signed by the President
before becoming law. In other words, there are still many opportunities
to continue to mobilize opposition to sanctioning the Palestinian
people for exercising their right to vote.
The Council for the National Interest and the U.S. Campaign to End the
Israeli Occupation urge their supporters to take one additional,
extremely important action on H.R. 4681. Please contact the
Representatives who voted against or abstained on H.R. 4681 and/or who
spoke against the resolution last night. It is critically important for
Representatives to receive support when they act or vote courageously.
TAKE ACTION: Contact Representatives who voted against or abstained on
H.R. 4681 and/or who spoke against the resolution. To send a letter to
here. You can also call the Capitol switchboard at 1-888-355-3588
and ask to be transferred, or call them directly on the numbers below.
---- NAYS 37 ----
Grijalva 202-225-2435 Hinchey 202-225-6335
Jones (NC) 202-225-3415
McKinney 202-225-1605 Miller, George 202-225-2095
Moore (WI) 202-225-4572
Moran (VA) 202-225-4376
Price (NC) 202-225-1784
---- ANSWERED "PRESENT" 9 ----
Davis (IL) 202-225-5006 Gutierrez 202-225-8203
Jackson (IL) 202-225-0773
Johnson, E. B. 202-225-8885 Payne 202-225-3436
Extracts from the Debate on H.R. 4681, Congressional Record, May
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3)
Remember, this past winter, the House, in our wisdom, voted to demand
that the Palestinians prevent Hamas from running in the legislative
elections, telling the Palestinian people to reject them. I don't think
it was any accident that Hamas election banners had: ``Israel and
America say `no' to Hamas. What do you say?''
I can't help think that any objective appraisal would suggest that the
United States Congress, telling them what they could do, may well have
provided that extra boost for Hamas' prospects at the election.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4)
[I]t is unfortunate that the bill tonight could not have been drafted
to come to the floor that would be supported by the State Department.
The State Department's comment regarding H.R. 4681 is, ``this bill is
This bill places extreme constraints on the delivery of humanitarian
assistance by non-governmental organizations to the Palestinian people.
This bill's unnecessary obstacles have the potential for very negative
human consequences and would exacerbate a human crisis.
Palestinian families and children must not be targeted. They must not
be deprived of their basic human needs by this Congress. Instead, this
House should assure that Palestinian families and children will be
treated in a fashion that reflects our values and the belief that their
lives are valuable.
Rep. David Price (D-NC-4)
These types of [humanitarian] projects are critical to our interests,
to Israel, and to the prospects for peace. They help prevent
humanitarian crises and diminish popular discontent, and they also
inculcate values like those taught at Hope Flowers.
They train peacemakers; they improve America's standing in the Middle
East. Why would we want to eliminate programs like these? Are they not
needed now more than ever? And yet that is exactly what H.R. 4681 would
do. It would cut off U.S. assistance to the West Bank and Gaza
Mr. Speaker, some have suggested the bill contains sufficient
exceptions to allow humanitarian assistance to pass through. Not so.
The bill makes an exception for health-related humanitarian aid, such
as food, water and medicine. But it makes no provision for other forms
of humanitarian assistance, such as aid for the homeless or displaced
families and orphans.
Mr. Speaker, some have pointed to Presidential waiver authority in the
bill and suggested that it would allow critical assistance to reach
Palestinians. Not so. Unfortunately, all aid beyond health-related
humanitarian assistance would be prohibited unless the President, on a
case-by-case basis, were to certify that assistance is required by U.S.
But if we adopt legislation that punishes the Palestinian people,
instead of isolating the terrorists, we lose the moral high ground. Let
us reclaim the moral high ground, signal our resolute opposition to
terrorism and also our support for those Palestinian individuals and
groups who are working for a peaceful and democratic future.
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-15)
Mr. Speaker, this legislation should be considered under an open rule
with lengthy debate and full opportunity to discuss it, not at 8
o'clock at night with the corporal's guard here on the floor.
The Middle East's problems and the problems of the Palestinians and the
Israelis will not be resolved by starving the Palestinians or by
creating additional hardship. They are desperate people, incarcerated
in walls, afflicted with high unemployment, suffering from health and
other problems. The non-governmental organizations point out that this
will strip them in substantial part of contributing to this. It will in
large part almost totally strip the United States from the ability to
address the needs of the Palestinian people and to address the
humanitarian concerns which we have about them.
Peace in the Middle East is not going to be achieved at gunpoint. It is
going to be achieved by negotiations, by people working together; and
that process may be ugly, dirty and slow, but it is the only process
that will work. To create additional hardship and suffering for the
Palestinians is simply going to guarantee more desperate, angry men who
are fully determined that they will go forth to kill Israelis or
Americans or anybody else. Our purpose here tonight should be to look
to the well-being of the United States, craft a policy which is good
for this country. And that policy can only be one which is good for
Israel and for the Palestinian people, one which is fair to all, one
which puts the United States as a friend and an honest broker of peace
to both parties where we can be so accepted.
To take some other course is simply to assure continuing hardship and a
continuing poisonous, hateful relationship amongst the parties in the
area. When this Congress realizes that and when we, this Congress and
the others here, will recognize that that is the way peace is achieved,
then there will be a real prospect for peace. We can expect that the
Palestinians will receive the justice that they seek. We can expect
that the Israelis will achieve the security that they need and they
want and they deserve and that we want them to have.
This legislation will do none of that. This legislation promises
further angry men, more bitterness, more hate, more ill-will; and it
assures that the thing which we must use to bring this miserable
situation to an end, honest, honorable, face-to-face negotiation, will
either not occur or will be moved many years into the future.
Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA-23)
Direct aid to the Hamas-controlled PA has been cut off. The basic goal
of this bill has already been accomplished.
But H.R. 4681 goes well beyond this objective. It is a punitive measure
aimed at punishing the Palestinian people.
[E]xcept for very limited circumstances, this bill will cut off
humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people at the very moment when a
horrendous humanitarian disaster is looming.
I simply cannot see how denying chemotherapy treatment for Palestinian
children increases Israel's security or advances U.S. national
Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL-18)
I think the approach that is offered in this bill is what I would
characterize as a meat-axe approach.
This does not help common ordinary citizens. What it does is it hurts
common ordinary citizens. There is no other way around it. You can
protest as much as you want about Mrs. Capps and what she said, but she
is right. Common ordinary citizens, common ordinary Palestinians are
going to be hurt by this, because the funding is going to be cut off
for educational services, for health services, for the services that
these people need very badly.
Do you all know more than the Secretary of State? Do you know more than
the President? Do you think your policy is better than the
administration's policy? Yes, you do. Well, I don't happen to agree
with that. I really don't.
And I ask Members, I may be the only Republican to vote against this. I
am obviously going to be the only Republican to speak against it, but I
ask Members who representat large Arab populations in their districts
to think about this. This hurts the Palestinian people. There is no
other way to put it. And I do not know why you are doing this. In the
name of protecting Israel? I just think this is a bad idea, and I don't
understand why it is being done.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10)
The Israelis are our brothers and sisters. The Palestinians are our
brothers and sisters. When our brothers and sisters are in conflict,
when violence engulfs them, it is our responsibility to help our
brothers and sisters end the violence, reconcile and fulfill the
biblical injunction to turn hate to love, to beat swords into
plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.
I think we can speed the cause of peace by calling upon Israel to
accept the Palestinians' right to self-determination and economical
survival and humanitarian relief, for food, medical care, for jobs.
