Bulletin N° 235


25 May 2006
Grenoble, France

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 strategy of monopoly capital, and on neo-liberal tactics employed to achieve this objective (i.e. global control by capital), and on the new logistics offered by 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. (H.G. Wells, The Shape of Things to Come, 1933.)

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 compartment modeled from mechanical engineering. Such logic 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. ( Lugano Report, 2003)

"Today," observed Professor Anthony Wilden toward the end of the Reagan administration,
with the United States trying to shore up a weakened economic and
technological empire by means of a newly belligerent and profitable
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 nuclear race
with Russia), along with encouragement for industry and agriculture to
step up the war on nature, we know as a fact what every humanistic
thinker in this century has been afraid of: That the capitalist and
state-capitalist empires are still fighting the First World War, the war
for the domination of the planet. ( The Rules are No Game, 1987, 49)
The Americans are not the most violent people in the world, Wilden continues, but they are the most powerful violent people in the world. (1987, 53)

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;
        - the 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 well-being;
        - 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. (63)

The paramount lesson that Wilden draws from his observations is a quintessentially democratic rule : 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 earth. (56)

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.

Item A., from Dhar Jamail, is a close-up look at U.S. "collateral damage" in Iraq and its future consequences.
Item B. is an historical piece by New York labor writer Michael Hirsch on life in America under the new right.
Item C., from Council for the National Interest Foundation, is an update on the anti-Palestinian legislation pending in Congress.
Item D. offers an outstanding analysis of the Israel Lobby and was recommended by Edward S. Herman.
Item E., 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 Children
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 bullet.

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 Fatima's
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 and underweight.

The report states < http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/2f579a75641ad1b1b8ef750a7efb67ce.htm > 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 country."

Also this month, on May 15th , a news story < http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/DAH517137.htm> about 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 insecurity," and
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.*/ / - Carson McCullers/

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 problems." UNICEF's
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 development."

This past March, an article titled "Garbage Dump Second Home for Iraqi Children < http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2006/2006-03-31-03.asp>" 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 < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A809-2004Nov20.html >, "Children Pay Cost of Iraq's Chaos," read, "After the rate of acute
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 < http://www.sundayherald.com/43796> 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 detention.

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 [2003]."

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 above our
heads as well. Kids and pedestrians ran for cover into the shops and wherever possible.

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 tanks. They
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 worth it."

/*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

Naming the Beast or Whistling Past the Graveyard
by Michael Hirsch
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.   

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 paramount.

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 becomes impossible.

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 or insane.

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 HHS secretary.

 "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 international issues.

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 says.   

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 <inform@cnionline.org> :
Date: Tue, 23 May 2006
Subject: TAKE ACTION: Thank Reps. Opposed to Anti-Palestinian Legislation
http://www.cnionline.org /

TAKE ACTION: Thank Reps. Opposed to Anti-Palestinian Legislation

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: Send a message of thanks to all 46 Representatives who voted "Nay" or "Present" by clicking here.

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 them, click 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 ----
Abercrombie 202-225-2726
Becerra 202-225-6235
Blumenauer 202-225-4811
Capps 202-225-3601
Capuano 202-225-5111
Conyers 202-225-5126
DeFazio 202-225-6416
Dingell 202-225-4071
Doggett 202-225-4865
Eshoo 202-225-8104
Farr 202-225-2861
Gilchrest 202-225-5311
Grijalva 202-225-2435
Hinchey 202-225-6335
Jones (NC) 202-225-3415
Kaptur 202-225-4146
Kilpatrick 202-225-2261
Kolbe 202-225-2542
Kucinich 202-225-5871
LaHood 202-225-6201
Lee 202-225-2661
Marshall 202-225-6531
McCollum 202-225-6631
McDermott 202-225-3106
McGovern 202-225-6101
McKinney 202-225-1605
Miller, George 202-225-2095
Moore (WI) 202-225-4572
Moran (VA) 202-225-4376
Obey 202-225-3365
Paul 202-225-2831
Price (NC) 202-225-1784
Rahall 202-225-3452
Stark 202-225-5065
Thornberry 202-225-3706
Velázquez 202-225-2361
Watt 202-225-1510
---- ANSWERED "PRESENT" 9 ----
Carson 202-225-4011
Clay 202-225-2406
Davis (IL) 202-225-5006
Gutierrez 202-225-8203
Jackson (IL) 202-225-0773
Johnson, E. B. 202-225-8885
Payne 202-225-3436
Rush 202-225-4372
Watson 202-225-7084

Extracts from the Debate on H.R. 4681, Congressional Record, May 22, 2006

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 unnecessary.''

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. national security.

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 interests.

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 grandstanding.

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 unproductive resolution.

TAKE ACTION: Send a message to all 46 Representatives who voted nay or present on H.R. 4681 by clicking here.

Council for the National Interest Foundation
1250 4th Street SW, Suite WG-1
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from Ed Herman :
Date : May 24, 2006
Subject: FW: How Torture Became Mainstream--mccoy

An outstanding analysis of  the pro-Israel lobby.

 CounterPunch-vol 13 no 10.pdf

Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair

The Rise of the Israel Lobby:A Measure of Its Power
by Kathleen and Bill Christison

Ten, even five 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.

CounterPunch 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.

The 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 Oval Office 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 possible.

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.

Joseph Massad (“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; the 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 embroiled.

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. Chomsky acknowledges 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 the interdependence.

The left’s 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 bidding?”

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 doing nowadays?
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 highly questionable.

Israel 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. In Palestine, 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 U.S. policymaking.

The 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.

All 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 lobby, 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.

The situation 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 policymakers.

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 American advocates.

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 the Israelis for 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 U.S. in forging Middle East policy from the mid-1980s on. Thomas Dine’s vision of “owning” 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.

Today, 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 Post profile 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 began negotiating 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 this issue.
Does not the massive effort by AIPAC, the Washington Institute, and myriad other similar organizations to spoon-feed policymakers and congressmen 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 in 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.

Interchangable Interests.
The principal 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.

But these 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 Israeli policies.

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 are 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.

Both Finkelstein 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.

The claimed 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 and 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 dangerous.

Kathleen Christison is the author of Perceptions of Palestine, 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 American advocates.
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 Afghanistan.

They can be reached at kathy.bill@christinson-santafe.com

from Richard Du Boff :
Date : May 24, 2006
Subject: McCoy: How Torture Became Mainstream

How Torture Became Mainstream
Alfred W. McCoy, Amnesty International

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 not torture."

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 questioning him.

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, or prohibition.

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 Drug Trade."


Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université de Grenoble-3
Grenoble, France

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