Friday, March 13, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

"The groups and individuals which make up the [Israel] lobby pursue two broad strategies to encourage steadfast support for Israel. First, they exert significant influence on the policy-making process in Washington... Because political power in the US is divided between the legislative and executive branches, the lobby's tactics sometimes vary depending on which branch of government is involved. In addition to helping get sympathetic individuals elected or appointed to key positions, groups in the lobby strive to shape the political calculations of officials who might be tempted to chart a more independent course..." (p 151)

"... a few years later, in 2001, when Bruce Riedel left his position handling Middle East issues on the National Security Council, the New Republic reported that the Pentagon had 'held up the appointment of Riedel's designated successor, the Middle East expert Alina Romanowski, whom Pentagon officials suspect of being insufficiently supportive of the Jewish state'. The person appointed instead was Elliot Abrams, who had previously pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress during the Iran-contra affair. Abrams is hardly objective about Israel, having previously written in a 1997 book that 'there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart - except in Israel - from the rest of the population'. This is a remarkable comment coming from an individual who holds a critically important position on Middle East policy in the US government. 'For the government of Israel', wrote Nathan Guttman in Ha'aretz, his appointment was 'a gift from heaven'." (The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy, Mearsheimer & Walt, p 167)

The Israel lobby that knocked off Romanowski has just cut down Obama's nominee for head of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), the body responsible for producing national intelligence estimates, one of which, to the chagrin of the lobby, concluded in 2007 that Iran was not in the business of producing nukes. The now politically neutralised Charles 'Chas' Freeman, a former diplomat, had been critical of - you guessed it - Israel, and was therefore considered most unlikely to produce the kind of national intelligence estimate that could have prompted an Israel lobbyist to remark, It couldn't have been better if we'd written it ourselves, namely one that shouted from the rooftops that not only was Iran producing nukes at a rate of knots but that Adolf Ahmadinejad himself was flat out scribbling 'With love from me to you' on each and every warhead as it rolled off the production line, and had, in fact, developed a vicious case of RSI, thus proving, if proof were necessary, that Jehovah was still doing His bit for His people.

And just who were the movers & shakers behind Freeman's termination? Will you please welcome Steven Rosen, former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) director, currently awaiting trial for espionage, to whit, obtaining and transmitting classified US documents on Iran to his handlers in Israel, and Republican congressman Mark Kirk, who has the distinction of receiving more AIPAC money than anyone else in Congress, which of course eminently qualifies him to point the finger at Freeman's ties to a Saudi-funded think tank. And Obama? As per the Gaza killing fields, missing in action.

Freeman, as you'd expect after being mauled by the likes of Rosen and Kirk, had a few extremely relevant things to get off his chest: "I am saddened," he wrote in a statement, "by what the controversy and the manner in which the public vitriol of those who devoted themselves to sustaining it have revealed about the state of our civil society. It is apparent that we Americans cannot any longer conduct a serious public discussion or exercise independent judgment about matters of great importance to our country as well as to our allies and friends. The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those it favours. There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government - in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the US to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States. The outrageous agitation that followed the leak of my pending appointment will be seen by many to raise serious questions about whether the Obama administration will be able to make its own decisions about the Middle East and related issues. I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubts on its ability to consider, let alone decide, what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government."

Now that's one personal intelligence assessment sure to fatten the coming revised and updated version of Mearsheimer & Walt's The Israel Lobby.

And how was Freeman's mugging reported in the Australian press? The Sydney Morning Herald's Washington correspondent Anne Davies had the lobby front and centre, complete with a juicy extract from the document above, but made no mention of Rosen or Kirk (Obama nominee pulls out, blames Israel lobby 'veto', 12/3/09). The Australian, on the other hand, had Kirk muttering darkly about Freeman's "ties" to that Saudi-funded think tank, but was predictably shtum on the existence of the Israel lobby and the money it had spent on him over the years. The other AIPAC operative, Rosen, was nowhere to be seen (Israel critic quits run for top US intelligence post, AFP, 12/3/09)

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