I ask, how can we arrive at a two-stage solution if we attempt to
destroy one people's government's ability to provide?
I object in the strongest terms to any measure that will increase the
humanitarian crisis of the Palestinian people.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22)
I believe it is important to maintain independent and principled
positions on Middle East issues. I believe that that requires a ``no''
vote on resolution 4681.
H.R. 4681 subjugates U.S. national security interests to political
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9)
I rise this evening because I have to say that this act, the
Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, I fear will result not in less
terrorism, but in more. I do not really believe it is in the interest
of the United States, of Israel or the world to further radicalize
elements in the Palestinian population, and I do believe this bill will
do exactly that.
It is not in the interest of the government of the United States nor
Israel nor the world to make it impossible for Palestinians to become
more educated and to learn how to govern an emerging nation. Indeed, if
our current policies as a world were so intelligent, they would not
have yielded a Hamas to the point where it actually won an election and
other elements of Palestinian society were so crippled and so inept and
so disorganized that they were not able to govern in a way that an
emerging nation state would.
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV-3)
Today, our actions must be motivated only by our intense desire to
achieve a just and lasting peace. The compassion and charity of the
American people should be reflected in this legislation, though sadly,
they are silenced.
Madam Speaker, make no mistake, a vote cast in favor of H.R. 4681 is
not a vote for peace, it is not a vote for America and it is not a vote
that I will cast.
I urge my colleagues to cast their votes against this unwise and
TAKE ACTION: Send a message to all 46 Representatives who voted nay or
present on H.R. 4681 by clicking
Council for the National Interest Foundation
1250 4th Street SW, Suite WG-1
Washington, District of Columbia 20024
from Ed Herman :
Date : May 24, 2006
Subject: FW: How Torture Became Mainstream--mccoy
analysis of the pro-Israel lobby.
Alexander Cockburn and
Jeffrey St. Clair
of the Israel Lobby:A
Measure of Its Power
by Kathleen and Bill
years ago, a fierce public debate over the nature and activities of the
Israeli lobby would have been impossible. It was as verboten as the use
of the word Empire to describe the global reach of the United States.
Through its disdain for the usual proprieties decorously observed by
Republican and Democratic administrations in the past, the Bush
administration has hauled many realities of our political economy
center stage. Open up the New York Times or the Washington Post these
days and there may well be another opinion column about the Lobby.
has hosted some of the most vigorous
polemics on the
Lobby. In May we asked two of our most valued contributors, Kathy and
Bill Christison, to offer their evaluation of the debate on the Lobby’s
role and power. As our readers know, Bill and Kathy both had
significant careers as CIA analysts. Bill was a National Intelligence
Officer. In the aftermath of the September, 2001, attacks we published
here his trenchant and influential essay on “the war on terror”. Kathy
has written powerfully both here and on on our website on the topic of
Palestine. Specifically on the Lobby they contributed an unsparing
essay on the topic of “dual loyalty” which can be found in our
CounterPunch collection, The
Politics of Anti-Semitism.
In mid May they sent us their measured
assessment, rich in historical
detail. We are delighted to print it here in its entirety, which means
our subscribers get the bonus of an 8-page issue. Which is the tail?
Which is the dog? asked Uri Avnery here, a few issues back, apropos the
respective roles of the Israel Lobby and the US government in the
exercise of US policy in the Middle East. Here’s an answer that will be
tough to challenge. A.C./J.S.C.
John Mearsheimer and Stephen
Walt, the University of Chicago and Harvard political scientists who
published in March of this years a lengthy, well documented study on
the pro-Israel lobby and its influence on U.S. Middle East policy in
March , have already accomplished what they intended. They have
successfully called attention to the often pernicious influence of the
lobby on policymaking. But, unfortunately, the study has aroused more
criticism than debate not only the kind of criticism one would
anticipate from the usual suspects among the very lobby groups
Mearsheimer and Walt described, but also from a group on the left that
might have been expected to support the study’s conclusions.
criticism has been partly silly, often
malicious, and almost entirely off-point. The silly, insubstantial
criticisms such as former presidential adviser David Gergen’s
earnest comment that through four administrations he never observed an
decision that tilted policy in favor of Israel at the expense of U.S.
interests can easily be dismissed as nonsensical . Most of the
extensive malicious criticism, coming largely from the hard core of
Israeli supporters who make up the very lobby under discussion and led
by a hysterical Alan Dershowitz, has been so specious and sophomoric,
that it too could be dismissed were it not for precisely the pervasive
atmosphere of reflexive support for Israel and silenced debate that
Mearsheimer and Walt describe.
Most disturbing and
harder to dismiss is the criticism of the
study from the left, coming
chiefly from Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, and abetted less
cogently by Stephen Zunes of Foreign Policy in Focus and Joseph Massad
of Columbia University. These critics on the left argue from a
assumption that U.S. foreign policy has been monolithic since World War
II, a coherent progression of decision-making directed unerringly at
the advancement of U.S. imperial interests. All U.S. actions, these
critics contend, are part of a clearly laid-out strategy that has
rarely deviated no matter what the party in power. They believe that
Israel has served throughout as a loyal agent of the U.S., carrying out
the U.S. design faithfully and serving as a base from which the U.S.
projects its power around the Middle East. Zunes says it most clearly,
affirming that Israel “still is very much the junior partner in the
relationship.” These critics do not dispute the existence of a lobby,
but they minimize its importance, claiming that rather than leading the
U.S. into policies and foreign adventures that stand against true U.S.
national interests, as Mearsheimer and Walt assert, the U.S. is
actually the controlling power in the relationship with Israel and
carries out a consistent policy, using Israel as its agent where
Finkelstein summarized the critics’ position in a recent CounterPunch
article (“The Israel Lobby,” May 1,
emphasizing that the issue
is not whether U.S. interests or those of the lobby take precedence but
rather that there has been such coinci
dence of U.S. and
Israeli interests over the decades that for the most part basic U.S.
Middle East policy has not been affected by the lobby. Chomsky
maintains that Israel does the U.S. bidding in the Middle East in
pursuit of imperial goals that Washington would pursue even without
Israel and that it has always pursued in areas outside the Middle East
without benefit of any lobby. Those goals have always included
advancement of U.S. corporate-military interests and political
domination through the suppression of radical nationalisms and the
maintenance of stability in resource-rich countries, particularly oil
producers, everywhere. In the Middle East, this was accomplished
primarily through Israel’s 1967 defeat of Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser
and his radical Arab nationalism, which had threatened U.S. access to
the region’s oil resources. Both Chomsky and Finkelstein trace the
strong U.S.-Israeli tie to the June 1967 war, which they believe
established the close alliance and marked the point at which the U.S.
began to regard Israel as a strategic asset and a stable base from
which U.S. power could be projected throughout the Middle East.
(“Blaming the Israel Lobby,” CounterPunch, March 25/26) argues along
similar lines, describing developments in the Middle East and around
the world that he believes the U.S. engineered for its own benefit and
would have carried out even without Israel’s assistance. His point,
like Chomsky’s, is that the U.S. has a long history of overthrowing
regimes in Central America, in Chile, in Indonesia, in Africa, where
the Israel lobby was not involved and where Israel at most assisted the
U.S. but did not benefit directly itself. He goes farther than Chomsky
by claiming that with respect to the Middle East Israel has been such
an essential tool that its very usefulness is what accounts for the
strength of the lobby. “It is in fact the very centrality of Israel to
U.S. strategy in the Middle East,” Massad contends with a kind of
backward logic, “that accounts, in part, for the strength of the
pro-Israel lobby and not the other way around.” (One wonders why, if
this were the case, there would be any need for a lobby at all. What
would be a lobby’s function if the U.S. already regarded Israel as
central to its strategy?)
