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Israel revs up war propaganda against Iran

The annual conference of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), America’s premier pro-Israel lobbying group, began over the weekend and we will see the familiar ritual of leading American politicians, including the US president, dutifully attending and swearing their undying loyalty to Israel. It is really quite an extraordinary spectacle to see the leading political figures of one state swearing their unwavering devotion to the interests of another. Even Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems surprised at how easy it is to get the US to do Israel’s bidding, expressing amazement that 80% of Americans support Israel, calling this ‘absurd’.

In an election year, an American presidential candidate in a tight race has to pander to the Israel lobby even more than usual and the Israeli government knows this. It is clear that Israel wants the US to attack Iran on its behalf and while Netanyahu is in Washington this week, he will undoubtedly use the occasion try to whip up feeling in the Congress and the media that if Obama does not act against Iran, he will be seen as weak or even siding against Israel. Glenn Greenwald notes how the Israeli propaganda machine and its media allies in the US are in full war-mongering mode and that Obama has just this past week seemed to provide a guarantee that the US will take care of Iran.

In his speech to the AIPAC delegates at the conference on Sunday, Obama repeated his willingness to use force against Iran, repeating the bellicose “all options are on the table” language, although he qualified it by suggesting that diplomacy is the best option. In another post, Greenwald points out that issuing threats of attacks on another nation is a violation of the UN charter but of course, the US is long past caring about such niceties and seems to think that it can do whatever it wants in the international arena. This latter post is an excellent one with links to other articles that is well-worth reading.

This process of caving in to Israel’s demands in order to satisfy the Israel lobby in the US goes all the way back to Harry Truman. As historian Geoffrey Wawro says in his book Quicksand: America’s pursuit of power in the Middle East (2010):

Truman, true to his nature, had more pragmatic aspirations. There were more Jewish voters in America than Arab ones and the Jewish lobby was better organized. Thus, Truman gave almost unconditional political support to Israel and tended to make light of the severe damage which that position wrought on his cabinet and his relations with the Arab states. His secretary of state, George C. Marshall, regularly complained that Truman was too quick to compromise the United States on vital “international questions” in order “to pick up a few [Jewish] votes” at home (p. 10)

Already in 1948, the Truman administration regretted the arrogance and brutality of Jewish ethnic cleansing in the Arab parts of Palestine but did nothing about it because of Cold War rivalry and fear of what Truman called the “pressure boys” of the Israel lobby. Each subsequent administration cried foul – “Henry, they can’t do this to us again,” Nixon wailed to Kissinger in 1973 – but failed to crack down on Israeli foul play because of the same worries that creased Truman’s brow. Today, the Cold War threat has been replaced by the terrorism threat, all the more reason to exert massive pressure on the Israelis to concede a real Palestinian state that will gather in lots of foreign aid and interest, and either sink or swim by its own efforts. To security hawks, who would say that conditions do not permit such an experiment, the answer is simple enough. The Israelis had decades to compensate or resettle the refugees and restore the occupied territories; they never did. They have always harped on the dangers of the Palestinians and presumably always will, and have always counted on collusion in Washington, as Golda Meir put it, “because of the Jewish vote.” As in the case of Saudi Arabia, the United States cannot exert real influence for positive change in the Middle East until it first breaks a lance for the people who were run out of their homes in 1948. Kissinger reminded the Israelis in the 1970s that they are “not the Prussians,” free to annex territories and expel or intimidate inhabitants. (p. 606)

(For my review of Wawro’s book, see here.)

Stephen Walt says that Obama has better options.

Instead of giving “ironclad” guarantees that we will launch preventive war, we’d be better served if Obama merely reminded Netanyahu that Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak doesn’t think Iran is an existential threat, and that the former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, has called an attack on Iran the “the stupidest thing I ever heard.”

Walt may be right that some Israelis think an attack on Iran is stupid. That is why the government of Israel would prefer that the US attack Iran so that they get the benefit while we get the blowback. During an election year, we can expect to see constant nagging of Obama by the Israel lobby to attack Iran. (Walt is the co-author along with John J. Mearsheimer of the 2007 book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy that explored the composition and workings of the Israel lobby that was based in their 2006 article in the London Review of Books. I reviewed the book when it came out and you can read part 1, part 2, and part 3.)

There are those who are putting an optimistic spin on Obama’s aggressive language, that by indicating that he will attack Iran if necessary, he is reducing the risk of Israel attacking Iran, and that this is therefore a way of avoiding war. I am not so sanguine. Ratcheting up war talk tends to put leaders in a box in that it creates its own dynamic because if those words are not followed by actions, the leader seems weak.

Comments

  1. slc1 says

    Apparently Prof. Singham, in his anxiety to portray the State of Israel and its supporters as the root of all evil in the world, hasn’t considered the possibility that Obama and Bibi are playing the game known as good cop/bad cop, where Bibi plays the bad cop and Obama plays the good cop. The purpose of the game is to get the rest of the world on board the sanctions against Iran train, where Obama can tell other leaders that only he can restrain bad cop Bibi, but that the leaders of other nations have to help him out by boarding the train.