The principal problem
with these arguments from the left is that
they assume a continuity
in U.S. strategy and policymaking over the decades that has never in
fact existed. The notion that there is any defined strategy that links
Eisenhower’s policy to Johnson’s to Reagan’s to Clinton’s gives far
more credit than is deserved to the extremely ad hoc, hit-or-miss
nature of all U.S. foreign policy. Obviously, some level of imperial
interest has dictated policy in every administration since World War II
and, obviously, the need to guarantee access to vital natural resources
around the world, such as oil in the Middle East and elsewhere, has
played a critical role in determining policy. But beyond these evident,
and not particularly significant, truths, it can accurately be said, at
least with regard to the Middle East, that it has been a rare
administration that has itself ever had a coherent, clearly defined,
and consistent foreign policy and that, except for a broadly defined
anti-communism during the Cold War, no administration’s strategy has
ever carried over in detail to succeeding administrations.
The ad hoc nature of
virtually every administration’s policy
planning process cannot be overemphasized. Aside from the strong but
amorphous political need felt in both major U.S. parties and nurtured
by the Israel lobby that “supporting Israel” was vital to each party’s
own future, the inconsistent, even short-term randomness in
the detailed Middle East
policymaking of successive administrations has been remarkable. This
lack of clear strategic thinking at the very top levels of several new
administrations before they entered office enhanced the power of
individuals and groups that did have clear goals and plans already in
hand such as, for instance, the pro-Israeli Dennis Ross in both
the first Bush and the Clinton administrations, and the strongly
pro-Israeli neo-cons in the current Bush administration.
The critics on the left
argue that because the U.S. has a history of opposing and frequently
undermining or actually overthrowing radical nationalist governments
throughout the world without any involvement by Israel, any instance in
which Israel acts against radical nationalism in the Arab world is,
therefore, proof that
Israel is doing the United States’ work for it . The critics generally
believe, for instance, that Israel’s political destruction of Egypt’s
Nasser in 1967 was done for the U.S. Most if not all believe that
Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon was undertaken at U.S.behest, to
destroy the PLO.
This kind of
argumentation assumes too much on a presumption of policy coherence.
Lyndon Johnson most certainly did abhor Nasser and was not sorry to see
him and his pan-Arab ambitions defeated, but there is absolutely no
evidence that the Johnson administration ever seriously planned to
unseat Nasser, formulated any other action plan against Egypt, or
pushed Israel in any way to attack. Johnson did apparently give a green
light to Israel’s attack plans after they had been formulated, but this
is quite different from initiating the plans. Already mired in Vietnam,
Johnson was very much concerned not to be drawn into a war initiated by
Israel and was criticized by some Israeli supporters for not acting
forcefully enough on Israel’s behalf. In any case, Israel needed no
prompting for its pre-emptive attack, which had long been in the works.
Indeed, far from Israel functioning as the junior partner carrying out
a U.S. plan, it is clear that the weight of pressure in 1967 was on the
U.S. to go along with Israel’s designs and that this pressure came from
Israel and its agents in the U.S. The lobby in this instance as
broadly defined by Mearsheimer and Walt: “the loose coalition of
individuals and organizations who actively work to shape U.S. foreign
policy in a pro-Israel direction” was in fact a part of Johnson’s
intimate circle of friends and advisers. These included the number-two man at the
Israeli embassy, a
close personal friend;
strongly pro-Israeli Rostow brothers, Walt and Eugene, who were part of
the national security bureaucracy in the administration; Supreme Court
Justice Abe Fortas; U.N. Ambassador Arthur Goldberg; and numerous
others who all spent time with Johnson at the LBJ Ranch in Texas and
had the personal access and the leisure time in an informal setting to
talk with Johnson about their concern for Israel and to influence him
heavily in favor of Israel. This circle had already begun to work on
Johnson long before Israel’s pre-emptive attack in 1967, so they were
nicely placed to persuade Johnson to go along with it despite Johnson’s
fears of provoking the Soviet Union and becoming involved in a military
conflict the U.S. was not prepared for.
In other words,
Israel was beyond question the
senior partner in this particular policy initiative; Israel made the
decision to go to war, would have gone to war with or without the U.S.
green light, and used its lobbyists in the U.S. to steer Johnson
administration policy in a pro-Israeli direction.
Israel’s attack on the
U.S. naval vessel, the USS Liberty, in the midst of the
war an attack conducted in broad daylight that killed 34 American
sailors was not the act of a junior partner. Nor was the U.S.
cover-up of this atrocity the act of a government that dictated the
moves in this relationship.
The evidence is equally
clear that Israel was the prime mover in
the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and led the U.S. into that morass, rather
than the other way around. Although Massad refers to the U.S. as
Israel’s master, in this instance as in many others including 1967,
Israel has clearly been
its own master. Chomsky argues in support of his case that Reagan
ordered Israel to call off the invasion in August, two months after it
was launched. This is true, but in fact Israel did not pay any
attention; the invasion continued, and the U.S. got farther and farther
When, as occurred
in Lebanon, the U.S. has blundered into
misguided adventures to support Israel or to rescue Israel or to
further Israel’s interests, it is a clear denial of reality to say that
Israel and its lobby have no
significant influence on U.S. Middle East policy. Even were there not
an abundance of other examples, Lebanon alone, with its long-term
implications, proves the truth of the Mearsheimer-Walt conclusion that
the U.S. “has set aside its own security in order to advance the
interests of another state” and that “the overall thrust of U.S. policy
in the region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and
especially to the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby.’”
As a general proposition,
the left critics’ argumentation is
much too limiting. While there is no question that modern history is
replete, as they argue, with examples of the U.S. acting in corporate
interests overthrowing nationalist governments perceived to be
threatening U.S. business and economic interests, as in Iran in
1953, Guatemala in 1954,
Chile in 1973, and elsewhere this frequent convergence of
corporate with government interests does not mean that the U.S. never
acts in other than corporate interests. The fact of a strong
government-corporate alliance does not in any way preclude
situations even in the Middle East, where oil is obviously a
vital corporate resource in which the U.S. acts primarily to
benefit Israel rather than serve any corporate or economic purpose.
Because it has a deep emotional aspect and involves political,
economic, and military ties unlike those with any other nation, the
U.S. relationship with Israel is unique, and there is nothing in the
history of U.S. foreign policy, nothing in the government’s
entanglement with the military-industrial complex, to prevent the lobby
from exerting heavy influence on policy. Israel and its lobbyists make
their own “corporation” that, like the oil industry (or Chiquita Banana
or Anaconda Copper in other areas), is clearly a major factor driving
U.S. foreign policy.
There is no
denying the intricate interweaving of the U.S.
military-industrial complex with Israeli military-industrial interests.
that there is “plenty of conformity” between the lobby’s position and
the U.S. government-corporate linkage and that the two are very
difficult to disentangle. But, although he tends to emphasize that the
U.S. is always the senior partner and suggests that the Israeli side
does little more than support whatever the U.S. arms, energy, and
financial industries define as U.S. national interests, in actual fact
the entanglement is much more one between equals than the raw strengths
of the two parties would suggest. “Conformity” hardly captures the
magnitude of the relationship. Particularly in the defense arena,
Israel and its lobby and the U.S. arms industry work hand in glove to
advance their combined, very compatible interests. The relatively few
very powerful and wealthy families that dominate the Israeli arms
industry are just as interested in pressing for aggressively
militaristic U.S. and Israeli foreign policies as are the CEOs of U.S.
arms corporations and, as globalization has progressed, so have the
ties of joint ownership and close financial and technological
cooperation among the arms corporations of the two nations grown ever
closer. In every way, the two nations’ military industries work
together very easily and very quietly, to a common end. The
relationship is symbiotic, and the lobby cooperates intimately to keep
it alive; lobbyists can go to many in the U.S. Congress and tell them
quite credibly that if aid to Israel is cut off, thousands of
arms-industry jobs in their own districts will be lost. That’s power.
The lobby is not simply passively supporting whatever the U.S.
military-industrial complex wants. It is actively twisting arms
very successfully in both Congress and the administration to
perpetuate acceptance of a definition of U.S. “national interests” that
many Americans believe is wrong, as does Chomsky himself.
Clearly, the advantages in the relationship go in both directions:
Israel serves U.S. corporate interests by using, and often helping
develop, the arms that U.S. manufacturers produce, and the U.S. serves
Israeli interests by providing a constant stream of high-tech equipment
that maintains Israel’s vast military superiority in the region.
But simply because the U.S. benefits from this relationship, it cannot
be said that the U.S. is Israel’s master, or that Israel always does the
U.S. bidding, or that the lobby, which helps keep this arms alliance
alive, has no significant power. It’s in the nature of a symbiosis that
both sides benefit, and the lobby has played a huge role in maintaining
arguments also tend to be much too conspiratorial.
Finkelstein, for instance, describes a supposed strategy in which the
U.S. perpetually undermines Israeli-Arab reconciliation because it does
not want an Israel at peace with its neighbors, since Israel would then
loosen its dependence on the U.S. and become a less reliable proxy.
“What use,” he asks, “would a Paul Wolfowitz have of an Israel living
peacefully with its Arab neighbors and less willing to do the U.S.’s
Not only does this
give the U.S. far more credit than it has
ever deserved for long-term strategic scheming and the ability to carry
out such a conspiracy, but it begs a very important question that
neither Finkelstein nor
the other left critics, in their dogged effort to mold all developments
to their thesis, never examine: just what U.S.’s bidding is Israel
A lthough the leftist
critics speak of Is-rael as a base from
which U.S. power is projected throughout the Middle East, they do not
clearly explain how this works. Any strategic value Israel had for the
U.S. diminished drastically with the collapse of the Soviet Union. They
may believe that Israel keeps Saudi Arabia’s oil resources safe from
Arab nationalists or Muslim fundamentalists or Russia, but this is
clearly did us no good in Lebanon, but
rather the U.S. did Israel’s bidding and fumbled badly, so this cannot
be how the U.S. uses Israeli to project its power.
Finkelstein himself acknowledges that the U.S. gains nothing from the
occupation and Israeli settlements, so this can’t be where Israel is
doing the U.S.’s bidding. (With this acknowledgement, Finkelstein,
perhaps unconsciously, seriously undermines his case against the
importance of the lobby, unless he somehow believes the occupation is
only of incidental significance, in which case he undermines the thesis
of much of his own body of writing.)
Owning the Policymakers.
In the clamor
over the Mearsheimer-Walt study, critics on both the left and the right
have tended to ignore the slow evolutionary history of U.S. Middle East
policymaking and of the U.S. relationship with Israel. The ties to
Israel and earlier to Zionism go back more than a century, predating
the formation of a lobby, and they have remained firm even at periods
when the lobby has waned. But it is also true that the lobby has
sustained and formalized a relationship that otherwise rests on
emotions and moral commitment. Because the bond with Israel has been a
steadily evolving continuum, dating back to well before Israel’s formal
establishment, it is important to emphasize that there is no single
point at which it is possible to say, this is when Israel won the
affections of America, or this is when Israel came to be regarded as a
strategic asset, or this is when the lobby became an integral part of
left critics of the lobby study mark the
Johnson administration as
the beginning of the U.S.-Israeli alliance, but almost every
administration before Johnson’s, going back to Woodrow Wilson,
ratcheted up the relationship in some significant way and could
justifiably claim to have been the progenitor of the bond.
Significantly, in almost all cases, policymakers acted as they did
because of the influence of pro-Zionist or pro-Israeli lobbyists:
Wilson would not have supported the Zionist enterprise to the extent he
did had it not been for the influence of Zionist colleagues like Louis
Brandeis; nor would Roosevelt; Truman would probably not have been as
supportive of establishing a Jewish state without the heavy influence
of his very pro-Zionist advisers.
After the Johnson
administration as well, the relationship has
continued to grow in
remarkable leaps. The Nixon-Kissinger regime could claim that they were
the administration that cemented the alliance by exponentially
increasing military aid from an annual average of under $50
million in military credits to Israel in the late 1960s to an average
of almost $400 million and, in the year following the 1973 war, to $2.2
billion. It is not for nothing that Israelis have informally dubbed
almost every president since Johnson with the notable exceptions
of Jimmy Carter and the senior George Bush as “the most
pro-Israeli president ever”; each one has achieved some landmark in the
effort to please Israel.
The U.S.-Israeli bond has
always had its grounding more in soft
emotions than in the hard realities of geopolitical strategy. Scholars
have always described the tie in almost spiritual terms never applied
to ties with other nations. A Palestinian-French scholar has described
the United States’ pro-Israeli tilt as a “predisposition,” a natural
inclination that precedes any consideration of interest or of cost.
Israel, he said, takes
part in the very “being” of American society and therefore participates
in its integrity and its defense.
This is not simply the biased
perspective of a Palestinian.
Other scholars of varying political inclinations have described a
similar spiritual and cultural identity: the U.S. identifies with
Israel’s “national style”; Israel is essential to the “ideological
prospering” of the U.S.; each country has “grafted” the heritage of the
other onto itself. This applies even to the worst aspects of each
nation’s heritage. Consciously or unconsciously, many Israelis even
today see the U.S. conquest of the American Indians as something
“good,” something to emulate and, which is worse, many Americans even
today are happy to accept the “compliment” inherent in Israel’s effort
to copy us.
This is no ordinary
state-to-state rela-tionship, and the lobby does not function
like any ordinary lobby.
It is not a great exaggeration to say that the lobby could not thrive
without a very willing host that is, a series of U.S.
policymaking establishments that have always been locked in to a
mindset singularly focused on Israel and its interests and, at
the same time, that U.S. policy in the Middle East would not possibly
have remained so singularly focused on and so tilted toward Israel were
it not for the lobby. One thing is certain: with the possible
exceptions of the Carter and the first Bush administrations, the
relationship has grown noticeably closer and more solid with each
administration, in almost exact correlation with the growth in size and
budget and political clout of the pro-Israel lobby.
critics of the lobby study have failed to
note a critical point during the Reagan administration, surrounding the
debacle in Lebanon, when it can reasonably be
said that policymaking
tipped over from a situation in which the U.S. was more often the
controlling agent in the relationship to one in which Israel and its
advocates in the U.S. have increasingly determined the course and the
pace of developments. The organized
meaning AIPAC and the several formal Jewish American organizations,
truly came into its own during the Reagan years with a massive
expansion of memberships, budgets, propaganda activities, and contacts
within Congress and government, and it has been consolidating power and
influence for the last quarter century, so that today the broadly
defined lobby, including all those who work for Israel, has become an
integral part of U.S. society and U.S. policymaking.
during the Reagan administration demonstrates very clearly the
closeness of the bond. The events of these years illustrate how an
already very Israel-centered mindset in the U.S., which had been
developing for decades, was transformed into a concrete,
institutionalized relationship with Israel via the offices of Israeli
supporters and agents in the U.S.