  2. says

    That is why the government of Israel would prefer that the US attack Iran so that they get the benefit while we get the blowback.

    If “the government of Israel” is, on the whole, dumb enough to think any attack on Iran would have no blowback on Israel, then they’re a nation too stupid to survive.

    Oh, and what if our preemptive attack misses a spot? That would leave Iran with both the physical ability, and a clear and unambiguous legal pretext, to retaliate.

    And if we say it’s okay to launch a preemptive attack against Iran’s nuclear capability, doesn’t that make it okay to do the same thing to a certain other nation in that region that’s known to have a nuclear capability?

  3. says

    Apparently Prof. Singham, in his anxiety to portray the State of Israel and its supporters as the root of all evil in the world…

    Quote Singham saying anything remotely like that, or admit you’re full of shit.

    The purpose of the game is to get the rest of the world on board the sanctions against Iran train…

    So now you’re saying we don’t really intend to attack Iran, and this is all just a bluff so there’s nothing to worry about? That’s bullshit. If Iran calls our bluff, we’ll have no choice but to follow through on our threats; so yes, there is a rael danger of us getting into yet another pointless unprovoked war. IF you’re too fucking stupid (or too fucking bigoted and dishonest) to see that, then you have nothing to contribute to an adult conversation on adult matters, and should take your little hobby-horse elsewhere.

  4. sumdum says

    I’ve read elsewhere the idea that it’s also possible the iranians are goading Israel into attacking so the people of Iran have something to rally behind quiets internal unrest.
    Whatever it is, these are what they call ‘interesting’ times.

  5. says

    Good point, sumdum. Seriously, how bloody retarded to you have to be to think an unprovoked attack on a country will cause them to STOP building up their military strength? When has that ever happened anywhere on Earth?

  6. sailor1031 says

    As far as can be ascertained Iran does not possess nuclear weapons. It is, according to some, trying to position itself so that it could launch a NW program – should it choose to do so. There is nothing illegal in Iran wanting to pursue nuclear energy. Iran obviously does not have the capability to be an existential threat to Israel. So how do you sort all that out?

    So far Iran has done nothing illegal – nothing that many other countries have not also done. It is not unusual that Iran feels that it does not want to be kicked around by the US as it has been for sixty years or more, going back to the days of Mossadeq. Many other nations feel the same way.

    Note also that Israel is the country with the military power. Israel is the country with nuclear weapons. Israel is the country with the big brother standing by with the world’s most powerful military forces. Israel has now decided to be a clear existential threat to Iran. Where to from here?

  7. slc1 says

    Prof. Singham’s entire shtick ever since he signed on to Freethoughtblogs has been to badmouth the State of Israel. Based on his posts, I think it is a fair conclusion that he considers the State of Israel to be the root of at least most of the evil in the world, if not all of it, as I haven’t seen him badmouthing anybody else.

    Gee, quoting Leonid Brezhnev as an authority on Zionism. What an authoritative source! Why not quote Frankenberger, David Duke, George Lincoln Rockwell, or Josef Goebbels?

    Ms. Bee apparently has a reading comprehension. Nowhere did I say that it was a bluff. The purpose of the game is to get the other nations of the world on board the sanctions train so we won’t have to attack Iran.

  8. slc1 says

    Excuse me, the mad mullahs and their sockpuppet, Ahmadinejad have been telling the world ever since they took power that the State of Israel must be removed from the map of the world. Apparently, Mr. sailor wants to bury his head in the sand and assume that they are just bloviating, just like all too many Germans in the early 1930s thought that Frankenberger was just bloviating. As George Santyana put it, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    It is really quite an extraordinary spectacle to see the leading political figures of one state swearing their unwavering devotion to the interests of another.

    The only examples that come to mind are the lies exchanged between conquerors and conquerees.

    And – not so much any more – politicians in strongly-Catholic nations pledging fealty to the Vatican.

  10. says

    Prof. Singham’s entire shtick ever since he signed on to Freethoughtblogs has been to badmouth the State of Israel.

    I asked you to provide specific quotes, and you failed to do so. Therefore you’re full of shit.

    The purpose of the game is to get the other nations of the world on board the sanctions train so we won’t have to attack Iran.

    Yeah, I thought the same thing when Bush Jr. was rattling the sabres against Iraq. It didn’t work, and as a result, we got stuck in a totally unnecessary war. This is what happens when you threaten to do something stupid: your enemy realizes it’s stupid, and calls your bluff.

    So what if the sanctions don’t work? Given that Iran is a pretty big country, and given Russia and China aren’t likely to support enough sanctions to really put a squeeze on Iran, it’s a pretty safe bet the sanctions will fail (at least in the eyes of the Israelis, who will want to err on the side of caution in a matter where evidence is not obvious to the public), and we’ll be back to advocating military measures.

    Gee, quoting Leonid Brezhnev as an authority on Zionism.

    I didn’t quote him as an “authority,” moron, I quoted him because his words were unexpectedly prophetic.

  11. says

    Excuse me, the mad mullahs and their sockpuppet, Ahmadinejad have been telling the world ever since they took power that the State of Israel must be removed from the map of the world.

    And an unprovoked attack on Iran will change that how?