The seminal event in the growth
of AIPAC and the organized lobby
was the battle over the administration’s proposed sale of AWACS
aircraft to Saudi Arabia in 1981,
Reagan’s first year in office. Paradoxically, although
AIPAC lost this battle in a head-on struggle with Reagan and the
administration, and the sale to the Saudis went forward, AIPAC and the
lobby ultimately won the war for influence. Reagan was determined that
the sale go through; he regarded the deal as an important part of an
ill-conceived attempt to build an Arab-Israeli consensus in the Middle
East to oppose the Soviet Union and, perhaps even more important, saw
the battle in Congress as a test of his own prestige. By winning the
battle, he demonstrated that any administration, at least up to that
point, could exert enough pressure to push an issue opposed by Israel
through Congress, but the struggle also demonstrated how exhausting and
politically costly such a battle can be, and no one around Reagan was
willing to go to the mat in this way again. In a real sense, despite
AIPAC’s loss, the fight showed just how much the lobby limited
policymaker freedom, even more than 20 years ago, in any transaction
that concerned Israel.
The AWACS imbroglio galvanized
AIPAC into action, at precisely
the time the administration was subsiding in exhaustion, and under an
aggressive and energetic leader, former congressional aide Thomas Dine,
AIPAC quadrupled its budget, increased its grassroots support
immensely, and vastly expanded its propaganda effort. This
last and perhaps most
significant accomplishment was achieved when Dine established an
analytical unit inside AIPAC that published in-depth analyses and
position papers for congressmen and policymakers. Dine believed that
anyone who could provide policymakers with books and papers focusing on
Israel’s strategic value to the U.S. would effectively “own” the
With the rising
power and influence of the
lobby, and following the
U.S. debacle in Lebanon which began with Israel’s 1982 invasion
and ended for the U.S. with the withdrawal of its Marine contingent in
early 1984, after the Marines had become involved in fighting to
protect Israel’s invasion force and 241 U.S. military had been killed
in a truck bombing the Reagan administration effectively handed
over the policy initiative in the Middle East to Israel and its
Israel and its agents
began, with amazing effrontery, to
complain that the U.S. failure to clean up in Lebanon was interfering
with Israel’s own designs there from which arrogance Reagan and
company concluded, in an astounding twist of logic, that the only way
to restore stability was through closer alliance with Israel. As a
result, in the fall of 1983 Reagan sent a delegation to ask
closer strategic ties, and shortly thereafter forged a formal strategic
alliance with Israel with the signing of a “memorandum of understanding
on strategic cooperation.” In 1987, the U.S. designated Israel a “major
non-NATO ally,” thus giving it access to military technology not
available otherwise. The notion of demanding concessions from Israel in
return for this favored status such as, for instance, some
restraint in its settlement-construction in the West Bank was
specifically rejected. The U.S. simply very deliberately and abjectly
retreated into policy inaction, leaving Israel with a free hand to
proceed as it wished wherever it wished in the Middle East and
particularly in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Even Israel, by all accounts, was surprised by this demonstration of
the United States’ inability to see beyond Israel’s interests. Prime
Minister Menachem Begin had attempted from early in the Carter
administration to push the notion that Israel was a strategic Cold War
asset to the U.S. but, because Israel did not in fact perform a
significant strategic role for the U.S. and was in many ways more a
liability than an asset, Carter never paid serious attention to the
Israeli overtures. Begin feared that the United States’ moral and
emotional commitment to Israel might ultimately not be enough to
sustain the relationship through possible hard times, and so he
attempted to put Israel forward as a strategically indispensable ally
and a good investment for U.S. security, a move that would essentially
reverse the two nations’ roles, altering the relationship from one of
Israeli indebtedness to the U.S. to one in which the United States was
in Israel’s debt for its vital strategic role.
Carter was having none of
this, but the notion of strategic
cooperation germinated in Israel and among its U.S. supporters until
the moment became ripe during the Reagan administration. By the end of
the Lebanon mess, the notion that the U.S. needed
Israel’s friendship had
so taken hold among the Reaganites that, as one former national
security aide observed in a stunning upending of logic, they began to
view closer strategic ties as a necessary means of “restor[ing] Israeli
confidence in American reliability.” Secretary of State George Shultz
wrote in his memoirs years later of the U.S. need “to lift the
albatross of Lebanon from Israel’s neck.” Recall, as Shultz must not
have been able to do, that the debt here was rightly Israel’s: Israel
put the albatross around its own neck, and the U.S. stumbled into
Lebanon after Israel, not the other way around.
AIPAC and the neo-conservatives
who rose to prominence during
the Reagan years played a major role in building the strategic
alliance. AIPAC in particular became in every sense of the word a
partner of the
forging Middle East policy from the mid-1980s on. Thomas Dine’s vision of
policymakers by providing them with position papers geared to Israel’s
interests went into full swing. In 1984, AIPAC spun off a think tank,
the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, that remains one of the
pre-eminent think tanks in Washington and that has sent its analysts
into policymaking jobs in several administrations. Dennis Ross, the
senior Middle East policymaker in the administrations of George H.W.
Bush and Bill Clinton, came from the Washington Institute and returned
there after leaving the government. Martin Indyk, the Institute’s first
director, entered a top policymaking position in the Clinton
administration from there.
John Hannah, who has served on Vice
President Cheney’s national security staff since 2001 and succeeded
Lewis Libby last year as Cheney’s leading national security adviser,
comes from the Institute. AIPAC also continues to do its own analyses
in addition to the Washington Institute’s. A recent Washington
of Steven Rosen, the former senior AIPAC foreign policy analyst who is
about to stand trial with a colleague for receiving and passing on
classified information to Israel, noted that two decades ago Rosen
began a practice of lobbying the executive branch, rather than simply
concentrating on Congress, as a way, in the words of the Post article,
“to alter American foreign policy” by “influencing government from the
inside.” Over the years, he “had a hand in writing several policies
favored by Israel.”
In the Reagan years,
AIPAC’s position papers were particularly
welcomed by an administration already more or less convinced of
Israel’s strategic value and obsessed with impeding Soviet advances. Policymakers
with AIPAC before presenting legislation in order to help assure
passage, and Congress consulted the lobby on pending legislation.
Congress eagerly embraced almost every legislative initiative proposed
by the lobby and came to rely on AIPAC for information on all issues
related to the Middle East. The close cooperation between the
administration and AIPAC soon began to stifle discourse inside the
bureaucracy. Middle East experts in the State Department and other
agencies were almost completely cut out of decision-making, and
officials throughout government became increasingly unwilling to
propose policies or put forth analysis likely to arouse opposition from
AIPAC or Congress. One unnamed official complained that “a lot of real
analysis is not even getting off people’s desks for fear of what the
lobby will do”; he was speaking to a New York Times correspondent,
but otherwise his complaints fell on deaf ears.
This kind of pervasive influence, a chill on discourse inside as well
as outside policymaking councils, does not require the sort of
clear-cut, concrete pro-Israeli decisions in the Oval Office that David
Gergen naively thought he should have witnessed if the lobby had any
real influence. This kind of influence, which uses friendly persuasion,
along with just enough direct pressure, on a broad range of
policymakers, legislators, media commentators, and grassroots activists
to make an impression across the spectrum, cannot be defined in terms
of narrow, concrete policy commands, but becomes an unchanging,
unchallengeable mindset, a sentimental environment that restricts
debate, restricts thinking, and determines actions and policies as
surely as any command from on high. When Israel’s advocates, its
lobbyists, in the U.S. become an integral part of the policymaking
apparatus, as they have particularly since the Reagan years and
as they clearly have been during the current Bush administration
there is no way to separate the lobby’s interests from U.S. policies.
Moreover, because Israel’s strategic goals in the region are more
clearly defined and more urgent than those of the United States,
Israel’s interests most often dominate.
Chomsky himself acknowledges that the lobby plays a significant part in
shaping the political environment in which support for Israel becomes
automatic and unquestioned. Even Chomsky believes that what he calls
the intellectual political class is a critical, and perhaps the most
influential, component of the lobby because these elites determine the
shaping of news and information in the media and academia. On the other
hand, he contends that, because the lobby already includes most of this
intellectual political class, the thesis of lobby power “loses much of
its content”. But, on the contrary, this very fact would seem to prove
the point, not undermine it. The fact of the lobby’s pervasiveness, far
from rendering it less powerful, magnifies its importance tremendously.
Indeed, this is the crux
of the entire debate. It is the very
power of the lobby to continue shaping the public mindset, to mold thinking and, perhaps most
important, to instill fear of deviation that brings this intellectual
political class together in an unswerving determination to work for
Israel. Is there not a heavy impact on Middle East policymaking when,
for instance, a lobby has the power to force the electoral defeat of
long-serving congressmen, as occurred to Representative Paul Findley in
1982 and Senator Charles Percy in 1984 after both had deviated from
political correctness by speaking out in favor of negotiating with the
PLO? AIPAC openly crowed about the defeat of both men both
Republicans serving during the Republican Reagan administration, who
had been in Congress for 22 and 18 years respectively. Similarly, does
not the media’s silence on Israel’s oppressive measures in the occupied
territories, as well as the concerted, and openly acknowledged, efforts
of virtually every pro-Israeli organization in the U.S. to suppress
information and quash debate on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, have
an immense impact on policy? Today, even the most outspoken of leftist
radio hosts and other commentators, such as Randi Rhodes, Mike Malloy,
and now Cindy Sheehan, almost always avoid talking and writing about
Does not the massive effort by
AIPAC, the Washington Institute,
and myriad other similar organizations to spoon-feed policymakers
selective information and analysis written only from Israel’s
perspective have a huge impact on policy? In the end, even Chomsky and
Finkelstein acknowledge the power of the lobby
suppressing discussion and debate about Middle East policy. The
mobilization of public opinion, Finkelstein writes, “can have a real
impact on policy-making which is why the Lobby invests so much
energy in suppressing discussion.” It is difficult to read statement
except as a ringing acknowledgement of the massive and very central
power of the lobby to control discourse and to control policymaking on
the most critical Middle East policy issue.
problem with the left critics’ analysis is that it is too rigid. There
is no question that Israel has served the interests of the U.S.
government and the military-industrial complex in many areas of the
world by, for instance, aiding some of the rightist regimes of Central
America, by skirting arms and trade embargoes against apartheid South
Africa and China (until the neo-conservatives turned off the tap to
China and, in a rare disagreement with Israel, forced it to halt), and
during the Cold War by helping, at least indirectly, to hold down Arab
radicalism. There is also no question that, no matter which party has
been in power, the U.S. has over the decades advanced an essentially
conservative global political and pro-business agenda in areas far
afield of the Middle East, without reference to Israel or the lobby.
The U.S. unseated Mossadegh in Iran and Arbenz in Guatemala and Allende
in Chile, along with many others, for its own corporate and political
purposes, as the left critics note, and did not use Israel.
facts do not minimize the power the
lobby has exerted in countless instances over the course of decades,
and particularly in recent years, to lead the U.S. into situations that
Israel initiated, that the U.S. did not plan, and that have done harm,
both singly and cumulatively, to U.S. interests.
One need only ask whether
particular policies would have been adopted in the absence of pressure
from some influential persons and organizations working on Israel’s
behalf in order to see just how often Israel or its advocates in the
U.S., rather than the United States or even U.S. corporations, have
been the policy initiators. The answers give clear evidence that a
lobby, as broadly defined by Mearsheimer and Walt, has played a
critical and, as the decades have gone on, increasingly influential
role in policymaking.
For instance, would Harry Truman have been as supportive of
establishing Israel as a Jewish state if it had not been for heavy
pressure from what was then a very loose grouping of strong Zionists
with considerable influence in policymaking circles? It can reasonably
be argued that he might not in fact have supported Jewish statehood at
all, and it is even more likely that his own White House advisers
all strong Zionist proponents themselves would not have twisted
arms at the United Nations to secure the 1947 vote in favor of
partitioning Palestine if these lobbyists had not been a part of
Truman’s policymaking circle. Truman himself did not initially support
the notion of founding a state based on religion, and every national
security agency of government, civilian and military , strongly opposed
the partition of Palestine out of fear that this would lead to warfare
in which the U.S. might have to intervene, would enhance the Soviet
position in the Middle East, and would endanger U.S. oil interests in
the area. But even in the face of this united opposition from within
his own government, Truman found the pressures of the Zionists among
his close advisers and among influential friends of the administration
and of the Democratic Party too overwhelmingly strong to resist.
Questions like this arise for virtually every presidential
administration. Would Jimmy Carter, for instance, have dropped his
pursuit of a resolution of the Palestinian problem if the Israel lobby
had not exerted intense pressure on him? Carter was the first president
to recognize the Palestinian need for some kind of “homeland,” as he
termed it, and he made numerous efforts to bring Palestinians into a
negotiating process and to stop Israeli settlement-building, but
opposition from Israel and pressures from the lobby were so heavy that
he was ultimately worn down and defeated.
It is also all but
impossible to imagine the U.S. supporting
Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territories without
pressure from the lobby. No conceivable U.S. national interest
served even in the United States’ own myopic view by its
support for Israel’s harshly oppressive policy
in the West Bank and
Gaza, and furthermore this support is a dangerous liability. As
Mearsheimer and Walt note, most foreign elites view the U.S. tolerance
of Israeli repression as “morally obtuse and a handicap in the war on
terrorism,” and this tolerance is a major cause of terrorism against
the U.S. and the West. The impetus for oppressing the Palestinians
clearly comes and has always come from Israel, not the United States,
and the impetus for supporting Israel and facilitating this oppression
has come, very clearly and directly, from the lobby, which goes to
great lengths to justify the occupation and to advocate on behalf of
It is tempting, and not at
all out of the realm of possibility,
to imagine Bill Clinton having
forged a final Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement were it not for the
influence of his notably pro-Israeli advisers. By the time Clinton came
to office, the lobby had become a part of the policymaking apparatus,
in the persons of Israeli advocates Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, both
of whom entered government service from lobby organizations. Both also
returned at the end of the Clinton administration to organizations that
advocate for Israel: Ross to the Washington Institute and Indyk to the
Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, which is
financed by and named for a notably pro-Israeli benefactor. The scope
of the lobby’s infiltration of government policymaking councils has
been unprecedented during the current Bush administration. Some of the
left critics dismiss the neo-cons as not having any allegiance to
Israel; Finkelstein thinks it is naïve to credit them with any
ideological conviction, and Zunes claims they
uninterested in benefiting Israel because they are not religious Jews
(as if only religious Jews care about Israel). But it simply ignores
reality to deny the neo-cons’ very close ties, both ideological and
pragmatic, to Israel’s right wing.