  12. slc1 says

    If the sanctions ultimately fail, Iran will have to be attacked. I have advocated before, and make no apologies for it, that there is nothing wrong with Iran that a half dozen 15 megaton bombs won’t cure.

  13. says

    No matter how many times you advocate it, you’re still dead wrong, and your blind tribalistic bigotry and blood-lust has clearly distorted your reasoning to the point where your very sanity can be called into question.

    Furthermore, your refusal to address ANY of my common-sense tactical objections to your nuclear wet dream proves you’re a flaming racist and you don’t really care about the real-world consequences of the policies you so blindly advocate.

  14. says

    If the sanctions ultimately fail, Iran will have to be attacked.

    That’s the problem: the policy you advocates gives us absolutely ZERO leeway to make sensible strategic choices. And if we don’t have flexibility and can’t choose how to fight, we will surely lose.

  15. says

    To quote a character in a Kurt Vonnegut novel: “Where’s evil? … It’s that large part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive. It’s that part of an inbecile…that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly.”

    And to quote the same guy earlier: “No nation has been without its share of strong young men eager to experiment with homicide, provided [they believe] no really awful consequences would result.”

  16. slc1 says

    An attack with bunker busting convention bombs will not solve the problem permanently. President Obama, in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, stated that he wanted a permanent solution to the problem of the mad mullahs in Iran getting nuclear weapons. My proposal promises a permanent solution as Iran will be so devastated that it will take them 20 years to recover. I totally agree with the late General Curtis Lemay’s suggestion that the solution to the problem in Vietnam was to make a parking lot out of it. Making a parking lot out of Iran is the answer.

  17. says

    My proposal promises a permanent solution as Iran will be so devastated that it will take them 20 years to recover.

    It will take more than bunker-busting bombs targeting only nuclear-related facilities to do that; it will take something closer to genocide to do that. (And what will we do when they recover?) Thanks for admitting that a) you’re an advocate of genocide, and b) Zionism has made you stupid. Now go fuck yourself.

  18. says

    I totally agree with the late General Curtis Lemay’s suggestion that the solution to the problem in Vietnam was to make a parking lot out of it.

    Funny thing about that advice — we chose not to follow it, and Vietnam did NOT go on to become a horrible existential threat to anyone. The fact that you would agree with that piece of advice, long after it has proven unnecessary, only further proves how stupid Zionism has made you.

  19. sailor1031 says

    “Excuse me, the mad mullahs and their sockpuppet, Ahmadinejad have been telling the world ever since they took power that the State of Israel must be removed from the map of the world”

    How does that change anything if they do not have the power to remove Israel from the world map? And so far they don’t. It is Israel that threatens Iran – credibly. You quote General LeMay – I offer you instead General Marshall, a much wiser and more intelligent soldier:

    “the only way man can win a war is by not starting it in the first place”

    Where does one draw the line at irrational american hawkishness? Was not Vietnam enough? No. Iraq? No. What did the USA win in either of those conflicts, when not a single aim of either war was accomplished? What will be won in a war with Iran?

    BTW it is not clear that Ahmedinajad is anyone’s puppet.

  20. itzac says

    Alternately, the US could stop making the “mad mullahs” madder by pursuing a foreign policy that doesn’t include fucking with other people’s countries so ‘Merkuns can buy cheaper crap at Walmart. Of course in that scenario, no one gets to don a cowboy hat and ride off into the sunset, but I guess that’s what it means to be a grownup.

  21. slc1 says

    Which Iraq war is Mr. Sailor talking about? The 1991 Gulf war successfully drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, which was just what it was designed to do. It will be recalled that then President GHW Bush declined to continue on to Baghdad.

  22. slc1 says

    Re itzac @ #3

    Alternately, the US could stop making the “mad mullahs” madder by pursuing a foreign policy that doesn’t include fucking with other people’s countries

    How about the mad mullahs in Iran stop fucking with other peoples countries like their support of terrorist organizations like Hizbollah and Hamas and their active support of the Assad Kleptocracy in Syria?

  23. left0ver1under says

    To RBee:

    It doesn’t matter what facts come to light. Blind apologists will excuse anything Israel does, no matter what is done. If another Israeli with the courage of Mordechai Vanunu produced a “Downing Street Memo” showing Netenyahu suggested building gas chambers and death camps, there would still be people trying to excuse it.

    No, I’m not suggesting that Netenyahu would do that, it’s only an outlandish hypothetical. Then again, that is the same country and government which murdered nine human rights activists in 2010 for taking food to starving people, and doctored an audiotape, falsely claiming the crew of the Turkish supply ship said, “Go back to Auschwitz”. Anything’s possible.

  24. itzac says

    Funny how the U.S. and Israel aren’t in that list, slc1.

    It’s also worth noting that the U.S. can hardly hope to able to finance a war with anyone right now.

  25. says

    How about Iran’s critics stay focused on Iranian policies that actually MATTER, like the stuff slc1 mentioned above, instead of working ourselves into another screaming fit of hysteria and making an already complicated situation even more intractible? You Zionists think you can muster up enough self-control to manage that? Your country’s worth at least that much sacrifice, right?

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