and Zunes glaringly fail to mention the strategy paper that several
neo-cons wrote in the mid-1990s for an Israeli prime minister, laying
out a plan for attacking Iraq these same neo-cons later carried out
upon entering the Bush administration. The strategy was designed both
to assure Israel’s regional dominance in the Middle East and to enhance
U.S. global hegemony. One of these authors, David Wurmser, remains in
government as Cheney’s Middle East adviser one of several
lobbyists inside the henhouse. The openly trumpeted plan, crafted by
the neo-cons, is to “transform” the Middle East by unseating Saddam
Hussein, and the notion, also openly touted, that the path to peace in
Palestine-Israel ran through Baghdad grew out of the neo-cons’
overriding concern for Israel. Both Finkelstein and Zunes also fail to
take note of the long record of advocacy on behalf of Israel that
almost all the neo-cons (Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith,
David Wurmser, Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, and their cheerleaders on
the sidelines such as William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Norman Podhoretz,
Jeane Kirkpatrick, and numerous right-wing, pro-Israeli think tanks in
Washington) have compiled over the years. The fact that these
individuals and organizations are all also advocates of U.S. global
hegemony does not diminish their allegiance to Israel or their desire
to assure Israel’s regional hegemony in alliance with the U.S.
interchangeability of U.S. and Israeli
interests and the fact that certain individuals for whom a
primary objective is to advance Israel’s interests now reside inside
the councils of government proves the truth of the
Mearsheimer-Walt’s principal conclusion that the lobby has been able to
convince most Americans, contrary to reality, that there is an
essential identity of U.S. and Israeli interests and that the lobby has
succeeded for this reason in forging a relationship of unmatched
intimacy. The “overall thrust of policy” in the
Middle East, they observe
quite accurately, is “almost entirely” attributable to the lobby’s
activities. The fact that the U.S. occasionally acts without reference
to Israel in areas outside the Middle East, and that Israel does
occasionally serve U.S. interests rather than the other way around,
takes nothing away from the significance of this conclusion.
The tragedy of the
present situation is that it has become
impossible to separate Israeli from alleged U.S. interests that
is, not what should be real U.S. national interests, but the selfish
self-defined “national interests” of the political-corporate-military
complex that dominates the Bush administration, Congress, and both
major political parties. The specific groups that now dominate the U.S.
government are the globalized arms, energy, and financial industries,
and the entire military establishments, of the U.S. and of
Israel groups that have quite literally hijacked the government
and stripped it of most vestiges of democracy.
This convergence of manipulated
“interests” has a profound
effect on U.S. policy
choices in the Middle East. When a government is unable to distinguish
its own real needs from those of another state, it can no longer be
said that it always acts in its own interests or that it does not
frequently do grave damage to those interests. Until the system of
sovereign nation-states no longer exists and that day may never
come no nation’s choices should ever be defined according to the
demands of another nation. Accepting a convergence of U.S. and Israeli
interests means that the U.S. can never act entirely as its own agent,
will never examine its policies and actions entirely from the vantage
point of its own long-term self interest, and can, therefore, never
know why it is devising and implementing a particular policy. The
failure to recognize this reality is where the left critics’ belittling
of the lobby’s power and their acceptance of U.S. Middle East policy as
simply an unchangeable part of a longstanding strategy is particularly
Kathleen Christison is the author of Perceptions of
which analyzes the evolution of U.S. policy on the Palestine issue over
the last century and in the process traces the exponential growth since
World War I in the influence on policymakers of Israel’s powerful
Bill Christison was a senior official
of the CIA. He served as a
National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA’s Office of
Regional and Political Analysis. He is a contributor to Imperial
Crusades, CounterPunch’s history of the
wars on Iraq and
They can be reached at email@example.com
from Richard Du Boff :
Date : May 24, 2006
Subject: McCoy: How Torture Became Mainstream
The once-clandestine practice of torture is now an official weapon in
the War on Terror.
Just before Christmas last, President Bush and Senator John McCain
appeared in the Oval Office to announce an historic ban on torture by
any U.S. agency, anywhere in the world. Looking straight into the
cameras, the president declared with a steely gaze that this landmark
legislation would make it "clear to the world that this government does
This meeting was the culmination of a tangled legislative battle that
had started six months before when Senator John McCain introduced an
amendment to the must-pass Defense Appropriation Bill, calling for an
absolute ban on "cruel, inhumane and degrading" treatment. The White
House fought back hard, sending Vice President Cheney to Capitol Hill
for a wrecking effort so sustained, so determined that a Washington
Post editorial branded him "The Vice President for Torture." At first,
Cheney demanded that the amendment be dropped. The senator refused.
Next, Cheney insisted on an exemption for the CIA. The senator stood
his ground. Then, in a startling rebuke to the White House, the Senate
passed the amendment last October by a 90-9 margin, a victory
celebrated by Amnesty International and other rights groups. With the
White House still threatening a veto, the appropriation gridlocked in
an eyeball-to-eyeball standoff.
Then came that dramatic December 15th handshake between Bush and
McCain, a veritable media mirage that concealed furious back-room
maneuvering by the White House to undercut the amendment. A coalition
of rights groups, including Amnesty International, had resisted the
executive's effort to punch loopholes in the torture ban but, in the
end, the White House prevailed. With the help of key senate
conservatives, the Bush administration succeeded in twisting what began
as an unequivocal ban on torture into a legitimization of three
controversial legal doctrines that the administration had originally
used to justify torture right after 9/11.
In an apparent compromise gesture, McCain himself inserted the first
major loophole: a legal defense for accused CIA interrogators that
echoes the administration's notorious August 2002 torture memo allowing
any agents criminally charged to claim that they "did not know that the
practices were unlawful."
Next, the administration effectively neutralized the McCain ban with
Senator Lindsey Graham's amendment stipulating that Guantanamo Bay
detainees cannot invoke U.S. law to challenge their imprisonment.
Complaining that detainees were filing trivial lawsuits over the
quality of their food, Graham's amendment thereby attempted to nullify
the Supreme Court decision in Rasul v. Bush that had allowed detainees
to pursue habeas corpus appeals in U.S. courts. In sum, McCain's
original amendment banned torture, but Graham's later amendment , as
finally approved by the Senate, removed any means for enforcement. For
a mess of bipartisan pottage, Congress thus bartered away this nation's
constitutional birthright of habeas corpus, a foundational legal
protection born, ironically, of the British Parliament's long struggle
to ban royal torture writs by the infamous Court of Star Chamber.
For the final loophole, on December 30 President Bush issued a "signing
statement" insisting that his powers as commander-in-chief and head of
the "unitary executive branch" still allowed him to do whatever is
necessary to defend America--the same key controversial doctrine the
administration had first used to allow torture. Instead of marking
closure to the Abu Ghraib scandal, the McCain torture ban has thus
sparked a renewed campaign by human-rights advocates to end the use of
torture in Washington's War on Terror--an effort that may well prove to
be a long, uphill battle.
Only days after Bush signed the legislation containing the McCain
amendment, the White House used a portion of the new law, now called
the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, to quash any judicial oversight of
its actions. On January 3 the Justice Department notified federal
judges that it would seek the immediate dismissal of all 160 habeas
corpus cases filed by Guantanamo detainees. One week later, the U.S.
Solicitor General, citing this law, told the Supreme Court it no longer
had jurisdiction over Guantanamo and asked the justices to dismiss the
potential landmark "unlawful combatant" case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. In
late March, when the court began to hear oral arguments in this
critical test case of U.S. military tribunals, several justices
appeared to reject the solicitor general's argument after vigorously
In retrospect, McCain's proposed torture ban seems another victim of
the Bush administration's unrelenting drive to win unchecked wartime
powers. In response to continuing controversy over Abu Ghraib and
Guantanamo, the White House has thus initiated what seems an historic
shift in US interrogation policy--from the highly secretive tortures by
the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War to an open, even
defiant use of coercive interrogation as an official weapon in the
arsenal of American power during the "war on terror." Until 9/11, the
United States government had successfully protected its intelligence
community from censure by outsourcing torture to foreign allies and
using subtle psychological techniques that elude ready detection--in
striking contrast to the crude physical methods once favored by
dictators around the world.
Even now, the continuing use of these psychological techniques has
complicated efforts to prohibit torture. Right after Congress approved
McCain's torture ban, Attorney General Gonzales parsed the word
"severe" to insist the new law adds only "clarification" to the
existing definition of torture as "intentional infliction of severe
physical or mental pain," echoing Justice Department subordinates who
were arguing anonymously that the ban would still allow "water
boarding"--the harshest of the agency's enhanced psychological
techniques. When future investigators try to judge the slippery signs
of psychological torture, whether by the military or CIA, each of the
Attorney General's words--"intentional," "severe," and "mental"--will
open yet another loophole.
Indeed, these psychological techniques are so elusive that they remain,
even today, invisible in plain sight. After CBS broadcast those
notorious photos from Abu Ghraib prison in the April 2004, Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed them as unrepresentative acts "by a
small number of U.S. military," whom the conservative New York Times
columnist William Safire branded "creeps."
If, however, we read these prison photos carefully, they reveal CIA
torture techniques that have metastasized like an undetected cancer
inside the U.S. intelligence community over the past half-century. That
iconic photo of a hooded Iraqi with fake electrical wires hanging from
his arms shows, not the sadism of a few "creeps," but the telltale
signs of sophisticated torture. The prisoner is hooded for sensory
deprivation. His arms are extended for self-inflicted pain. These are
the key components of the CIA's psychological paradigm, first developed
during the Cold War and then disseminated within the U.S. intelligence
community and among allied agencies around the world.
Indeed, over the past 40 years, psychological torture, as practiced by
US intelligence community, has proven destructive, elusive, and
adaptable. Although seemingly less brutal than physical methods, this
"no touch" torture is highly destructive of the human psyche, leaving
searing psychological scars experts consider more crippling than
physical pain. And the lack of visible physical evidence eludes
detection, greatly complicating attempts at investigation, prosecution,
Moreover, each extended application of this psychological method has
produced innovation--an adaptability evident today in the war on
terror. Under the command of General Geoffrey Miller, Guantanamo became
an ad hoc behavioral laboratory for innovative interrogation techniques
that, in sum, perfected the CIA's psychological paradigm. Moving beyond
the agency's original, generic attack on sensory receptors universal to
all humans, Guantanamo's interrogators intensified the psychological
assault by exploiting Arab cultural sensitivities to sexuality, gender
identity and fear of dogs. Miller also formed teams of military
psychologists to probe each detainee's phobias. Significantly, after
repeated visits to Guantanamo in 2002-2004, the International Committee
of the Red Cross described these practices as "an intentional system of
cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture."
With his new Guantanamo methods codified in a top-secret manual,
General Miller exported these techniques with a personal visit in
September 2003 to Iraq, where the U.S. commander, General Ricardo
Sanchez, incorporated them into his orders for aggressive interrogation
at Abu Ghraib. Beyond Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the administration has
also built a global network for torture at a half-dozen "black sites"
worldwide that used these techniques and even more extreme methods,
including one particularly cruel CIA technique called "water boarding."
Outside its own black sites, the CIA, continuing a tactic used against
Al-Qaeda suspects since the 1990s, engaged in "extraordinary
rendition"--that is, the practice of sending detainees to nations
notorious for torture, including Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and
Uzbekistan. Knitting this far-flung prison network together, the agency
shuttled detainees around the globe in a fleet of some two dozen jets
operated by thinly veiled front companies responsible for some 2,600
rendition-related flights since 2001. Despite a formal ban on
rendition in the U.N. Convention Against Torture, the United States has
persisted in a practice which is, in fact, illegal.
"Renditions," as Amnesty International explains in its recent report
Below the Radar, "involve multiple layers of human rights violations.
Most victims...were arrested and detained illegally in the first place;
some were abducted; others were denied access to any due process."
The United States is at a fateful crossroads, both in its relations
with the international community and in the relationship between its
own executive and judicial branches. In its aggressive defense of
presidential prerogatives over "unlawful combatants," exemplified by
its handling of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the hundreds of habeas corpus
cases in federal courts, the Bush White House seeks to exempt its
actions from any judicial oversight. And just last February, the
actions of our executive branch have earned an unprecedented rebuke
from United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who called for the
closure of Guantanamo.
In the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal, the White House has
defended torture as a presidential prerogative and blocked reform
efforts. By contrast, a loose coalition of civil-liberties lawyers and
human rights groups has mobilized to stop the abuse. In June 2004 the
Supreme Court ruled in a landmark case, Rasul v. Bush, that Guantanamo
detainees were, in fact, on territory leased to the United States and
thus deserved access to U.S. courts. Leading U.S. law firms responded
by filing 160 habeas corpus cases for 300 detainees.
Since 9/11, the White House and its media allies have shaped the debate
over detainees as a false choice between tortured intelligence and no
intelligence at all. Yet there are, in fact, alternatives to torture
such as an approach we might call empathetic interrogation--first used
by the U.S. Marine Corps to extract accurate intelligence from Japanese
prisoners during World War II and practiced by the FBI with great
success in the decades since. After the East Africa bombings of U.S.
embassies in 1998, for example, the FBI employed this method to gain
some of our best intelligence on Al Qaeda and won convictions of all
the accused in U.S. courts.
For the human rights community, the first steps to reform are
surprisingly simple: call upon our legislators to heed Kofi Anan's call
for closure of Guantanamo and transfer the detainees to the US courts
for trial. More ambitiously, the human rights community can press
Congress to amend the Detainee Treatment Act 2005, banning torture
without reservations, loopholes, or qualifications. Yet even if we
close Guantanmo and prohibit abuse by U.S. authorities, the CIA can
still elude the force of this prohibition, as it has done so often over
the past 40 years, by outsourcing torture to foreign allies like
Morocco, Egypt, or Uzbekistan. For real reform, Congress must close the
ultimate loophole: the rendition of detainees to foreign security
services that torture systematically and savagely.
Alfred W. McCoy is professor of History at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison and is the author of several books,
including the recently published "A Question of Torture: CIA
Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror," "Closer Than
Brothers" and "The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université de Grenoble-3